As a fresher we Engineers associated with Construction start our carriers understanding the traits of trade, actually we all irrespective of our profession start our carrier in similar way so no offense on other trades, it’s just because I want to cover more of construction trade here I will use this word “Construction Engineers” to refer & cover all people including Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Electronics and instrumentation, Automobile Engineers etc.
We tend to understand the basic components which go in the construction and completion of a project till its commissioning. For Civil Engineer the very basic, fascinating and attractive component at project is “Concrete” which covers most of our construction life; the targets of progress are based on quantities of concretes achieved w.r.t. to overall target or scope and so on. All other things like reinforcement, shuttering, labour requirement, equipment requirement, safety, administration, supervision everything becomes an associated service for the achievement of this very goal known by the name “CONCRETE”
Here I would like to clear to my readers that I’m talking about Indian construction industry scenario as this is my scope of this article.
Similarly for Mechanical or structural engineers the datum of progress reference is structural steel fabrication and erection, for firefighting engineers it is length of pipes and the number of valves installed similarly all of us form one datum with reference to that we all tend to monitor the progress of our respective scope of work in a project.
While we are at project site and busy in executing the things we plan all the components required to achieve the single point target for example to achieve a planned target of concrete in a specified duration of time say in a month, quarter or for complete project we require all the services in hand sometimes before even start of the activity. To produce concrete we need to have concrete ingredients as specified by mix design, batching plant, Transit Mixer, to place concrete pump, vibrators, to make a form – we arrange and assemble shuttering, scaffolding & formwork. To execute – skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labor, to monitor these activities – supervisors, to ensure quality and safety – Quality & safety engineers and stewards and so many envisaged but not always written resources and unforeseen activities, materials and breakdown etc. covered under the head contingencies.
In above paragraph if we see from our experience then we find that there is nothing new in this and all these things are very much obvious and mandatory otherwise how the work shall be executed and target achieved?
The same obvious things most of the time are missed while doing a detailed estimate of the time & cost. We tend to go for thumb rule either established by our seniors or based on the information available in the books on estimating and costing.
For example we tend to take overheads & profit as 15% of the LMP cost without going into the details of overheads cost. The percentage will vary based on the methodology adopted by an organization, company or proprietor for execution of a project. The scope of responsibility and scope of cost bearing for statutory compliance, transportation of resources and equipment, labour hutment, minimum office setup, equipment installations and dismantling, insurance, cost of financing project etc. shall have a bearing on the cost of overheads. Contingencies generally taken as 2%, may vary from project to project, to cater for unforeseen expenditure may not be able to cover these missed expenses if not catered for during the cost estimation of project.
Similarly in case of Shuttering and scaffolding the importance of repetition of shuttering material like plates, plywood, runner, usage of scaffolding material etc. are not only dependent on the shuttering quantity but are also directly proportional to the time frame in which the target is to be achieved. In case the time for execution of project is shortened or crashed than the general or optimum time considered for execution in that case the repetitions of shuttering shall be less, which means more the cost of shuttering material to achieve the same concrete quantity target.
The reinforcement quantity may not get increased due to this crashing of schedule but the requirement of machines required for cutting & bending shall increase. Similarly requirement of storing space shall increase, the labour requirement during that period of time shall increase which may not have direct impact on the direct labour cost but will certainly increase the cost planned for labour hutment which was initially planned for lesser labour. The equipment required to hoist the reinforcement like winch or any type of crane will be more and hence shall add to the cost.
Reason of this correlation of cost of LMP with time and the need to work out the components of overheads is to understand the need of detailed costing to avoid last moment surprises and also to prevent loss for both contractor and clients. As incomplete costing will not only harm the contractor’s profit but also shall make the contractor either to go for change in prices or use the lower quality material and resources to substantiate the losses. In both the cases this will lead to a bad work at escalated cost.
Now here the role of good estimating engineers who have firsthand experience in execution of projects comes in picture. Today though there is an urgent need of having many more costing and estimation engineers at the same time the quality of those engineers is also vital. It is also seen that most of the companies and organizations are not spending enough time and money on the structured training of this group of engineers and are banking mainly on workbook style costing. Most of the time this workbook style costing works for standalone and small projects but as the quantum of project scope increases the need to have detailed estimate becomes vital. The time given for cost & time estimation of any project is generally not in line with the information and resources available so that makes estimators to go for rough cast estimate based on their previous experience and then go for further fine tuning as and when more information is received.
A good estimation and costing engineer and the organization serious about having a good department of costing shall go for the development of database on productivity of men & machine, material sources, material cost, equipment sources & costing, need of standardized infrastructure facilities and many other time saving & accuracy oriented information database and shall keep on updating the same.
At the same time even if the proper infrastructure is not available in any organization for estimating and costing then this becomes the responsibility of engineers to develop the localized information system and start developing more engineers as “costing engineers” to cover the gap in the demand & availability of estimating engineers.
With a vision of seeing an organized construction industry in India we all engineers who are good in specific zones should start developing more engineers in those zones so that an atmosphere of ownership can be created and construction engineers can understand the versatility of