Vanillaplan in der HOB Zeitschrift

An interview with Vanillaplan in the international wood trade magazine HOB!

Elena Höppner
by Elena Höppner Content MarketingPublished on 04.06.2024

On 14 May 2024, the monthly timber trade magazine HOB published an in-depth interview with Vanillaplan! In the special on digitalisation and automation in this year's fourth issue, it reported on our software on three pages under the title ‘Efficiently managing resource planning - cloud-based software for resource and capacity planning’. We have compiled the interview for you here.

Efficient control of resource planning - cloud-based software for resource and capacity planning

Seven years ago, Remigius Stalder was approached by a building contractor who was looking for help with the digitalisation of his company's resource and capacity planning. A year later, architect Ingrid Stalder joined him - and this year Vanillaplan is already celebrating its 5th anniversary. What began as an unusual enquiry has developed into a successful Swiss start-up. It provides trade and industrial customers with planning software that is based on state-of-the-art technology and is intuitive to use, as the two managing directors reveal in an interview.

How did you come to develop software for the construction industry?

Remigius Stalder: It all started with a timber construction company that still used a traditional magnetic board to manage its scheduling. That was in 2017, when I was running a consulting agency. I asked if I could convert their analogue magnetic board into a digital application and the project took off - and quickly gained momentum. Vanillaplan got its first customers in 2018, followed by the expansion into the product that is now on the market in 2019.

Ingrid Stalder: As an architect, I had already held a number of roles before Vanillaplan, mainly in the planning and implementation of construction projects. So I come from the construction industry and know the requirements - that helped us a lot in the development of our tool. You could say that we are developing a solution from the construction industry for the construction industry.

What challenges in the construction industry does Vanillaplan tackle?

Ingrid: In the construction industry, time is always a scarce commodity and processes must therefore be absolutely efficient. Capacity utilisation must be right, projects must be completed on time and employees must know where they need to be. As different parties are always involved and different projects have to be managed, good coordination is essential. And this is exactly where we come in: Our tool links resource and capacity planning so that employee assignments and overall capacity utilisation are coordinated.

How does the linking of deployment and capacity planning work?

Remigius: In order to be able to plan effectively, the deployment of employees must be coordinated with the workload of the projects and the capacity utilisation of the company. That's why Vanillaplan has a capacity planning system that shows the utilisation of the entire company, individual projects, teams or departments up to 60 weeks in advance. This means that everyone knows the capacity situation at an early stage and projects can be postponed, for example, so that capacity utilisation is in the green zone. And green is meant literally here, because our software intuitively displays capacity utilisation in traffic light colours. On the other hand, there is a resource planning function, even over 60 weeks, in which, for example, employees, vehicles and tools can be scheduled to projects simply by dragging and dropping. Conversely, projects can also be assigned to resources. The added value here is that it is immediately clear how many employees are needed in which project.

How is the shift planning communicated to the employees?

Ingrid: We have a display board for the company and a mobile app for on the go. The display board allows employees to see the day before where they will be deployed the next day. They can also see their assignments on the move via the mobile app and are informed of any changes via push notifications. The file attachments are also cool: documents such as construction plans or images can be uploaded to the software so that employees can access them on the move, e.g. from the construction site.

What other functions set Vanillaplan apart from other planning software?

Remigius: For one thing, Vanillaplan is certainly a very visual and intuitive tool. Different colours, icons and images make it possible to gain an overview in seconds, which simplifies planning. Due to our proximity to the construction industry, it also has many extra functions that make everyday work easier: for example, by defining skills, such as a special certificate for certain employees, groups can be put together more efficiently, the event function can be used to identify material deliveries, for example, and the appointment collision report prevents double appointments - just to name a few examples.

Ingrid: A special feature of Vanillaplan is definitely the resource consumption. One of the most important questions in any project planning is how the project is progressing. Resource consumption, i.e. the ratio of planned personnel to calculated project expenditure, makes this visible for every project. And also in red-green, so that any need for action is immediately recognisable.

Compared to other planning software, Vanillaplan has a modular structure

Ingrid: Exactly, it is important to us that every company can map its individual structure in Vanillaplan. That's why all elements, such as departments, phases or categories, can be created and named by the user. This is very flexible and allows company-specific circumstances to be implemented; for example, different locations can be represented by departments.

What is behind the new deployment plans specifically for production?

Remigius: Our aim was to use Vanillaplan to cover the entire construction process, from planning and production to execution and service. Prefabrication is playing an increasingly important role, especially in timber construction. At the same time, the production process places special demands on planning. That is why we have developed special schedules for this.

What makes the production schedules special?

Remigius: One of the special features of the schedules is that they are allocated in an organised manner. This means that an order is scheduled for the workstation for its entire duration and carried out without interruption. This increases capacity utilisation and ensures that it is completed at a fixed time. The dynamic planning function is also particularly practical: the job duration is automatically extended or shortened depending on the capacity of those involved. This saves a lot of planning effort and makes planning much more realistic. The ability to plan in a three-shift system is also particularly helpful for timber construction. If the deadline for a job is not met, it is highlighted in red. It can then simply be moved forward using drag & drop or more employees can be scheduled to complete it on time.

How is the software implementation process organised for users and how do you support them?

Ingrid: You can test Vanillaplan free of charge so that you don't buy a pig in a poke. There are two ways to do this: Firstly, we have developed virtual tours that guide the user through the demo version of our software. The most important functions are shown here and the user can familiarise themselves with Vanillaplan at their own pace and see whether it is right for them. If you prefer to test with your own master data, this is also possible. We import it into Vanillaplan using an Excel template - and after a personal onboarding session, the test phase can begin.

Remigius: What sets us apart in terms of implementing Vanillaplan is Vanillaplan Fair. This is our interface platform, which we use to enable automatic data exchange from Vanillaplan to any IT system. This means that Vanillaplan can be easily connected to planning or ERP software already in use.

What is the size of Vanillaplan users - are they more SMEs or industrial companies?

Ingrid: Vanillaplan is scalable to any size of company. It doesn't matter whether there are two people working there or over 500, but as a general rule, the larger the company, the more effective our software is.

Are there already plans to expand the range of modules?

Ingrid: We are currently in the final stages of developing our time and activity recording system. It will also be linked to resource and capacity planning. The idea is that the shift times are automatically transferred from shift planning to time recording and can be confirmed or edited by employees via the mobile app. These changes then flow back into the resource consumption, making it even more realistic.

Remigius: We are also involved in a research project at the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland and the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, for which we were approached. The topic is co-creative construction scheduling.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Remigius: An important issue for us as developers is data security. Unlike other providers, we develop our software entirely in Basel and host the data in a data centre in Zurich - so the data never leaves Switzerland. We also have regular checks carried out to verify data security - our customers particularly appreciate this quality feature.

You can read the full interview including pictures here on the HOB website.