Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Civil construction v/s software engineering

There is an oft-seen quote deriding software engineering that goes something like this; "If builders built buildings the way programmers wrote programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization". Maybe that's true, maybe that's false ... but what I can definitely deduce is that the person who gave the quote hasn't tried to renovate an existing house here in India.

So, let's see the state of affairs ...
a) Cost escalation is guaranteed ... upto 30% over the original contract. Time escalation is guaranteed too ... upto 50% over the original contract.

b) Workers turn up and then say "no mood", and go back. They also claim bus/commute expenses for that day.

c) One mason turns up very early in morning - 6 am actually. He then waits, because his helper, who is supposed to mix the cement and give it to him doesn't turn up. He then goes home and claims his daily wage + commute expenses.

d) The in-charge (called foreman ??) is afraid of scolding the workers. This being an unorganized industry ("disorganized" is more appropriate), the workers may not turn up at all the next day.

e) Till 3 days ago, it was hot and dry. The workers were doing internal work - plastering the walls etc. Now, it has started raining regularly. But, they have just switched to doing the outdoor work - laying the clay tiles on the terrace, waterproofing etc that I'm told mandates that there must be no rain - otherwise, the waterproofing "muddy" is washed away. What can I do ? Drive the rain away ? Brilliant project management.

Now, all this when we've engaged a work contract with an architect and an engineer, who are supposed to be responsible for project management. Now, some people undertake an adventure called "labour contract" where they directly try to hire labour ... I can't imagine the nightmare ....

I think a great business plan would be to start a company focussing on small-scale building and renovation. Owners will be happy, Government will be happy (now, they can make trade unions out of construction labourers :-), labourers will be happy (job security, pampered constituency for politicians etc) ...

Wonder why nobody wants to take the plunge ? As for me, I'll stick to software.

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