High on Productivity

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High on Productivity
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High on Productivity

04 Dec 2019 Long Read
With the Rs.100 trillion investment programme a key focus for the government, CW connects with construction companies to understand the efforts being taken to increase productivity on site, and with key equipment manufacturers exhibiting at EXCON on their plans to meet buyer requirements.

The urbanisation wave is sweeping the nation. 
A few months ago, the government unveiled a plethora of initiatives to boost infrastructure development in urban areas. 
All eyes are now on the government’s key focus: A Rs.100-trillion investment programme. More specifically, with Rs.8 trillion planned for new highway projects in the next three years, it spells a huge opportunity for the construction sector. 
Also, opportunities in railways (redevelopment plans), ports (Sagarmala) and airports call for a large inflow of orders.
To handle this spate of orders, the construction industry is gearing up in full swing with the application of technology to improve planning and utilisation of existing machinery and resources and to improve overall productivity.

Improving productivity
As any organisation in the construction sector grows bigger, equipment assets keep adding to the pool.
For instance, PSP Projects is executing the Surat Diamond Bourse project, spread across a 66-lakh-sq-ft built-up area, with a completion plan of 30 months. 
This was the company’s biggest single order. Considering the volume and scale of the project, the company has gradually infused plants and machineries worth Rs.600 million to date. “We have two RMC plants (75 cu m per hour capacity each); to date, we have done 380,000 cu m of concreting work with an average of 600 cu m per day, including Sundays and holidays,” shares PS Patel, Chairman & Managing Director, PSP Projects.
“We have deployed nine tower cranes, which cover most of our footprints and helped us reduce our slab cycle from 15 to 11 days. Additionally, we have nine concrete pumps, 24 transit mixtures and shuttering material of about 54,000 sq m at the project.”
Early this year, Navayuga Engineering announced that it had set two Guinness World Records for the ‘most concrete continuously poured in 24 hours’ and the ‘largest continuous concrete pour’ at the Polavaram irrigation project. “We acquired 62-m-long boom placers, which are the longest in India, and a fleet of tele belts; these played a crucial role,” says Chinta Sridhar, Managing Director, Navayuga Engineering. 
“We have outfitted most of our equipment with GPS systems, which enables us to track every minute of the working shift to optimise and enhance productivity.”
Before the commencement of any project, DPRs are created and in-depth planning done by the relevant government authority or agency. For Tata Projects, every project is unique and the challenges faced are different. “The recently completed 9.63-km Dilshad Garden (Delhi)-Ghaziabad New Bus Adda elevated extension is the first metro line to connect the interiors of Ghaziabad to Delhi,” says K Satyanarayana, COO-Industrial Systems, Tata Projects. “The latest software like Primavera and BIM was extensively used to design and schedule 
the project. 
In addition, about 60 per cent of the project was built using precast technology, which simplified and spurred construction work.”
For his part, YD Murthy, Executive Vice President, NCC, says, “We enhance productivity on our machines with IoT (Internet of Things) devices, ie installing GPS and RFID (radio frequency identification device) tags with an app-based system.” 
“Getting trained manpower and proper maintenance of machines have always been a challenge,” says Ratan Lal Kashyap, Senior Vice President-Procurement, 
GR Infraprojects. The company has initiated buying major equipment from one OEM in a particular project, with the responsibility for maintenance lying with the same OEM for the entire tenure of the project on a defined service-level agreement (SLA), which caps the cost of maintenance and ensures uptime, helping to keep progress up to pace. “Creating a dashboard for live monitoring of all equipment will enable faster decisions,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Anil Singh, Founder & Managing Director, APCO Infratech, shares the company’s initiatives to  enhance productivity:
  • Strongly implementing a preventive maintenance programme to reduce frequent breakdown.
  • Successfully implemented lubrication and greasing of plant and equipment.
  • Maintaining recommended tyre pressure and avoiding overloading of vehicles.
  • Monitoring dispatch of product with tipper and transit mixers to enhance productivity.

Technology breakthrough
The use of innovative technologies such as drones and augmented reality have been taking centre-stage as they significantly contribute to avoiding time and cost overruns in projects.  
“We are tracking the utilisation of our machines using IoT sensors and reconciling it with our daily work reports, so that we can see the productivity – actuals versus what we assumed while bidding for the project,” says T Sandeep Reddy, Managing Director, Gayatri Projects. “In many cases, we were surprised to see that per-hour productivity was half of what we expected.” The company has improved productivity through better planning and sequencing of work, and training and coaching of operators.
GR Infraprojects has been using drones for site surveys taking account of road assets on existing roads and fixing up alignments and RoWs,” says Kashyap. “This is an ongoing activity for existing and new projects.” The company is also conducting trials with new technology.
Evidently, drones seem to be a preferred choice for construction companies. Navayuga Engineering uses a fleet of drones for survey needs and project progress tracking, which facilitates a bird’s-eye perspective of works. “Drones help reduce response time by reaching inaccessible areas and giving us first-hand information,” says Sridhar. “Our IT and research teams are currently working on utilising augmented reality in project management to further optimise productivity and reduce costs.”
L&T has benefitted from several digital interventions across various businesses and the pace of adoption has been rapid, impacting diverse areas, such as machinery, design and engineering, geographical surveys, materials, logistics, maintenance, field execution, labour workforce, safety, customer relationships and documentation, according to S Anantha Sayana, Chief Digital Officer, Larsen & Toubro. (See box on ‘Digitalisation for Productivity!’).

Satyanarayana bifurcates 
Tata Projects’ usage of cutting-edge technology in underground metro (UG) and elevated metro. In UG metro, “Construction equipment used: TBM and associated rolling stock, rig for D-wall, segment mould, crane, gantry and excavator; software used: STADD Pro, Primavera, Wallap, BIM, Auto CAD and RS-2; building materials: cement, RF steel, structural steel, construction chemicals, and all types of finishing materials (glass, aluminium, SS, tile, stone and ACP) and waterproofing materials.” 
As for elevated metro, “Construction equipment: Piling rig, launching girder, crane and gantry; software: STADD Pro, Primavera, BIM and AutoCAD; and building materials: cement, RF steel, structural steel, construction chemicals, all types of finishing materials.”
Singh shares his recommendations to ensure a digitally connected workforce, equipped to complete tasks accurately and keep the production line running with fewer interruptions:
  • Use an advanced data analytic system that offers valuable information to enhance productivity.
  • Effectively train operators and drivers for advanced technology at specific intervals for respective equipment.
  • Augmented realistic technology can connect the employee to the digital world, improving productivity efficiency and safety at the workplace. Smart glass technology has progressed rapidly. Today, multiple vendors are delivering enterprise smart glasses with wireless technology, HD cameras and an integrated server.
Operators on the job!
While companies are focusing on upgrading machines with the latest techniques, efforts are equally being taken to ensure skilling operators.
“The adoption of this slew of frontier technologies does put the onus on us to upskill our people,” says Sayana, “We have made serious investments in people, processes and systems to meet this new requirement.” For example, L&T’s BIM Academy trains the company’s personnel to use this technology more effectively.
Gayatri Projects has hired an internal IoT operations team to conduct onboarding and training exercises for the entire staff to show how technology can be best used. “In the case of machine control products, we work with the OEMs to train the operators,” says Reddy.
And, at PSP Projects, as a policy, upgraded or newly adopted technologies are strictly used only by trained and skilled staff. Operators are sent to the OEMs’ training centres and trial runs are performed in the presence of the OEMs before the technology goes live.
For its part, Navayuga Engineering, operators, in addition to rigorous onsite training at regular intervals, are made to go through the certification process of the equipment manufactures. 
And for Tata Projects, says Satyanarayana, “Our efforts have led to local youth finding employment on our project sites and other work sites after the completion of our projects.”

Track record
In terms of execution and productivity, companies are blazing a trail!
Apart from the adoption of digital solutions and tools, the introduction of a slew of smart construction techniques and methods has immeasurably improved productivity at L&T. Says Sayana, “With the result, we are able to deliver more and more quality projects on time, which is having a positive impact on our profitability.”
PSP Projects has maintained a culture of infusing new plants, machineries or equipment in every new project. “Even a decade ago, when the company size was merely `500 million, we were one of the first to import a tower crane from Germany, and we were one of the first to install a batching plant way back in 2008,” says Patel. Today, the company owns 10 batching plants, 46 transit mixtures, 20 tower cranes, and formwork material of 2 million sq ft. In terms of soft technology, “The company’s operations are run through SAP since 2012 and we are upgrading to SAP HANA, which should be live by the end of November,” he adds. The company is also in the process of implementing various mobile applications to ease of operations. 
Sharing an example of before-time completion of design EPC of two-laning with paved shoulder of the Khagaria-Purnea section of NH-31 from km 270 to km 410 (140 km), Singh of Apco Infratech points out, “With the total project length being 140 km and executed at `5.40 billion, the project was completed in 22 months as against the total contract period of 31 months.”
Navayuga Engineering has completed the KPCL-Phase1 project in a record time of 18 months and achieved an excavation advance rate of 10 m per day tunnel heading for our Quazigund-Banihal highway project in arduous Himalayan conditions. Adds Sridhar, “Many projects have been delivered ahead of schedule including (but not limited to) a 3-km bridge across river Krishna constructed in a record 11 months against schedules completion of three years; Nellore bypass road delivered two months ahead of schedule; a multipurpose berth at Mangalore Port delivered two months in advance; a multipurpose berth at Haldia Port delivered two-and-a-half months ahead of schedule; and a cargo berth at Tuticorin Port three months ahead of schedule. Most important, India’s longest river bridge, Bhupen Hazarika Setu, and bridges across rivers Dibang and Lohith were completed on schedule despite multiple natural calamities and geographical complexities in execution. Further, the company, as mentioned above, has clinched two Guinness World Records for the Polavaram Dam project.”
In the past 12 years, GR Infraprojects has executed over 95 projects. “We have also received bonus for projects for before-time completion,” says Kashyap. “With the use of the latest technologies and available manpower, we had a phenomenal growth both in terms of size and economy.” The company bagged the Rs.24.47 billion single-largest project from NHAI under HAM. Kashyap credits the company’s excellent track record in execution and completion to the company’s efficient manpower of over 12,000 employees.

Construction Opportunities in 2020!

SN Subrahmanyan, CEO & Managing Director, Larsen & Toubro (L&T), shares his views on opportunities coming along in the current market scenario:
“There has been a noticeable contraction in economic activity over the past few months largely owing to a drop in private consumption, although public-sector spending in areas of core infrastructure like water projects, metros, roads and expressway programmes and power transmission and distribution have stayed the course. However, projects on PPP mode and building infrastructure in urban agglomerations have remained muted. 
It is only fair to state that the government has been sensitive to the needs of different sectors and has been taking steps to revive the economy, such as boosting capital availability to NBFCs, introducing policy reforms on FDI, releasing funds for recapitalisation of PSBs, PSU bank mergers, incentives for export and real estate, resolution of stressed assets and a far-reaching reduction in corporate income tax rates for domestic companies. All these fiscal measures have been aided by an accommodative monetary policy giving rise to optimism that growth rates will revive and domestic investments will pick up in the medium to long term.
Globally, certain adverse geopolitical events like the indecisiveness around Brexit and crude oil price volatility have aggravated the global slowdown to adversely affect global growth rates, though certain markets in Africa, the Far East, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are showing encouraging growth potential.
All things considered, we, at L&T, are cautiously optimistic of the immediate future as we see opportunities across our areas of expertise, 
be it construction or manufacturing, finance or IT & ITES. 
The EPC space in recent times has seen the award of big-ticket projects. With growing competition, organisations are seeking to hold their own by improving operational efficiencies. By yoking the enormous benefits of digitalisation, big data and predictive analytics, L&T has successfully improved productivity, reduced costs, cut wastage and reduced execution time to significantly enhance efficiencies.”

Procuring Equipment
Apco Infratech’s current equipment bank is worth `8 billion. “With the major plan and equipment totalling 1,700 nos, the company’s annual spend towards procuring equipment is more than `1 billion,” says Anil Singh, Founder & Managing Director, APCO Infratech.
“Gayatri Projects operates around 2,000-2,500 machines and indirectly uses several thousand more on its projects,” says T Sandeep Reddy, Managing Director, Gayatri Projects. He goes on to share that the procurement spend varies a lot every year, depending on the average age of the fleet and volume of new contracts.
GR Infraprojects enjoys a current equipment bank of over 5,000 construction equipment and vehicles. “Based on the project requirements and the type of projects, the spend on procuring equipment is decided,” says Ratan Lal Kashyap, Senior Vice President-Procurement, 
GR Infraprojects. “Decision on purchase of new equipment is done only after reviewing and evaluating the company’s existing equipment pool.”  
Over the past couple of decades, Navayuga Engineering has accumulated a major equipment fleet of over 2,000 with a current net block of Rs.9 billion. As Chinta Sridhar, Managing Director, Navayuga Engineering, says, “On average, we have been spending around 
`1.50 billion annually on sourcing new equipment.”
NCC’s current equipment bank is worth Rs.5.25 billion and as YD Murthy, Executive Vice-President, NCC, confirms, the company’s annual spend towards procuring equipment is Rs.1.50 billion.
Considering an average of the past three financial years, PS Patel, Chairman & Managing Director, PSP Projects, shares that the company spends `250-300 million every year on equipment. Over the last decade, the company has invested more than Rs.1.50 billion.
From the perspective of L&T Construction alone, S Anantha Sayana, Chief Digital Officer, L&T, says, “We have 30,000+ assets in action on ground, spread across our various sites both in India and overseas.”

L&T: Enhancing Productivity!
S Anantha Sayana, Chief Digital Officer, Larsen & Toubro, shares more on the company’s efforts to enhance productivity on its machines:
“In terms of our machines, we have some 10,000+ of our assets lying largely at remote project sites hooked with telematics devices and sensors that stream data for about hours of usage, geo location and fuel consumption to arm planners to evolve strategies to improve efficiencies. Further, BIM has opened a collaborative method of working for more efficient methods of designing, delivering and maintaining physical assets throughout the entire life-cycle. 
Geospatial technologies such as GPS/GNSS, LiDAR, photogrammetry, satellite remote sensing and the like have helped us acquire, manipulate, store, analyse and present data for superior project monitoring and execution. LiDAR makes surveys quick, accurate and economical and obviates rework. It came in extremely handy during the survey and construction of the Statue of Unity, the world’s tallest. LiDAR is being used with great success in many of our road projects like the Bar-Bilara-Jodhpur road project as well as smart city projects in Nagpur, the surveillance system in Mumbai and the CSITMS in Hyderabad. GIS-based Radar Elevation Data Processing is another geospatial technology that our 
Power Transmission & Distribution business has employed, most notably in transmission line projects in Kenya, Malaysia and Botswana. GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) is yet another geospatial technology that provides ‘x-ray vision’ to see what lies beneath the surface before starting work, which comes in handy for the pipe laying exercise for our water business vertical, while augmented and virtual reality are playing key roles in training of workmen for a real-life feel of situations.
Digitalisation is playing a key role even in optimising labour, ensuring their safety and improving their productivity. We have introduced WISA (Workforce Induction & Skills Application) to manage both end-to-end processes and data of workmen from the time of induction through their entire journey in the organisation. We are now able to offer online assessments, make real-time analytics and thereby adopt a systematic approach to onboarding and managing our workforce.
We have developed ‘ViewEHS’, a significant digital safety solution that captures EHS data, compares it with baseline data and assigns key performance indicator scores to analyse the EHS performance of some 300 project sites in real time.   
In smart world solutions, we are managing the assets of CCTV implementation with web-based GIS, like for the Gujarat Intelligent Traffic Management System that integrates the Network Management System (NMS) and the Vehicle Tracking Management System (VTMS) with asset information from the cameras. By integrating the NMS with GIS systems, faulty cameras can be identified with geographic perspectives along with the details of the fault. Likewise, integration of VTMS with GIS will support the dispatching team to rectify faulty cameras and other assets by implementing routing analysis and Geo-fencing concepts.

- SHRIYAL SETHUMADHAVAN
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