The defining edge
The advantage of having IT solution in place is now fast being realised by emerging construction companies in India as well. Although the big companies have been early adopters of IT solution, a lot of mid-sized and smaller companies are not ready to miss the bus now, thanks to growing competition and emergence of complex projects. India is experiencing a huge surge in construction activities and these are likely to intensify further in the years to come.
With more number of complex and difficult projects taking place in India, the situation has thrown open a new challenge for construction companies. So, should they accept the challenge or remain out of the competition? That’s the question that many companies are asking themselves. Interestingly, they are ready to take the challenge. “I am positively surprised by the way Indian companies are adopting Information Technology (IT). This is happening not only within big companies but also in case of small and medium companies. Medium sized companies are surprisingly moving fast,” says Satish Pendse, Chief Information Officer for Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) which is one of the service providers in this sector, HCC helps implement IT solution along with its partners such as SAP and HP.
But how should a construction company go about it, especially, when many of them in India are traditionally been run as family business without much exposure to IT. Should it invest in IT? Will its staff be able to adapt to the new environment? Which software or solution it should go for? Which solution will be best suitable for its business? The questions list might grow even bigger for a novice company who has not started using IT till now.
But, thanks to service providers and vendors, those concerns can well be taken care of. Experts suggest there are two ways one can go about it – hiring an implementation company; or buy solution directly from vendors/IT companies.
You can hire an implementation company with construction background to study your requirements and suggest what system you should buy. Such companies along with IT vendors can help study your requirement, suggest the right system and help you with implementation process. “IT solution can be implemented either from a technology perspective or from a business perspective. The differentiator that we bring to the table is the business perspective,” says Pendse who has implanted a number projects for companies like Oriental Structural Engineers, Monte-Carlo Construction, Pratibha Industries, Neptune Developers, JSW Severfield Structures, Lloyd Insulations, Ahuja Group besides others.
Pendse says an IT solution can be deployed in multiple ways and it’s crucial to determine the most appropriate way to deploy it. “Many times, what is technologically optimal may not necessarily be workable in the construction industry, considering its nature of operations and the mindset of its people. Since we have the legacy of 80+ years of industry experience, we possess a knowhow of what will work for the construction industry personnel,” he adds.
Pendse recommends companies to go for world-class IT solutions/platforms and not to settle for anything lower. “This is because the industry is growing at such a rapid pace that the organizations become big even before they realise it and then the non-world-class IT solutions become a limitation. It’s very difficult to change the IT platform at that stage,” he adds.
There are a number of IT companies who provide customised solution for infrastructure sector. IT companies say over 90% of the IT automations that fail in any environment are due to poor adaption. It is important to note the demographics of the average employee in a construction/infrastructure company. “These people are mostly in the mid 40s and 50s, with extensive domain experience in construction and some exposure to the computing world, mostly CAD, Windows, Microsoft Office Excel and maybe MS Project or Primavera. This demographic is true the world over and not just in India. We have designed and built Aurigo BRIX specifically keeping this demographic in mind. As a result, the ‘Ease of Use’ and ‘Industry Ready’ features figure in our highest priorities, which makes a world of a difference in adaption and eventual success of the solution deployed,” says Balaji Sreenivasan, Founder & CEO, Aurigo Software Technologies. |
He says it is imperative that an infrastructure or construction company looks to invest in CPMS (Capital Project Management System) such as Aurigo BRIX that seamlessly integrates project data into the company’s corporate IT infrastructure including ERP, Document Management Systems, GIS and other legacy applications, enabling enterprise wide IT adoption.
“This helps companies streamline their processes, control costs and reduce delays. The bottom line is that in the infrastructure domain, the spend on implementing IT tools provides immediate ROI. For example, even a mere 1% cost reduction in a small hundred crore road project cost is sufficient to recover the investment made in technology,” Sreenivasan adds.
Aurigo BRIX is the company’s 5th generation product which is being used by government agencies, infrastructure owners, construction management firms, repeat builders and real estate developers. The company says it provides a world class web 2.0 technology framework built on Microsoft technologies to completely automate the entire lifecycle of a capital project; starting from land management, estimation, planning, project monitoring, site inspection to asset maintenance and even asset disposal.
RDS Project, an engineering and general contracting firm, who is upgrading its IT system to keep pace with the industry, says it is investing in an ERP system from Aurigo to tightly monitor and control their projects so that they can increase their operational efficiency. The company is presently implementing it at a pilot project. “We were looking for a system which was customised and pertinent to the construction industry, had an easy user-interface and was within our budget. After looking at various products like SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and others we felt that Aurigo’s BRIX product was more pertinent to the construction industry and the Microsoft AX provided with the required customisation which could adapt to our company specific business flows,” says Mayank Goyal, Director, RDS Project.
He says they were more comfortable with the Aurigo’s implementation team, which had provided them with the required hand-holding during the customization and implementation process.
Another IT solution provider, Autodesk has software for new construction and existing building projects that support the Building Information Modelling process. The company says its Autodesk 2011 software helps architects, designers and engineers more easily create and profit from digital design data and better communication across extended project teams.
“The combination of globalisation, continuous process innovation and client’s increasing expectation of intelligent buildings has forced design firms around the world to re-evaluate their practices. Building Information Modelling (BIM) is perceived as an important tool of change in the architecture, engineering and construction industry and the trend is towards continued worldwide adoption of this revolutionary approach,” says Manideep Saha, Head-AEC & Geospatial, India & SAARC, Autodesk.
He says that BIM’s overriding benefit is the substantial time saving and competitive advantage it can provide. “In an environment of intense time pressure and increased global competition, BIM gives local firms the quick turnaround on projects. Another important benefit is BIM’s ability to reduce the size of the project team. The key issues challenging BIM adoption in India revolve around costs, software, additional hardware and training,” he adds.
Goyal of RDS Project says the construction industry is slowly evolving in India. “With the increase in complexities and scale of projects, and many stakeholders in a project, companies are slowly shifting towards reliance of IT for better project coordination, designs and project implementation.
The global competition is here to stay, says Sreenivasan, adding that the construction firms have to either pull up their socks or leave the party.
Pendse concludes saying, “We all are fortunate to be in the era wherein the infrastructure industry is growing rapidly and will continue to do so for at least a decade more. We should be prepared to take advantage of this growth.”