Jose Enrique de Castro Hernández work as Head of Construction in EPC projects. He has a large background worldwide managing work teams in the construction phase on these macroproject jobsites, a key phase because it is where the major communication problems take place and it is most difficult to coordinate the work teams in order to maintain the project on track and being capable to address the arranged milestones with the owner without having cost increases .
We had the pleasure to interview him and we got to know his approach about new technologies adoption when managing EPC projects, as well as his feedback about our app EPC Tracker.
Question. What are the main constraints you have found out during your career as Head of Construction of EPC projects?
Answer. Along my work career in the construction sector, either as a subcontractor responsible or as constructor responsible, one of the more significant constraints I have seen is the effectiveness when handling basic information for the management and execution of construction activities in an overall jobsite context. Firtsly, the use of channels that were originally created to improve the communication effectiveness and information processing as is the case of email, which it turns out to distort its aim, because email produces a deluge of information with lot of inputs and outputs, diluting responsabilities and eliminating any possibility of tracking from the beginning of the information generated. This whole situation ends up affecting the quality of decission making because decisions are taken based on out of date information.
On the other hand, if we consider that a great time window has always existed in between the actual jobsite information and the information that decision-makers handle when making their decisions, we come across a hazardous and powerful cockteil so we can state that a part of the delays and cost deviations come from this communication issues.
Q. ¿ What role could new technologies play to address these constraints?
A. New technologies bring to us new platforms which allow to generate tools capable to be adapted to the foundations of traceability, pragmatism, integrity, effectiveness and very important, mobility, by managing the information involving our construction workplaces in real time.
Hence they are a root piece in order to improve information management in the construction place and thus attenuate the constraints that for now have been difficult to deal with.
Q. What are the reasons because of such an innovative sector which manage high value contracts have not truly adopted new technologies?
A. I have several theories, one of them, the most important, is due to the growht period that construction sector has experienced in the first years of this decade, a factor which has had a negative influence on possible breakthroughs that such a sector like this can have, with very powerful inertias and with the non written law of minimun effort, in a way in which nobody stop thinking in being more competitive throughout innovation meanwhile there were enough market for all the competitors.
A second theory and as a consequence of the first one, if we look backward ten or fifteen years, we could realize that the evolution of management competitiveness has been leaded for the intent of reducing prices by reducing costs but without creating added value, a policy which has been followed for any company playing in this market, leaving behind the fact of taking this competitiveness to the way of working, the way of organising or the way of using innovative resources which could give an improvement to the product, taking into account to create a real added value that leads to differentiation in respect to competitors.
Now, we struggle with the dark beast as is the crisis that affects the whole sector. In this situation where offers is higher than demand, cost reduction to be more competitive is clearly not enough, because there are limits in their margins. Thus there could be more receptiveness to these new ideas with more added value, underlying ideas for much time ago, looking for a change in the way of management so they are able to offer a difference in respect to competitors.
Q. Technological tools such as Dropbox, Evernote or project management software could help you to get easier your work?
A. In fact they have already been used as essential elements in my way of working, when monitoring the workplace, meetings, notes and studies, because I find a bigger effectiveness when it comes to tackle them. For me they are powerful tools which if used in the proper way give you an added value in comparison with the use of pen and paper.
Q. How do you imagine the EPC sector in ten years time?
A. EPC contract management must maintain an information flow without distortions, keeping the essential inside, being able to correctly streamline it, top-down and bottom-up, by spending the right time, creating workplaces where work happens in an optimal way, beneath an organization synchronized with the real situation of the project and thereby it heads towards the success of works to be done.
In ten years time, this will be the trend involving the way of working because there are powerful technologies capable of making us being aware of this reality, a reality which we all currently have present and we look at it as the horizon to be followed.
P. We had the privilege you to evaluate EPC Tracker in order to help us in its development. What different values do you think it offers in comparison with other solutions in the market?
A. From my point of view the available solutions in the market tackle small pieces if we consider what EPC Tracker offers. This tool guide you in a specific way to the EPC project management, by taking advantage of the synergies all these available solutions have, because EPC Tracker adapts them to the needs of this sector. I think this tool create an unique value from the existing ones, by optimizing its features and adapting them to the EPC sector.
Q. Why do you think that in general companies have so many resistances to change and tackle a real innovation?
A. Big companies, as a result of being that way, as I previously mentioned have large inertias in its organization and policy, in the management systems used, in their quality systems and as well in their development systems. Any idea or innovation which suggests deep changes in this concepts, creates big resistances and provokes a initial rejection about all in good times. Making decisions in this way must be accompanied by critical situations that imply a survival instinct. In the meantime, through marketing departments they handle selling companies beyond what the company really is, without any risk and covered with a manipulation mantle.