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Nippon Koei Co., Ltd. is a construction consultant company established in 1946. The company has a proven track record in 160 countries around the world, and is committed to solving increasingly sophisticated and complex social issues with its advanced technology and comprehensive capabilities.

We spoke with nine people, including Mr. Sato and Ms. Yu from the Digital Transformation Department, Mr. Kawano and Mr. Yamaguchi from the CIM Technical Center (who belonged to the Slope Engineering Department until last year), Mr. Imai from the International Environment Department, Mr. Fujiwara and Mr. Suzuki from the Railway Division, and Mr. Kanemitsu and Mr. Oya from the Slope Engineering Department. 

We asked them to tell us how they are using RICOH360 Projects in their respective departments and what benefits they are experiencing.

 1. The decisive factors in choosing RICOH360 Projects were ease of application and ease of use.

Q. Please tell us about your company's business and the operations of each department where RICOH360 Projects has been introduced.

Mr.Sato, Digital Transformation Dept.

Since our founding we have been a pioneer in the construction consulting, developing construction consulting and electric power engineering businesses related to the development of social infrastructure in countries around the world.

The Digital Transformation Department, which I oversee, promotes digital transformation within the company and introducing new tools to increase productivity and supporting product trials.

The International Environment Department was the first department in our company to introduce RICOH360 Projects. The main role of the department is to solve environmental problems, including the management of overseas forests and river basins, and air quality management.

The Railway Division is responsible for overseas railroad projects, including railroad infrastructure development projects.

The Slope Engineering Department aims to create a safe and secure social infrastructure, mainly by conducting surveys and taking measures against landslides in Japan.

Q. What prompted your company to introduce RICOH360 Projects?

The main reason for this was that since last year, due to the spread of the coronavirus infection, we have been unable to visit overseas sites. RICOH 360 Projects was discovered by the Digital Transformation Dept and we were wondering if it would be possible to manage overseas sites remotely while staying in our office in Japan.

In recent years, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism introduced a "remote presence" initiative promoting the use of network cameras, etc. to manage the site from a remote location without in-person visits. So, there was also the idea of responding and getting involved as soon as possible.

Q. What was the decisive factor in choosing RICOH360 Projects over other services?

nipponkoei

First, since RICOH360 Projects is a cloud-based service, there is no need to build an environment, and we can start using it immediately after signing up. In our case, we were already using RICOH THETA, a 360° camera from RICOH, but the fact that we didn't need to build an environment meant that our initial investment would be small.

Also, compared to other tools, it is very easy to operate and use. To manage the site remotely, not only our employees but also local workers need to use the tool, so it is very important to have a low hurdle to start using it.

In addition to the ease of use of the camera itself, RICOH THETA makes it possible to take 360° photos that capture the entire situation at the site no matter who is taking the photos.

2.RICOH360 Projects has been introduced in three departments. How is each department using the system

Q. How have you been using RICOH360 Projects since its introduction? What advantages have you found in using it?

Mr.Imai, International Environment Dept

The International Environment Department manages forests and river basins overseas, as well as air quality management.

Until then, local staff would go to the site to take photos and send the file via e-mail, or share the images between the site and main office using a smartphone app, but the range of images captured by normal video have a narrow filed of view, so it was difficult to communicate requests such as "I want to see a little more downstream" or "I want to see how it looks from this angle." The problem was that it was difficult to accurately make such requests.

With RICOH360 Projects, a 360° capture records all angles in a photo, which eliminates such misunderstandings and allows us to proceed with our work smoothly. It is also very convenient to be able to markup in the images and give instructions by circling the areas that we want to see.

Mr.Suzuki, Railway Division

We use Ricoh 360 Projects to check the status of station buildings under construction.

We have set up four or five locations on each concourse floor and platform floor, and have local staff take photos of these locations every month, which we then check at main office.

RICOH360 Projects also includes a function for comparing past images, so we can see the progress of construction immediately by comparing the images taken each month. In the past, we had to store the photos we took in a folder and look at them one by one, so this is very convenient for us.

Mr.Fujiwara, Railway Division

RICOH360 Projects has been well received by the field, and we often hear comments that it is good to be able to grasp all angles, including the ceiling, in a single image, unlike flat photographs.

Mr.Yamaguchi, CIM Technical Center (former Slope Engineering Dept.)

The Slope Engineering Department is in the process of sharing the status at disaster sites using RICOH360 Projects.

We investigate and take measures against disasters, so we need to share information smoothly and quickly. In particular, accuracy and speed are of utmost importance in assessing the current situation at the time of a disaster.

Until now, we have been taking photos at the site and sending them to the relevant parties after organizing them. The problem was that we were not able to do this quickly enough, and from the perspective of speed, we felt that Ricoh 360 Projects would be useful for sharing the current situation in real time through cloud sharing.

Mr.Kanamitsu, Slope Engineering Dept.

We recently used RICOH THETA to inspect the slope of a road after a heavy rain, and we were able to take only about 10 photos with RICOH THETA, whereas we would have needed to take 20 to 30 regular photos.

Furthermore, using RICOH360 Projects, we can automatically share them in the cloud, which I felt would lead to improved work efficiency.

Mr.Sato, Digital Transformation Dept. 

The disadvantage of sharing 360° photos is that it is often difficult to know which direction you are looking at. But in the case of Ricoh 360 Projects, there is a function that allows you to use handwritten markers to indicate where you want people to look.I think this is another area where the members who use the system find it very convenient.

3. Halving the cost and effort! Effect on business efficiency

Q. What specific effects have you seen since the introduction of RICOH360 Projects?

Mr.Suzuki, Railway Division

The initial purpose of introducing the system was to grasp the situation at the work site while not being able to travel overseas. We can say that the system has definitely improved our operational efficiency in that Japanese staff can check on overseas sites without having to travel overseas.

Mr.Sato, Digital Transformation Dept.

Yes, with the introduction of Ricoh 360 Projects, I feel that the number of trips to the field has been reduced to less than half.

Mr.Imai, International Environment Dept.

In my case, there was actually a political change in the region after the introduction of RICOH360 Projects, and the project was stopped, so full-scale operation will start from now on. As a result of the local testing, I felt that there was a possibility that the project manager would not need to visit the site as often. This should reduce the cost and time required to go to the site, so we believe that the implementation will be quite effective.

Mr.Sato, Digital Transformation Dept.

It is also difficult to quantify, but as you mentioned earlier,unlike ordinary photos, there are no blind spots with 360° photos,  so I think that operational efficiency will be greatly improved in the sense that we can communicate with the field and take fewer photos.

Mr.Yamaguchi, CIM Technoromotion Center (former Disaster Prevention Department)

As a relatively new engineer working in the field, there are times when I ask senior engineers for their opinions. In such cases, I can now ask for their opinions in more detail by using RICOH360 Projects to share on-site information, whereas before I could only communicate with them by phone.

4. Future issues and prospects

Q. Is there anything you would like to request in RICOH360 Projects, or anything you would like to see.

Mr.Imai, International Environment Dept

There is a function that allows you to write in the 360° image, but I thought it would be useful to have a graphic drawing tool such as a circle or an arrow instead of a free hand.

Mr. Suzuki, Railway Division

In terms of facilitating communication with the team, I think it would be good to have a function that notifies them when an image has been uploaded.

Mr.Yamaguchi, CIM Technical Center (former Slope Engineering Dept.)

Currently, within RICOH360 Projects, it is only possible to see a 360° view from the shooting position, but a walk-through function like Google Street View would be really appreciated.

When explaining the site to customers and other related parties, we think it would be easier to share awareness if we could guide them through the site as if they were walking through it, like a tour, rather than showing them images of each point in turn.

Q. Please tell us about your company's future challenges and prospects in using RICOH360 Projects.

Mr.Sato, Digital Transformation Dept.

The Digital Transformation Department would like to actively promote the use of tools such as RICOH360 Projects to improve business efficiency so that we can focus on the core of our services.

In addition, as digital twin technologies such as 360° imaging become more widespread, the way we conduct business, our cost structure, and related players will continue to change. In order to prepare for such changes, we would like to focus on analyzing and utilizing the data that we accumulate.

Mr.Fujiwara, Railway Division

With the advancement of digital technology and the emergence of various tools, I feel that the spread of tools has been hindered by the fact that there are cases where multiple tools must be used depending on the situation.

RICOH360 Projects is a very good tool, but if only a limited number of people use it, it will not be as successful as it could be. I think the biggest challenge is how to unify the tools to be used and create an environment where many people can use them.

Mr.Kanemitsu, Disaster Prevention Dept.

However, I believe that if we can continue to automate tasks that can be automated through technological innovation, and focus on tasks that can only be done by humans, we will be able to create services with higher added value and more interesting.

I would like to continue to use Ricoh 360 Projects I look forward to working with you.

Q. Finally, do you have any message for companies that are considering using RICOH360 Projects?

Mr.Sato, Digital Transformation Dept.

In our consulting business, one of the most important missions is to solve problems, and using Ricoh 360 Projects, we can not only visualize problems and make them easier to see, but more importantly, we can communicate them precisely to our customers. We feel that this is of great value.

I think it is a very useful tool in terms of improving work efficiency within the company as well as being beneficial to the customer, so I hope you will try it.

Thank you very much for this valuable talk. We hope that you will continue to use RICOH360 Projects in a variety of ways.

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