When it comes to the socio-economic development of developing countries, the construction industry plays a vital role. Innovations in the construction industry are improving GDP and national output levels across the globe.
The focus on creating and expanding infrastructure is leading to vast expansion projects in major cities, and metro projects are arguably the most important and visible examples. Rising metro connectivity is improving the standard of living for millions of people by providing an economical, safe, quick and reliable mode of transportation.
As metros connect neighbourhoods, they have indirect economic impacts in improved returns on investment (ROI) for the real estate industry, along with reduced pollution and traffic congestion.
Given the importance of metros in urban transit, enhancements in the design, construction, and operations of metro projects has become absolutely essential. Companies and onsite workers are becoming more efficient and focusing more on safety when delivering these projects.
While the benefits of metro projects are obvious, they are also extremely technically complex and involve a large number of stakeholders (e.g. the owner-operator, contractors, government agencies) and trades. Executing them in the middle of an already built and usually dense urban environment brings additional challenges.
Leveraging current technological trends that apply intelligent computerized systems can help metro construction projects achieve better built asset sustainability. Infrastructure projects around the globe are using integrated digital delivery technologies to radically transform the quality and experience of project delivery and there is no reason why metro rail projects cannot use similar approaches.
Right from the planning to the implementation stages, digital solutions have the ability to deliver efficient and optimal levels of working. New technologies help achieve higher effectiveness levels.
Every stakeholder holds a part of the “project puzzle”, as it were. Completing the project requires the effective sharing and real-time tracking of project information. Changing variables, geographic limitations, and disparate data sources inevitably increase project monitoring complexity. However, real-time tracking, predictive management, and proactive planning mechanisms are not just possible, but proven, and can have long-lasting benefits.
Factors that disrupt metro projects vary regionally. For instance, in India, infrastructure projects face challenges in the shape of funding, political friction, or lack of accountability and professionalism. Prevailing practices of project execution generate hurdles that become increasingly harder to overcome.
However, the most common challenges can be divided into those related to time, cost or communication. A more detailed exposition of these challenges follows.
- Meeting the Revenue Operations Date (ROD) is critical for project success; and it is the biggest challenge facing project owner/operator. Many unexpected events can happen which lead to delays in project completion and impact project performance.
- ESG standards and quality checks often lead to delays in project completion.
- Involvement of multiple stakeholders makes it difficult to maintain a singular schedule.
- While owners pay fixed amounts, contractors and sub-contractors face tremendous cost and working capital pressure due to any delays.
- Inefficiencies at various construction stages could lead to hurried and defective work, resulting higher-than-anticipated run maintenance costs.
- The presence of multiple project stakeholders inevitably results in communication challenges. Important information could end up being “lost in translation” from one stakeholder to another, and correcting the effect of bad information transmission leads to time and cost overruns.
- Lack of a central platform to connect communication channels can lead to loss of control and coordination.
- Ineffective real-time monitoring leads to lack of awareness about what is happening in a project at all times.
Overcoming these challenges is imperative for project success. This is where digital tools come into the picture and help project organizations improve factors of project time, cost, quality and communication. The evolution of project digitization has progressed from the simple sharing of digitized files to the creation of widespread digital models that enable the entire project team to coordinate in real-time.
Digital models aim to boost throughput on projects by making information from the field or from the point of action easily available, so that project leaders can make the best decisions as soon as possible.
The needs discussed above are propelling the rise of sophisticated project management tools that leverage modern technology to enhance the efficiency of metro construction projects.
Developers are implementing connected technological ecosystems to boost cost and time efficiencies. Tools that can mitigate risk factors, utilize resources effectively, and schedule projects efficiently are high in demand. The real-time data and analytics that they provide are helping build and monitor metro infrastructure better than ever before.
Through modern project management tools, metro construction project managers can:
- Easily review and approve documents and drawings. Collaboration features make it simpler to revise drawings and notify everyone at the same time.
- Track procurement activities and progress in real-time. Bottlenecks can be identified and addressed, leading to schedule and cost overrun mitigation.
- Associated project risks with regard to schedule, cost and quality parameters can be identified before it is too late to act.
The ubiquity of mobile devices and network connectivity now makes it possible to achieve much of this “on the go” and untethers users from their offices, cabins and trailers. Technology helps remove data silos at construction sites so that all changes can be taken in stride and with the awareness and approval of all concerned parties.
In a way, the technology plays the role of an orchestrator. It ensures that all programs and components are working together seamlessly. It enables traceability and accountability, without which run-maintain can become expensive and out of control.
With everything connected and digitally visible, operations management at metro construction sites has become smoother than ever. Resource usage is maximized, and quality and profitability have become the standard.
Advanced dashboards and analytics ensure that strategic planning and decision-making become the norm. Data-driven and analytics-oriented metro rail projects are guaranteed to be more successful and achieve their key metrics.
Technology helps achieve information standards that ensure the integrity of project operations. The biggest and most tangible impact is on the Revenue Operations Date (ROD), which can be adhered to.
Ambitious metro rail projects around the world are opening up opportunities for digital technology. The barriers of technology adoption are coming down, enabling project organizations to create contextual solutions that boost project performance. Armed with innovative tools and accelerated technologies, metro projects can continue to enhance urban life and transportation.