BIG INTERVIEW

Advancing Towards Magnificence

A pioneer in the field of project management with some huge projects on their name and a reputation of delivering high quality projects named Potential Project Managers Pvt Ltd. The believe in enhancing their engineering, project management & delivery capabilities through reliable and collaborative practices.
Enunciating about the same we have with us the man of the hour
B A MADHUKAR, Managing Director, Potential Project Managers Pvt Ltd

 

Having worked on mega projects what is your take on Steel Construction Industry in India?
In recent years there have been rapid advances in construction of steel structures, but we are still at a nascent stage of development in terms of steel construction industry if we are to benchmark against the best in the world. I am saying this without taking any credit away from the wonderful people who have done so much to make the industry what it is today – be it the architects, the structural consultants, the developers who decided to go for it or the specialist suppliers & contractors and the project management consultants who make it all happen who are involved in any project. I am looking at it from the perspective of what can be done & what are the possibilities, if we become one of the best steel construction industries in the world – from this vantage point there is still long way to go.

We as people are facing challenges of scaling up – on a back of the hand calculation, we need hundreds of architects, structural engineers, thousands of trained construction engineers, detailers, QAQC & EHS personnel and something like twenty thousand skilled fitters, welders & riggers – all trained with deep knowledge of all aspects of structural steel construction if we are to meet the challenges of a mature steel construction industry in India. Our quality of workmanship & extent of mechanisation in all aspects of construction needs to improve significantly. This eco-system is something that other developed countries (in steel construction) have been able to create successfully pointing the way for all of us to put our thinking hats together and take some affirmative action. This is where publications & institutions meant for promoting steel construction can come together & formulate strategy for healthy & sustainable growth of industry.

According to you which are the prime sectors of construction that will turn the tables for India, as far as the growth is concerned? Why?
I guess the government is doing what it can, to push construction industry through heavy investments in infrastructure projects across the country. The results will take time, but the immediate takeaways would be employment generation & growth in this sector. Coming to the private sector, we still lack facilities like convention centres, sports facilities, good interchanges, transportation hubs as well as tall / mega structures that meet the aspirations of a growing country.

All, of this involves huge outlay in private investments as these cannot be taken up by government alone and this in my opinion will give the necessary push that is needed for our industry to turn the tide. Talking about the very ordinary growth that we have seen in the recent past the potential for upside is very much there.

How do you think the Make in India to make in steel initiative is aiding the construction Industry?
It is a very good initiative especially for the steel industry as we can overcome the plague of cheap/inferior quality imports from other countries. This will surely help in boosting the demand side thereby drawing investments to the supply side.

Hopefully, the challenges faced by big steel makers with inventories & balance sheet issues will also be resolved and we can see some fresh capital infused towards improved manufacturing facilities / capacities which will help us in producing better products at competitive prices. R&D in the industry is also something that needs to be looked at and government can consider some incentives for developing local expertise in this area.

Which are the grey areas that need to be addressed by the industry to advocate structural steel construction in our country?
The challenges are many and have several layers. On the propagation part, the use-cases of success stories of steel construction needs to reach all the practitioners & decision makers. Today, there is dearth of availability of well documented & informative use cases. Perhaps, you can take the lead in featuring at least one use-case per month under each category so that knowledge spreads.

Secondly, at aspirational level, I would like more architects & designers to take the plunge & explore the limits of spaces & volumes – something that would automatically tilt the debate towards use of steel as de-facto material of choice. Thirdly, today, the clear benefits of usage of steel – especially regarding quality & time are shadowed by non-conformances and slippages in almost all areas of the construction life cycle – be it the design phase or procurement or construction or handover or maintenance.

This needs to be addressed by all of us as such by bringing in standards, compliances & best practices as a way of life. I have seen far too much effort & time wasted in re-design, re-work, snagging which otherwise could have been avoided thereby giving a stronger case for steel usage. Lastly, use of software & platforms for design collaboration, procurement & construction management including monitoring & control need to be emphasized by all stakeholders leading to stricter adherence to quality, timelines and deliverables.

This in my opinion would help make the much-needed shift in perception – that steel is too costly, too difficult to control in terms of quality or services integration etc and that by itself will advocate steel construction in time to come. Perhaps an association of practicing structural steel work professionals to take the industry forward.

Which has been you best work so far involving structural steel?
We have done several projects with structural steel and personally, the most satisfying as an engineer was the construction of Hall 4 & Hall 5 of the Bangalore International Exhibition Centre in very challenging timelines set by Owner, Indian Machine Tool Manufacturers Association (IMTMA). The structural steel canopy of 90m with column free exhibition space gave lot of satisfaction to all stakeholders the Owner, architects (Mistry Architects), Structural consultants (Sterling Consultants) with Kirby as PEB Contractor and us as PMC which is cherished.

On a personal front, the 230m clear span structural steel bridge connecting the Terminal 2 & 3 of Singapore Changi Airport as a part of the underground metro station project where I was involved intimately is perhaps the most satisfying in terms of range & complexity of challenges (platform is 21m below ground level) – would say intellectually gratifying and once in lifetime project in so far as works involving structural steel is concerned.

What are the challenges faced by project management consultants?
As far as the project management consultants are concerned, we face challenges in terms of bringing in much needed monitoring & controls at every stage of the project – be it design or procurement or construction or handover besides convincing the owner to go for steel where cheaper (but more time consuming options) of concrete are available is another challenge.

What are Potential Project Managers Pvt Ltd plans for the next 5 years?
We aim to actively collaborate with other stakeholders like builders, architects, consultants and specialist contractors to significantly improve the delivery model of steel construction works in India so that we meet global best practices as far as predictability in terms of quality, cost, timelines & risk management are concerned.

What is your mantra for success and message for our readers?
Keep doing more of good work, be open to inputs & ideas of others as no project is done by one person or agency alone, get to understand the real issues & leveraging technology would be my take on success mantras.

Knowledge is out there. One just needs to go & get it to empower oneself continuously. Otherwise, we would become obsolete just like the drafting scale or the typewriter of yore. Lastly, if in doubt, please ask those who know the subject better than you.