How the all-in-one tool of this software company unlocks the full potential of civil engineers
Bringing digitization into the traditional construction industry is a must. And let that be exactly what software company CloudPiling is doing with a tool that automates repetitive processes. This gives engineers more time and space for concept and design work and project follow-up. Nothing but benefits.
The CloudPiling software package allows engineers to save twice: on time, because different options are calculated in a minimum amount of time, and on materials, because the geotechnical and structural design is optimized. With this world's very first SaaS web application for the niche market of deep foundations, civil engineer Thomas Zwaenepoel and Michelle Vanhove are turning the industry upside down, because they radically choose digitization.
These professional and private partners started CloudPiling in May 2020 at the proverbial kitchen table, but in the meantime, the company works in a brand new office, supported by five employees. Thomas Zwaenepoel takes the lead on development and trends in the geotechnical world, while Michelle Vanhove takes the lead on sales, marketing and personnel. "Yes, it sometimes gets rough between us," Michelle Vanhove laughs, "but that's what you get with strong characters. Besides, that way we always get the best results."
Teaching himself to program
"The idea of CloudPiling originated on my first day in the field," Thomas Zwaenepoel explains. "There I experienced first-hand which software that structural an civil engineers had at their disposal to create geotechnical designs. Really good software simply did not exist at that time, so I decided to make it myself (laughs)." Promptly, the engineer taught himself to program and worked on this solution for no less than seven years.
"As a geotechnical engineer myself,
I know very well what requirements our tool needs."
It is the first tool worldwide wich integrates all calculation tools for (repetitive) geotechnical calculations in one comprehensive web application. With a translation to the execution on site, because "as a civil engineer I stood with my boots in the mud and know better than anyone the requirements for the tool. A great asset since most of those tools are made by IT or academic people."
"I had the luxury of being able to start from that working field and not the theory. A very different, more pragmatic approach: what does the engineer on site need and what can I do to help him/her in this? Certainly not obvious, because as a civil engineer you don't learn how to program during your education. So suddenly I was also standing with my boots in the digital mud (laughs)."
"I needed one last push, because I hesitated for a long time, and Michelle gave it" Thomas Zwaenepoel explains. "I am convinced that both our 'Why' and our product is strong and makes the difference. It would have been very unfortunate if such a good idea, which effectively adds value to our economy and society, was not rolled out." adds Michelle.
Digitization is the present
"Actually, the motivation to build CloudPiling was twofold," Michelle Vanhove continues. "On the one hand, there was indeed that frustration about the lack of proper software, but on the other hand, it was also disillusioning to find that civil engineers are doing heavy university studies only to find themselves in the field dealing with endless, repetitive calculations in Excel. These could be better automated, giving those engineers more time to provide advice and think about concepts."
"Indeed, we are convinced that automation through technology is not the future but the present in the construction industry. This is why we want to upgrade the job of geotechnical engineers with our solution and let them really make a difference."
Clients are dumbfounded by the case studies we show them
"We are trying to do that mainly by changing the role of the engineer," Thomas Zwaenepoel explains. "No longer someone who makes endless calculations, but someone who helps the company move forward by thinking about new and innovative concepts, and by doing a lot more work in the same amount of time, precisely because he/she no longer has to perform the calculations himself. Consequently, he can start monitoring more and become a data analyst of the monitored data, to further refine the calculation tool with each project."
"We work very personally and tailored to the client,
and listen carefully to their needs."
"That sometimes still requires some convincing, because in terms of digital mindset we are not yet as far along in Belgium as we are in the Netherlands, for example. When we show companies the big savings of our tool through case studies, they are dumbfounded.This approach also makes us atypical in the software world: we work very personally and tailored to the customer, and we listen carefully to their needs. The geotechnical world is characterized by a very high level of complexity. We actively listen to the needs of companies to map their digital story and structure the transition using roadmaps. We find, with our experienced team, that it is often not that complex to integrate CloudPiling because we look at it in a different way than the customer themselves. We also intentionally don't sell our software online, we set up meetings in person because we understand that the customer wants to build a relationship of trust first."
Impact on the innovative transition in the construction industry
"Next year we will continue to focus on the Netherlands and Belgium. Then we will set our sights on the two most progressive countries in terms of digitization in the construction industry: the UK and Germany. There digitization is a bit more integrated, while here it still takes some work and patience. But introducing a new product into a new market is simply not obvious. Nevertheless, we are going for the same goal together and embracing every success, big or small. In fact, this is how we are fulfilling our dream: to have an impact on the innovative transition in the construction industry."