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Voltas UAE boss: 'Labour-intensive construction sector needs tech'

Digitisation through Bim, AI can lead engineering companies to growth, Gumeet Nanda says at MEP Conference UAE 2019

Manpower management needs construction tech, Voltas's UAE boss says.
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Manpower management needs construction tech, Voltas's UAE boss says.

Construction companies in the Middle East and around the world are rapidly turning to building technology as industry pressures related to cash flow mount, and increased focus is now visible on digital software that can support the human resources and work management aspect of site work, according to Gumeet Nanda, head of UAE operations for India's Tata Group-backed contractor, Voltas

Speaking at the fifth MEP Conference UAE, Nanda said the construction sector had been slow to embrace technology, but a progressive move is under way as contractors seek greater safety, security, and productivity on site. 

According to McKinsey Global Institute's Industry Digitisation Index, the construction industry lags in terms of tech adoption, ranking behind sectors such as manufacturing, mining, utilities, and oil and gas.

“The engineering and construction sector is manpower-intensive, [which means] problems start with bringing the right number of people that have the required skill-set for the job," Nanda explained. 

"This is later followed by retaining them and making sure that they are deployed to work at the right location – an age-old challenge companies have been grappling with."

Nanda said mapping work areas is one way of ensuring that site staff are in the right place at the right time, adding that such systems could also allow companies to analyse the amount of time taken by a worker to complete tasks in a specific location.

The use of artificial intelligence and big data could also help calculate how productive the workers are in each area.

Voltas uses technology by SAP and Aconex to track project progress and challenges, with Nanda stating that this allows the entire team to ensure challenges are quickly identified, addressed, and resolved.

Nanda said that at the initial stage of a project, resources such as manpower and materials are typically assigned with high accuracy.

However, delays related to resource access can lead to problems three to four months down the line, resulting in coordination hurdles between engineering, construction, and procurement teams. 

Additionally, Nanda said, building information modelling (Bim), despite the relative surge in its uptake, remains an under-utilised technology process in the construction and civil engineering sector. 

The Voltas official said Bim was not being utilised to even 10% of the capabilities it can offer to the construction sector. 

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Construction Week - Issue 746
Jul 20, 2019