Incomplete, ambiguous or tardy information; communication issues on building sites lead to errors and delays which in turn may incur budget overruns of more than 25%. Drawing on his experience as a certified architect, Thibaut Lenart, in association with the INRIA Startup Studio, has developed Operys, an application aimed at resolving these shortcomings.
With construction projects, we know when they start, but never when they will end. If this sounds like a cliché, it nevertheless reveals the genuine issue inherent to every worksite, i.e. coordinating multiple tasks while taking into account the production and availability imperatives of each trade. ‘A building site is a space which evolves continuously’, Thibaut Lenart, State-certified architect and creator of Operys explains, ‘it requires regular adjustments to the schedule that must be transmitted to the right people at the right time. This is the task of the Works Manager, but they can’t always be on site as they often have to manage ten or so projects all at once.’ It is thus easy to imagine the risks involved when information arrives too late for the people concerned, who are not necessarily in possession of all the elements to interpret that information correctly.
Inria Startup Studio: ‘A stimulating community’
Thibaut Lenart spontaneously looked to the Inria Startup Studio programme to help develop his innovative digital tool. ‘In terms of resources, I had access to a work space and earned a salary for one year, which allowed me to focus calmly on building my project, but above all I benefited from tailor-made support for the creation of the future company.’ This support came in the shape of regular discussions with Delphine Picavet, head of partners and innovation projects at Inria Saclay Centre, as well as Sophie Pellat, co-director of the Startup Studio, who provided Thibaut with advice and recommendations throughout the development and completion process. ‘I also benefited from a 3-week training programme at EM Lyon Business School to acquire the basics in company organisation and development. What I really appreciated was the opportunity to join a community of project-owners via the Startup Studio. Being able to share my queries, feelings and feedback with them is particularly stimulating.’
Reducing both the human and financial costs
‘A quarter of the recurring errors observed on worksites are due to communication issues. For example, a sub-contractor prefabricating an element in the wrong size or an electrician drilling a hole in the wrong place in the ceiling. The accumulation of all these small mistakes adds greatly to costs. The cost is both financial and human, as studies show that communication errors can lead to overruns of more than 25% on worksites and 52% of works managers suffer from sleep disorders. The link between cause and effect is not difficult to ascertain. Solutions do exist, however, and Operys is one. ‘This is a smart messaging service geared towards works managers and tradespeople, which transmits useful information easily. Numerous worksite steering tools exist, but as they are designed more for project management and organisers rather than operators, they are often ill-adapted to the habits and constraints of tradespeople. Even more so given that in the building field, printed supports are still the preferred choice.’ Designed to meet the practical needs of various worksite operators, Operys is thus based on two fundamental principles: simplicity and accessibility.
This is a smart messaging service geared towards works managers and tradespeople, which transmits useful information easily.
State-certified architect and creator of Operys
A simple, accessible tool
Operys comes in the form of a web application. Works managers subscribe to the service and invite tradespeople to connect. ‘At the start of a construction project, the works manager creates a list of actions for which they will transmit information, specifying the trade and work area concerned. They also edit QR codes which can be placed in various locations around the worksite. If a plumber needs to intervene in the first-floor bathroom, they simply scan the QR code in this area to access the information which concerns them. They can also communicate with the works manager in real time thanks to the messaging service.’ A second feature allows users to store plans in a directory and compare various versions, with modifications appearing in colour for fast and easy identification. ‘This is a really helpful feature, because for certain work phases, the plan can change several times a week.’
A product built on the ground
‘My initial project was to adapt the Building Information Modelling (BIM) tool, which enables work on the building’s digital twin, to an operational application. When talking to potential customers and after two months on the ground, I realised that my solution did not really correspond to either the needs or means of the target public. I drew on this experience to rethink my solution and develop Operys.’ With the support of Inria Startup Studio, Thibaut Lenart developed a first version of the product, which was presented in early March 2023. ‘Initial feedback has been encouraging and some users have expressed an interest in buying the solution. We already have ideas for improvement, particularly for error prevention based on data collected on the worksite.’ Prior to this, Thibaut needs to create the company Operys, which he is planning to do shortly in association with developer Hakim Dahmane and marketing officer Irène Rong.
My initial project was to adapt the Building Information Modelling (BIM) tool, which enables work on the building’s digital twin, to an operational application. When talking to potential customers and after two months on the ground, I realised that my solution did not really correspond to either the needs or means of the target public.