Success Story

Digitization of load carriers for prefabricated building elements for Weber Betonwerk

By digitizing their load carriers with Sigfox 0G technology, Heliot Europe helped Weber Beton to generate real-time location information. These lead to increased efficiency, time savings and theft protection.

Weber Betonwerke is a manufacturer of precast concrete elements and offers a wide range of high-quality concrete products for residential and commercial construction. The company produces various concrete elements that are used in different construction projects such as detached houses, agricultural and industrial buildings, commercial buildings, supermarkets and residential complexes. Manufactured using state-of-the-art technology in large production halls, Weber Beton products stand for quality and innovation in modern construction.

The construction industry is driving forward its digitalization and is increasingly using the advantages of the new 0G technology to monitor and manage material flows and construction site requirements as well as to secure equipment. One pioneer is Weber Betonwerk, which is creating immense added value with the Sigfox-0G network-based tracking and tracing of load carriers. The resulting real-time transparency increases customer satisfaction, transport routes can be planned more easily and load carrier efficiency increases.

When precast concrete parts are in demand for large-scale residential and commercial real estate construction projects, the medium-sized specialist Weber Betonwerk in southern Germany is a favorite. The company, which belongs to the Foca Group, manufactures prefabricated elements such as balconies, walls, stairs and ceilings, which are used in the construction of large-scale supermarkets, technology centers, airports and agricultural facilities, among other things.

The company’s customers rely on an optimally interlinked value chain, the decisive factors of which quickly become clear: Firstly, around 600 load carriers for the prefabricated elements are available for up to 2,000 deliveries per month in the Bavaria and Hesse region. Secondly, these highly robust beams remain on the construction sites for at least a week, as they are the only way to carry and support the concrete elements, which weigh almost 20 tons, until they are installed in the buildings. Only then does Weber Betonwerk retrieve the empty load carriers. They are used again immediately at the four production sites. The efficiency of the value chain therefore depends to a considerable extent on the findability, availability and turnover frequency of the load carriers. Finally, the third factor is the 40 or so trucks in intensive use: they handle the transportation between production sites, external warehouses and construction sites described above. There is no doubt that the coordination of all these processes is so complex that they are difficult to manage without digitalization.

Focus on satisfied customers and security

But Weber Betonwerk does not just want to manage, the management wants to optimize – for the benefit of its German and international customers. They, in turn, want precise information on the status of their deliveries and want to know when they are expected to arrive. As the load carriers are an integral part of every delivery, their real-time tracking quickly emerged as an important goal for Weber Betonwerk.

Such digitized tracking should not only make it possible to quickly determine the location of the wearer, it can also minimize the risk of theft. Germany-wide crime statistics from 2018(www.bauwatch.de/kriminalstatistik-2018-baustellendiebstahl) list well over 24,000 theft offences, with large construction sites in particular being the target of organized gangs. The financial losses are in the multi-digit million range and the trend is rising. Weber Betonwerk also takes this very seriously, because the robust load carriers have their price: with a value of more than 5,000 euros per unit, it is important to avoid losses as much as possible.

However, anyone who wanted to digitize their load carrier routes faced a major hurdle. A GPS sensor with a cell phone connection on each rack is simply too expensive and also complicated to handle with SIM cards and contracts. The same applies to the connection setup, which requires both more complex embedded logic and is energy-hungry, which in turn leads to shorter battery life and therefore shorter maintenance cycles. Everything becomes far too expensive so quickly.

Locating in the 0G network saves resources

However, the new geolocalization via the Sigfox 0G network is significantly more energy-efficient and can be used worldwide without roaming charges, and can be obtained in very different qualities depending on the integrated sensor technology. The Sigfox service has the great strength that both the scope and frequency of status messages sent are reduced to the smallest sensible minimum in order to save maximum energy at the crucial point – the tracking device “in the field”. This extends its battery life to currently around seven years, resulting in extremely low maintenance costs and making asset tracking affordable in the first place. Compared to mobile network-based trackers, which only last a few weeks or months, the difference is enormous, because ultimately it is the maintenance costs that make the biggest difference.

“We need geodata and status information in real time to be able to optimally inform every site manager and foreman on our large construction sites between Mainz and Würzburg about the expected delivery time of their precast concrete parts. Sigfox’s 0G network is ideally suited for this purpose. Data transmission is extremely inexpensive, consumes hardly any energy and, in case of doubt, can even be used across national borders without roaming charges,” explains Dr. Frank Lorenzoni, Head of IT & Development at the Foca Group, to which Weber Betonwerk also belongs.

"The tracker chosen for the Weber Betonwerke project was ultimately a Sigfox 0G solution from h2n, as these trackers are industrially robust, guarantee particularly long battery life of up to 7 years and deliver extremely accurate geodata thanks to GPS sensor integration - even away from urban, already developed settlement structures."

Dr. Dominik W. Pilat
Head of Competence Center Internet of Things at cooperation partner SVA

Small tracker, big impact

In the meantime, the company has successfully completed an extended test phase with 100 of its load carriers and is now equipping the remaining 500 or so carriers with the 0G network trackers, as successful geolocalization achieves positive effects at numerous company levels. First and foremost, Weber Betonwerk customers can use the system set up to find out the estimated time of arrival of their delivery of finished parts at any time. This is reflected in customer satisfaction: site managers and foremen experience predictable processes and an improved service experience as a result. As a business partner, you feel much more like a customer than just the recipient of a shipment and therefore much more valued. At the same time, the prefabricated element manufacturer sets itself apart from the competition.

At the same time, the collection of empty racks has become more efficient: Transport routes are controlled via networked fleet management functions, the number of racks in use is optimized, and the app developed by the in-house IT department for truck drivers helps to plan delivery routes on an individualized basis. This means that empty load carriers can also be picked up spontaneously by locating them. However, the employees currently still determine whether the load carriers are still full or already empty based on time specifications on delivery bills, because they can roughly estimate the usual time window for the installation of the finished parts from experience. Last but not least, the receipts and issues of the load carriers in the external warehouses are also posted automatically so that their stock is always known. Finally, Weber Betonwerk wants to increase the overall handling frequency and thus ultimately save costs for the procurement of new load carriers in the event of further growth.

Innenlader-Palette mit installiertem Tracker
Beton-Innenlader von Weber Beton

Applications with a future

Weber Betonwerk has had such good experiences with its new tracking system in terms of robustness, reliability and accuracy that the company is now planning further areas of application within its own Foca Group. Firstly, in earthworks, where it can be worth locating vibratory plates or small rollers, for example, because they move from site to site. This is where the advantageous longevity of the 0G network tracking solution comes into play. Secondly, the Group’s glass façade manufacturer wants to track the transportation routes of its large-format and therefore extremely valuable industrial products right up to the point where the customer takes them over. This helps to avoid business losses.

In addition to locating load carriers, GPS technology in the 0G network enables further areas of application in the construction and real estate industry, such as real-time inventories of construction machinery, construction site power distributors or high-quality elements in scaffolding construction or for construction site fence monitoring. Sigfox technology is also used to collect countless other status information. For example, there are 0G-capable moisture sensors that can be poured into concrete in order to precisely measure the curing process and thus optimize construction progress.

It is also possible to send alarm messages if a circular saw is stolen or to send fill level data. This means that construction site waste, for example, can be collected just-in-time, as the system recognizes at an early stage how quickly the designated collection containers fill up. The same applies to construction site toilets. Regardless of the benefits that construction companies and their suppliers want to realize through digitalization – it’s worth getting to grips with 0G. These and many other solutions can be found on the partners.sigfox.com portal. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you have the option of seeking advice from system integrator SVA and the Munich-based Sigfox Germany team.

AT A GLANCE

Digital Twin of load carriers

Project:

Modernizing the construction industry through real-time monitoring and management of material flow, demand and equipment safety to increase efficiency and customer satisfaction.

Industry:

Logistics / Transportation / Construction

Challenge

Solution

Benefit

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