Engineering & Construction - A New Beginning
Updated: Oct 20, 2021
by Varun Kalakummugham [WHRP Project, UAE]
The COVID-19 pandemic has weakened the global economy and world trade in an unprecedented way, as production and consumption plummeted like never. According to a pulse survey conducted by PWC, 81% of CFOs are considering cost cutting measures in response to the disruption, and 60% are planning to cancel or push investments, particularly in areas such as Infrastructure and Capex, Operations, and Manpower. It is becoming clearer that the world will look different to what have been used to, and companies need to think on their feet to be able to wither this storm. Let’s look at a few areas where change is inevitable.
o Revisit Capital Investment strategies
As it is evident by now, this crisis has far reached consequences on the supply and demand which has contributed to the skewing of investment. Investment in localized distribution hubs make raw material procurement and logistics more streamlined. Investments in modernization of vendor interfaces will help in developing a strong communication support infrastructure. This will in turn help in improving transparency, better understanding of risks.
Another aspect to focus on is technology upgradation and embracing AI assisted workforce. Use of automation and robotics will ensure minimal downtime during crisis like COVID 19. This will also help in reducing the clustering of workforce as they can operate remotely.
o Decentralize and outsource work
One of the key challenges faced by construction industry especially in large, isolated sites during the pandemic was the development of infection clusters. This resulted in shutting down the whole site or in parts to follow quarantine protocol and hence losing time and money. To an extend this can be mitigated using prefabricated components wherever possible. This will decentralize the work force and the actual manufacturing process to a greater extend.
Also compartmentalizing of chucks of work and outsourcing it will help in reducing extend of risk in case of disruptions and help organizations focus on their core competencies. This is particularly relevant in business support functions like human resource management, accounting, and analytics.
o Improve resilience and Expand supply chain
This crisis has exposed one of the critical flaws of many supply chains: the inability to respond to large disruptions. This lack of resiliency has been especially evident in Engineering and construction Industry. Supply chains can be better equipped if they have multiple layers of suppliers, manufacturing units, logistics partners, and other network elements. Once this is in place there should be a defined process to simulate their performance and ability to recover from disruptions. Once the stress points are identified, various mitigation strategies can be devised, including adding new plants or suppliers or creating reserve stocks.
Standardization of manufacturing process, plants, equipment, and parts will help expand the supplier landscape and provide additional options. This will give companies opportunity to be flexible in utilizing their workforce and equipment’s as relocation and re-deployments will be easy in the event of localized disruptions. Added benefit of standardization is reduction in training and deployment cost of workforce.
o Customer Experience
Nurture and enhance organization’s listening posts. Make sure every customer has an opportunity to air their thoughts. Use these to further optimize their experience.
Clearly highlight how their feedback is incorporated in the workflow and give end-user the opportunity to experience the changes wherever possible. This will deepen their trust and confidence in the process and in turn enhance the brand value.
Keep all user touch points simple and relevant.
Use channel analytics to enhance interaction and understand customer sentiment.
o Cultural change
Post COVID the Engineering and Construction industry will never be back to how it was in 2018. Organizations need to embrace this new theme to survive.
Decentralization of Power – Employees need to be empowered to make decision pertaining to their areas of expertise. Before a potential issue is exposed to leadership, those who are empowered and close to the action can take necessary mitigation measures and can respond quickly; significantly enhancing the possibility of preventing a major disruption.
Expect Failures – Employees need to be conditioned mentally and physically to respond to disruptions.
Passion for Work – Instill a feeling of being part of something big. Educate the workforce on the impact of their work and how crucial it is in delivering the final product.