With some justifiable pride the media has been writing about how two half-kilometre tunnels under the river Hoogly for the Kolkata Metro were built within a span of just 66 days, much ahead of time. The feat was made possible with the use of two special tunnel boring machines (TBMs) brought from Germany.
These tunnels are a part of a nearly 11 km long metro rail project. Credit goes to the people involved in the project. And, of course, to the critical TBMs, which worked without major breakdowns.
Such successes are undeniably rare in the world of Indian infrastructure. For instance, the Bandra-Worli sea link had a cost overrun of Rs.1300 crores ($200 million) and a delay of five years.
A study  done to ascertain the causes of delays and increased costs in infrastructure projects in India shows that causes under the category Equipment Group play a critical to extremely critical role. The factors under this group included breakdowns, equipment shortage, low operator skills and low equipment productivity/efficiency.
There is a huge case for maximizing the use of digital technologies  in construction equipment to improve optimal use, lower downtime, increase productivity, enhance operator competence and health and safety and care for the environment through lower emissions.
Improve Optimal Use: Analysis of telematics data (that is, data from attached sensors) from the equipment can support fleet planning, scheduling and management for optimal use, reduction of idle time and ensuring that loss due to equipment shortage can be kept at a minimum.
Use of GPS and GIS information can assist in selecting the right equipment for the given terrain and location, ensure real time tracking of these assets and predict and monitor performance of these equipment on site.
Lower Downtime: Telematics data can also help monitor equipment health and implement a condition based maintenance strategy (CBM) that integrates the data with prognostics models to predict failures and trigger proactive maintenance. This also supports tools for remote diagnostics that help maintenance personnel to troubleshoot from afar.
Increase Productivity: Telematics and GPS/GIS data can be successfully used to predict and monitor the productivity and overall effectiveness (OEE) of the equipment.
Operator Skills and H&S: Construction sites are accident prone since heavy machinery and ground workers work in close proximity. Handling construction equipment safely and productively is a very special skill. Digital technologies such as gamification, simulation and virtual reality can ensure faster and repeated trainings to augment operator competence and safety awareness.
Interestingly, sensor data can also help track operator behaviour and measure skill/competence to drive pre-emptive training interventions.
Similarly, sensor based technologies can identify blind spots, proximity of personnel or other obstructions and provide early warning to avoid accidents.
Environment: Sustainability through lower emissions is an important regulatory requirement. Keeping the equipment in good shape through proactive maintenance and replacement of parts using digital technologies cited above ensures that emissions are kept within specified limits. Operator handling is another major factor that can lead to poor emissions. Sensor technologies can help monitor emission quality and provide early warning on deterioration.
Without doubt, we could list many, many more ways digitalization of construction equipment can help in reducing cost and time overruns of projects, ensuring safety of construction workers and lessen the harmful impact on the environment.
With India poised to spend Rs.25 trillion ($376 billion) on infrastructure over a period of three years and with long term infrastructure outlook bullish, construction equipment and heavy machinery owners have some work to do in this direction.
 Analysis of Critical Causes of Delays in Indian Infrastructure Projects – www.iijrd.com
 A thematic review of main researches on construction equipment over the recent years - www.sciencedirect.com
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