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How India’s Construction Companies Are Moving Forward With Digital Transformation
Despite these obstacles, India is showing positive signs of maturity in its digital transformation journey, with some firms leading the charge and embracing DX
Photo Credit : shutterstock
Besieged by a veritable slew of problems, the construction industry worldwide is in the midst of a creative reinvention. The industry was, up to recently, known to be one of the least digitized, with labor productivity growth averaging only 1 per cent per annum over the past two decades.
The traditional methods used in construction projects have hampered the industry’s overall growth. According to India’s Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 504 projects have been rescheduled, resulting in cost increases of more than 19 per cent. The biggest barrier to the adoption of construction technology, however, remains contractors' reticence to alter their established methods of operation.
Despite these obstacles, India is showing positive signs of maturity in its digital transformation journey, with some firms leading the charge and embracing DX. Numerous survey-based studies suggest that COVID-19 pushed the adoption of digital technology and data solutions across a variety of industries and construction is no exception. Lending much needed impetus to digital initiatives that had long been hampered by a lack of vision, urgency, and budget, the pandemic proved to be a watershed for digital transformation in the construction industry. For construction firms trying to sustain operations through the pandemic, proven tech solutions—from digital collaboration and virtual scanning tools to safety-focused wearables—became a lifeline.
In the midst of these doldrums, the government's sustained infrastructure push provided a glimmer of hope. In 2021, as part of the Global Housing Technology Challenge-India (GHTC-India) initiative, six LightHouse Projects (LHPs) were commenced. These projects use cutting edge technologies with an aim to deliver ready to live houses with speed, accuracy, and economy. Such structural recognition of the benefits that technology can lend construction augurs well for the industry. This is especially the case in light of the enhanced infrastructure capital expenditure (capex) outlay that stood out as the highlight of this year’s budget speech. While there is no doubt that infrastructure can lead to significant economic benefit, the boost would be especially strong if the government incentivized technology adoption further.
Construction has long been plagued by delays and cost overruns. In fact, recent government data indicates that out of the 1,526 currently ongoing central infrastructure projects, each entailing an investment of Rs 150 crore or more, 393 reported cost overruns of more than Rs 4.65 lakh crore and as many as 647 were delayed. To cite just one of many examples, The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, a USD 100 billion project that was aimed at creating a trade corridor between Delhi and Mumbai, was first introduced in 2006, with initial phasing plans indicating a 2016 fulfillment date. As of 2022, only 70 per cent of the project has been completed with final costs being much higher than originally thought. Although the blame for this does not fall solely on any department or agency, they are getting their estimates wrong by a mile. It's simply not good enough that the taxpayer is footing the bill.
However, on an encouraging note, the past few years have seen a majority of the bigger players in the sector lay out robust digitisation plans with a relatively upbeat outlook towards construction technology. For example, a leading company has at least 50 digital solutions currently in use and over 11,000 connected equipment being utilized at various stages of the project lifecycle.
Advanced construction technologies like Connected Construction, Artificial Intelligence (AI), IoT and big data analytics can assist construction firms in completing projects on time and within budget by accelerating the full digitalization of construction workflows and processes and enhancing the effectiveness and productivity of personnel and machinery. For instance, by visualizing the project through Building Information Modeling (BIM), potential defects that may arise in challenging operations like laying ceiling pipes might be identified early. Contractors are able to anticipate how a construction schedule might be affected by potential problems and take action to avoid them.
Safe to say, BIM is transforming the design process of buildings in India. Innovative builds, such as the The Statue of Unity, have previously been structurally difficult for conventional 2D design and documentation methods. It is only the adoption of 3D modeling that has made the construction of these architecturally acclaimed structures feasible. According to leading turnkey contractor Eversendai Construction Private Limited, Tekla’s constructible BIM technology enabled the engineers assigned to the State of Unity project to accurately assess project parameters like estimation, scheduling, fabrication and erection methodology, ultimately facilitating the completion of this complex project roughly 2 months ahead of schedule with an efficiency gain of close to 25 per cent.
In fact, the bulk of the recognisable infrastructure projects we see today, such the Chenab Railway Bridge or Pune Metro's Mangalwar Peth station serve as examples of how cutting-edge technology can reduce costs and boost general productivity and efficiency. Even tier-II and tier-III city projects are adopting and integrating innovative tech solutions to tremendous ends. Zamil Steel recently employed Trimble's software to construct the indoor stadium in Lucknow. Similarly, Inventaa Industries employed Trimble’s constructible BIM software in the fulfillment of affordable housing projects in the Bhubaneswar neighborhoods of Subudhipur and Ghatakia. These and other projects demonstrate how, regardless of the project's size, scope, or location, technology can help all project teams perform more productively and unleash hidden potential.
Our estimates indicate that technology-enabled and data-driven construction can contribute to up to 50 per cent less rework, up to 30 per cent cost savings due to waste reduction, and up to 30 per cent machine productivity and fuel savings. Indeed, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it would have been built much quicker if Augustus Caesar had BIM to hand.
The utilization of advanced technology also pays dividends in the form of increased worksite safety. The most effective of these include robotics and automation (R&A), wearable safety devices, and building information modeling (BIM). These can assist project managers in keeping an eye on everything crucial to the project so they can respond quickly to errors and proactively address perilous situations.
Last but not least, the construction sector is increasingly being called upon to take action to manage the climate crisis and take responsibility for its direct or induced carbon emissions. Given that construction accounts for 40 per cent of worldwide energy usage, the stakes could not be higher. Construction technology may assist businesses in reducing waste, streamlining processes, and boosting sustainability by using data to alert the project manager of methods to use resources like energy and power more efficiently and tracking precisely how materials are used on-site. This goal is further supported by specialized tools like Tekla Structures' Embodied Carbon Calculator that make it simple for users to trace the carbon footprint of their design choices. If there is any hope of ‘Getting India to Net Zero’, it is in observing sustainable construction practices.
Increased use of technological solutions in the construction sector has the ability to address long-standing problems that have bedeviled the sector for decades. This includes everything from challenges with low profitability and productivity to cost and schedule overruns, a shortage of labor, and sustainability concerns. In addition to fine-tuning long-standing processes, it is imperative to view construction as a comprehensive and interrelated activity. Trimble is pleased to contribute to the development of world-class infrastructure in India with its extensive portfolio of cutting-edge software solutions that aim to address every stage of a project's lifespan - each working synergistically with the other. We also look forward to the revitalised and efficient industry that is now on its way in India with much enthusiasm.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.
The author is Regional Sales Director, India and SAARC, Trimble SolutionsMore From The Author >>