Sample Report - branding

Research Brief - Marketing Branding Services

Traditional prospecting methods are losing steam. Email, old-fashioned letters, and networking through conferences continue to form parts of a marketing strategy. Our research suggests a different approach is being used by successful prospectors. In the case of Branding, prospecting opportunities often extend from change – change by industries, by companies, by company leaders, by activities, by products and by technology. The key is to figure out what’s changing, who is leading the change and whether you can present decision makers with a compelling pitch to deal with the change. Let's start with Industry Triggers.


1) Paying attention to the press helps a great deal. By focusing on an industry, looking at what companies were talking about last year, as compared to who and what is now in the discussion, you may be able to see and/or pitch that there’s a loss of branding to be solutioned. 

2) New, trending or growing industries are opportunities for branding – tech, healthcare, the arts/culture (see article), consider the industry breakdown on the table below (available in the full report)...


For the remainder of this 10-page research brief, contact us through the Aquitaine website. 

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Prospecting efforts can be successful. But you need to do research. Research that identifies changes. Those changes create opportunities! We share these strategies in our full research brief.

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Industry Review - Construction

The Status of AI in the Construction Industry


The need for efficiency is obvious. Especially in the construction industry which has been slow to adopt automation relative to other industries. Cost efficiency, faster completion time, greater accuracy, fewer accidents and injuries, less jobsite theft, are all potential benefits from automation. Yet the construction industry has been slow to integrate automation. 

The Economist produced a study (https://www.economist.com/leaders/2017/08/17/the-construction-industrys-productivity-problem)in 2017 comparing manufacturing and construction productivity since 1995. Manufacturing productivity doubled that of Construction, and according to McKinsey no industry has done worse during this period. In the US construction productivity has fallen by 50% since 1960. 

Here are the traditional key problems with productivity in construction:

1.  Only 5% of builders work for construction employing over 10,000 workers

2.  Profit margins are lowest except for retailing

3.  Highly cyclical industry including frequent downturns

4.  Investing in capital can be high risk 

5.  Lack of skilled employees/contract employees

The fundamentals of construction have not changed significantly for thousands of years given materials like concrete, timber, glass and bricks are still used and activities on site are often entirely manual, particularly on small projects. Construction is continually criticized for being inefficient, fragmented and slow to innovate, with two-thirds of contractors not innovating at all. Research rarely affects practice. 

So, there is a clear opportunity to drive automation into the construction industry to address these traditional problems. And as noted above, there may be an expectation from Millennial honeowners for contractors to be adept with automation. Fortunately, technological advancements can provide the answer to efficiency.

This next section focuses on the key advances in construction for the future including smart construction, virtual reality, augmented reality, drones, 3D printing, Robotics, remote controlled equipment, building information modelling, e-commerce, and Internet of Things. All are key digital transformation trends that can help potential clients thrive.

Smart Construction

The term ‘smart’ refers to new, intelligent, integrated, innovative, or improved. In the context of construction, this can refer to smart buildings, smart design and smart cities. Automated buildings with sensors, wireless technologies, and leading environmental technologies are considered smart. Smart design includes enabling a greater perspective on increasingly wide layers is portfolios, neighborhoods, cities, regions, etc. And when municipal leaders can integrate physical, human and digital systems into sustainable systems for future prosperity, they are considered smart cities. 

Some newly available technologies and workplace practices are expected to enable smart construction going forward should they be successful in being implemented. One example is the adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM), the promotion of more collaborative working practices, and improvements in off-site manufacturing. Partnerships between government and construction industry partners like the one envisioned by Britain in July 2013, when the Government published: ‘Construction 2025, Industrial Strategy: government and industry in partnership’. Britain set out its long-term vision for ‘…how industry and Government will work together to put Britain at the forefront of global construction’. And that the industry should be ‘smart’, ‘…an industry that is efficient and technologically advanced’.

Construction industry participants in the next decade will need to integrate technological advances, with new capabilities such as the internet of things. Given the disparity of profit margins, lack of skilled employees (Japan expects to have a deficit of 1 million construction employees in the next decade) and lack of desire to invest in capital, automation is a natural alternative solution to drive step change within the industry. Adding sensors, monitoring, and data management should enable performance increases and efficiency gains in process and asset management. Further, improvements in material usage, scheduling, carbon reduction, and smarter designs are conceivable with automation.

It remains to be seen whether governments and industries in all countries achieve greater collaboration, yet individual participants can take the lead in integrating automation and achieve greater prosperity for their own organizations.

Companies should consider how it can work towards removing barriers to innovation, co-operating in construction innovation research, develop relationships with industry participants and research organizations, share innovation ideas, participate in projects that include off-site manufacturing to achieve greater precision and quality and reduced manufacture and assembly time, halving waste and using 25% less energy, and finally enable their clients to make better use of technology. 

Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Public projects have been leveraging Building Information Management or BIM software, which is mandatory for those jobs. BIM platforms/software offer value for a variety of projects including improving communications with clients, other parties involved in projects. Increased transparency and a single source of truth creating a foundation for improved collaboration. Boston Consulting Group (BCG) predicts that BIM should be advanced enough to deliver productivity gains between 15% and 25% as early as 2025.  Use of Building Information Modeling platforms is used extensively in China, is recommended in the EU, and even mandatory for (some) public sector projects in the UK, Norway and South Korea, with Germany to follow in 2020.

VR Aided Design - VR in Home Design

Virtual Reality (VR) became one of the leading trends in 2016, started to dominate in 2017 and will likely continue to proliferate. Real estate agents, designers and people who plan to remodel their houses, apartments or offices are all using VR. VR is being used through 360 degrees image or video of the real house as well as the virtual model of it. Images of the real house can be taken by a special 360 degree cameras like Ricoh Theta S, Samsung Gear 360, Nikon KeyMission 360, Kodak Pixpro 4KVR360, 360fly 4K and others. Prices range from $200 to $500, but there are plenty of more expensive solutions on the market. A standard phone camera supporting shooting of 360 degrees images might suffice do the job. The main disadvantage of 360 images is that you are unable to remodel the house you see, unless you actually move the furniture or paint the walls. 

Virtual modeling software of the design like Live Home 3D can help with this task. Live Home 3D makes panorama 360º images and videos on Mac and Windows platforms to develop creative and advanced home and interior projects. This Mac program helps to design a copy of the house and export the final result into panorama 360º images and videos without need for Virtual Reality headsets as designs created in Live Home 3D can be viewed on any computer or even mobile phone (2018 BeLight Software Ltd). And the market for virtual reality headsets has matured significantly in the last three years. The major players are Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Microsoft Hololens, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Daydream View. 

Internet of Things (IoT)

One way that the construction and building industry can benefit from IoT technology is advanced tracking. For example: wearable smart devices make it easier to track employees. This offers opportunities to improve safety, but also minimize labor waste and even fraud. Another way construction companies can benefit from IoT is equipment and machinery with online capabilities that can monitor and communicate about its own status, streamlining maintenance and repair processes. Once a building is up and running, data from IoT sensors can be fed into the BIM to model things like energy usage patterns, temperature trends or people movement throughout a building. The output from these models can then be analyzed to improve future buildings projects. Today’s green buildings are being engineered to do things like shut down unnecessary systems automatically when the building is unoccupied, or open and close louvers automatically to let in optimal levels of natural light; the construction industry is learning to be more sustainable with help from the IoT.  Heavy construction equipment is being outfitted with sensors, which can be remotely monitored for key indicators of potential maintenance issues like temperature fluctuations, excessive vibrations, etc. When abnormal patterns are detected, alerts can trigger maintenance workers to intervene early before critical equipment fails. Performing predictive maintenance in this way can save time and money, as well as prevent unnecessary delays in construction projects.

Chatbots 

ChatBots can offer a pragmatic solution for engineers working in the construction industry, which can be easily integrated into the communication structure they are currently using.ChatBots can manage communication and workflows to increase location-based interaction with equipment and engineers for planning and cost control. Artificial intelligence-based chatbots seem to be one of the most important assistants of construction site engineers. For a site engineer, it is difficult to manage the relationship between design, implementation and equipment usage. Hence, real time support will increase the productivity.

Chatbots offer real time info about machinery and team performance, construction site activity related photo and progress sharing, tracking real-time activity progress, easy access to location related drawings and info, notification for urgent needs and requirements, easy sharing of contractor, warehouse and material info, publishing daily progress report easily and accurate, notification to the site engineers, tracking real-time activity progress, just in time procurement and contractor management, fast update in construction planning tools, easy multi-disciplinary coordination, easy access to construction documents and drawings, and learning patterns of site engineers will create an opportunity to optimize construction workflows.

E-Commerce for Building & Construction Materials

With e-commerce for building and construction materials, commercial processes can be improved such as ordering building materials online. The Home Depot’s web store offers over 700,000 items online (as opposed to 35,000 products in a typical brick-and-mortar location), while W.W. Grainger Inc.’s e-commerce sales now account for 47% of total sales.Amazon’s tools and home improvement sales are outpacing the rest of the market’s. One Click Retail reports that from 2015 to 2016, Amazon’s U.S. tools and home improvement sales saw 35% year-over-year growth, resulting in a total value of $5 billion. While the total U.S. market was worth $313 billion, it saw just 6% year-over-year growth: just a fraction of what Amazon realized. Significant demand exists for an easy way to buy tools and materials online. 

AR Aided Design

Augmented reality is the incorporation of a computer-generated image on a person’s view of the real world. It provides a view of both what the world and work actually look like and what it could look like. Currently, the most popular augmented reality wearable in construction is the Microsoft HoloLens given its price and the fact it’s now certified as basic protective eyewear. Users can use computer-generated models both on the site and in the office to see what the final product will look like, proving the value of augmented reality in construction. Clients see computer-generated images or drafts, and they might have a slightly different image or vision for what they expected.  By using augmented reality in conjunction with BIM both the architects and construction firms can truly showcase functional models to their clients. Clients can make decisions based on the current plan and make changes before construction starts. By engaging clients early on it prevents costly fixes later and keeps clients interested in the project. They can see their vision, they know they’re heard, and they know work is being done. It makes augmented reality in construction a major investment in reducing costs for re-work. 

The best benefit to augmented reality is the ability to see how things fit on the site giving project managers the tools to see how everything fits on site before parts are ordered or assembled. Some companies have saved thousands of dollars thanks to errors caught by project managers with a HoloLens. While most companies are using VR helmets, glasses and other wearables on the sidelines for safety, it looks as though it will soon be available to walk through the site. It helps projects managers know how the plumbing, electrical and other utilities will fit into the structure so they can plan for it. Augmented reality is gaining speed in construction as it is one industry that will clearly benefit from it. Construction companies that have implemented augmented reality are already seeing the financial benefits. As the technology gets better, augmented reality will be more common on jobsites and in meeting rooms.

Aerial Site Intelligence for Surveying & Construction | Drone Deployment

According to a 2016 McKinsey report, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly referred to as drones, will dramatically improve the accuracy and speed at which construction projects are completed in the near future. There has been a dramatic decrease in the manufacturing cost of technology and thus the prices of professional grade drones for construction, complete with mountable, lightweight HD cameras and other survey equipment to as little as $700. 

Drones alone can dramatically improve surveys, site visibility, progress reporting, and inspection processes. Drone photography can be an important sales tool to win additional business as improved surveying and planning capabilities can set a firm apart from the competition. Drone photography can help owners visualize the final project and see how the project is progressing while under construction. Drone surveys can help put the virtual design in the context of real conditions and thus better engage the entire team. Drones with streaming video capability can help monitor the job site for suspicious activity and identify theft as it’s happening. Plus, your teams can easily monitor locations and quantities of assets and materials at a glance, to ensure it will be there when you need it. Drones can improve invoice accuracy as work is monitored to completion more effectively. Drones vastly increase the ability to complete quality inspections in large and hard to reach areas in an efficient manner. Finally, drones can minimize rework via increased inspections to catch more mistakes before they become a bigger problem.

Drones can be used through the entire construction lifecycle, from feasibility and bidding to handover and maintenance. In terms of feasibility, using cameras, geo-location and infrared sensors, data can be imported into software to create 3D models, identifying risk areas, understand constructability, and visualizing the end product. During construction, drones can track progress, monitor assets, increase safety, provide a documentation trail. Thermal leak detection, and other capabilities are valuable in the building maintenance stage.

Robotics

The rise of construction robots comes as the building industry faces a severe decrease in labor supply. One recent study showed that 70 percent of construction businesses have a difficult time finding skilled workers. Robotic technology provides the construction industry with numerous advantages. With the goal of automating processes and increasing productivity, robotics are being used to get work done quicker, cheaper and with more precise detail. Automating processes like welding, material handling, packing, dispensing, cutting and packing through robotics and machinery, allow for precision and accuracy throughout all construction processes, and represent a significant time and financial savings as well. http://ow.ly/Y4sm30m44N9

Companies like Built Robotics which develops technology to produce self-driving heavy equipment,  Construction Robotics whose machine can lay 3,000 bricks in a normal workday (several times more than a human bricklayer can do in the same period, in fact some of the most advanced brick laying machines can complete an entire house within a few days), and drones to measure huge amounts of rock and sand for sale (The machine can measure the materials on the whole 36-hectare place in 25 minutes. The same job takes a human a full work day to do) are examples of robotics opportunities in construction. The policy director for the International Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers argues his organization supports the rights of construction workers in the United States and Canada and is not worried that machines will replace human workers any time soon. While according to the World Economic Forum 5 million jobs are expected to be lost by 2020, 10% of total job losses are forecast to come from construction, where the same amount is due to be needed in architecture and engineering so the needs are shifting with robotics and process automation. Higher quality, accuracy (removing human error) and repeatability are valuable robotic advantages as is speeding up the demolition process (breaking down walls, crushing concrete, and gathering all debris) to provide a large saving of time and money. 

(https://learningenglish.voanews.com/a/robots-change-construction-industry/4310601.html)

Eliminating waste (construction creates 20% of the world’s landfill) not only improves the environment but profitability as in 3D printing. The introduction of 3D printing is continuing to grow in the construction industry. Now it is possible to print complex, layered, parts and objects that can be used in the construction of homes, buildings, bridges and roads. In Addition, robotic machines can standardize the production of pieces that can be used throughout various projects, saving both time and money.

(http://www.constructionworld.org/6-ways-robotics-transforming-construction-industry/)

Robotic Process Automation

Outside of the physical domain of robotics there is robotic process automation. Companies can, for example, transform their billing operations ie automating the activities involved in creating an invoice and its supporting documentation to enhance cashflow. Here’s an example from one engineering & construction firm.

“A global engineering and construction firm was experiencing cash flow problems resulting from Days Sales Outstanding (DSO) delays. These delays, in turn, were caused by difficulty in efficiently generating accurate invoices. Each invoice required, on average, more than 150 pages of back-up data that had to be pulled from five-to-ten different systems, including ERP and homegrown legacy platforms, time and expense systems and vendor portals. Compiling supporting documentation for a single invoice required four to five hours of manual effort—and the company was issuing thousands of invoices per month, with a range of different business rules for different business units in multiple geographies. In trying to resolve the problem, the company’s IT department confronted technical challenges and resource constraints, while the F&A unit was mired in a lengthy business process reengineering study.

Advisors from ISG were engaged by the firm’s IT department to develop a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solution to streamline the activities involved in creating an invoice and providing supporting documentation. Working in collaboration with the billing department, advisors began the project by conducting in-depth interviews with process subject matter experts to analyze and document the specific steps involved in creating an invoice. This information was then applied to the next phase of the project, which involved designing how the RPA solution would work. Key issues here included defining how the robots would access systems in terms of triggers and sequencing, how exceptions would be handled and how hand-offs between humans and robots would occur. Subsequently, the RPA software was installed on virtual machines, subjected to rigorous testing and deployed into production. The resulting RPA solution—designed and implemented over the course of eight weeks—has reduced the average time to create an invoice from 4.5 hours to 11 minutes. With a total annual cost of $150K, the digital robots are doing the work of an equivalent of 20 FTEs who were processing the thousands of invoices each month. Staff who remain are now able to focus on managing exceptions and on customer-facing billing activities. In addition to the cost savings, the solution has reduced DSO and accelerated daily cash flow by eight figures.”

(http://isg-one.com/related-case-studies-detail/engineering-and-construction-firm-leverages-rpa-to-transform-billing-operations)

Conclusion

The Construction industry is ripe for disruption. CONSTRUCTION evidences a significant lag in technology development and adoption behind other industries. As such, opportunities exist in the near term to derive revenues from packaging/bundling, building, buying and distributing construction technology solutions like the ones described above. Because contracting firms are typically smaller they are less connected and thus integrating automation has not been driven by globally aware senior management. Therein lies an opportunity. 

The Board & AI

When You're Thinking About Introducing AI To Your Company...


The monthly Board meeting is just a couple of weeks away. Your core business is operating as expected and aligned with your key performance indicator goals. The industry however appears to be not just dynamic but changing at lightning pace. Competitors arise from non-traditional and unexpected origins. Your Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) assuming your organization has such roles, are arguing in favour of investments in artificial intelligence. You have a sense, as CEO, that your Board will be unwilling do anything that risks core revenues. You have been considering the opportunities that Artificial Intelligence has brought other businesses in other industries, have yet to invest yourself, but believe the future is in AI. 

So, you decide you need to consider what questions the Board will be asking at your monthly meeting. Do they align with the questions surfaced during your executive leadership meetings in preparation? And finally, what’s your level of commitment to the AI domain? Those board questions might include:

· How is the management team selecting areas of the company for investment in AI? Is it a strategic rationale or opportunistic one? Is AI part of digital transformation or unique?

· What are our competitors doing in this space, what have they learned and how can we leverage those learnings?

· What are the key metrics being focused on by the management team for the AI investment and how do they align with our existing objectives?

· Do we have a single leader (i.e. a Chief Artificial Intelligence Officer) providing oversight of the development or adoption of AI, and if so are they considering the whole organization or silos of the business?

· In terms of AI expertise, how deep is our internal knowledge and skills versus our reliance on external partners or vendors?

· AI relies on data. Do we have enough accurate, accessible, attributable data to be meaningful, controlled by sufficient privacy policies?

· When our employees start to voice their concerns over potential job loss due to AI, have you prepared our organizational culture in advance?

· What regulator or other risks need to be considered with an AI strategy?

· Our brand is very important to our continued success. Can AI augment or negatively impact that brand publicly?

Artificial intelligence provides, for each organization, a set of unique opportunities and challenges. Corporate Boards must acknowledge that technological and digital capabilities are transforming organizations around the globe. Such transformation cannot simply occur at the CIO or CTO level since it affects every aspect of the corporation and its future. Some organizations place this responsibility with the CEO or even a Chief Strategy Officer, yet decision-making for digital transformation must be overseen at the Board level.