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Digital Construction & Machines - Much More Than Technology

Niklas Nillroth, CECE President & Vice President Sustainability & Public Affairs, Volvo Construction Equipment [STO: VOLV-B]

Digital Construction & Machines - Much More Than TechnologyNiklas Nillroth, CECE President & Vice President Sustainability & Public Affairs, Volvo Construction Equipment [STO: VOLV-B]

As the European industry association of all construction equipment manufacturers, CECE is committed to delivering a sustainable and competitive construction industry. One of the key ways to do that is by making connected, digital and smart machines to build better, more safe and productive places and infrastructures that Europeans need to enjoy life and to prosper.

This is my core mission as CECE President and has been my philosophy in the years at Volvo CE. Indeed, CECE continues to implement a long-term strategy of embracing and leading the transition into the digital era. This is particularly needed for the construction industry, which is one of the least digitalised economic sectors in Europe.

Digitalisation is one of the great enablers of increased productivity in the construction equipment sector. Technologies like telematics, machine control and automation can have a positive impact on machines’ efficiency, reducing downtime through predictive maintenance, connectivity between multiple machines on site and between the machines and a cloud server to carry out jobsite advancement reports for the contractors and even the final client. This is just a glimpse of what smart machines can do in reality, already today.

However, there is a dramatic need to raise awareness in the industry. The most important element that the construction industry should understand is that digitalisation is not – and should not be – a goal in itself. It is the definition of a means to an end. Indeed, to seize the digitalisation opportunity, the construction equipment industry has understood and acted on our customers’ needs. Today’s makers of construction machines offer products and services according to clients’ demands and do not impose technology developments on a market, hoping it will take it up.


Another area where digitalisation is a tool to achieve a major goal is sustainability and decarbonisation. And this is where my company experience at Volvo CE helps me the most.

I am fully aware of the enormous added-value from digital technologies to improve the overall sustainability of the construction industry. When it comes to construction equipment, it is self-evident that machine control, semi-autonomous or autonomous technologies are having a positive impact on the fuel efficiency, thus reducing directly the engine emissions.

This is also why CECE subscribes to the European Commission’s approach of supporting the twin transitions: decarbonisation & digitalisation. These will be the key priorities of the European Recovery Plan, that is expected to boost public demand in the construction and infrastructure industry, which are vital for economic prosperity after the COVID crisis.

From an approach point of view, I believe that nobody can do this digital transition alone: partnership and collaboration are ever more in need in a huge and fragmented value chain like construction. This is why I am particularly proud of CECE’s role in bringing together the whole construction value chain to launch the DigiPLACE project.

In fact, a fundamental element of the digital transition is data exchange. Data should be shared seamlessly across different players of the value chain, without creating monopolies and rewarding the data originator according to rules and principles. This is the fundamental approach of digital industrial platforms, a concept similar to the well-known marketplaces that exist in the B2C sectors (UBER, Airbnb, etc.) but in a B2B setting.

Digital industrial platforms are the cornerstones of the EU’s policy and financial support for the digital transformation of the entire economic sectors. This is also the case for construction with DigiPLACE.

Started in September 2019 and running until May 2021, DigiPLACE is an EU-funded project aiming to deliver the framework conditions to allow the development of digital industrial platforms for the whole construction value chain. These are common ecosystems of digital services, relying on Common Data Environments, that will support innovation and productivity gains, efficiencies and safety in all construction activities.The main deliverable of the project will be a Reference Architecture Framework (RAF) for the future digital construction platforms.

This will be based on an EU-wide consensus, made possible by the unprecedented collaboration effort of the DigiPLACE consortium.

Indeed, DigiPLACE relies on a relevant set of partners, linked third parties and an Advisory Board. The consortium - composed by the main industry representative bodies, a strong academic partnership and the support of three national public authorities –is made of 19 organisations from 11 countries led by the Politecnico di Milano. This consensus is made even wider by a Community of Stakeholders, which we are in the process of building and to which all construction practitioners and entities are invited.

RAF will be implemented through a series of actions and initiatives, which will be identified in the second important output of the project: a strategic roadmap. This will outline the ‘how, when and what’ will need to happen at the end of the project in order turn DigiPLACE results into reality by delivering the digital platform model to construction.


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