The example demonstrated here illustrates opportunities for using e-business in construction processes. The example Node .4253 described is that of an innovative procurement process. Node 4253 incorporates the concept of using I-components for the door ordering process.
The process of selecting a product supplier (in this case the door supplier) requires input from the client brief, door detail drawings and documents, such as door specifications (see Figure 3.3). Typically, the first step involves accessing the door supplier’s database using the IC. This database is an online interactive database of the door supplier’s services
and all product (i.e. door) information. The suppliers can maintain their product and service data online to ensure that only accurate and most up-to-date information is available. Using the IC search engine, the user can search for relevant door information that meets the required product specifications. For example, a search for a specific door type will list the door suppliers whose products match the door specified.
The user can use these search results to compare the different door suppliers using criteria such as cost, quality, availability, delivery time, etc. Following the comparison process the user can shortlist door suppliers. Using the IC, the
user can view online catalogs of shortlisted door supplier’s Web pages and issue tenders by invitation to these door suppliers. Once the tenders are analysed, the door supplier can then be selected. This entire process, being electronic, can be documented to form a part of the project audit trail document.
Suppliers who advertise products on the IC can update product information regularly. Typically, this information may include product specifications that are defined by the product class, the cost of the product, its availability and quality assurance.
For a given product, the typical classification can include product dimensions, finishes, physical properties, its chemical composition and its use. The information stored on such a system will not only be of use to the company that supplies the product, but also the end-user who can access accurate, updated product information as and when required. For example, the quantity surveyor (QS) can have a better chance of producing an accurate schedule of elements that are required in the construction project itself and he/she can obtain input for the bill of quantities straight from the supplier’s database. The door (product) suppliers would benefit from such electronic business transactions as it helps maintain a record of door orders and thus enables better management of product inventory.
Furthermore, product sales can be improved by monitoring and coordinating the sales inventory and financial data. Such data can help the management with a complete picture of the company/s operations on a day-to-day basis. Suppliers can also access product and order information to establish sales figures and product popularity in terms of which product appeals to the users and why?
The re-engineered business process described here highlights opportunities for using innovative e-business tools within the construction process and the possible business benefits to different stakeholder groups within the supply chain. In order to fully realize the potential of e-business, however, construction companies would have to radically alter traditional practices, especially the ways in which projects are managed and project partners collaborate and communicate with each other. Such changes need to be continually monitored and disseminated to inform late adopters of the impact of specific e-business applications on their end-user business processes.