Business Process Integration (BPI)
Our previous blog examined the need for more standardization of data transmission within the construction industry. We touched on the construction industry’s historically low level of productivity gains, and how better data could help boost productivity.
And we looked at the success of the telematics standards as an example of how data from the site and equipment can provide far reaching benefits across the entire industry.
This post looks at the potential transformative impact of increased Business Process Integration (BPI) as it applies to multiple facets of the construction industry.
What Is Business Process Integration?
Business Process Integration (BPI) can take many forms, depending on the nature of the businesses involved and their technologies. A simple definition is the synchronization of different business systems to facilitate the more efficient exchange of data. This synchronization is automated, eliminating the need for human data entry/manipulation, thus increasing efficiency and reducing errors.
In other words, BPI allows for the real time (or near real time) movement of information between different business systems within a single business or between a business and its trading partners. Efficient Business Process Integration (BPI) is now a key requirement for any business to succeed. Without it Amazon, Airbnb, FEDEX and many other companies would not exist.
BPI Is Everywhere
BPI has become so ubiquitous in our daily life, that we often take it for granted. For a very common, real world BPI example, let’s use the travel site, Expedia. When you schedule your vacation, Expedia can simultaneously check the availability of rental cars, airline flights and hotels on a global scale, in real time. For a moment, consider the complexity of what is transpiring behind the scenes. While you are researching and booking your vacation, thousands of other people are simultaneously doing the exact same thing.
Expedia’s real time BPI connects with diverse systems in multiple industries across the globe and coordinates your reservations. If a hotel sells out, that listing is immediately removed from the system. If a car pick up location becomes unavailable, an alternate location is suggested. Expedia can even coordinate the timing of flights, rental car pickup and hotel reservations.
Contrast that with the way that travel agents booked a vacation for you less than 20 years ago. It would often take dozens of phone calls to hotels, airlines and rental car companies to inquire about price and availability. This was followed by a stream of faxes and culminated in your tickets arriving by mail. Oh, and you had to hope that all of that human interaction didn’t result in errors that sent you to a hotel without a guaranteed reservation.
BPI In Construction
In construction, one recent example of BPI is mixed fleet telematics. Here, a construction company can receive valuable, real time data from multiple machines, manufactured by several different manufacturers. A provider collects, aggregates and integrates all of that different data into a single web portal that an equipment manager can access 24/7, from any location. This aggregated data can then be brought into the equipment manager’s construction management platform, further enhancing the value and utility of the data.
It’s important to note that the recent mixed fleet telematics standards, developed by AEM and AEMP, greatly facilitated the BPI process. While standards are not a requirement for BPI, they can greatly hasten the development, testing and implementation of any data integration.
The key economic benefit of BPI in this instance is that an equipment manager can analyze data from multiple equipment brands and then make better decisions regarding utilization and maintenance. This helps drive down costs and boosts productivity. Prior to the mixed fleet telematics, data from each manufacturer may have been in different formats, making data integration and assimilation extremely difficult.
Why Stop There
Telematics is obviously very important to the efficient management of a construction project. But why not expand the use of BPI?
Improved BPI would allow construction companies to fully integrate their project management software with equipment rental companies. That would provide more efficient tracking of equipment usage and associated costs.
Manufacturers can also benefit from robust BPI. The ability for a dealer/distributor to order critical replacement parts and rapidly receive delivery is critical for reducing customer downtime. In fact, this “Guaranteed Delivery” not only reduces downtime and improves owner satisfaction, but it is becoming a brand differentiator.
For this type of service to reliably work, you must have integration happening on several levels including:
- Telematics providing instant notification of part failures to gauge part demand
- Manufacturer and supplier integration to ensure an adequate supply of parts
- The manufacturer and the fulfillment (shipper) that will deliver the part to the dealer or jobsite
- Between the dealer and the manufacturer in the case of warranty
It’s no secret that the construction industry has a “productivity problem”. While it’s true that the days of pen and paper are mostly behind us, vast amounts of data remains siloed and thus unavailable for process improvement, productivity growth and profit enhancement. We should look for more opportunities to improve data integration. Delaying the implementation of industry wide BPI will only cause further growth stagnation and ultimately limit the promise of Digital Iron.