Founded in 1610 by Tobei-Masataka Takenaka, a shrine and temple carpenter, Takenaka Corporation is a major and long-established general contractor. An office was then established in Kobe by Masataka’s 14th successor Touemon Takenaka in 1899. The company specializes in all aspects of construction, from design to execution, and provides diverse solutions across the life cycles of towns and buildings. Touting the catchphrase of “Data Driven Design Build （ｄ＾３＾ｂ） ,” the company first decided to employ Alteryx out of a desire to put data to use not only in the pursuit of efficiency via reduced manpower, costs and turnaround time, but also to expand the possibilities of architectural design. Alteryx is able to visualize architectural data that has been passed down for 300 years alongside the thoughts and feelings of the people of today, and to leverage these in high-added value next-gen architectural design.
Takenaka Corporation subscribes to the philosophy of “contributing to society by passing on the best works to future generations.” Some of the architectural documents in the company’s possession date back to the 1600s. Takenaka Corporation was acutely aware of the importance of such documents from early on, and had developed a digital database storing information that stretches back over 300 years. Sorting this information and putting it to business use was no small task, as the solutions that Takenaka Corporation provides span multiple stages—from site development to building planning, design and construction—and often involve special handling due to the fact that buildings are fundamentally one-of-a-kind productions. The BI (Business Intelligence) tool put to the task of improving this state of affairs and visualizing this data in a format that could be used for design work was Tableau.
“We adopted Tableau and tried to visualize the data stored in our databases and found that we have many attractive information including matured ones. The problem was that it was scattered across multiple areas, and it felt like there were considerable obstacles to overcome in order to gain a full and detailed picture and put this information to practical business use.” (Uesugi)
Mr. Uesugi mentioned that he first heard of Alteryx through communities of IT tool users. Alteryx was recommended to him when he attended a Tableau event and discussed the possibility of utilizing the data that Takenaka Corporation had accumulated. Using a trial version, he soon understood the value of the data that he hadn’t been able to visualize on Tableau.
Mr. Uesugi may have been the only Alteryx user at first, but the number of users has been steadily increasing since he gave a demo to others at the company.
“When first initializing, we utilized the support provided by NTT Data. It was thanks to this thorough support that we were able to solve any questions and begin using Alteryx. The great thing about Alteryx is that even someone who is not so well versed in programming like myself can understand it intuitively.” (Matsushita)
“I learned how to use it by watching the training video on the website. The amount of training content they have online is incredible.” (Ikeda)
“Everything that we used to do with programming can be done by combining components on Alteryx, so you don’t need any specialized expertise. Plus, the logic of the Alteryx workflows I create can be understood by anyone, which prevents dependency on specific employees. The workflows are easy to amend, too, so they can also be put to other uses.” (Goto)
The adoption of Alteryx has allowed Takenaka Corporation to not only piece together the entire picture of the data held by different departments within the company, but to also integrate this with external data sources. The information thus collected has since been put to use in building design, as well as the creation of systems to be implemented into existing buildings and new services.
The previous search function for completed properties lumped them together very generally by time period, scale and building site, etc. Searches by more refined categories, including structural form, air conditioning system etc. and designs based on the trends of each era have now been made possible by integrating and visualizing data based on information that is useful from a designer’s perspective. Furthermore, Takenaka Corporation aims to stimulate communication and pass down know-how by making it easier to reach those in charge of past projects.
The integration of the automated machine learning platform Data Robot and Alteryx provides a database where information related to the design and construction of completed properties is accumulated and sorted. This can be used to predict building specifications and performance for new design projects.
An example of Alteryx’s integration with external data sources are social media. Takenaka Corporation’s Social Heat Map® and Alteryx combine to analyze information shared via social media, and analyze it with a focus on the feelings expressed by the people who live at the site of a planned build. This information is then applied to the design proposal.
*A social media analysis tool that includes location information developed by the Takenaka Research & Development Institute. The people’s feelings are identified based on social media comments by following a unique logic, allowing for a qualitative assessment of urban areas.
“We are also thinking of new propositions. These include services that can analyze a building’s usage of electricity and water, and extract and supply only the information that is required, as well as systems that connect humans and nature by swiftly relaying weather information to people within our buildings. I firmly believe that the adoption of Alteryx makes it easier for us to formulate proposals with even more added value.” (Uesugi)
We asked our interviewees about their impression of the efficiency improvements brought about by Alteryx. “The introduction of Alteryx has made it possible to significantly reduce the man hours it would take to integrate data from different databases. Moreover, the most important benefit we found is that we can get to work on the projects that we have previously given up to deal with due to the excessive workload. To give but one example, it takes up to 30 hours to cleanse the company database with Alteryx, but without it, it would take ten times as long.” (Uesugi)
“Trimming notational fluctuations in text data is a very time-consuming task, no matter how well it is functionalized, but with Alteryx, it’s easy. I feel like it probably takes less than half the time it would take if we were to compile a program.” (Goto)
“Although it’s easy to focus only on time-saving and optimization when considering the tool’s benefits, the true value of Alteryx lies in being able to utilize data that we hadn’t been able to leverage in the past. It’s like we have discovered old tools forgotten in a long-established warehouse, and now we are in a position to use them again. That’s the biggest success that we’ve had with Alteryx.” (Uesugi)
According to Mr. Uesugi, Alteryx now plays two important roles at their project team as both a data hub and a communication hub. We asked him to expand upon this.
Not only does Alteryx centralize data scattered within the company, it is also able to integrate with an AI (Data Robot) API and a range of external data—for example, data published on social media and by public institutions.
We are now able to connect people with different technical backgrounds on a shared platform, using the same format for communication in every area, from planning of system development to implementation. Alteryx also serves as a translation device that allows both person-to-person and person-to-data communication possible. For example, a data process left on a whiteboard after a meeting can easily be built into a workflow by someone else on Alteryx.
We talked to Mr. Ikeda and Mr. Uesugi about the future. “We’re entering an era where lots of different things are going to undergo sensing. I think that we’ll even become able to accumulate information we’ve collected via sensing into the cloud, and then use Alteryx to analyze it. In this way, we can create buildings that are capable of “thinking” about reducing energy consumption when no one is home, or urban areas where the activities of playing children are sensed to make things fun for them.” (Ikeda)
“Traditionally we have used marketing surveys and the like to collect quantitative information about towns and buildings. Alteryx brings the tremendous benefit of allowing us to connect to external information, like that on social media, to get a more qualitative understanding, in particular, of people’s thoughts and feelings, which are the most important factors to consider in design. Alteryx is like what a toolbox is to a carpenter. Just as the master carpenters of old used to build using their trusty construction tools, I would like for today’s designers to use the information obtained through Alteryx and apply it to future buildings. It is my hope that we can make use of the wisdom and imagination of our predecessors going back 300 years to create a project that still stands 100 years in the future. Even if we tend to talk about data application through the lens of speed, I believe that we at the long-established Takenaka Corporation are in the unique position of being able to “leverage our data asset in a long-term perspective.” (Uesugi)