Behind our success is strong partners like Microsoft and Cybercom (Knowit). We work on building our Team Thomas, and we see Cybercom (Knowit) as an extension to our team.

Lennart Björnström, CIO Thomas Concrete Group AB

– We compete with small local players that are very close to customers, and also large material suppliers that are sometimes both our suppliers and also competitors. To succeed in this competition, we want to be seen as the best. Digitalisation is one key component, and sustainability is basically the other, Lennart Björnström, the CIO and Head of Business Development at Thomas Concrete Group AB explains.

Digitalisation enables transparency and efficiency

Thomas Concrete has worked with Knowit for several years to gain a digitalisation advantage in an industry that is traditionally anything but.

- The whole construction industry is far behind other industries in productivity, and lack of digitalisation is one of the reasons for it. We have chosen to see this as an opportunity for us to drive the development of our industry, not just in concrete but in construction in general, Björnström says.

By providing digital services to their customers, Thomas Concrete can excellently boost their productivity. They achieve this by reducing paper flow, giving customers real-time insights into how the projects are progressing, when deliveries are coming in, and how the whole supply chain is working.

This transparency was not there before. Digitalisation gives insight and understanding and naturally creates savings when the construction process is more efficient. That also makes savings in transportation, which is an important sustainability effort.

IoT brings concrete expertise to customers

Thomas Concrete is a concrete specialist and is seen as an expert in making concrete in a sustainable way, with a formula that has a smaller CO2 footprint. Now they can extend their value chain by offering their skills to customers in a new way: by providing them with insight into how the product performs.

For instance, together with Knowit, Thomas Concrete has built sensor technology connected to cloud solutions that give insight into how the concrete is hardened. That is something that one usually can’t know, but now the customer can see how far the concrete has hardened from a mobile phone.

This insight saves time and money and is a huge step to be more sustainable, as heating, drying and all the machinery required for these steps can be optimised.

We are providing services to our customers to make their day easier by providing them with some of our knowledge in concrete. Currently, we are working on a prediction service that can tell when, in the future, you as a customer can move to the next phase in your construction, Björnström explains.

Windows Virtual Desktop unites tools and employees

In certain areas, Thomas Concrete has to work with industry-specific ERP systems. The tools built for the construction industry are not always technically advanced, but they provide a lot of business capabilities unique for the industry.

To get the best out of these tools, Thomas Concrete decided to move all its systems to a public cloud environment. They chose Microsoft Azure as the cloud platform, and they are making use of many of the built-in services that it provides. The industry-specific tools are now accessible from anywhere, even on mobile devices, through Microsoft Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD).

In Europe, Thomas Concrete has already moved to Microsoft Azure. The next step is the USA, where about half of Thomas Concrete’s business is. The group has a little over 2000 employees and close to 200 sites, out of which 160 are production facilities. Cloud and WVD now allow all the employees spread across this network to access the same tools with a very light installation. That drives accessibility and mobility to the entire workforce, the Team Thomas. Harmonising how people work brings them closer and enables better communication with colleagues even in different locations. Sharing best practices is also now easier.

- Microsoft actually turned us to Citrix in 2018 as they didn’t have anything similar to offer, but we went back to them when they brought out WVD. Now WVD is a core component to our operations, and it has also brought cost savings, as Citrix was just another tool on top of everything else, and now we can use the built-in services that WVD has, Lennart Björnström says.

Working with new technologies requires strong partnerships and open communication

As a Microsoft Gold partner, Knowit had already familiarised with Windows Virtual Desktop in the beta testing phase. Nevertheless, it was a new technology, and it is not always easy to find customers who are willing to be the first ones to implement a new tool as there is naturally some risk involved.

We started working with WVD with Thomas Concrete right when it was launched. Fortunately, in this case, the technology turned out to be very mature. From early on, we saw that this would enable us to integrate everything that Thomas Concrete is doing, unlike with Citrix, which was a separate tool. Now we also have more opportunities to handle cybersecurity and make sure that there are no disruptions to business. At least in the Nordics, we were one of the first ones, if not the first one to adopt this, says Riku Kovalainen, Client Manager at Knowit.

Cloud technologies develop every day, bringing out new tools all the time. In this sense, working with the cloud means constantly working with new technologies. Thomas Concrete’s digitalisation agenda is ambitious, but they see the cloud, IoT, artificial intelligence and machine learning as keys to being the best in the industry.

– Behind our success is strong partners like Microsoft and Cybercom (Knowit). We work on building our Team Thomas, and we see Cybercom (Knowit) as an extension to our team. There is always a risk when working with new technologies, but the key to success is our open relationship, where we share challenges openly. There are bumps in this journey, and you can only be successful when you have an open relationship and discuss things openly. That is the only way when you are working in new tech, Lennart Björnström says.

Sustainability Goal 9

Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation

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Magnus Karlsson
Sales executive, Knowit Cloud Partnerships, Sweden
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