To address construction worker shortage and introduce work-style reforms Kajima is revolutionizing manufacturing processes to realize an enhanced building production process.

Transcending inefficiencies in analog management of mega-construction projects.

“The role of general construction company employees like us is often equated with that of an orchestra conductor, as we lead everyone harmoniously toward project completion. Yet while the conductor conveys information instantly to all musicians by waving his baton, the construction site has a pyramid structure which creates an information time lag. Using Power Apps can—depending on the expertise level—enable immediate and universal information sharing, like waving a baton.”

Shikata came upon Forms within a year of its official release, and discovered that Microsoft Power Platform,  a low-code development tool that consists of Power Apps, Power Automate, and Power BI—spanning data collection through analysis and estimations—allows even programming amateurs to create applications easily, prompting him to learn more. Ultimately, he was able to develop an “interior progress management system” to monitor interior finishing.

“Saying that I developed my first system all by myself is a bit of an exaggeration,” says Shikata. “It was far too difficult for any amateur, as little information is available concerning these new services. I searched for helpful guidance on the internet and consulted with a Microsoft Partner for expertise and advice. With their continued consultation, I was able to complete the system,” he explains.

The interior progress management system uses a work completion app provided by Microsoft Forms. Onsite craftsmen can easily select and transmit information via smartphone, such as floor number, room name. Power Automate, which automatically operates based on the defined workflow, immediately reflects that information in an Excel management chart uploaded to SharePoint Online. The chart is shared with onsite employees and collaborating craftsmen via smartphone and computer, so everyone experiences smooth information sharing and communications, a grasp of work progress, and improved results and yield.

The company has already enjoyed horizontal rollout of the system at all Yokohama branch worksites. Employees have produced more than 10 percent improvement in yield in light gauge steel (LGS) and board construction. More than 20 percent improvement in yield has been seen in wallpaper work.

Shikata adds, “Development was prolonged as we initially looked up each bit of information, but once we finished, horizontal rollout to other worksites essentially took 1-2 days to complete. Thanks to Microsoft Solutions, even programming amateurs like us could achieve enormous success in speedy and flexible system development with incredibly little effort.”

“We used Microsoft Power Platform, tested the system, and quickly improved it after receiving feedback from collaborators. After repeating this process for each system, I realized that the greatest benefit emerged from developing useful systems together, with all users involved.” 

Encouraged by its success with the interior progress management system, the Yokohama branch applied development to another system, tracking fittings work on doors, windows, and other parts. That new system is now nearing completion.

The system allows color coding for quick assessment of work progress in areas such as installation of fittings in doors and window frames in each room—from chalking through shaving, which is shaping of concrete— or strengthening of apertures. This in turn enhances liaising with collaborators, and leaner arrangements for delivery and installation of fittings.

Shikata uses “the Power BI function to map out information on the management chart in addition to the mechanisms included in the interior progress management system. We worked to ensure that the busy craftsmen could grasp the work status for each room with a quick glance at the application’s block plans instead of poring over the many detailed drawings and the constantly updated progress chart.

The company ran a trial of the system in September 2020. “The burden of worksite management has been lightened for craftsmen, and we expect to see improved yield in fittings work,” says Shikata. With this initial success, Shikata is now considering another major undertaking to further advance user-friendliness—incorporating Teams to enable remote communications such as chat and video conferencing with partner companies.

Okishio adds, “Instantaneous use of Teams across Kajima Corporation hastened by the COVID-19 health crisis gave us a true sense of its user-friendliness.” 

He continues, “Our business infrastructure had already incorporated the Microsoft 365 cloud services for email and document sharing. We followed that by a full corporate rollout of Teams in February 2020, with study groups organized to promote its use. Immediately thereafter, Japan declared a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19. We were fortunate to have completed the groundwork for Microsoft 365 and Teams, and were able to begin online conferences without any major upheaval.”