Satish Pendse, President, High Bar Technologies (HCC group company)
With the infrastructure industry booming exponentially, the forthcoming decade promises to be one of great opportunities. On the flipside, however, the serious lack of skilled human resources could pose a serious problem. In fact, HR is expected to top the list of the challenges faced by leading infrastructure companies in the forthcoming decade.
Man-power crunch as bottleneck for growth
Engineering graduates from core functions like civil, mechanical and electrical seem to be on the wane even as popularity for computer and electronic engineering continues to grow.
Also, with availability of abundant opportunities within and outside the construction industry, attrition levels are considerably high. For a knowledge centric industry like this, an exodus of employees could severely hamper the business.
IT aids human resource crunch
In every crisis lies an opportunity, and the organisation could use manpower crunch as an opportunity to make their processes more efficient and less dependent on human resources.
Making standard scalable processes: Using IT, a set of rules can be defined in the system based on organisational policies. This way, the process can be standardised across the organisation. Also, the same can be rolled out across the length and breadth of the organisation, thanks to the high connectivity made possible by IT. This can lay foundation for the future growth of the organisation. For example, in ERP the workflow for authorising a particular process such as approval of purchase order could be standardised. By keeping only the relevant authorities in the workflow, the approval process can be made more efficient and faster.
Optimising human efforts: IT can be effectively used for automating activities which are repetitive in nature. For example, to compile daily progress report one needs to punch in the data in the system at the site. At the main office one needs to compile the data from multiple locations. Using mobile handheld devices, from the site itself, the concerned person can feed in the data in the system. The system takes care of the data compilation presenting information in the required format. Thus, the redundancies in the system are removed and human resources are utilised more efficiently, improving accuracy of information.
Digitisation of knowledge: The construction industry is driven by domain specific knowledge which is enhanced through experience. Functions like estimation and budgeting requires experienced planning managers. However, with rules programmed in estimation and budgeting softwares, a junior resource can take care of the work otherwise requiring an experienced planner and involve the experienced resource only in case of exceptions. Also an online knowledge repository which shares knowledge of experts (e.g. maintenance procedures for critical equipments) can help in spreading knowledge across the organisation. Knowledge management software which captures the knowledge of experienced resources by probing them are also available for this purpose.
Control and visibility: With the growth of the organisation, it is no longer possible for the owners and top management to exercise personalised control in each and every small activity. IT tools such as ERP have provision to build controls within the application and track any deviation, thus reducing the burden of the management to a certain extent. Also, IT tools such as SAP work on single database across locations and departments giving an end-to-end visibility of the business. Using ERP appropriately, the management can get reports and dashboards readily on the click of a button which can help in efficient decision making, thus enabling them to manage more projects effectively.
Reaching the employees: Within the company, knowledge and employee portals can be effectively used to provide relevant information to employees. The latest industry news, company policies, corporate announcements and other important things posted on an employee portal accessible from the remote project site can go a long way in bonding the employee with the company.
(Author can be contacted on: firstname.lastname@example.org)