Living and working in the UK, it is easy to forget that different geographical architecture, engineering and construction (AEC) technology markets move at different paces, and that, even in an increasingly connected and globalised market, some solutions can remain quite localised. For example, the concept of cloud-based construction collaboration has been around for some 20 years in the UK and US, and similar products have developed in parallel in Australasia, Scandinavia, central Europe, India, southern Africa and southeast Asia. It has taken 10-15 years for market leaders to emerge, and for some merger and acquisition activity to start to consolidate markets, but there is still a wide continuum ranging from sophisticated markets adopting BIM and undergoing wider digital transformation, to other markets which have yet to relax their reliance upon paper-based communications.
Sometimes the time lag is due to the availability of a reliable telecommunications infrastructure with the capacity to connect all project team participants. Sometimes it is down to someone preparing to innovate and move away from ingrained industry practices reliant on email and spreadsheets. Sometimes it can relate to economic cycles and industry cultures – are markets at a crisis point, for example, where company survival demands innovation or a cultural change from how things have traditionally been done?
In August 2018 I spoke to the founders of a relatively recent arrival in the AEC software market whose formative experiences were gained in the Middle East and CIS regions. Project Control System (PCS) was formally established in Malta in 2016, but the startup’s founders, Demirhan Senel (right) and Ondrej Piska, met some years earlier.
Both men have solid construction experience from projects across different regions including the EU, Turkey, Middle East, CIS and the Balkans. During their construction careers, they have used software collaboration tools including those provided by the major players in the industry – but felt they were all missing something and that they could develop something better.
Initial work focused on developing a PC-based construction management and control application, before they switched to developing a cloud-based toolset fit for use on mobile devices. The initial application was trialled by a Baku, Azerbaijan-based main contractor, and then with contractors in Dubai and Turkey, and, having established there is a growing demand for construction IT tools in these markets, PCS has been working to expand both its toolset and to broaden the company’s marketing reach.
The PCS project management platform comprises a series of modules covering key activities including: document and drawing control and document workflows, photo management, procurement, contracts, cost control, supervision of labour and of plant/machinery, and scheduling. The solution is targeted at main contractors and construction managers working on small and medium-range projects (typically from €1m up to €150m, with programmes ranging from two months up to three years).
Pricing is competitive compared to more established solutions, Piska says, quoting between €500 and €700 per month for a €10m project, depending upon the range of modules selected by the customer, but with unlimited users and unlimited storage. The platform’s plant management module has already been extensively used by customers – one used it to supervise over 3,000 items, another managed more than 300 trucks, cranes and other equipment items.
PCS is setting up a head office in Vienna, Austria and plans a September 2018 relaunch from its new base. Piska – responsible for sales and marketing– feels that the location will also help the startup manage interest from new prospects in countries such as Germany, Italy and Hungary. CTO Senel, meanwhile, is responsible for application development and maintenance, with responsive mobile applications (iOS and Android) in the pipeline for early 2019.