Being significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the interconnectedness, complex and collaborative nature of the construction industry's supply networks and workforce directly affect the cost and schedule of infrastructure projects.
By Ashok Wani,
The world is isolated and burdened with international travel restrictions and large scale COVID-19 protocols, but technology is ensuring the survival and progress of the economy in these challenging times. One sector leveraging technology at scale is the infrastructure and construction industry.
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Being significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis, the interconnectedness, complex and collaborative nature of the construction industry’s supply networks and workforce directly affect the cost and schedule of infrastructure projects. The current crisis limits these aspects and access to work through operational restrictions and unignorable safety protocols by the government. Other inconsistencies, such as restrictions on the movement of the material and manpower, affect the availability of parts and equipment and eventually influence project finance’s and even the project’s feasibility.
Breaking traditional perceptions
Traditionally Engineering, Construction & Infrastructure enterprises (EC&O) were perceived as a conventional and labour dominated sector, but, as is evident now, there is a diversity of opportunities for digital transformation. A milestone development in COVID times was the evolution of the digital workplace.
Since the global restrictions first imposed in March 2020, businesses and other service providers are increasingly acknowledging the possibility to run operations without a mandatory physical presence. Construction developers and their allied sectors have also jumped to capitalize on the trend.
Technology’s role in solving dynamic challenges
Construction ventures are now facing unforeseen market conditions, contracting challenges, cash-flow shortages and supply-chain bottlenecks. Technology can play a substantial role by providing comprehensive visibility into the potential risks that can help safeguard the developers’ interests.
Business intelligence technologies like IoT, ERP, robotics, and automation can help organizations map out their entire production process and supply chain to take more proactive steps during these times of crisis, including identifying alternative sources, considering stockpiling resources, and reviewing contingency plans, budgeting and expediting critical materials. Smart planning and management tools can also help foster greater collaborations with functions such as labour, procurement, or finance, enabling project owners to save cash. Potential prospects can include proactive vendor association on discounts and payment-deferral plans, aggregating demand for commoditized materials in a multi-project set up for bulk discounts or identifying and applying for appropriate stimulus or relief funds.
Increasing need for comprehensive project management solutions
The high load of expectation by the public and government over the infrastructure sector will not change even in the pandemic condition. Hence construction and real estate organizations need to explore the best way to embrace change by adopting new operating models across engineering, procurement, and construction so that performance can be sustained in the face of Covid-19.
An intelligent project management solution can help organizations to develop mitigation plans for potential slowdowns, shutdowns, and project restarts. This helps firms to review projects effectively and identify what work has to be prioritized and how to strategically do so. They can also consider different situations for how projects may function out across design, planning and management. Factors such as disruptions and fluctuations in production, potential insolvency and bankruptcy of suppliers, vendor management, subcontractors, and contractors’ management, and delays in obtaining permits can also be considered while planning risk mitigation strategies.
Considering all these aspects, it has become clear that technology is both a quick fix and long-term sustenance tool for construction stakeholders. It can leverage digital tools that can boost efficiency, support the economy, and adherence in the sector. The future will belong to the early technology adopters who optimally harness emerging business intelligence processes to carry out their operations.
(The author is Head – Technology & Innovation Highbar Technocrat Limited. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)