A sneak peek into the construction sites of the future

A sneak peek into the construction sites of the future

Productivity is an important aspect for construction companies to complete a project within time and budget. Time and cost overruns are a function of several factors in the control of the contractors, according to Santosh Rai, Operations Director and Chief Business Officer, HCC....

Productivity is an important aspect for construction companies to complete a project within time and budget. Time and cost overruns are a function of several factors in the control of the contractors, according to Santosh Rai, Operations Director and Chief Business Officer, HCC. “Our focus is to largely be in complete control of activities, which includes planning, engineering, design and methods that are expeditious and match the available technology for speedy construction. You think, visualise and plan everything for the job site and then devise methods and other procedures in line with the plan.” “We ensure that machinery is well-maintained and undertake preventive maintenance so that there is limited downtime, says Hardik Agrawal, Director, Dineshchandra R Agrawal Infracon.“We schedule our projects to ensure maximum utilisation and sharing common resources on multiple workfronts.” Infrastructure projects involve various activities such as excavation, piling, boring, concreting and hauling where productivity can be monitored and improved. Equipment efficiency is key, says V Manivannan, Director-CPE, Afcons; to achieve this, critical aspects involve “equipment selection, skilled supervision, trained operators, preventive maintenance and monitoring.” (See box for more details.) “Productivity is ensured onsite when you put the right person on the right job and give them the right tools,” emphasises Tushar Srivastava, Director: Business Development & Strategy, Capacit’e Infraprojects. For any construction project, there is a calculation based on which we decide the number of people to deploy onsite. We also put a lot of mechanisation onsite through the use of the latest equipment, formwork, GPS and software, which increasesproductivity.” Construction site of the future The site of the future looks more organised,with less to do with equipment and more to do with management, predicts Agrawal. “We have good equipment today and don’t really face an issue with regard to productivity, but the sustainability aspect can improve. OEMs can focus more on making machines with electric engines and other sustainable methods of power.” Digitisation comes into every aspect of construction, right from the management of accounts to inventory, planning, estimation, integrations and so forth, says Srivastava. For equipment, he shares an example: tower cranes have anti-crash software so they do not collide; any failure is digitally communicated to the control room onsite. Even for concrete laying, there are laser-guided machines that are more efficient. “We have moved in this direction,” he confirms, adding, “Artificial intelligence (AI) is also playing a role in understanding issues related to linkages or first responders’ reports. Also, drones have come in and experiments are on to count labour onsite through RFID chips.”On the planning and software end, Capacite is deploying BIM in large-value projects. It becomes easier for reconciliation, to know the quantity of material required, and report any kind of change or design issues to stakeholders. Innovation is largely driven by equipment manufacturers. “Daybyday, construction has been moving towards mechanisation, which puts more equipment into the project right from the foundation to exploration,” says Rai. “The right selection of equipment determines how well you will be able to do the job. For instance, the correct tunnel-boring machine for a metro or transport tunnel will help you get into the geographical strata and derive the right information. Also, a lot of mining equipment now comes with IoT (Internet of Things)controls that deliver many functions without an operator.”For Rai, future equipment would largely be electric, non-polluting and will have IoT capabilities,leading to sites with increasingly less human intervention. Going forward, construction sites will adopt new technologies to overcome current challenges in labour, materialsand equipment and increase productivity and competitiveness. Manivannan lists some transformative technologies: AI for construction:Starting from an extensive, high-quality database of past results, a machine-learning process can be developed to make predictions. Building analytics and IoT:IoT will allow construction machinery, equipment, materials and structures to communicate to a central platform. This will enhance capture of critical data and improve performance parameters. It may also allow for predictive repairs and maintenance on construction sites, avoiding potential threats. Modular construction:This can incorporate a range of different construction activities like building, bridges and tunnels. Exoskeletons for construction workers:These enable workers to safely lift and carry much heavier objects, even overhead. 3D printing:Dramatically speeding up a task, 3Dprinting robots can accelerate production and reduce waste materials. Robotics:While the construction industry will always require manual labour, robotic technologies can help speed up the process, reduce delays and improve productivity across many areas. Innovative and eco-friendly materials:Producing steel requires a lot of energy but using recycled steel for a project can produce the same results with significantly fewer resources. Future construction equipment:With the advent of telematics, future equipment will transform productivity and cost-effectiveness. Making the choice Construction companies look forward to various equipment options with the latest technologies to fulfil their project requirements and be competitive. “The future of equipment will include telematics, remote monitoring systems, smart technology and autonomous operations,” says Manivannan. “An important aspect will be the shift from fossil fuels to electric or hydrogen-powered prime movers. By inducting more advanced telematics equipment, wecan have real-time monitoring or remote monitoring. We can control fuel consumption, equipment operations and performance, and troubleshooting. From the remote monitoring database, we can create automated dashboards on equipment performance analysis and parameters.” This can be beneficial in achieving higher productivity and cost savings. Further, all companies are looking forward toautonomous operation, where they can operate equipment remotely or without an operator. As Manivannansays, “We look forward to autonomous operations in core construction activities like excavation andpiling.” Reduction of the carbon footprint is also a concern. “Construction equipment should switch to alternate energy sources from the current dependency on fossil fuels,” affirms Manivannan.“A few OEMs have started supplying equipment that is battery-operated but a full-fledged implementation plan is still in the discussionstage.” He confirms that Afcons is looking forward to construction equipment thatis hydrogen and solar-powered or hybrid. As for HCC, Rai says, “The machine must be able to operate in the particular geography. It is important to assess if the equipment can be blended into the existing fleet, inter-serviceability with the current fleet, andthe quality of the service providers. One may choose an advanced equipment but if the OEM does not have a service centre around the area of operations, it should be taken into account.”Money also matters. “If we buy the same brand, it helps us blend it into the operating fleet and maximise the output.” Advancements in equipment, plant and machinery are just kicking off, in the view of Angad Bedi, Managing Director, BCD Group, a real-estate developer. “The Indian construction industry predominantly continues to use the same formwork systems since the 1980s-90s. Hence, machinery plays a big role in how the transition happens to prefab.” He also believes that, onsite, we need a transition from gensets. “A lot of diesel is consumed, which emits carbon and is harmful to the environment. The Western has moved to hydrogen or carbon-less fuels, which we too can shift to.” Further, safety often gets overlooked onsite and becomes the sole responsibility of the contractor. Manufacturers also need to factor safety in, says Srivastava. “In Mumbai, for instance, a concrete pump cannot operate above 55-60 decibels. Equipment manufacturers usually provide it with sound arresters or mufflers. But with regular use, these give way and contractors tend to use the machines as is. These must be replaced regularly.” He also mentions that anti-collision devices in tower cranes should be a must-have, not an add-on. Dumpers, tippers and any type of transit mixer from foreign companies have mandatory reverse sounds of certain decibels so that when backing up, people can see and hear it. Decision drivers As the world of construction rapidly transforms to digital construction sites, Manivannansays, “Our strategy will be to move to more digital, automated and eco-friendly equipment to suit current requirements.” He shares Afcons’ list to consider while procuring or deploying equipment: suitability to execute the particular activity orjob; comparison of technical parameters with equivalent brands; thereputation of theequipment and the company;past performance;after-sales support including service and spares supply; comparison of purchase cost with nearest competitors; operating cost; and delivery period. The techniques of construction have remained more or less the same but formworkhas changed, according to Bedi. “The technology in this equipment can be enhanced to get the structural and basic RCC formwork right. Also, AI is coming into play in ERPs, which are now designed efficiently and data-driven to cut down on wastage.” Agrawal concludes with his message to equipment manufacturers: focus on quality, sustainability and products that last. Give the customer the best value for a machine that has a good life.Rai adds: “Productivity norms, sizing and transportation to site play a key role. If equipment manufacturers can look into solutions through which equipment management can be undertaken for EPC and general contractors, it would make a lot of sense for us to engage more enthusiastically.” Read on for the equipment market scenario and interviews of equipment companiesexhibiting at bauma CONEXPO INDIA on their innovative offerings. The Productivity Principles V Manivannan, Director-CPE, Afcons, details how productivity can be achieved onsite with the use of efficient equipment. Equipment selection:Selection needs to be done on the basis of activity rate or required output, time cycle of activity, geographical condition and work duration. Skilled supervision:Optimum use of equipment needs to be done by skilled personnel to ensure that it is neither underutilised nor mishandled. Trained operators:Equipment productivity is dependent on skilled operators who are fully aware of equipment operations. Preventive maintenance:Companies adopt various strategies like preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance to improve equipment life and minimise breakdowns. Monitoring:The actual output of equipment should be monitored against rated output. Various factors that need to be monitored from a cost point of view are fuel consumption and spares and repairs costs against available norms.

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