'Construction industry looking for trained man-power'

'Construction industry looking for trained man-power'

The Inquirer

'Construction industry looking for trained man-power'

Every stakeholder has to ensure that everyone works in tandem so that the projects get completed on time. To this end, the role of construction project management consultant becomes important. Bangalore-based A N Prakash, one of the pioneers in the field, who was conferred with the ‘Engineers’ Day award’ recently spoke to N Niranjan Nikam of Deccan Herald on the pitfalls of the industry and how it can be addressed. Excerpts:

DH: You have won many awards, but this one from your own fraternity must be very satisfying

Absolutely. It is a most satisfying award, considering that at the time when I started almost 23 years back, there was not much recognition of the role of a construction project management consultant. In fact, the recognition had to come from MNCs initially before the industry here started accepting us.

DH: Construction is an industry which has grown by leaps and bounds. Where do we as a country stand today?

ANP: The industry in our country is not a very organised one. There are better ways of taking the industry forward, particularly in terms of training construction workers. We do not have really trained manpower. We need to have recognition for masons and carpenters, which is there abroad. I expect the state to take a more active role.

DH: You took up the challenge of ‘managing’ construction projects at a time when other professionals in the industry did not much care for it

It was very challenging. Way back in 1984, as a project manager with the East India Hotels Ltd. (of the Oberoi Group) while being involved with the construction of their luxury hotel in New Delhi that I realised the importance of ‘managing’ construction projects as against ‘supervising’ them on a day-to-day basis. In an ‘engineering services’ intensive project (where there are several engineering services, such as electrical, plumbing, air-conditioning, data cables etc.,) there are several vendors and hundreds of activities. Each one of these activities has to be coordinated.

Conventionally, construction projects were handed over to construction engineers who had no formal education or training in managing projects. Due to lack of professional management, the  cost and time overruns were a common feature of such projects. This lead to the general belief that construction projects were never completed on time within the specified cost and quality. This myth had to be broken.

It took quite a bit of convincing. In fact, I still remember one of my friends calling civil engineers as ‘muck-shifters’ way back in the sixties. Initially I was considered a thorn in the flesh of an architect. They were ruling at that point. They were not being questioned. But each project has several stakeholders like architects, consulting engineers, contractors and the clients (the most important) and everyone has a role to play.

Since the MNCs came to our country in a big way, the most important part that one needs to remember is that this industry like many others is culture specific. Just one instance: on Amavasya day none of the carpenters work. This information has to be factored in when one is planning a project. Coming to the role of construction project management consultant, even in an advanced country like the US, the role of such a consultant was recognised recently.

DH: In India, delays and cost overruns are common. More importantly, in a sector like housing, it hurts the buyers of flats really hard. Why does this happen?

If everyone adheres to the advise we give, then the projects will be completed on time.

When the IT boom happened, there were no skilled workers. This industry is almost equal to the IT now. Here I would like to stress one thing: what we consultants do is not supervision but it is super-vision.

If the projects get delayed then the losses both to the clients and the end users are very large. Again there is a difference. When we did a project for Intel, all drawings were provided on time and since Intel itself was the end user, we completed the project on time.

However, in many apartment projects it is not the builder who is the end user but the buyers of flats and this is where many a time problems crop up as the ideas we give are not implemented.