Building an App from a monster Excel file

The outcome: Twenty times as many calculations

With an application for ModuleMakers, a corporate start-up that emerged from tech giant Croonwolter&dros, LINKITSYSTEMS captured a complex engineering and calculation process in one handy program.

There is a lot to consider when developing a new building or making an existing building more sustainable. For example, it is necessary to consider which systems for climate management should be installed and which materials are required. With millions of combinations of options and various variants from pipes and insulation material to mounting brackets and taps, this is quite a complicated, error-prone and time-consuming job for ModuleMakers. Because everything at ModuleMakers revolves around making the work more modular and less error-prone, they turned to LINKIT to transform this design process. First, the excel file, which requires manual input, was converted into a program. LINKIT and ModuleMakers developed the solution in a joint team: a decision tree that streamlines the entire design process to identify which modules fit which type of buildings, and the right combinations can be easily put together.

Energy from many angles

For ModuleMakers, it was not the first time they collaborated with LINKIT. Earlier, an application was already developed with which product engineers could design building systems. The new issue was complex: the products already developed had to be fully configurable with a new application, including various conditional conditions. For example, you can think of the height of a building, the combination of insulation material with pipes of a specific diameter or, more generally, whether different connections fit together. Therefore, the project started with a design sprint, in which the energy was immediately good. “We sat down with everyone involved, which allowed us to paint a complete picture of the challenge,” says Arvid Duijzer, founder of ModuleMakers. “As a result, the result fits in well with the wishes, and the project quickly gets a high level of involvement.”

“We sat down with everyone involved, which allowed us to paint a complete picture of the challenge.” 

To the essence…

Therefore, during the design sprint, it was important to go back to the core of the issue: How can we optimize the engineering process to make both faster and better modular configurations? The mixed team, including developers from both LINKIT and ModuleMakers, eventually got through to the essence. Jonathan Wigmans, UX designer at LINKIT: “Once we established that those modular products actually worked with standard objects and variables, we had the building blocks we needed for the solution. This allowed us to put together every possible product configuration.”

…and the drawing board

At the end of the design sprint, a prototype was immediately made to see whether the solution was in the right direction because the new application had to be robust, error-free, accessible, and easy to maintain. “In the technology world, people think visually,” Arvid explains. “By directly involving the users in the process, we were able to increase support.” Jonathan agrees: “It shows the power of design to solve these kinds of process problems.”

Low code for a fast turnaround time

The application was developed in low code (a technique that works with pre-made functionalities so that little development time is required, ed.) with OutSystems. During the design sprint, the developers immediately validated the technical feasibility of the ideas, which ensured that the development got off to a flying start. Then, the solution was built in five two-week sprints based on the visual and technical design. This resulted in a prototype, to which a few parts still had to be added, including the structure for the database and the output that was needed for other departments within ModuleMakers.

This application is certainly not a one-to-one translation of the original Excel. Jonathan explains: “With what we have delivered, we have gone for the greatest possible added value. It has not become a questionnaire, but an extensive decision tree, with conditional logic and an underlying database that can be continuously supplemented. This also makes it future-proof.” The team eventually developed the application in an astonishingly short period of time. ModuleMakers received an entirely usable technical application after only ten weeks, of which only the database had to be filled. The choice for low code also meant they could easily manage their application themselves and, if necessary, quickly adapt it without being dependent on LINKITSYSTEMS.

“With what we have delivered, we have gone for the greatest possible added value. It has not become a questionnaire, but an extensive decision tree, with conditional logic and an underlying database that can be continuously supplemented. This also makes it future-proof.” 

Savings from start to finish

The ModuleMakers product configurator is used by the calculation and engineering departments within the engineering process. They can put together the various parts on a canvas, after which the output and the resulting options can be used to make a suitable design. The time that ModuleMakers saves with this is enormous. Arvid: “With this application, we now do twenty times as many calculations in the same amount of time, plus: the margin of error is rolling down!” Jonathan adds: “The fact that this information is now embedded in an application makes you as an organization much more resilient to changes in, for example, your workforce, but also more agile in the products you make and deliver.” With the addition of the application, ModuleMakers strengthens its foundation to help customers build more efficiently, cleaner and safer with modular products. In the future, there are certainly options for further integration of this application in other processes, such as in the production of construction drawings. Arvid: “The impact of this innovation is that we can automate on a large scale, not just in one piece, but in the entire process from customer to delivery.”

Prevent failed IT projects

Do you want to stay informed about cases and articles and learn everything about IT projects? Then follow us on LinkedIn.

Ready to transform?

Could you also benefit from such a transformation? At LINKITSYSTEMS we would be happy to guide you! Contact one of our experts for more information.

Questions?

Contact Maaike

You might like this as well:

Modernize your tech stack? Follow these 8 steps:

Modernize your tech stack? Follow these 8 steps: Eight steps to a progressive IT environment Modern technological developments follow each other quickly and force companies to look increasingly critically at…
low-code application

Building a low-code application in 3 weeks

Building a low code application in 3 weeks Support the construction of the OutSystems app for the logistics process at the Dutch Vechtstromen water board Building a low-code application in…