CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY: A RETROSPECT

The construction industry can be called as the mother of all the other industries. People stay at Home, travel on Roads, drink water from Wells & Dams, work in a Factory or a Office, get entertained in a Theater & return to their Home for rest & sleep.

In this way, a person is consuming a product made available by the construction industry during 90% period of his lifetime.

For setting up any new industry in any sector, construction industry has to create the basic infrastructure. Therefore to mould the future of such a big industry, it will be better to understand the present.

To understand the present situation, many-a-times a comparison is made between two companies in the same construction field, e.g. a comparison between two ‘contracting firms’ or a comparison between two ‘promoters & builders’, etc. but this type of comparison has its own limitations. The conclusion of such comparison gives us only pseudo-satisfaction.

If at all, a comparison is to be made; make it with an industry, having more excellence than construction industry.

In this point of view, once a group discussion was arranged amongst project managers of construction industry.

The subject for group discussion was ‘Similarities & Differences between construction industry & other engineering industries’.

Almost all the aspects of comparison surfaced as the discussions went on. The atmosphere was very healthy & interesting. The discussion ended with the conclusion that we must have a document of today’s discussions.

The contents of discussion show that construction industry has a lot of a talent, enthusiasm, and micro level thinking ability, dedication, and technically sound & hard working people. The only major drawback seems to be the lack of ‘Systematic organized working’. Here, the other industries surpass the construction industry by miles.

The other problem surfaced, that of, change in design & drawings during & half way after the production (construction) starts. This problem is not taken seriously by consultants, architects, developers, engineers, customers, under the banner of ‘change in demand of the client & as per the site conditions’. But actually, major of the times, the problem arises due to lack of foresight & improper communication during the design stage. This problem further deteriorates the aim of ‘organized working’. This ultimately results in a product having many non-conformities.

 Another serious observation is that, many of the civil engineers are lacking the ‘ANALYTICAL MINDSET’. This ability can be developed by practicing this handbook on site.

The degree of automation & mechanization is also one serious aspect to be given thought to. But still, during the discussions it was decided that let us fully disintegrate our production process, study it part by part, derive the conclusions & then integrate (re-organize) it to have clarity of thoughts. This will help us to evolve a new method to work in an ‘organized way’.

The conclusions of the group discussions are as follows:

A COMPARATIVE STUDY

Sr.NoNorms for comparisonOther Engineering IndustriesConstruction Industry
1Manufacturing Process:

Very  well  defined  & documented

before starting the actual production.

Not very well defined & documented

beforehand.

2Methodology:Very well decided before starting the production.

Very well decided only for very big

projects as Dams, bridges, etc. Not well decided in Housing projects.

3Periodic review of process & methodology:

Review is taken frequently as a habit & accordingly processes are refined,

documented & followed.

Most of the times, review is taken only when problems arise during production.
4Material handling:Is treated as serious activity & scientific methods are used for material handling in an economic way.

Material handling is not given much importance except in big projects & hence cost go up in improper handling

of materials.

5Time & motion study:

Every process is studied for these two

aspects regularly & whenever the technology changes, fresh study is done.

Many a times this study is not done due to lack of awareness.
6Time schedules:The time scheduling is a daily practice. The coordination of various resources is therefore done more effectively.

Time scheduling is neglected most of the times. Time & Cost over- running is a daily practice. Resources are either

under-utilized or totally exhausted.

7Technological changes:

Rapid technological changes take place with reduced change -over

time.

Very slow technological changes take place. New technology(if adopted)is

accepted with reluctance.

8Degree of automation & precision:

Highly atomized, mechanized & hence

precision in the product can be achieved to a very high standards.

Less atomized & mechanized. Degree

of precision & quality changes with the workers’ skill & moods.

9Training facilities:Training is accepted as a part of production procedure & hence regular training programmes are conducted.

No separate training facilities are available. Direct, on the job training takes place along with the production

procedure.

10System approach:Positive approach towards laying down system & following it. (System is for me).

Negative approach towards laying down system & very much reluctance towards following it. (If at all compelled to be systematic, then the approach is

‘I’ am for the system).

11Type of production process:Since the same  product is manufactured on mass scale, a repetitive cyclic process is followed. The cyclic process time is less. Therefore all the variables are brought under control & accuracy is achieved.

Every construction project (product) is unique & needs new production procedure to be defined. The process of an individual item may remain same. The cyclic process time is more. The process is linear for a long time. Therefore the number of variables increase, making them difficult to bring under

control & the accuracy decreases.

12Place of production & assembly:Usually under one roof & away from the ultimate consumer of the product.

Production (construction) places change from time to time. Production & assembly is done in the premises of

the ultimate consumer (cast-in-situ).

13Nature of organization:

Well defined from top to bottom. This results in better outputs & quality products. Selection & posting of personnel is more scientific. This results in better job satisfaction &

Job Assurance.

Many times not defined. This results in unorganized working styles & reflects in the bad quality of the product. This leads to uncertainty in job satisfaction as well as job assurance.
14Change in design during production:

Avoided fully during production

except, very much extra-ordinary situation arises.

Many changes take place during the production (construction).
15Mind set of the personnel for different changing situations:

The most of the personnel are prepared for this type of changes & have the capacity to ‘analyze’ the new situation in a very short time & to

re-organize efficiently.

Most of the personnel are not prepared for such situation & lack the ability to ‘analyze’ & re-organize the new situation.
16Geo-physical scope:Most of the production is within a fixed ‘Geo-physical (factory)’ limit. This results in timely & effective communication & lesser fatigue.

Most of the production (construction) is spread over a big ‘Geo-physical’ factory limit. This  results in delayed communication & increase in project

cost, more fatigue, etc.

17Special, professional problems:

Workers are literate & organized but also sometimes united for their own interest rather than ‘Organization’s

Interest’.

Majority workers are illiterate, untrained & unorganized, & hence are not united as yet.
18Peculiar Hurdles:Once the factory is erected & started; the hurdles due to ‘land title’ & ‘acquisition process’ are very rare.

Even after starting the production (construction) the land title & acquisition problem is a typical hurdle in

construction industry.

19Quality    controls    & inspections:

Usually quality of the product is defined & inspected before, during & after each process. Quality is quantified in standards. Very less

dependence on visual checks.

Very rarely, the quality of the product is defined. Inspection is done at random. Quality is rarely quantified in standards. More dependence on

visual checks.

20End product:Possess all the pre-decided properties, giving satisfaction to the end users.

Lacking many of the pre-decided properties, having unexpected faults, resulting in inconvenience to the end

users.

 

THE HISTORY OF CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY :

To overcome the present problems of the construction industry, let us have a look in the past of the industry.

Possibly, it is the heritage of construction industry to work in an un-organized way. Historical monuments’ involving great construction activities is looked upon, only as a product of creation & imagination of Great Personalities.

The historical myths of Lord Bhagiratha bringing Ganga to the Earth, Lord Parshurama reclaiming the seas, Lord Rama building a ‘Setu’ to reach Lanka are taken as miracles. However; these activities must have been a result of ‘organized construction activity’.

These examples & the examples of Taj Mahal, Pyramids & the Great Wall of China; show us apathy towards preparing & preserving documentation of construction projects. This tendency is perhaps also shown by today’s project managers.

The history of construction industry is full of various construction materials (Lakshagrih to marble house), spectacular craftsmanship, durable, stable structures, oldest water supply & drainage schemes & what not? Simplest technology was developed as per the local needs & available resources. One can learn a lot from it.

THE FUTURE OF CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY:

The future of the construction industry can become bright, if we accept the facts of the present & the past, courageously.

The construction industry will face the challenges of the future with confidence through ‘strive for excellence’.

WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES OF THE FUTURE?

Big towering buildings on the moon in the 1/6th gravity force than the earth, floating hotel buildings in the space, big solar electricity generating stations mounted on spaceships, folding type 2 BHK flat, are some of the future challenges.

FINAL CONCLUSIONS OF THE GROUP DISCUSSIONS

  1. Some people in the construction Industry may not agree with the comparison done as above, but this is a general scenario of the construction industry, as on
  2. There are definitely some organizations that are doing exceptionally well in construction industry. But these are exceptions All of us shall make efforts to work exceptionally well.
  3. The quality consciousness and the efforts towards customer satisfaction aredefinitely picking up in a positive direction. These efforts shall be made more effective with a time
  4. Maximum item wise production processes shall be defined and
  5. Checklists shall be prepared in brief for each item before, during and after the process to enable the site engineer to deliver effective supervision of various
  6. Develop a habit amongst the civil engineers to prepare a specific procedure as per the ‘uniqueness’ of a specific project/item.
  7. With the above target in mind, a handbook shall be prepared for civil engineers, especially working in the field of building construction/ ownership flats
  8. A periodic review of this handbook shall be taken and revisions shall be made

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