'Digitization in construction is gaining momentum during pandemic' - interview with our expert about Bilfinger Tebodin in Romania


Bilfinger Tebodin is traditionally strong in the engineering and management of oil and gas projects, those in the automotive and chemical industries, but also biofuels in Romania. Here the company has been active since 1998, with offices in Bucharest and Ploiesti. Read the interview with Florin Prunaru, Process Engineering Director in Romania & Hungary, Bilfinger Tebodin, a specialist with 9 years of experience on the construction and engineering market. This article was recently issued by the Agenda Constructiilor magazine in Romania.

What projects is Bilfinger Tebodin currently working on in Romania? At what stage of implementation are those and what are the deadlines?

Historically Bilfinger Tebodin is very strong in engineering and management of oil & gas, automotive, chemical and biofuel projects here in Romania. We are currently working with a number of biggest companies in these fields, managing projects at construction phase already. One of them is a new tire factory for a big automotive manufacturer, where we do the design and site supervision.

Bilfinger Tebodin is also managing its largest construction site for Swiss specialty chemical company Clariant in Podari, Romania. In April 2021, a large team of more than 700 site workers has reached a record of 1 million man-hours without lost-time injuries. The commercial-scale plant for the production of second-generation bioethanol from agricultural residues is planned to be accomplished by the end of 2021. 

Please resume the evolution of the company in 2020 and estimate how it will evolve in 2021?

Despite of the pandemic situation, 2020 was a successful year for us. Bilfinger Tebodin has managed to continue its growth and deliver to clients. We are optimistic also for 2021 even if some of our customers are postponing investment decisions or start dates. Overall, the company is on track with development plans.

What was the impact of the pandemic on Bilfinger Tebodin activity in Romania? What were the most important changes on the way of working on the construction sites?

Happy to say that our construction site activities were not influenced by the pandemic situation. Site teams managed to create independent tailor-made procedures for each site so that they operate safely, keeping the same pace as before with a minimum impact on project deadlines.

Clariant, with its site supervisor Bilfinger Tebodin, is leading the coordination of the work of the different contractors (civil, mechanical, electrical, and instrumentation). This also includes the quality control of the work as well as the implementation and supervision of the safety rules. Probably, no one can be 100% ready to deal with such an emergency as Covid-19 brought suddenly in 2020. Important is how quickly and professionally you react to this. On March 16, 2020, the same day when the National Emergency Situation was enforced in Romania, Clariant initiated the development of two scenarios with Bilfinger Tebodin to manage the situation and to be ready to act however the situation develops.

Fortunately, the construction was not stopped for any period of time. Apart from keeping the general precaution measures like wearing masks, having disinfectant liquids available, and keeping 2 meters distance, there are additional steps HSE undertook to keep the site safely operating. Such steps included logistics issues, e.g. handling incoming goods from countries outside Romania, and goods quarantine, travel policy and site access. Workers are split into teams and the spaces for taking lunch breaks are enlarged in order to keep the safe distance. HSE manages the site situation from special access procedures (like visitors' and workers’ temperature measuring) up to creating conditions for workers’ accommodation near the site.

What do you think will be the trends in the construction activity in the coming years, as an effect of the pandemic, but not only?

In terms of new trends in the construction activities, we do not see that many changes, even though on the design phase we see a slight increase in terms of digitalization. Both contractors as well as the beneficiary will have to integrate this into their daily activity, so that their operations would not be disrupted by another similar situation.

To keep an eye on changes of costs and trends, our cost experts across CEE region analyze the market annually. The new Cost control white paper was issued recently, indicating, among other European trends, over 10% price increase for a range of services and materials during 2020 as well as materials and equipment delivery gaps during March through May 2020 caused by lockdown and production delays.

What impact do you think the digitization trend and the new technologies will have on the construction market and on labor and productivity in this sector? How do you think the new trends will be received by the market in Romania?

Bilfinger Tebodin has always presented small steps into digitalization to clients, advising on how to increase production efficiency. However, until now only few of them have embraced this as a future investment. Currently we see a raising interest among our clients for adding these services into our scope, which might be caused by the pandemic situation as well.

There are several different fields in which digitalization is currently developing, and we have expertise in each of them. No doubt that they can bring significant improvement to design, construction or productivity. For instance, using virtual reality and BIM model, we are holding safety audits on distance. VR technologies let us experience visiting the facility during the design phase, as if it’s already built. Specialists see their creation full-scale, feel its spacing, any non-conformity is immediately marked in the model, so that a design solution would be reconsidered to mitigate risks.