kopp­la: a digi­tal tool for all skil­led workers

There’s a lot going on on a con­s­truc­tion site. Foun­da­ti­ons are cast, pipes laid, beams are sawn and adjus­ted, and win­dows instal­led – the most varied of trades are working the­re at the same time from the buil­ding shell through to the inte­ri­or fit­tings. The site manage­ment is respon­si­ble for over­see­ing this work. It mana­ges sche­du­les, time recor­ding, deli­veries and com­mu­ni­ca­tes with the trade­speo­p­le. All of this is often con­nec­ted with a lot of paper­work. So, how can this pro­cess be digi­ti­sed? That’s what three young foun­ders from Pots­dam and Ber­lin asked them­sel­ves and then laun­ched kopp­la - a new soft­ware for an old indus­try - on the mar­ket. The plat­form for skil­led craft­smen faci­li­ta­tes the manage­ment of working ope­ra­ti­ons bet­ween the office and the con­s­truc­tion site and brings important data in real time direct­ly onto the site manager’s desk.

kopp­la func­tions equal­ly as a cross-com­pa­ny and cross-pro­cess plat­fom so that it can be used by a small com­pa­ny much in the same way as a lar­ge gene­ral con­trac­tor that is hand­ling seve­ral lar­ge con­s­truc­tion sites with dozens of sub­con­trac­tors. While simi­lar soft­ware solu­ti­ons in the past had been most­ly for in-house use and focu­sed only on parts of the con­s­truc­tion pro­cess, kopp­la makes it pos­si­ble for the­re to be coope­ra­ti­on bet­ween the dif­fe­rent depart­ments throug­hout the enti­re con­s­truc­tion pro­cess. The first step for this to hap­pen sees the con­s­truc­tion site being crea­ted in the soft­ware with all of the appro­pria­te infor­ma­ti­on, and then off you go: the site mana­ger can assign tasks, store plans, times and dra­wings, and the deploy­ed skil­led craft­smen report back via the app on how the work is pro­gress­sing, and can send refe­rence pho­tos as well as flaws.

“The site mana­ger has a digi­tal con­s­truc­tion site cock­pit loca­ted in the office or con­tai­ner, and, ide­al­ly, this is always show­ing green. It shows the traf­fic light sta­tus of the dif­fe­rent sub­con­trac­tors working on the con­s­truc­tion site. If they fall behind in their work and the sub­se­quent work­flow is the­r­e­fo­re delay­ed, this sta­tus can be chan­ged to yel­low (delay) or even red (alarm). The site manage­ment can then take direct action,” says Jero­me Lan­ge, one of the three foun­ders of kopp­la. Such an ear­ly war­ning sys­tem within the app not only acce­le­ra­tes com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on, but can also lead to sus­tainable impro­ve­ment in enti­re pro­ces­ses on the con­s­truc­tion site. An exam­p­le: it’s Fri­day evening and the dry­wal­ler is sup­po­sed to be han­ging a cei­ling. But when he gets the­re, he sees that the cei­ling has­n’t been deli­ver­ed. He wri­tes his report and hands it in at the con­tai­ner. But not­hing else is done about it befo­re the weekend. When the pain­ters and elec­tri­ci­ans come in on Mon­day, it’s only when they’­ve arri­ved at the con­s­truc­tion site that they see that the cei­ling has­n’t been hung and that, con­se­quent­ly, they won’t be able to install the elec­tri­cal wiring or paint the cei­ling. If koop­la had been used, the drywaller’s note would have lan­ded direct­ly with the other trades­men so that they could have then resche­du­led their plan­ned work .

The fact that ever­y­thing is done by hand and filed in paper form on lar­ge con­s­truc­tion sites, that num­e­rous deli­very bills must be retra­ced and things can easi­ly get lost in pro­cess – this was what brought the foun­ders of kopp­la to come up with this idea in the first place. Co-foun­der Mar­co Tripp­ler had hims­elf work­ed in the skil­led crafts sec­tor and had been loo­king for a time and cost-effec­ti­ve way of sup­port­ing the dai­ly rou­ti­ne by using digi­tal com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on tech­no­lo­gy. Alt­hough 66% of the skil­led crafts com­pa­nies in Ger­ma­ny are open in prin­ci­ple to digi­ti­sa­ti­on, only about half of them use tech­no­lo­gies such as cloud com­pu­ting, track­ing sys­tems, vir­tu­al rea­li­ty or smart soft­ware in their day-to-day ope­ra­ti­ons - accor­ding to a recent stu­dy by Bit­kom with the Ger­man Con­fe­de­ra­ti­on of Skil­led Crafts.
He tea­m­ed up with two old school fri­ends, Las­se Stef­fen and Jero­me Lan­ge, who were still stu­dy­ing at the time, and they got star­ted. It was not long befo­re a tool, which had initi­al­ly been plan­ned as faci­li­ta­ting a fast exch­an­ge of images bet­ween trade­speo­p­le, beca­me a com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on plat­form 4.0 for the skil­led crafts sec­tor. After two months spent working on its deve­lo­p­ment, they pre­sen­ted the pro­duct at trade fairs and had an imme­dia­te and posi­ti­ve feed­back. “At the out­set, we inves­ted a lot of time in imple­men­ta­ti­on and coding. But then we rea­li­sed that the best way would be first to dis­cuss the fea­tures direct­ly with the trade­speo­p­le so that they could tell us exact­ly what they need and how,” says Jero­me Lan­ge. In order to opti­mi­se their soft­ware, they accom­pa­nied trade­speo­p­le on their jobs: from assign­ments for locks­mith ser­vices through the pain­ting busi­ness working on seve­ral apart­ments to the lar­ge-sca­le gene­ral con­trac­tor who is dri­ving the simul­ta­neous con­s­truc­tion of 200 apart­ments for­ward. Sup­port for the initia­ti­ve came from the Has­so Platt­ner Insti­tu­te, the Uni­ver­si­ty of Potsdam’s start-up ser­vice and the Fede­ral Minis­try of Eco­no­mics in the form of the EXIST scholarship.

Only one and a half years have elap­sed sin­ce the idea was born in spring 2019 and then fol­lo­wed by koppla’s offi­ci­al launch in April 2020. More than 30 com­pa­nies from all over Ger­ma­ny are alre­a­dy on the plat­form - small fami­ly con­cerns con­cen­t­ra­ting on indi­vi­du­al instal­la­ti­ons as well as lar­ge com­pa­nies with 800-strong work­forces with major con­s­truc­tion sites. “The time saving argu­ment was­n’t that rele­vant in a sec­tor such as skil­led crafts which has a healt­hy order-book and is not neces­s­a­ri­ly depen­dent on cus­to­mer acqui­si­ti­on, whe­re­as the pro­mi­se that ‘you will have less stress’ was in fact more con­vin­cing,“ says Jero­me Lan­ge about his con­ver­sa­ti­ons with clients.

Time recor­ding, docu­ment manage­ment, refe­rence pho­tos, staff plan­ning, check­lists: kopp­la pro­vi­des the basic frame­work for com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and orga­ni­sa­ti­on, with fea­tures that are easy to use. In future, one will draw upon addi­tio­nal pro­vi­ders in order to make kopp­la also available for spe­cial appli­ca­ti­ons. Next year should also then see it pos­si­ble to place orders via the soft­ware. kopp­la is thus the only ser­vice in the who­le of Ger­ma­ny that is cove­ring the enti­re pro­cess. The young team of foun­ders has been recei­ving inspi­ra­ti­on and sup­port during the start-up peri­od from the Media­Tech Hub Acce­le­ra­tor Pro­gram­me as well as by exchan­ging expe­ri­en­ces with other start-ups and gai­ning insight into various media tech­no­lo­gies. After all, dro­ne sur­veys or vir­tu­al rea­li­ty have long sin­ce beco­me part of day-to-day life on con­s­truc­tion sites. The visi­on of kopp­la is to beco­me the digi­tal ope­ra­ting sys­tem for the skil­led crafts sector.

By Chris­ti­ne Lentz

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About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.