At this year’s virtual ARC European Industry Forum, Mindtree, a Larsen & Toubro Group Company, participated as a Gold Sponsor. Larsen & Toubro is a major technology, engineering, construction, manufacturing and financial services conglomerate with global operations. Last year, Mindtree became a part of Larsen & Toubro and is now leveraging the combined strengths to engineer effective solutions for businesses and society. Manish Bhargava, General Manager and Lead for New Business, CPG and Manufacturing, Mindtree, asked Balaji Kasiram, Head-Digital, Larsen & Toubro Construction, to speak about the company’s digital transformation journey, focusing on asset performance management for construction. This blog captures the salient points of the presentation. You can watch the video here.
Digital Transformation at Larsen & Toubro
The company’s digital transformation journey began about four years ago with three fundamental objectives:
- Accelerate project progress
- Enhance operational efficiency
- Drive organizational change
The digital transformation initiative covers all the critical functions of the organization, starting from equipment and workers (over 300,000) and ensuring proper maintenance and safety. Latest technologies, such as advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), geospatial technologies etc. are used to monitor the entire supply chain and construction quality. Mr. Kasiram’s presentation veered to the equipment side of the digitalization journey.
Asset Performance Management for Construction
The company has a very large equipment fleet (35,000 out of which 11,000 are critical equipment), of different types and models of varying vintages. Mr. Kasiram said, “11,000 are critical equipment by the intrinsic value, and also the impact towards the project progress; and these are all connected." There were multiple challenges and aspects to consider in handling such a huge fleet, he said. Broadly, the equipment can be put into three buckets: old, purely mechanical with some electronics and some controllers; and brand new, state-of-the-art. Eighty-five percent of the equipment fall into the first two buckets, said Mr. Kasiram. So, the company explained its digitalization goals to the equipment OEMs:
- Real-time operational visibility
- Improve capacity utilization
- Enhance productivity
- Reduce fuel expenses
- Reduce CapEx
- Decrease equipment hiring
- Improve equipment availability
At that point many OEMs did not have any solutions, but some others had the data, which would be sent to the OEM’s platform and then given to the company. Questions arose about data ownership, so Larsen & Toubro decided to do this inhouse. Sensors were retrofitted on the equipment and connected to the controllers to get the required data. A lot of edge computing is done too, and on every piece of equipment an intelligent and programmable IoT gateway is fixed. All this is connected to Asset Insight, the company’s connected construction equipment platform powered by Microsoft Azure IoT and AI.
Solutions for Different Equipment Types
Mr. Kasiram said that as there are many types of equipment, each one has a connected solution that is unique. He cited examples of two equipment solutions: tower crane and a wheel loader. A tower crane is the lifeline for the construction of tall buildings, so it is imperative that it works well. Objective was to understand the utilization to facilitate operational decisions. Many of the cranes are very old, so these were retrofitted to measure the load and angle of the slew. Other parameters, such as horizontality and verticality are also considered, and the raw data is converted into actionable information. There’s a local display for the operator and the remaining data is taken to the platform for further analysis and insights.
The next example was of a wheel loader that involves edge computing. To measure the load lifted by the loader with far greater accuracy, they used the hydraulic back pressure and angle of the boom. This is done at the edge level of the gateway. Similarly, there are around 60+ solutions for different types of equipment.
Further, he said that the connected equipment generates a message every 10 seconds from the IoT gateway; totalling to 40 GB of data (location, telemetry, image). So, analysis (root cause, statistical, understanding failures, and predictive) is done at the edge and cloud. Based on this analysis, informed decisions are taken. The benefits: annual returns are three times the investment made; increased utilization capacity; reduced fuel consumption; and improved productivity.
Mr. Bhargava asked him about change management in the organization, which can be more challenging than the technology aspect. Mr. Kasiram responded that gaining an entry into an organization is difficult, and then it goes through various stages till the customer sees the benefits and requests more process improvements. “It is a journey of trust.” So, the technology implementation, customer education, and change management programs are run in parallel. Digital awards are also given for the best project within the organization, and that boosts change management.