GEM Engserv Pvt. Ltd is an ISO 9001:2015 certified organization, certified by TUV India in accreditation with National Accreditation Board for Certification Bodies (NABCB).

Part 2: A How-to Guide for Engineering Services – Lean Methodology in Action

This article talks of issues that are faced during the delivery of the assignment. Learn how GEM increases Efficiency at the pre-bid stage
Communication Gap, Construction, Drawing Revisions, Efficient Meetings, Payment Struggles, Project Challenges, Quality Matters, Timelines Matter
Engineering Services Part 2

To read part 1 of 2 of this article. Click Here >>

In continuation of the issues that make a big difference to our efficiency at the pre-bid stage, here are issues that we face during the delivery of the assignment. Some of these issues appear similar to those in the first part of this article, but the stakeholders are now the ‘operations’ teams.

1. Drawing and data

Our overseas customers invariably provide all information at the bidding stage itself, so our teams can get going as soon as we receive the go ahead from the client.

Domestically, after we receive the work order, we need to sometimes find out who the SPOC is and approach him/her for the information. Often, we have to send reminders or keep following up till all information is received. Sometimes the data is received in parts and that too after our team has spent time in finding out the missing pieces.

With regard to quantity take-off assignments, the list of drawings, finishing schedule and schedule of doors and windows is what is typically missing. The time lost in receipt of information is usually to our account and rarely considered for extension of time.

2. Drawing revisions

As our team starts to work, revisions in the drawings are frequent. Sometimes some part of the drawing is marked as “hold” and these hold points are released pretty late in the timeline. We are expected to accommodate the re-work required due to such changes into our fee and timelines.

We have learnt to anticipate these and have developed a framework to define minor and major changes. While we do absorb the extra effort required on account of minor changes, we insist on being compensated for all major changes. This is not appreciated by most as it apparently upsets their budget for pre-construction services! In International assignments, revisions are an exception and not the rule.

3. Quality of drawings

There is a big difference between the quality of drawings that we receive from our international and domestic customers. This is not intended to criticize local consultants who are responsible for developing the drawings. Instead, we wish to sensitize all stakeholders about the link between quality of drawings and quality and cost of services dependent on these drawings.

Also, it reflects the overall eco-system under which we operate. Common drawbacks include not highlighting revisions, missing cross-references, and mismatches between architectural drawings and structural/services drawings.

4. Queries

With the quality of drawings leaving much to be desired, it is obvious that there would be many queries from our team.

Invariably, the response to our queries is a deafening silence and we have to keep sending reminders to receive all clarifications. We often end up making our own assumptions to ensure that the work does not stop. As and when the queries are finally replied to, we need to rework our deliverables. This creates a stressful situation which all of us would rather avoid.

5. Timelines

Given the challenges that our team faces in working out accurate deliverables, we expect that the client would at the very least be sympathetic to delays in submissions from our end.

However, the timelines are set very aggressively, and we have to fight tooth and nail to get the same extended without offending the client! It is apparent that the consultants are the last in the value chain and are held accountable for absorbing all ‘upstream’ delays, be it caused by other consultants or the customer’s teams.

6. Penchant to call for meetings

It would appear that conducting meetings to discuss trivial issues or just to review progress is a favourite pastime. Communication over calls is not accepted and meetings are scheduled. In place of virtual meetings, our team is often “summoned” to the customer’s office. So much for ‘digital transformation’ of the construction industry.

While it is impossible for our international customers to seek physical meetings, they don’t ask for even digital meetings unless it is a long-duration assignment or there are some complex issues at hand. Meetings, if at all held, are short, to-the-point and result oriented.

7. Post assignment communication

After putting our best efforts and meeting the expectations of the customer, we expect some feedback about our deliverables. Most of our international customers respond almost immediately with acknowledgement, raise relevant queries and good work is spontaneously appreciated.

Indian customers usually do not even acknowledge the receipt of our submissions and sometimes ask irrelevant questions, apparently even without actually going through the submissions. It is rare to receive appreciation or even general feedback about our delivery.

8. Payments

The issue that hurts the most is regarding payments. Once we submit an invoice, payments from international customers is almost certain by the committed date. We rarely have to chase receivables.

The situation with local entities is very different. There is lots of red tape, invoices are rarely acknowledged, and we have to spend considerable time and energy to receive payment.

Due to the vastly different playing field, it is no wonder that we always look to export our services rather than seek local assignments. Our ‘total factor productivity’ and profitability is obviously higher in exported services.

While the scenario elaborated here paints a very grim picture, we have come across professional and efficient customers as well. However, at an industry and ecosystem level, we clearly have a long way to go.

The arrogance of being a paymaster needs to be replaced by a professional receiving service from another professional.

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Sezhian veerasamy
June 1, 2023 11:52 am

Thanks for bringing out the reality of Payment issues faced by the consultatns

June 2, 2023 11:32 am

Nice introspection-provoking article. The last para of the article summarises it well. Having said that, what is the solution in such a grim situation? Is arrogance v/s arrogance a solution? Should such a situation be allowed to demoralise our team? What should be our response as professionals? What should be the internal goal of the team? Should it be to deliver the best despite the grim situation? What should be the definition and yardstick for excellence for internal consumption?
When we are paymasters ourselves, how is our behaviour down the supply chain? Will we get a label of “preferred customer” from our vendors down the supply chain? Does it boil down to “human engineering and relationship management” more than “civil engineering and deliverable management in physical form”?

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