We implemented the latest SAP Cloud solution within 9 month

We implemented the latest SAP Cloud solution within 9 month

Patel Engineering’s Sela Tunnel project in Arunachal Pradesh, one of the longest bi-lane tunnel projects situated above 13,000 ft feet with temperatures dropping as low as -15°C, was recently inaugurated. R SRINIVASAN spoke to Kavita Shirvaikar, CFO and Whole-Time Director, Patel Engin...

Patel Engineering’s Sela Tunnel project in Arunachal Pradesh, one of the longest bi-lane tunnel projects situated above 13,000 ft feet with temperatures dropping as low as -15°C, was recently inaugurated. R SRINIVASAN spoke to Kavita Shirvaikar, CFO and Whole-Time Director, Patel Engineering, to learn more about the company’s operations and adoption of technology. Excerpts: Does the company have projects in Tier 2 and 3 cities and what is the difference between these projects and the ones in Mumbai? The company's projects span 16 states in India, with a majority situated in remote areas in the North (Jammu and Kashmir; Himachal Pradesh) and Northeast India (Assam and Arunachal Pradesh). Additionally, we have several projects located in Mumbai. Working in different geographical regions presents various challenges. One significant difference lies in the timely procurement and delivery of raw materials, which is relatively seamless in Mumbai compared to remote locations. Another key factor is the availability of skilled labour, which is abundant in Mumbai but poses challenges at project sites in remote areas. Setting up infrastructure and providing necessary facilities and communication setups for employees at project sites also presents significant challenges. Logistics and supply chain management differ greatly in difficult geographic locations and weather conditions further exacerbate these challenges. For instance, our recently inaugurated Sela Tunnel project in Arunachal Pradesh, one of the longest bi-lane tunnel projects situated at an altitude above 13,000 ft, exposes employees to severe weather conditions, with temperatures dropping as low as -15°C. Further, network connectivity is a major challenge for teams operating in remote locations. To address this issue, we have implemented a comprehensive IT infrastructure to ensure reliable communication and connectivity for our teams. What role does software play in project monitoring to ensure timely deliveries? Within the construction industry, the seamless integration of advanced software holds immense importance in ensuring that project monitoring reaches optimal levels, which is crucial to meet deadlines. This sector, renowned for its complexity and diverse facets, has undergone a transformative evolution with widespread adoption of technology, effectively streamlining operations, enhancing communication channels and ultimately refining project outcomes. An integral area where software proves indispensable is project scheduling. The timely completion of projects heavily relies on efficient scheduling and software tools empower project managers to navigate the intricate network of construction timelines with precision. Additionally, the incorporation of technology in the form of building information modelling (BIM) has revolutionised project monitoring in construction. BIM allows for a comprehensive digital representation of the project, enabling stakeholders to visualise the entire construction process. At Patel Engineering, our approach revolves around utilising sophisticated project management software tailored specifically to the nuances of construction projects. These tools empower our teams to craft intricate schedules encompassing a wide array of tasks, dependencies and milestones. Such comprehensive scheduling not only provides a holistic view of project timelines but also equips our project managers with the foresight to anticipate potential delays and implement proactive measures to mitigate risks. In recent years, our company has experienced significant growth with our order book nearly doubling to current levels of approximately Rs 190 billion. Concurrently, our workforce has expanded from 1,500 to around 4,500 employees. Our robust IT infrastructure deployed at project sites facilitates real-time data access and communication, thereby enhancing productivity, sustainability and overall employee experience. This integrated and reliable network, coupled with a Digital First approach, effectively eliminates barriers and optimises productivity, particularly in challenging environments such as our hydropower and tunnelling projects in the remote Himalayan region. We successfully implemented the latest SAP Cloud solution across all our projects within an impressive timeframe of just nine months. This platform has seamlessly connected remote sites, providing scalability, enhanced information speed and accuracy and substantially reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) by 65 per cent. Our primary focus remains on refining internal systems and processes, coupled with the continuous upgrading of IT infrastructure to minimise manual intervention. Through the deployment of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, we aim to elevate productivity, reliability and efficiency across all our business operations, ultimately optimising asset utilisation within our construction endeavours. What are the challenges that the company has faced while sourcing raw materials for projects Given that our primary business focus lies within the hydropower sector, primarily located in remote regions such as Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and the Northeast – encompassing Assam and Arunachal Pradesh – the procurement of raw materials presents a significant challenge. It is imperative to meticulously plan the sourcing of materials to ensure their efficient utilisation and timely delivery to project sites. Leveraging the SAP system, we can effectively track the flow of raw materials and components, facilitating the monitoring of project progress and worker efficiency, as well as the allocation of tasks among our construction teams. Drawing upon our extensive experience spanning over seven decades, we have forged robust partnerships with suppliers who share our organisational objectives and uphold our standards of quality. Through these alliances, we continuously optimise our supply chain operations by employing effective sourcing strategies, thereby maximising the value derived from each transaction. Please tell us about the role of artificial intelligence (AI) in reducing the time and cost of projects. The infusion of AI has emerged as a gamechanger, revolutionising the construction sector by boosting productivity and significantly trimming both project duration and expenses. This transformative approach to project management is revolutionising conventional methods and empowering construction experts to tackle the intricacies of large-scale projects with remarkable accuracy and efficiency. A key aspect where AI contributes to time and cost savings in construction projects is through predictive analytics. AI algorithms meticulously analyse extensive datasets encompassing historical project information, weather forecasts and other pertinent variables to forecast potential setbacks and pinpoint optimal construction schedules. For us at Patel Engineering, integration of AI technology marks a fundamental shift in our project management approach. By harnessing AI's predictive capabilities for refined scheduling and proactive risk mitigation, we enhance our capacity to deliver projects with unmatched efficiency, precision and cost-effectiveness. What are the barriers to usage of green steel and green cement? The adoption of green steel and green cement in construction faces obstacles such as higher upfront costs due to advanced production technologies, dissuading project developers and contractors. Additionally, the limited market availability of these environment-friendly materials leads to logistical challenges, including longer lead times and procurement constraints. The absence of standardised regulations further complicates matters, making it challenging for industry stakeholders to assess and compare the environmental credentials of different materials. Resistance to change within the construction industry, rooted in familiarity with traditional materials, poses another barrier, necessitating comprehensive awareness programmes. Concerns about the durability and performance of green steel and green cement require to be addressed through extensive research, testing and successful case studies to dispel scepticism and encourage widespread adoption. In overcoming these challenges, collaborative efforts from industry stakeholders, policymakers and researchers are crucial to promote the use of sustainable materials in construction projects. To allay doubts and promote broad adoption, issues about the robustness and efficiency of green steel and green cement must be resolved via in-depth investigation, testing and positive case studies. To overcome these obstacles and encourage the use of sustainable materials in construction projects, cooperation between industry players, legislators and researchers is essential. As Mumbai’s average air quality index (AQI) of 156 is worse than Delhi’s AQI of 121, what should be done at construction sites? The acute need for effective air monitoring systems at building and demolition sites is shown by the notable difference in Delhi and Mumbai's average AQIs. In addressing this issue, implementation of key measures is imperative. First, we must prioritise regular air quality monitoring through advanced equipment to identify pollutants promptly and enable swift corrective actions. Establishing effective dust suppression techniques, such as water spraying and dust binders, minimises particulate matter release during construction. Ensuring proper waste management, recycling and safe disposal prevents the burning of construction materials. Encouraging low-emission equipment use and conducting worker awareness programmes is crucial. Conversely, strict avoidance of open burning, uncovered materials, uncontrolled heavy equipment operation, inadequate waste disposal and unnecessary vegetation clearing is essential. Adhering to these measures collectively contributes to mitigating the adverse effects of development projects on air quality, fostering a healthier environment for all stakeholders. What should business houses in India do to properly manage their construction waste? Addressing the issue of construction waste management in India requires a comprehensive strategy, drawing inspiration from successful practices in the UK. To begin with, the establishment and enforcement of stringent regulations are crucial, setting clear guidelines for waste reduction, recycling and safe disposal. Regular audits and compliance checks, coupled with penalties for non-compliance, are essential to ensure accountability. Additionally, promoting circular economy practices within the construction industry will contribute to a more sustainable and environmentally conscious approach, aligning India's efforts with global standards. Through these measures, the country can work towards achieving higher recovery rates and fostering a culture of responsible construction waste management.

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