Infrastructure is critical to a nation’s growth. The better the infrastructure of a country, the higher gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate is generally. For India to become a $5 trillion economy by 2024-25, infrastructure enabling is a critical piece. The leaders of the country have promised a 1.6 lakh crore investment in infrastructure in the next five years, according to the press releases from the finance ministry earlier this year. These estimates have come before the COVID pandemic gripped the country. Realistically, these estimates might have to be revised but the need to invest in infrastructure now has a critical second purpose – to re-ignite the economy and the growth engine in the country.
Apart from such a huge investment, the country has to seriously plug the gaps in the implementation of big infrastructure projects, which are on many occasions are marred by cost overruns and massive delays. According to a report by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, 355 infrastructure projects, each worth Rs 150 crore or more, have shown cost overruns of more than Rs 3.88 lakh crore owing to project delays and other reasons.
A country of more than 1.3 billion people can ill-afford such delays when faster economic growth is the only option to pull people out of poverty apart from employing its young workforce. Technological intervention is seen as the panacea in overcoming such delays with timely implementation of critical infra projects in railways, road sector, airports, and ports among others.
Projects of national importance such as metro rail projects in various cities, dedicated freight corridor, expansion of airports in tier-II cities, and bullet train project can be expedited and executed with a predictable flow and speed with the augmentation of integrated project controls with various emerging technologies such as data analytics artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), Internet of Things (IoT), and robotics among others.
Emerging technologies can change the infra landscape
During the rainy season, newspapers are replete with articles on the bad condition of roads, leading to many non-fatal and fatal accidents. Road conditions are far inferior in rural areas of the country as compared to the urban region and as a common man, we have seen stretches of the road getting repaired every year and wondering about the waste involved here.
Without getting into a debate on the various root causes of the waste, it is clear that time delays and efficient usage of materials and manpower can definitely be improved with today’s available technologies and the country’s goal of being digitally empowered. For instance, simply digitizing project controls, enabling field personnel to mark progress with photos is a start. Digitizing quality works inspection along with photos is a second. Plugging all of this into a schedule and providing dashboards can provide forward visibility into project completions.
Integrating material and labor requirements to the schedule can help both optimize the procurement for the contractors and also help monitor other issues like the right usage of materials, the productivity of labor onsite, etc. Usually, big road contractors employ many subcontractors to execute different parts of the project. A collaborative digitized system that connects all of these stakeholders with a dashboard helps to coordinate the work of subcontractors, resulting in strict maintenance of timelines. With the volume of data collected on all of these similar projects, the application of data analytics and ML on this can then be used to predict project completion in the short term and maintenance issues in the long term based on traffic plying on the system, etc.
Similarly, in heavy construction and more complex infrastructure projects such as the building of a new bridge, port, berth or airport, creating a common data environment for all the project stakeholders to collaboratively share information on a platform that digitally inter-connects the various stakeholders and data silos to forward predict project KPIs can lead to massive savings of time and cost.
Such a digitally enabled integrated project controls a platform that uses analytics, AI, and ML to inter-connect various potential mis-alignments between engineering, procurement and construction can very well streamline project work, avoiding avoidable delay and cost overruns. The use of drones to collect the progress monitoring information and connecting them to digital models for the analysis of as-built with the design is another objective independent check on the quality that is possible with today’s availability of technologies. The same data can be used in the operations and maintenance phase similar to the example of the road above.
Geotagging is another popular technology, which has the potential of changing the infra landscape in the country. In geotagging, geographical identification like latitude and longitude is tagged to a location through satellite imagery. Currently, various government agencies are using this technique to ascertain the development of infra projects across the country. To facilitate this, the central government is working with ISRO’s National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), which uses a software platform, ‘Bhuvan’, that enables users to get a 2D or 3D representation of the surface of the earth.
nPulse facilitates faster completion of infra projects
nPulse provides analytics-powered SaaS platform, which gives end to end solutions to infrastructure and realty players for integrated project controls. Adopted by several forward-thinking companies such as L&T, Afcons, RMZ, Lodha Builders, Tata Realty, Godrej Construction, and Shapoorji Pallonji among others, this solution gives key forward-looking insights for their projects and portfolio, resulting in timely mid-stream course correction of projects by decision-makers to enable completion of projects under time and within budget without compromising on quality and safety. With the solution being live in more the 250+ projects across 20 countries, nPulse is a solution built in India and built for the world.
Faster infra development key to the economic turnaround
At a time, when India is fighting the deadly COVID pandemic resulting in nearly a 24 percent fall in the Q1 GDP growth rate, faster infra development through efficient use of government funds is the key to script a turnaround story. That cannot happen unless we embrace digitization on a platform of digitally enabled integrated project controls. And with the widespread adoption of solutions like nPulse, India can put the wheels of growth back on track.