Timely completion of projects, cost-effectiveness, and qualitative offerings are the three basic aspects of construction today, wherein Scaffolding & Formwork (S&F) solutions are being designed to deliver the same, reports S.D. Khan.
Generation after generation, we have grown up on a belief that ‘Slow and Steady Wins the Race'. Steadiness is undoubtedly a winning mantra but if you are associated with the Construction Sector, then slowdown at your own risk. Importantly, every developer is hard-pressed for time and has to ensure higher productivity and a good Return-on-Investment (RoI).
As construction activities continue at a brisk pace, developers and contractors are finding it prudent to use advanced S&F systems in-order to ensure safety of the workmen and living up to their commitment of erecting structures on time. The continual growth of construction and allied activities kept aside, it's this positive change in the developers' mindset that's taking the S&F Industry to new heights. Well, as far as one can remember, bamboo has played a vital role in giving shapes to buildings in India. But the arrival of foreign companies in the recent past has completely revolutionized the entire concept of S&F. What's appreciable is the alacrity with which Indian companies also started offering advanced S&F systems.
He adds, "Due to the stupendous growth in the construction industry, many Formwork Companies entered into India and expanded their Products base rapidly by targeting various types of construction. This created a new eco-system and innovation in the field of civil structures. It also enabled many construction companies to opt for modern Formwork Systems, which enabled them to complete their complicated projects in less time with good quality of concrete finish. Going further, there is a lot of scope for the organized Formwork System as the percentage of market share is still very less."
Sparkonix has grown at a remarkable pace and its clientele comprises almost all the big corporates in the country. "We are planning to reach clientele who are using wood formwork and create awareness about the advanced formwork. We are currently working to reach pan India network by giving immediate solution and service to the customer," he avers.
Indigo has been very successful in creating a varied profile clientele through its premium offerings and is in the process of strengthening its grip over the market. "Since it's a new technology, the custmer profile is more important to us. Each customer thinks differently and views EPIC ECO differently. Some opt for it because it's faster, to some it is crane independent, while to others it gives a good finish. So we are glad to know that customers are looking at various USPs. This has been encouraging a broad spectrum of customers be they big corporates, or mid level to indivdual customers," he avers.
Well, it's an established fact that opportunities for growth are immense. But the ongoing economic stupor has swiped the Construction Sector quite hard. Moreover, there's stiff competition in the low cost/mid segment housing and less architecturally complicated projects making the developers think twice before spending on S&F. So, the need of the hour is cost-effective and lighter S&F products that suit Indian job conditions, provide good results, and at the same time don't burn a hole in the developers' pockets.
He continues, "Dokaflex 15 is a new formwork solution for residential construction developed specifically for forming concrete floor-slabs of 10-15 cm in thickness. With this system, Doka is catering to a construction method in which it is common to have a larger number of downstand beams, and thus smaller slab thicknesses. This system has yet to achieve its full potential considering the tough situations in residential market."
Says Mr. Patel, "Our R&D department is already working on the cost-effective Formwork H-Beam to cater to the lower segment of the Construction Industry. We are primarily targeting the conventional system to be replaced with the modern Formwork System. Our Product portfolio currently includes H-16 and H-20 Beam. We are working on the sub grade of H-16 Beam which will be very cost-effective and will target to replace the wooden runner in the low cost segment of the construction industry."
Indigo too has developed cost-effective solutions but is of the view that the rental option is ideal in this financial crunch. "For such contractors, our rental scheme is the best. Contractors who have limited capital resources to buy inventory, do opt for the rental scheme," observes Mr. Nambrath.
How about using cranes?Well, the Indian S&F industry is highly labour oriented, but it's also true that the availability of workmen at the site all the time is subject to uncertainties. Labour walkouts are not uncommon and at times workmen make themselves unavailable. This hampers timely completion of projects and consequently contractors are deprived of a healthy ROI. On the other hand, elsewhere in the world, especially in Europe, it's commonly seen that cranes handle S&F even for a 3 story building. If the same practice is adopted in India, it might result in higher productivity at a lesser time thereby giving good ROI to contractors.
Opines Mr. Sharma, "The difference in construction technologies being used in European markets and Indian market is due to the economics of labour cost involved. In India, the labour is quite cheap as compared to other places in the world; hence we can't still use totally mechanized technologies. Right now, we are in the transition phase (in between conventional and modern world), and as such we need to use the manually handled technologies. Henceforth, you can see, why the systems like Framed formwork Frami Xlife, Dokaflex 15 are gaining popularity."
Agrees Mr. Patel, "The Construction Industry in India is the second largest employer providing livelihood to more than 35 million people. The primary reason for many S&F jobs being handled by labour is that it's very economical in India unlike the other countries. Also from a CSR point of view, it does provide employment to large number of people considering the huge population of India being a challenge. Nevertheless, machineries like cranes do give higher productivity and good ROI but that said, they should be adapted only for the projects, which are critical, crucial, time consuming, and provide security to the man labour at site."
Mr. Nambrath, on the other hand affirms, "Yes, of course. The crane is not the only one that can yield higher productivity. Normally, delays are due to the lack of the right goods at the right place and at the right time. This is easier said than done. When I say "goods" I mean all inventory, tools, accessories, labour, engineers, contractors and all those at the site, of course with all checks and balances. ROI is a direct result of all these factors. Good and efficient systems itself would not be enough to generate greater efficiency. All other elements must be in place to make the best use of an efficient system."
Taking a different view Mr. Kulkarni comments, "Our main strength is the light weight panel and any unskilled manpower can carry the same. In this case, there is no requirement of cranes to lift the material which will save the additional cost incurred with material handling equipment."
Bridging the knowledge gapKnowledge dissemination is a key to any industry's growth and especially in these times when older technologies are replaced with newer ones quite regularly. Sadly, when it comes to S&F, whatever knowledge an engineer possesses is gained through experience rather than academics. But there has been a change of trends at this front too as companies are taking this onerous task upon themselves with a lot of determination.
For instance, Doka India hires summer interns from different engineering colleges, conducts customer orientation programs giving hands-on experience of using system formwork and moreover, publishes the site article in construction magazines, so as to spread the knowledge about new technologies being used at various sites in India. Observes Mr. Sharma, "Yes, surely, the lack of knowledge sharing at the time of graduation about system formwork is one of the reasons of still using the traditional formwork. And we are bridging this gap through various initiatives."
Sparkonix has already started a training program for all the related personnel including unskilled labor, supervisor, project engineer on site. "Our fully trained service team will provide the training for 3-4 days as per the customer's casting schedule. This will result in maintaining the panel and in turn increase its life," states Mr. Kulkarni.
With all the crucial ingredients in the right blend, the Indian S&F Industry is surely slated for phenomenal growth. Recession was being cited as a major hindrance but the manner in which it has been dealt with by the S&F companies - through cost-effective lightweight solutions - just shows their resolve to keep on growing with each passing day.