Gearing Up for Era of Automation

A leading Project Management Consultancy, whose focus is creating maximum value for its clients by realizing the issues at hand with the key stakeholders and agencies. Formulating comprehensive plans and addressing the challenges in an efficient and impactful manner.

To speak about the beauty of steel with references to some of their projects and how technology will revolutionize the way forward we have with us Dinesh Dubey, Director of Operations, Turner Project Management India


What has been the role of steel in changing the construction dynamics? How?
Steel has been a phenomenal breakthrough in the history of construction practices. Owing to numerous unparalleled benefits that it can offer, steel has been the ideal choice for contractors, engineers, and architects alike. The concept of tall buildings would not have existed without the attributes that steel can endow to any structure such as durability while being lightweight.

Being lightweight steel can be easily and quickly transported and lifted, thereby saving significant cost on fuel. Steel is also the most eco-friendly and economically viable option among all the other metals besides being easy to install and assemble. I believe that currently, it would not be an overstatement to stay that steel is perhaps the backbone of the construction industry.

Having been involved with ‘Statue of Unity-the Pride of the Nation’. How was your experience working on the project?
The Statue of Unity has today become an epitome of masterclass design, precision engineering, and exemplary project management. The tallest statue in the world has achieved the status of a global icon because of the sheer scale, magnitude and accuracy required on the mammoth project. As project managers, we at Turner not only needed to be at the top of our game (efficiency), but also had to micromanage several aspects of the construction process. The margin for error on a first-of-its-kind project was negligible, and our estimations had to be on point throughout the different phases of construction.

In terms of material, in addition to cement concrete, structural steel and bronze cladding had a major role is the edifice of the gigantic structure. On the technical front, our expert team ensured accuracy in our estimation of machines, cranes and resources required to complete the tasks within the projected timelines. The work was effectively mechanized to reduce confusion, human errors, and glitches on site.

Creating synergies among the various agencies was imperative for the actualization of the project plans, and to achieve that we had to conduct frequent meeting with the various teams to define specific roles, allocate tasks and avoid any kind of conflicts and mix-ups. Other factors such as weather conditions, laborers’ psychological apprehension in working at such a height, coordination between agencies, etc. had to be effectively and duly addressed to complete the project within the stipulated timelines.

This landmark project tested our capabilities and merit at several levels. Thanks to our proficient team and their commitment to the project, we succeeded in all aspects of the project management, and today the glory and magnificence of the Statue of Unity is there for everyone to see and admire.

Having worked on projects both in India and overseas, what is your take on the future of Indian Construction Industry?
The Construction industry and its practices across the globe vary due to several factors. While there are certain challenges in the construction industry now, the remedial actions/policies by the government coupled with India’s demographic advantage still makes the country a great investment prospect.

The high percentage of working youth population in urban India with increasing purchasing power of individuals allude to a great promise for the growth of the real estate sector in times to come. With the frequent influx of novel technologies, the industry, in India and overseas, is undergoing a brisk technology transition. However, when put on a global map, India is yet to explore the extent of technology. While innovative technologies are widely being used in the global markets for design, engineering, construction, the Indian industry has only gradually started comprehending the value of these technique and tools.

In all, India is on a growth trajectory and its urbanization drive along with the smart city mission have paved way for rapid development in areas of construction of airports, highways, roads, smart cities and tourism projects. For instance, the proposed development of the Jewar Airport and the Navi Mumbai International Airport will not only be a massive construction assignment, but it will also boost the demand for real estate developments in the adjoining and/or connecting areas.

What is your take on steel v/s RCC?
Both Steel and RCC (Reinforced Cement Concrete) are commonly used construction materials and have their specific advantages and disadvantages from construction and maintenance perspective. While RCC is composed of materials that are cheaply and readily available, it is weak in tensile strength. It is easily moldable and has high compressive strength, but it may develop creep under constant load.

On the other hand, when compared with RCC, steel is lighter, has better tensile strength, and can be easily fabricated, assembled and replaced. Additionally, the ductile ability of steel ensures there is prior indication of failure through deflection. The downside of using a steel structure is that it requires skilled labor for the construction and the initial cost may be higher. In all, the advantages that a steel structure brings to any construction far outweighs the benefits of RCC. From a safety and sustainability point of view, the steel structure will always be the preferred choice.

How is technology changing the construction industry and the way we execute Buildings?
According to me, in the near term the construction industry will be dominated by Industry 4.0 – an era of automation. Digital technologies and modern methods of operations have disrupted all industry sectors, and construction is no exception. Transformation of processes, methods and tools will indeed play a pivotal role as the construction industry advances towards modernization, pro-activeness, enhanced efficacy and less wastage.

For example, ‘Building Information and Modelling’, is a multi-dimensional (3-D++) model process that helps plan, design, construct and manage projects more efficiently. Every minute detail of the project can be modelled in BIM to create visuals that give prospective clients a complete understanding of how the project will look before implementing it on ground. Likewise, technology integration in cost management for any construction project can help the project owners view live linked quantity count, reduce turnaround time for design analysis, evaluate models for constructability, prompt evaluation of design differences, calculate multiple component budgets and pay application verifications.

Besides, the integration of AI and wearable technology in construction processes will go a long way in improving safety at the site, reducing injuries to the staff and workers, improving operational efficiencies and enhancing quality of life for construction workers. Advanced Internet of Things and Augmented-Reality technologies are enabling the construction professionals to digitally access the information about the surroundings and equipment of the site in an interactive way, thereby facilitation remote monitoring, operations and controllability.

Which are the grey areas that need to be addressed by the industry to advocate structural steel construction in our country?
There are a few challenges that the steel industry is facing in the existing times. Inadequate logistical planning and inventory management have posed huge constraints in the adoption of steel in construction.

The industry needs to improve on the on the skills as well as the infrastructure required to manage the Just in Time inventory. Besides, the limited vendor base of suppliers and contractors in the current scenario needs to be expanded to capitalize on the huge opportunity we have for India’s growth in steel consumption. The global consumption of steel is 224kg per capita out of which China alone consumes 590 kg per capita, while the consumption in India is less than one-sixth of China at 71 Kg per capita.

In my view, there have been several developments in the recent past that will significantly boost the adoption of structural steel construction in India.

The government’s Urban Infrastructure Development Scheme for Small and Medium Towns (UIDSSMT) along with the development of industrial corridors will drive the growth of steel consumption in the construction and real estate space.

The government has also revised various duties and set minimum import prices, providing a level playing field for Indian steel enterprises against China’s massive export capacity in the steel sector. The Coronavirus pandemic may prompt us to build internal capacities in the country while addressing issues pertaining to transport logistics.

Steel is regarded as a “green” material for its recyclability. Increased focus on safety and sustainability is an imperative if we must foster widespread adoption of structural steel in the country.

What outstanding newness does Turner plan in the next 5 years?
As a leading project management enterprise, Turner has always been ahead of the curve in terms building capabilities, developing advanced pool of talent, and adoption of novel tools and technologies. Innovation has helped us deliver value to our clients and partners. At the turn of the 20th century, we pioneered the use of steel-reinforced concrete for general building to deliver safer, stronger, and more efficient buildings to clients. Today, innovation channels the ingenuity of our people and partners to advance breakthroughs that deliver new value to our clients.

In the next 5 years as well, we shall continue to be proactive in finding solutions for our clients that best achieve their goals while remaining true to our founding values of Integrity, Commitment & Teamwork. Recognizing that sustainable best practices have changed and will continue to evolve, Turner will lead by example and serve as an ambassador for environmental, social and economic sustainability. We will utilize our technical expertise to create a healthy, prosperous and sustainable future for our people, clients and the environment.

What message would you like to give our readers?
Industry stakeholders have acknowledged the value that modern methods of construction can bring, and this has significantly accelerated their acceptance. One size will never fit all, and hence, it is important that along with the availability of technological tools and infrastructure, there are specialists who can estimate the value and viability of technology integration.

All the readers who hail from the construction industry would also recognize that the success of any project depends significantly on how well the project is planned and executed along with coordination, communication, and interaction among various stakeholders.

Project Management specialists can offer myriad ways to build resilience and to improve the efficiency of Project’s planning, decision-making, communication and delivery procedures. A competent PMC can bring in best resources, systems and processes and add tremendous value to the Project.

Turner’s role as a leading Project Management consultancy is to comprehend the issues at hand, liaise with the key stakeholders and agencies to formulate comprehensive plans, and address the challenges in an efficient and impactful manner. The persistent focus is on creating maximum value for the clients in complete awareness of the situation and shortcomings.