From networked planning to virtual reality apps – digitalization is impacting every area of business at Wienerberger. What do digitalization and innovation mean for the company?
Jörg Reinold: For Wienerberger digitalization is not just a passing trend: it is a necessity to make our business even more sustainable. This starts with the use of raw materials and continues through production to the construction site. We want to provide materials and products sustainably. We also seek to use digital technologies to optimize processes so we can build even better, more efficiently, and deliver even higher quality.
The information that can be obtained from digitalization is another important aspect. Here, I am thinking of our “smart products”, such as plastic pipes that collect data on water levels or rainfall. Solutions like this help us make our environment safer and improve peoples’ quality of life. Using digital technologies to create a more sustainable world is a powerful incentive for Wienerberger.
You are Chief Information & Digital Officer at Wienerberger. What are the main focus areas of your work?
Reinold: On the one hand, we are working to further expand the digital infrastructure. On the other, we are also working to transform our core business – i.e., by digitizing, automating and simplifying business processes. This also changes the way we interact with customers: information is increasingly exchanged via digital channels.
Finally, we are looking ahead to the future. We want to develop a vision and a view of new digital business models that we will implement together with our business areas. To some extent, this also involves changing our corporate culture, as a digital company needs new skills – such as agile leadership qualities and the ability to respond flexibly to new requirements.
“We are making our environment safer and more livable, thus increasing peoples’ quality of life with our solutions. Using digital technologies to create a more sustainable world is a powerful incentive for Wienerberger.”
For Wienerberger the digital transformation is about much more than introducing digital tools and platforms. What opportunities does it create?
Reinold: One major issue today is the digitalization of the construction industry as a whole. At Wienerberger we want to be a partner for stakeholders through every stage of the construction process and over the whole lifecycle of the building. This requires digital solutions and services along the entire value chain.
We also need to solidly position ourselves as a company in terms of digitalization to create a future-proof working environment with modern workflows. This increased internal networking requires digital tools. In addition, we have to provide information that shows how sustainable our building materials, solutions and production sites are. We are therefore digitizing the existing physical world so we can use this data.
How do Wienerberger’s employees and partners benefit from the digital progress at the company?
Reinold: We can only pursue the path to digital transformation together with our team and our partners. In many cases, our partners are small to medium-sized businesses. We want to help them simplify their work processes. They should experience a real improvement in their daily operations when using our digital services. Digitalization makes a typical working day easier for our employees – to say nothing of facilitating new forms of work, such as working from home or on the go.
“We must provide information that shows how sustainable our building materials, solutions and production sites are. We are therefore digitizing the existing physical world so we can use this data.”
What exciting projects is Wienerberger currently working on in the area of digitalization?
Reinold: One good example is All4Roof, an end-to-end digital tool for roof planning. Every stage of a project, from planning to implementation, is done digitally. This enables the customer – in this case the roofer – to carry out the project with far less hassle. Another example is BIM (Building Information Modelling). Here, a building is designed and visualized in a virtual environment. The process optimizes the planning and construction of buildings and enables all parties to work together on them.
We are also thinking about creating a digital building twin in the future, which we will hand over to the homeowner when the house is completed. Like a digital building passport, it will contain all the design and construction information. We also provide planning apps – such as the Garden Planning app in Austria. We developed this for our garden planners, who support homeowners with garden irrigation.
What is happening at Wienerberger in terms of research and development on digitalization?
Reinold: Our digital planning models are a very promising area. Our Preflex Spider for example, helps electricians plan the electrical installation. On the basis of a digital plan, smart electro conduits are manufactured and delivered pre-wired to the construction site ready for installation. This simplifies work and saves time on the construction site.
The complete house concept is another topic. Here, we ask ourselves: what is necessary not just to build a house, but to achieve a high quality of life and a sustainable lifestyle? We want to bring more efficiency and sustainability into this area of life – be it through water that can be reused, or the self-use of resources that are available at the property.
“We want to bring more efficiency and sustainability into this area of life – be it through water that can be reused, or the self-use of resources that are available at the property.”
Companies are facing challenges and new situations as a result of climate change. How is Wienerberger responding to this?
Reinold: Digital tools can also be used to improve safety. Take the increasing frequency of extreme weather situations for example We provide specialist solutions for this. Our Raineo® rainwater management system prevents flood damage and conserves the valuable resource of drinking water. Urban design is another area – how can we avoid overheating, for example? And how can we use natural resources again to generate energy?
Wienerberger is already taking significant steps to ensure a better future with a number of projects. Where do you see the areas of digitalization and innovation five years from now? What would you like to see?
Reinold: Wienerberger has stood for the design of high-quality living space for more than 200 years. In the future, I can imagine that Wienerberger is positioned even more strongly as a company that supports a sustainable lifestyle. What would I like to see? I believe we need a kind of “renaissance”. The Renaissance was about a holistic approach. If we want to live healthy and sustainable lives, all areas of life need to be interconnected. There is still a need for action here – in politics as well as in society.