“The construction industry is on the verge of digitalisation, and is expected to disrupt established procedures even as it offers countless opportunities,” said G Sundararaman, senior VP & Head, Automation Solutions, Wipro Infrastructure Engineering. He made these remarks in his welcome address at the CII EXCON 2021 which took place at Bengaluru last month.
Sundararaman said that going forward, artificial intelligence would facilitate efficiency across the whole value chain, from building materials production to design, planning, and construction. “The industry must ensure that it operates smoothly in order to complete any project on schedule, with high quality, and within budget,” he emphasised. Dimitrov Krishnan, co-chairman of EXCON, said “India’s construction equipment industry, being the 3rd largest market in the world, has shown remarkable progress and we aim to become the second largest CE market in the world."
The CII-EXCON, which is a biennial event was initially planned for December 2021 but was postponed due to apprehensions of another Covid wave. The event location which was spread over 3 lakh square meters of display area saw over 800 exhibitors from India and abroad take part including countries like Belgium, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK and USA amongst others, the organisers said. The event also specialised sessions on alternate fuels, artificial intelligence, machine learning, equipment financing, skill development, participation of women in industry, MSMEs, digital transformation besides sustainability and safety. amongst others. The event clocked over Rs 1,200 crore worth of business enquiries even as over 45000 visitors made beeline for the event, the organisers said.
While the physical exhibition and meetings after almost two years since the beginning of the pandemic was welcomed by participants and visitors, pre-monsoon showers played spoilsport keeping organisers on their toes even as some exhibitors who had perhaps planned a grand display had to make do with low-key launches.
In his inaugural address on Day 1, Basavaraj Bommai, Chief Minister of Karnataka said the construction sector will have a major contribution to make to India’s $ 5 trillion economy. "To achieve this goal, the government is embarking on major infrastructure and industrial projects worth Rs 100 lakh crores. Though our major focus should be growing exponentially in the country by advancing our technologies, inclusion of people at the bottom of the pyramid is also critical. We urge industry to collaborate with them to further enable the CE sector,” he said. The CM also made a pitch for his own state saying it presented opportunities for the construction industry in infrastructure development projects such as roads and flyovers, and power.
Preparing for industry 4.0
Guest of Honour, General V K Singh, the Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways, noted that India is an emerging hub for construction equipment, component outsourcing base and design base. He said the private sector in the construction industry must concentrate on automation, adoption of advanced technologies and global best practices, usage of alternate fuels, and innovations in using waste materials for their construction projects.
"Infrastructure must be sustainable and the industry should take measures to enhance quality at an affordable life cycle cost. The CE industry must be prepared for a competitive market situation and focus on Industry 4.0 for revamping itself,” Singh said.
Developments in India’s construction equipment sector have to be seen in the context of revival in economic activities and thrust on infrastructure development which has increased infrastructure-related capex by 34.5 percent to Rs 5.54 lakh crore in 2021. This year’s budget has further increased it by 35.4 percent to Rs 7.5 lakh crore even as CE industry itself on a whole is expected to reach a size of $ 25 billion by 2030.
During the inaugural session, dignitaries at EXCON also presented the “Women Building India Awards" to recognise the inclusion of women in the infrastructure industry. Women champions from Cummins India, Volvo CE India, Schwing Stetter India and L&T Constructions & Mining Machinery were recognised for their efforts.
Infrastructure for defence
Day 2 of EXCON focused on the defence sector which is expected to grow significantly, thereby encouraging the demand for strong infrastructure for the armed forces. The CII Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in association with the Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM) organised a Seminar on ‘Infrastructure Requirement for Armed Forces: Emerging Opportunities & Smart Technology Solutions’ to share perspectives on the necessities and expectations of the Defence and Parliamentary forces.
During the session, Lt. Gen. Rajeev Chaudhry, VSM, DG, Border Roads Organisation, said, “Indian industry has have made some rapid strides in recent times and have been disrupted by the continuous advancement of technology. We also aim to embrace the latest technology to meet any challenges that might threaten the country’s security.”
“The government has recognised the defence sector’s potential to strengthen 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat'. The Indian CE industry has the opportunity to lead the way for greater developments by incorporating technology to reinforce defence,” he added, emphasising that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is continuously working to build and maintain road networks in border areas. Lt. Gen. Chaudhry stressed that with the recently embarked projects for developing roads, bridges and airfields in hostile environments, there are opportunities for CE players to collaborate in the defence sector.
Lt. Gen. Harpal Singh, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC Engineer-In-Chief, Indian Armed Forces said, “India's defence sector is seeking cooperation from the Indian construction equipment industry to access the most up-to-date building technologies and machinery to build a strong infrastructure efficiently with minimal environmental impact. The need is for digitised construction, security solutions and support localisation.”
The focus on Day 3 was on 'smart' construction emphasising the role of technology in fast-track infrastructure projects. A panel discussion on 'Constructing Smarter with Artificial Intelligence: Transforming India for the New World' was organised by the CII to throw light on how artificial intelligence can enable efficiencies across the value chain from materials production to design, planning, and construction. The operational and procedure dynamics of the country’s real estate business are changing and innovation is gathering pace, speakers said. Hence, it is also necessary that innovations be incorporated into the most basic as well as important construction techniques.
Meena Nagaraj, Director of Electronics, IT and Biotechnology, Karnataka government who joined the session virtually said, "Artificial Intelligence is an excellent tool for any organization and the construction industry will benefit from the applications of AI and ML as they promote productivity and efficiency, and allow the sector to tackle labour shortages."
She said the application artificial intelligence and machine learning in the sector is truly vast, enabling better project planning, urbanisation, specialised design planning, etc. This, Nagaraj said, presents opportunities for industry professionals to analyse data insights generated from AI and ML for better project management and play a supporting role in initiatives like smart cities, mobility and climate change programmes.
According to Nagaraj, Karnataka has experienced a radical transformation in terms of economic and social development by embracing technology in its infrastructure projects. “The state, with its inherent strength and progressive policies, was able to garner a share of over 30 percent market size and aims to secure a 50 percent market share of the digital engineering economy,” she said.
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