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Automation & Robotic

Assignment 1-Journal

(Automation in Constuction)

A development of next
generation intelligent
construction liftcar toolkit for
vertical material movement
management

Name : Mohamad Aliff Mohd Sahimi


ID : 7697
AUTCON-01145; No of Pages 14
Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Automation in Construction
j o u r n a l h o m e p a g e : w w w. e l s ev i e r. c o m / l o c a t e / a u t c o n

A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical


material movement management
Chang-Yeon Cho a,1, Soonwook Kwon c,⁎, Tae-Hong Shin b,2, Sangyoon Chin c,3, Yea-Sang Kim c,3
a
Korea Institute of Construction Technology, Goyang 411-712, South Korea
b
Samsung SDS., Seoul 135-918, South Korea
c
Dept. of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental System Engineering, Sungkyunkwan Univ., Suwon 400-746, South Korea

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t

Article history: High-rise construction sites, especially those situated in spatially-constrained urban areas, have difficulties
Accepted 3 May 2010 in timely delivery of materials. IT-driven management techniques can be further benefited from state-of-the-
Available online xxxx art devices such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags and Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN), which
have resulted in notable achievements in automated logistics management at the construction sites.
Keywords:
Based on those achievements, this research develops USN hardware toolkits for hoists, which aims to
Construction lift
Material management
automate the vertical material delivery by sensing the material information and routing it automatically to
USN the right place. The gathered information from the sensors can also be used for monitoring the overall status.
RFID To support the system, a hoist-mountable intelligent toolkit was developed. Its feasibility test was conducted
Wireless sensing by applying the implemented system to a test bed and then analyzing efficiency of the system and the
Material movement toolkit.
© 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Especially in construction sites in spatially-constrained urban


areas, planning and managing the logistics of the materials directly
Unlike other industries where single standard manufacturing affect the construction schedule and the cost; if a problem breaks
process can be applied to a batch of production items, each out, it would trigger cascading problems in other parts in the
construction project requires its own production process highly project which would result in production delays and cost overrun.
customized to individual project characteristics. As a result, each Many techniques such as Six Sigma, JIT (just-in-time production),
construction project has a unique, flexible logistics process for Lean Construction have been applied to the area in order to
procurement of materials [4]. Therefore, planning of a supply chain improve its efficiency; however, the industry demands automated
management system should be flexible, which would accommodate system for the management tasks, which have progressed rather
highly variable project environment, from large-scale urban renovation slowly [1,2].
to high-rise building construction [3]. This paper describes the development of an intelligent lift car,
In such environment, where only limited number of material which is a part of the multi-year national research project in
lifting equipments are available, careful planning for the operation development of the intelligent construction logistics system. The
of the equipments is needed for efficient logistics management system under development utilizes remote sensing and communi-
in construction site [13,19]. According to the precedent re- cation technologies such as RFID (Radio Frequency Identification)
search [1,2,6], it was indicated that the efficiency of the lifting and USN (Ubiquitous Sensor Network) to capture the information of
equipments varies with regards to the building height, and that material movement and to manage it in an intelligent manner. A
planning of the material lifting affects the overall duration of the toolkit (which consists of various sensors and wireless communi-
construction; furthermore, increased building height would lead to cation modules) has been developed to convert existing lift cars into
exponential increase of the information to be managed such as the intelligent ones easily. The new lift car is designed to increase
scheduling and cost, let alone the increased material quantity. the efficiency of vertical transportation, which is crucial for
successful on-site logistics, and to improve information manage-
ment related to it. Several field tests were conducted to assess the
capability of the new lift car. Overall goal of the development effort
⁎ Corresponding author. Tel.: +82 31 299 7578; fax: +82 31 290 7570. is to propose a new alternative for the next generation construction
E-mail address: swkwon@skku.edu (S. Kwon).
1
Tel.: +82 31 910 0284; fax: +82 31 910 0114.
sites where many parts of their jobs are automated and intelligently
2
Tel.: +82 2 3429 2114. controlled.
3
Tel.: +82 31 299 7578; fax: +82 31 290 7570. Fig. 1 illustrates overall procedure of our research work.

0926-5805/$ – see front matter © 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
2 C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx

2. As-is construction supply chain management (CSCM) mechanical performance was steady. It was also found that,
considering their importance, there were surprisingly few researches
2.1. Precedent researches in CSCM on automated systems for monitoring movement of the construction
materials via the lifting equipments as a part of the construction
This section reviews precedent researches in the construction supply chain management.
supply chain management area we surveyed, which can be summa-
rized as the following paragraphs. An earlier version of this survey can 2.2. Precedent researches using RFID/USN technologies in CSCM
also be seen in [1,2]. According to our survey, those past researches
fall in one of the following categories: first, enhancement of the Efficient management of the supply chains for construction materials
logistics management including application of new management is becoming more important as large-scale, high-rise projects are being
theories; second, improvement of the material procurement; third common. Around the world, many research activities on this area are
(the last), adoption of new technology. currently going on; among them, various practical approaches utilizing
For the third category (adoption of new technology), it was RFID/USN technology, which can prevent time consuming chores and
observed that the barcode-based systems were being replaced with potential mistakes in information handling by automating many parts of
RFID-based ones, and that development of the management system the CSCM process, have been introduced.
also reflected the transition — for instance, utilization of the wireless In this section, precedent researches on application of the RFID/USN
communication and development of decision support models based technology are reviewed.
on the new technology. When we narrow the scope down to vertical Among the state-of-the-arts, [15] showed a practical approach in
material movement (e.g., lift cars and cranes), the related researches engineered component tracking using RFID; in [16], a convergent
may fall into the following categories: finding optimal arrangement of approach that combines RFID with GPS (Global Positioning System)
tower cranes [11,12], load distribution between the vertical move- and wireless communication technology was proposed. Automated
ment equipments (for tower cranes, lift cars, and both) (Jung, 2004; detection of the material location is another key research theme:
[3,14]), and support system for the equipments [13,19]. [9,10,17,18] proposed computational models for localization of the
In [1,2], efficiency of high-speed construction lifts was analyzed. RFID-tagged materials stored in a stockyard; also, attempts to use
According to it, the time needed for single lift operation can be the tracking information for managerial operations such as produc-
calculated as below: tivity analysis [7] and for progress management [5,8] have been
made.
Time needed for a single lift =favg: lifting height ðmÞ = lifting speedðm =minÞ
2.3. Concept of next generation vertical transportation (and logistics)
× 2ðround tripÞg + extra timeð needed for loading; unloading; etc:Þ
management

Cho also argued that reduction of the extra time would be the best Our research described in this paper aims to develop a construc-
tactic for improving efficiency of the lifting operation, if the tion lift car toolkit-based on RFID/USN technology, to support vertical

Fig. 1. Research procedures.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 3

movement of the construction materials and works depending on monitored information. These aspects allow confidence in construction
them. The background researches of its development made by the management as well as improved efficiency in CSCM.
authors were the development of the intelligent CSCM process [5] In this paper, we would like to propose a prototype of the
identification mechanism for inter-equipment material movement intelligent construction lift, based on an easily-deployable toolkit
[4], and efficiency analysis of various construction lift types [1,2]. which provides RFID reading capability and necessary wireless
In the context of our research, the term ‘next generation intelligent communication capability.
CSCM automation system’ refers to the CSCM environment envisioned
by the authors where RFID/USN technology is widely used for optimal 3. Next generation intelligent construction liftcar
management of the supply chain in construction projects from toolkit architecture
material factories to construction sites, especially for large-scale
projects such as high-rise buildings [4]. 3.1. Performance requirements for the toolkit
The system will monitor overall flow of the construction materials
from a production line to their destinations in a construction site and There are two categories for performance requirements of the new
will be able to track current location of each material in real-time. construction lift car with respect to the intelligent CSCM context:
Fig. 2 illustrates the concept of the vertical CSCM, which is the main software requirements and hardware ones.
objective of this research. For the lift car hardware (especially for the CSCM support), it must
The intelligent CSCM for vertical transportation of the construction fulfill the following requirements:
materials consists of the following parts: a lift car equipped with RFID
readers and necessary wireless communication functionality; an RFID First, the RFID/USN functionality should be portable so that the
reader-equipped intelligent mover (IM) that will load/unload the functionality can be transferred to new hardware (such as an
RFID-tagged materials to the lift car; a CSCM logistics management elevator) when the lift car is no more needed and therefore to be
server that will provide the destination and quantity information of removed; a toolkit system which integrates the required function-
the transported material to the lift car; and a monitoring system alities seems desirable for satisfying this requirement.
which is responsible for the tracking current status of the material in Second, the hardware should be weather-proof because construction
real-time [1,2]. sites are inherently exposed to adverse weather conditions.
At the construction site, whether given material is delivered to the Third, for the communication capability, it must support mid-to-long
right place in right time can be monitored in real-time via project range communication, for both wired and wireless one, in order to
management information system (PMIS); also, work progress contact with the logistics management server and other servers such
compared to construction schedule can be determined from the as PMIS.

Fig. 2. Concept of intelligent vertical CSCM.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
4 C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx

Fig. 3. 3-Tier based system architecture of toolkit software.

Fig. 4. Information model of toolkit software.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 5

Fig. 5. Illustration of the intelligent lift toolkit concept for elevator and intelligent lift.

Fourth, it must provide short-range wireless communication capa- can be implemented using web service for the PMIS and its proxy
bility also for communicating with other intelligent equipments (for running on the toolkit's control computer.
instance, an intelligent mover) and handheld devices such as PDA. Third, overall software must be configured as three-tier system
Fifth, it must be friendly to the field users at the construction site in architecture so that ‘plug-and-play’ concept of the toolkit can be
terms of usability. implemented easily.
Sixth, it should provide backup power (e.g. batteries) in case the Fourth, if something went wrong during the loading process,
fixed power service fails. details of the problem must be logged to the system and notified to
Seventh, there must exist RFID readers and antennas for the responsible personnel.
identification of RFID tags. Fifth, end result of the loading process must be reported to the
logistics management server from the toolkit's control computer
For the software embedded to the toolkit, its requirements can be via asynchronous web service.
summarized as below:
3.2. Toolkit software design
First, it must allow its users to access the loading information via
touch screen display; also, if any event breaks out during the In order to operate properly, the control computer (based on an
process of loading, it must be able to display the event in real-time. industrial PC) must be able to communicate with other systems such
Second, initial loading plans stored in the PMIS must be relayed to as the logistics management server and the PMIS; the latter system
the onboard computer in the toolkit so that the intelligent lift car will have the actual plan of the material movement. As mentioned
system can be operated as planned. This functional requirement above, the toolkit system's control software is configured to have the

Fig. 6. Setting up embedded control module.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
6 C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx

3-tier architecture as the configuration provides flexibility and planned loading information to the control PC of the intelligent lift car
extensibility, which suit well for our toolkit-based approach (Fig. 3). via Web service; similarly, the logistics management server accepts the
Fig. 4 shows the information items regarding the operation of the result information from the control PC of the lift via Web service too. In
intelligent lift. This information model diagram follows the UML this manner, the planning information and the information of actual lift
(Unified Modeling Language) notation, which illustrates the relation- operation can be managed in a single intelligent CSCM framework.
ships between the toolkit and other related systems regarding the
information exchange among them. 4. Manufacturing and test result analysis

3.3. Toolkit hardware design 4.1. Manufacturing and test plan

Fig. 5 summarizes tasks the intelligent lift toolkit is supposed to do, To evaluate the feasibility of our intelligent lift car toolkit, we built
which is based on the hardware requirements listed earlier. a working prototype system and then conducted performance tests
Figs. 6 and 7 show a prototype toolkit we designed for the tasks against it. The following sub-sections describe the detail of the tests.
sorted out in Fig. 5. Fig. 6 shows the design of the control module that
contains the embedded computer. 4.1.1. Manufacturing toolkit
Because construction lifts typically have two doors — one for entry Our prototype system consists of the toolkit hardware and its
(loading) and the other for exit (unloading), two separate RFID control software. Table 1 lists the hardware specification of our
readers are used for each door. For the control computer, we used an intelligent construction lift car toolkit.
industrial PC with integrated touch screen display. The display is Fig. 9 shows the picture of our toolkit apparatus and description of its
ergonomically mounted at 120 cm from the floor deck for comfort of components. The entire toolkit is hosted in a single cabinet enclosure,
the human operators. which also has two RFID readers and one battery pack inside.
To provide emergency power service in case main power service
fails, a lead-acid battery pack is installed with a power inverter to 4.1.2. Toolkit test plans
provide AC power to the toolkit. With the prototype toolkit, we have conducted three tests in total.
Fig. 7 shows the console-section design of the toolkit. Table 2 gives a brief description of each test.
The first one was a pilot test for evaluating the performance of the
3.4. Toolkit software design individual components. It evaluated the RFID readers (for their
identification ranges with various tag positions) and communication
Fig. 8 shows a UML activity diagram of the information exchange modules including Zigbee and wireless internet over CDMA cellular
process during the intelligent lift operation. The PMIS provide the as- telephony network.

Fig. 7. Detailed design of the intelligent lift toolkit on console section.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 7

Fig. 8. Process model of toolkit software.

The second test was made against the assembled toolkit prototype, 4.2. Toolkit performance tests
which comprised tests of eight RFID antennas for measuring
identification performance, tests of short-range data communication 4.2.1. Pilot type test
between the intelligent equipments, tests of wireless internet services The pilot test was conducted against the individual component of
using CDMA and Wibro modules, and tests of the backup battery the toolkit to see whether it met our functional requirements. It
measuring its service time. comprised three sub-tests and each one is described as follows:
The third one was the field test of the toolkit installed to the lift
hardware with the system software we developed. To assess the real- First, identification range and S/N ratio of the RFID antennas
world performance of the prototype, the test evaluated functionality Second, short-range communication test using Zigbee
of the system software and its interoperability with external systems Third, operation of the wireless communication module.
such as the intelligent logistics server and the PMIS.
Fig. 10 illustrates test settings and various test conditions.
The result from the first test can be summarized as follows:
First, inside the construction lift car which was made of steel,
Table 1 short-range communication using Zigbee within 5 m was stable
Specification of toolkit hardware. and noise-free.
Second, when a door of the lift car was closed, the RFID tags of the
Hardware Specification
materials outside the lift car were not identified; when the door
1 CDMA/WiBro 900 Mhz/1.8 GHz
opened more than 1 m width, tags on the materials located within
2 Zigbee 2.4 Ghz
3 RFID reader 900 Mhz
5 m were able to be identified; when the door was fully open, the
4 RFID tags Passive tag range extended to 8 m.
5 Battery pack D.C 12 V Third, wireless internet access was attempted using a CDMA/Wibro
6 Industrial computer CPU Intel Pentium 4 2 Ghz dual-mode modem for accessing external PMIS; 10 tests were
7 Touch screen monitor 12 in TFT LCD
conducted, all of them were successful. Based on this result, a

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
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Fig. 9. Developing an intelligent lift toolkit.

Table 2
The test result was summarized in Fig. 12.
Test type definition.
For the second test item (identification ratio over varying antenna
Tests Test purpose locations), we used the circular type antenna, as it performed better
1 Pilot test Toolkit device performance test than the linear type in the previous test. For this test, two antenna
2 Proto type test Toolkit performance test pairs (each pair consisted of a receiver and a transmitter5) were first
3 Field test Toolkit + PMIS communication performance test placed at 2.65 m above the floor deck (highest location), and was
gradually lowered at 30 cm intervals as measurements were made for
decision was made to use the technology for communicating with the each height setting. The test result is shown in Fig. 13.
PMIS. Also, we tested different pair locations: symmetric locations of
RX–TX pair versus asymmetric locations, which result is shown in
4.2.2. Prototype test Fig. 14.
The second test mainly evaluated the performance of the toolkit As a result, there was no observable difference in the identification
hardware, which was developed based on the result from the earlier performance over different antenna heights; on the other hand,
pilot test. location of the tag on the material box did cause the difference,
The test evaluated the following items: especially for top mounted vs. side mounted — for right side vs. left
side, the latter performed better.
First, identification ratio with respect to various antenna types For the last item (identification performance over varying antenna
Second, changes in identification ratio with varying locations of the gains), we started from the maximum gain (zero value) and gradually
antennas reduced the gain by 30 (the numeric value actually increased) until
Third, changes in identification ratio with adjustment of the antenna the number reaches 255 (the minimum gain).
gain. Fig. 15 shows the display screen of the control computer during
the test. Its test result showed that the antenna gain only marginally
Fig. 11 illustrates the field condition for the test. affect the identification performance.
From the figure, dashed line around the material box and the
construction worker represent the entrance area to the lift car which 4.2.3. Field test
was made of steel meshes. The test used passive-type tags attached on Finally, we conducted the field test of our toolkit for evaluation of
two different places — top of the material box and side of it. its feasibility in the context of the intelligent CSCM environment, with
For the first test item (identification ratio over various antenna the system software developed for it.
types), which was conducted to determine the best antenna type for The field test took place in the settings illustrated in Fig. 16.
our toolkit, the antennas were placed on sidewall of the lift car, which The scenario for this test, for measuring feasibility of the toolkit for
was 130 cm above the floor deck and 30 cm away from the entrance vertical logistics management process under the intelligent CSCM
door horizontally. A receiver antenna and a transmitter one were environment, is described as follows:
installed symmetrically to the sidewall so that they can face each
other.4 We first loaded four material boxes to the intelligent mover (IM),
which was developed in our earlier research [4]. Each box was
attached with a 900 Mhz passive RFID tag, and their information
4
An RFID antenna can play two roles: a transmitter (TX) which sends off radio
signals to the RFID tag so that the tag can generate electrical power to send off its ID
5
information by induction; and a receiver (RX) which receives the radio signal from the In Fig. 13, when the left-side antenna acted as RX, the right-side one would act as
tag. These roles are interchangeable on a single antenna. TX, and vice versa. The RFID reader decided which one would be the RX.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 9

Fig. 10. Pilot test layout and test conditions.

was picked up by the IM to be sent to the toolkit via the Zigbee For the second test (against the prototype hardware), it was
communication. The toolkit, which had already received the intended to evaluate our design of the intelligent lift toolkit in
shipping list from the intelligent logistics server, displayed the terms of its RFID identification performance, to see whether it was
destination floor on its touch screen and controlled the lift car to deployable to actual construction sites where radio signal was easily
move to the floor. When the lift car arrived, the IM moved out of disrupted by various obstacles. The test result showed that the
the lift car with the tagged box, and then the toolkit reports the hardware had enough performance to be used in such environment.
updated state, including the ID of the IM, the material, and the Finally, the third test sets up a scenario of the intelligent CSCM
floor and the materials were unloaded, to the intelligent logistics process, and evaluated the system's performance within the
server wirelessly. scenario. Also, the test evaluated whether the system could
interoperate with other equipments (e.g. the intelligent mover)
Fig. 17 shows snapshots taken during the field test with
and remote systems such as the intelligent logistics server. The test
annotations.
result confirmed that the tested system performed well and could
The test result conformed well with our scenario: we conducted
be deployed to the real-world construction sites.
three tests, and all of them exceeded our performance requirements —
for RFID identification ratio, successful communication ratio with the
5. Conclusion
intelligent movers, and successful communication ratio with the
intelligent logistics management server.
In this paper, we discussed our research in development of the
intelligent construction lift toolkit, as part of our ongoing research in
4.3. Test result analysis
the next generation CSCM system. We built the prototype hardware of
the toolkit and its system software also. Using the prototype, we
From reviewing the tests we conducted, their test results can be
evaluated its performance and verified its feasibility through multiple
summarized as follows:
performance tests. From these research activities, we have reached
The first pilot test was intended to see whether development of the the following conclusion:
intelligent lift car system, was feasible; the test proved that
development of the system was feasible using available First, the RFID technology can be applied to construction sites even
components. though they have adverse conditions in terms of radio signal

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10 C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx

Fig. 11. Prototype test layout.

transmission due to various signal-blocking obstacles. This finding Fourth, our toolkit-based approach allows easy deployment of the
allows automated recognition of the logistic items using the system to both construction lift cars and elevators.
technology.
Second, short-range data communication between the intelligent Therefore, the intelligent vertical CSCM toolkit developed can be
equipments using Zigbee is feasible at the construction sites. transferred to elevators when they are installed to the building under
Third, application of long range data communication using construction and they replace the lift cars, so the management system
wireless internet technology such as CDMA/Wibro to construction can persist even after the lifts are removed.
sites is also feasible (presumably in urban areas where its In the future, as demonstrated with our prototype system, the
infrastructure is well established) for communication with remote RFID/USN technology, which is technologically more superior than
systems such as the intelligent logistics server and the PMIS, which conventional barcodes, will enable more advanced construction
allows real-time information exchange. project management once they are widely used in the CSCM area.

Fig. 12. Result of antenna type recognition test.

Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
C.-Y. Cho et al. / Automation in Construction xxx (2010) xxx–xxx 11

Fig. 13. Result of RX = TX test.

Fig. 14. Result of RX ≠ TX test.

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movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008
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Fig. 15. RFID antenna detection range sensibility test.

Fig. 16. Field test conditions.

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Fig. 17. Toolkit scenario field test.

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Please cite this article as: C.-Y. Cho, et al., A development of next generation intelligent construction liftcar toolkit for vertical material
movement management, Automation in Construction (2010), doi:10.1016/j.autcon.2010.07.008