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This blog contains the popular commentary "An Engineer's View" which is a regular feature of SA Mechanical Engineer. The commentary reflects the personal views of SAIMechE members, typically those who have accepted leadership positions in the Institution. If you are a SAIMechE member and would like to share something valuable with your community, please send your submission to info@saimeche.org.za for consideration.

 

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Recruitment is in need of a radical change

Posted By Chris Reay, Friday, 21 August 2015
Recruitment processes have in reality hardly changed since the invention of the CV. The same information is requested, searched for and provided and the processes have only changed with the developments in the speed and access to information and to people. Emails, electronic job boards, social networks, video conferencing and of course the time tested personal networks of peers and the extension into head hunting continue to be the order of the day. Decades of business as usual.

All that has really changed is the speed of the movement of information. The fundamentals of the process have not changed. Advertise in the media, receive applications from candidates, select via CV, sort to a degree with word search, short list, interview, carry out reference checks, qualification checks, decide on the remuneration and make an offer. All being well, the right candidate is selected and starts with your company. Both parties hope that they are well suited and get on together. All usually done in a hurry with too many intervening parties applying a worn out system.

Let’s try to define the goal of recruitment. It should surely be to acquire human resources to optimally provide the talent, skills, productivity and dependability to serve the organisation’s business objectives. 

The use of the word optimally would embrace the overall cost of employment. This therefore includes the costs associated with the hiring process, the remuneration, training, development and other rewards and expenses of the employee. The employee is thus a major part of the business of achieving the throughput of the business.

We hear the repeated cry from employers that the war for talent never ends and frustrates productivity in projects, manufacturing, production and services. Who then ever stops to consider where the constraint exists in the business and what one should do to relieve the constraint? It is evident, that on extensive analysis, the most common business constraint is in the ready availability of skilled resources. This makes sense if the business appreciates that it is the people that enable it to operate.

What then does one do then to relieve the constraint? Subordinate to it, enable it to operate at maximum efficiency and elevate it until it is no longer the constraint. That’s proven TOC (Theory of Constraints) theory and practice that has enabled the advance and competitive advantage of business that apply this internationally to any process.

In recruitment, it’s time for this application. This means applying protection to the constraint by buffering it. If business knows the type of resources that it needs or is going to need in future then why not build a buffer of the type of resources required? How does this work?

Avoid the last minute rush to start the process of locating the typical resources required.  Why not align with a niche resource consultant to build a buffer stock of prescribed types of resources so that when the rush is on either through departure of existing resources, or the need for new capacity for new projects, you can call on the consultant’s known candidate buffer stock who has been working with you, getting to know you and your needs. 

We can add further advances to this. No longer relying only of the same old processes that cannot identify the attributes called for in most job specifications that have no way of being evaluated, in particular the human characteristics such as attitudes, temperaments, emotional intelligence, ethics and motivation for example, replicate the international successes being achieved in utilizing the tools of functional auditing that apply 24 well proven constructs to align the employer profile with that of the candidate. It does not replace the technical attributes, but adds to the success of identifying and retaining new talent with the metrics that really matter. It’s all done on-line by the candidate and has been developed to identify manipulation, impression management and variations from the employer’s "culture” profile that is established prior to the recruitment process. It is not psychometrics which measures against social norms (whatever they are); it enables unique alignment between employer and candidate where it matters. The myth of using technical alignment only in selecting engineering candidates remains and continues to prove its limitations. Technical knowledge can be learnt: intrinsic characteristics don’t change.

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The currency of electronic databases for physical addresses

Posted By Chris Reay, Monday, 27 July 2015

In the days before emails and cell phones it was crucial that one kept one’s physical address and post office address current or one was simply untraceable or able to receive written mail. Landline telephones of course were the obvious and only other mechanism and fax message depended on that facility. It was a norm that if one moved, there was the required attention paid to the physical address, and the telephone book was then invaluable.

It is evident that since the advent of emails, cell phones and now smart phones with multiple messaging options, that keeping physical addresses up to date is really only kept live by the banking systems insisting on having the FICA data but that is normally only updated when the banks call for that.

As long as print is mailed then physical addresses need to be kept current This is an issue that faces the likes of SAIMechE with the magazine, and it suffers from two issues that arise with physical addresses: change that is not notified and the inaccuracy or limited information provided by the Member which results in the item being either returned to sender of dumped at the posted office. Very often outdated or unattended mail boxes are too full to take any more mail. Problems with the efficiency and reliability of the post office itself frequently add to the amount of undelivered mail.

Address databases are renowned to be inaccurate or badly configured. I am at least three separate customers in my bank. Implementing a FICA update for the current account information does not get fed to the other accounts. It would seem that modern configuration management is a foreign practice to most banks as the format for collecting the same data varies across departments, even though the ID number is common.

It is unlikely that physical address accuracy will never be required even with all our advanced electronic communication as some form of hard mail will need to be used. It just seems that the processes for updating the address on a systematic basis is flawed. Updating of mail addresses is invariably left late so that mail continues to go to the previous address. Will GPS via mobile smart phone location ever be able to be a source of this at an accuracy that is dependable? Now that’s an app opportunity.

Let’s look at a specific case. We have about 4000 addresses to which our magazine is sent each month. On average about 5 percent are returned for reasons that the address is incorrect or cannot be located due to paucity of detail.

The best way we can keep up to date with addresses of Members is to request a regular email feedback on the receipt of the Torque newsletter on a prescribed format with the option to tick “no change” to keep it simple.

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Self-drive cars

Posted By Chris Reay, Wednesday, 24 June 2015

An up and coming hot topic is the emergence of the reality of self-drive cars. The general reaction is to respond that they will and could not ever work as a norm. But we have seen many crazy ideas that were originally conceived in science fiction or futuristic insights that have become a reality. Take the wrist watch worn by James Bond or the communication between the car Kit in the Knightrider series. 

Some exuberant investment advisors are predicting that the technology behind self-drive cars will be the next big one in the order of the smart phone or even the internet. In their space they are trying to attract investors at the early incubation stage to invest before the technology matures. It will depend on very sophisticated processors interacting with sensors and then with the mechanical and electrical 
functions of the vehicle so the role of the engineer will remain crucial in this development. I particular it would seem that Mechatronics Engineering will have a massive future added to by the growing dependence on robotics and mechanized replacement of manual labour.

Fast forwarding to the future when the self-drive car becomes the norm does raise some interesting 
questions and issues. What does the driver actually do? I guess one sets the destination data up via the GPS and hits the start button and that’s it. Sit back and take it easy or would one distrust the system and sit back in a state of anxious stress that the car will not avoid another person-driven vehicle behaving like a normal Cape Town driver does when in a state of road rage or plain impatience. 

It would seem that the best situation would be when all cars are self-drive and no people are involved in the process. What then are the risks? What if the power system (battery) fails?  A low level warning should bring the car to a gentle stop in a safe parking area identified on the route map.  Some form of protection against manual override by a frustrated driver must be implemented who would otherwise create the necessary but irritating avoiding action by the smart self-drive cars nearby.

Let’s however consider all the advantages. On the assumption that going physically to the office is still a requirement i.e. virtual offices have not eliminated this need, then imagine settling into the car with 
one’s digital equipment (very smart phones and tablets) and working on some productive activity instead of getting impatient with the traffic or cursing the traffic cop that saw you using the phone at the wheel. And if the cop does stop the car or the camera records an over-speed, then should the ticket be made out to the processor for an error in judgment for not observing the speed sign via visual sign reading? Most likely there will not be any traffic cops as everything will be via electronic communication cameras and digital records. A fine notice comes up on your vehicle screen.

The real benefit will be for the pubs, nightclubs, house, parties etc where one will not have to worry about a sober driver or being caught by the breathalyzer. Simply jump in, grab one for the road and off you go safely into your garage where the gate and door all open in advance of your arrival through intelligent programming sent out by the car as it arrived. Booze industry, watch this space. Maybe another good investment would be shares in SAB. 

And of course all these smart self-drive cars will be electric powered with advanced battery technology 
where the batteries can double up as home energy storage on a swop out basis. And all charged by one’s own solar system, but still connected to the main grid in order to both draw from the system or feed back into it. I actually fancy this era. All made by Engineers.

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Ode to the SA economy

Posted By Chris Reay, Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Was Shakespeare’s Macbeth reflecting on our Alliance style economy…?.

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

          And then there is Shakespeare’s Hamlet, on contemplation….     

To BEE, or not to BEE - that is the question: 
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer 
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune 
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, 
And by opposing, end them.

A brief analysis of records of the power strategy set up in the late 90s illustrates how, what appeared to be a well-structured and integrated plan, simply fell apart. Of significance is the complete lack of achievement to privatise a growing proportion of generation and distribution via IPPs, a situation now being forced on the system out of survival. The strategy to implement the REDs was abandoned. Then add the decision to cancel the PBMR, which if pursued with the same vigorous focus of the synfuels, uranium enrichment and arms development projects under sanctions, could have placed SA as global leaders in small nuclear plant. The planned completion of the additional 2 coal plants has not been met. 

The availability of the existing installed capacity dropped from the earlier 80-90% to 50-60%. Planned maintenance was neglected. Eskom now has a funding crisis. It has failed to provide for replacement of assets. And now it is limiting the ability of the economy to grow. All in all, a dismal record of failure of the government and Eskom. Forget excuses, apartheid etc. It's the sheer incompetence and poor management to execute their own plans. Too much has not been achieved to be anything else. We had the experience and skills, but politics overcame pragmatism. I repeat what I said some weeks ago: things are done by people: better people do things better. When will this change?

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How about some innovation and action on the energy crisis?

Posted By Chris Reay, Tuesday, 26 May 2015

I believe that the real crisis in our base load system has not yet been reached, and the inevitable worst case scenario is to come if the period over the next 10 years is analysed. If we make an assumption (as naive as this may be), and the economy grows over the next 10 years at an average of 3% per annum, then the demand on the installed base load system will grow by 34% by 2015. If the effective available base load now is 40GW, we will need to add some 14GW capacity but that is only on the assumption that the existing fleet of units does not suffer incremental attrition through ageing and hard running that stresses the system over its design limits. 

But let’s look at the equations on the assumption that in this period Medupi and Kusile actually come on line and add 9,6 GW,  and the oldest of the 6-packs now running meet their end of useful life. The net gain would be say 2,5GW capacity. The chances are, over the next 10 years, that more attrition is likely. 

In the event that say 12GW of new base load capacity is needed, this is equivalent to 2,5 new Medupis or 6 Koebergs. We know that SA cannot build Medupis very well – so far double the initial cost and 4 years late with just the first unit. So don’t let’s kid ourselves that we will just hurry up building some new six-pack fossil stations, and the likelihood of 6 Koebergs or the equivalent in nuclear would take a minimum of 12 years for the first unit to be ready. Add to this the dismal record of state planning and financial control, and we can envisage the scale of the challenge ahead. It simply is not possible to quickly correct 20 years of perpetual erroneous thinking and insufficient action. A necessary condition would be the affordability given that SA is currently near junk investment status.

With the commodities market in decline and on which SA has historically depended via foreign investment in mining, we have to realise that unless we jack up manufacturing and are competitive in world trading, we are heading for what could be national bankruptcy. 

The current climate makes us more risk averse than ever. How innovative can we be? Some ideas.

If any funding for another fossil station is ever available, rather re-direct it to providing solar water 
heating and PV panels for every home in SA. Invest in the best PV panel, solar water unit, battery and 
grid inter-connect device factories with the best technologies that can take all low-order water heating 
i.e. hot water geysers out of the base load system, enable the PV panels to work both on-line back-feed to the grid and charging of the batteries complete in a one-stop package with inverters, switching etc. 

Train up Engineer and Technician teams to be able to install, commission and maintain the complete 
system. Do it all on a massive scale with private sector skills and sufficient competitive organisations as was done with the wind and solar farms. The technology must have SABS certification to avoid the 
bandits in it for the quick kill. This will require constructing an attractive long term cost to the user with 
the capital cost being tied to the asset value of the home via a structured debt note that stays with the
home or building. 

The incentives can be seen as the horrific on-going cost of Eskom-provided electrical energy, the stability of the returns that are associated with the mortgage instruments, and a base charge that is offset by lower consumption of high price electricity for low order energy use. 

Who then knows when electric car fever will hit SA? Could we take a leaf out of Elon Musk’s USA initiatives – SolarCity and Tesla, and if possible, license their technology? Tesla has, and is developing, a battery based on their current market leading Lithium-ion  pack design, to be provided to homes together with the solar energy systems, and where the car batteries, once they lose their initial high energy density, can be used for home use. So material sustainability is also achieved.

If a smart South African can go to the USA, invent and build SpaceX, Tesla and SolarCity, then come on guys, what are we doing about solving our SA challenges? And ours are not even rocket science which SpaceX certainly is. We tend to spend too much time looking for reasons ideas won’t work and playing the blame game.

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What's going on at Eskom?

Posted By Chris Reay, Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Does Eskom really want to remove 1081 white engineering resources and 2149 white Artisans from its employ to meet BEE tick box requirements while it faces the challenge of getting its assets working at a desired level of reliability? Does it think this is a valid idea in the face of a 10 year, at least, history of its assets declining in availability to the point where it has to load shed to keep it from a potential domino collapse through inability to meet demand? It is beyond comprehension that with its deplorable record of project management on the new projects and questionable operational integrity eg Majuba and Duvha events, that it can consider shedding experience and skills (of any colour) until it can convince me and any other citizen that depends on electrical energy that it has an answer to the graphic and metrics below.

 

If the above graphic does not strike alarm and concern into the reader then nothing will. In case of this being in doubt, let’s look at the goal metrics that apply to an electrical utility’s installed capacity. In the “orange“ period above, the targets were set and drove the behavior of operations and maintenance of the assets.

Uptime : 90% ; planned maintenance: 7% ; unplanned outage: 3% (This was the 90:7:3 programme)

85% was a common achievement across most of the power stations. The 7% was mandatory.

Currently we are informed that the following is being achieved (with variations, but of the order shown)

Uptime: 65% Planned maintenance: ? unplanned outage: up to 35%. Hence load-shedding.

We now have a “war room” and musical chairs in the board and executive. Load shedding is now regular, new-build costs rising and high anxiety among consumers. If you bother to review the last Eskom annual report, one can get no idea at all of the mess it is in. Great, rhetoric and wonder-numbers that convey things are going right. What we now see is an exhibition of bungling policies, incompetence and mismanagement. We are none the wiser as to the action plans. The damage to SA is a crisis.

Fellow Engineers, let’s solve this problem.

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You be the judge

Posted By Chris Reay, Monday, 25 May 2015

“The president again blamed the scheduled blackouts, in part, on the apartheid regime's failure to expand the electricity supplier's capacity. SA’s electricity woes are a "challenge", but not a crisis and the government knows how to address it”.

We can’t affect the furnaces, but downstream, we have to shut the mills for the times when we are asked to cut back. He explained that the R1.5-million-an-hour loss was calculated based on the closure of Vanderbijlpark’s hot-strip mill and its downstream operations, as well as halting operations at Newcastle from “the rod mill and down”. A CEO statement.

The view below is from an ex-Eskom Engineer. (1977 – 2004 - Forced to take early pension due to Affirmative Action) 
Eskom (when it was the Electricity Supply Commission) was one of the best power utilities in the world. It was owned by all South Africans, and was a non-profit making organization. Money was always set aside, by selling electricity for more than it cost to produce, making surplus for replacement and expansion (No World bank or Government loans). It created its own sinking fund. In 1994 it was turned into a business with the government as sole shareholder. This was done to collect further tax from those who actually pay for electricity and to provide a vehicle for the implementation of government policies in the form of job creation and black empowerment. Profits, and the money set aside for replacement, expansion and maintenance, was paid to the government as dividends.

The sole 'shareholder' directly appointed most of the executive, and non-executive directors. These appointments came out of the ranks of the ANC, and were people with little managerial or power plant experience. Appointments were often based on nepotism. 

They couldn't do the work, but the people who could do the work were retrenched based on skin colour, and some were then re-employed as contractors. Although no real additional work was getting done, (due to lack of funds because of the increased work force of roughly 23%) this was considered acceptable because the government wanted to reduce unemployment. In order to bring relief to poverty stricken townships, Eskom directors were instructed to produce the cheapest electricity in the world. This plan did not work, because of all the extra wages, contractors, a management team that did not have a clue how to run a power utility and which resulted in Eskom running into huge losses for the first time in its history. To compensate for this, the incompetent management team cut the maintenance budget by 55%. These were the first “cracks” in the once stable, profit making power giant’s foundation. 

You will have to live with it and decide if “it’s not a crisis and the government knows how to address it”.

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Quo vadis?

Posted By Chris Reay, Tuesday, 17 February 2015

This is a good question to ask anyone in SA at the moment, with so many of our economic engine diagnostics showing error codes. Clearly we have never been in such pending trouble in a profession that should by all measures have expanding opportunities rather than declining activities. In the role of recruitment consulting which is highly email and internet dependent, one gets the inevitable onslaught of negative news, analysts’ forecasts, global economy trends, and the very direct experiences of employers. Over the years it seemed to be recommended to have goals, practice focus in one’s chosen field and have blind faith in the future. The problem with blind faith is that eventually reality becomes too evident and too compelling to rely on it.

The media is taken up with constant streams of the blame game, regular excuses particularly lame and inept ones from none other than Zuma and the ANC “spokespersons” that can only leave one with the belief that they simply do not have any idea of how bad things actually are in the business of growth and wealth generation. It’s votes at all costs, irrespective of the damage being done in the process that will eventually unhinge the ANC anyway. The claim, for example, that the power crisis is apartheid’s fault is serious in that one expects not only that statements from that level would have a semblance at least of some sense, but that it must by inference reflect the opinion of the Presidency, cabinet and executive who write the speeches for him.

In 2005 my partner and I visited Megawatt Park for a meeting with the then emerging Capital Expansion Division (CED) with a view to getting involved with recruiting engineering talent for the CED. It was early days in this process but well overdue in terms of the need to get going with new capacity, but we all know by now the ANC’s lack of action on this. What stunned us at the meeting was the following. “Yes, we will need new engineering resources, but you are required to provide BLACK FEMALE ENGINEERS ONLY!!” 

You may now realise why Eskom has been judged deficient of appropriate skills and that the number of employees from 1992 to 2012 per installed GW increased by 43% but the effective installed GWs did not increase. This analysis disregards comparing any talent index that will also have changed for the worse as most of the experienced white engineering skills were retrenched or left.

I would now ask, in the so called 5 point plan being undertaken in the recovery “war room”, what is being done about this factor, or in more specific terms, is it not evident that a complex engineering asset requires the appropriate engineering skills and experience to plan, design, construct, operate and maintain to be sustainable? Eskom (and SA) will never recover without this realization.

So leaving behind the history, how can the engineering fraternity get some action going on applying this necessary attribute to the crisis we are ALL in whether we like it or not? Is it possible, and can a start initiative make an impact on this – it is a survival thing, not a nice to have? Clearly as with any recovery action, it will require radical funding and a change of attitude to fix this crisis over a long period, made more difficult with the recent news that our earlier fear has also materialized – government does now not have the funding for the well verbalised 18 project National Development Plan let alone the engineering resources to manage them. It cannot even fund Eskom. Will FDI come to the party with our present investment rating? We are potentially on the road to bankruptcy – Zimbabwe style.

If we as the profession in our voluntary capacity do not take some form of cohesive action, it would seem we are unworthy of our cause as Professional Engineers let alone our need for SA’s economic survival.

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The ageing of the baby boomers

Posted By Chris Reay, Monday, 15 December 2014

On January 1, 2011, the oldest of the Baby Boomer era turned 65. Every day for the next 19 years from that date, about 10,000 more (in the USA alone) will cross that threshold. This puts the starting date of the era at 1946 and the “end” date at 1965. The annual birth rate in the 50s was the highest ever in history.

We can ask what relevance this has to us here in South Africa where the population distribution is radically different from that in the USA. This however becomes apparent when we track the impact this era has had on the development of the built environment world-wide, which is largely engineering based. Post- war birth rate behavior was not much different in other countries recovering from the depression of the 1930s and the second-world war.

The baby boomer era was really the builder of our modern infrastructure as we know it. The rise of urbanization, consumerism, technology development and health care improvements among many changes took place rapidly, underscored by the focus on access to education and high levels of employment. 

If we reflect on SA, it is evident that the basic infrastructure of the country was developed in this period and well into the 80s. Multiple large projects were all happening in mining, power stations, roads, water storage and reticulation, industries, military developments, agriculture and travel facilities to name many. Urban development began with a vengeance and has continued unabated to accommodate the growth in the population. Urban development brings with it the need to provide power, sanitation, communications and general infrastructure and the services required by the citizens.

It is interesting to witness the trends that evolve with eras such as this. Aside from the social characteristics such the hippies, political protests, civil rights etc, there has been a decline in the building and replacement of infrastructure since. It leveled off by virtue of having met the required levels of need. Much of it has understandably worn out over the last 50 years and simply not either been maintained or replaced. It would appear that maintaining and refurbishing is not as glamorous as building from new. 

So we look at our own circumstances and in the domain of engineering it is evident that the same era built the bulk of our infrastructure, and much if it is ageing. More evident is that maintenance has been neglected in many cases and we are experiencing that on an increasing basis in our electrical power assets. Added to that is the “forced” reduction in skills and expertise which existed in that era of Engineers that built the power stations and distribution systems. Where we designed, constructed and commissioned many six pack stations, none of them ever displayed the horror that is being displayed by Medupi – 3 years late (so far) and getting on for double the capital cost, and add to this the cost of non-availability to the economy. It is thus worth noting: things are built by people. Better people build things better.

Of concern to the Americans is that the rate of exit of engineering talent is considerably greater than the rate of entry of new resources that have to be developed with the assistance of the outgoing skills. This is our own experience in SA where it must be understood that numbers entering the industry may be improving but the experiential training is certainly not sufficient. This applies to the trades as well. The average age of a qualified artisan in the USA is now mid- fifties, the same as ours.

This scenario then makes it very clear that unless we harness the ageing skills and experience of the baby boomer fraternity to mentor and upskill the young engineering resources entering the profession, where else will we get them?  They are not available in a box, a book, a video, a classroom or a memorychip. It is time on the ground with the human interaction, learning on the job.

Time waits for no one. The need is now. It’s time to start attracting the baby boomers to enter a paid mentoring profession.

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The need for economic leadership

Posted By Chris Reay, Monday, 15 December 2014

If ever Nero fiddled while Rome burned it must be the current performance of the ANC “leadership”. I hesitate to even use the word in this context as it is virtually non-existent in the role the President is playing and equally insignificant in the performance of the yes-men who answer to him. While the economy slides into an aimless mix of unemployment, retrenchments, energy constraints, bail outs for state enterprises, reducing growth rates and evident general frustration and anger across the population spectrum, Nero ‘s attention is directed elsewhere, primarily in the direction of self-interest and to be quite frank, embarrassing incompetence. Let’s hope this era of the revolution-makers ages out as soon as possible so that a new era of hopefully more concerned leaders will emerge.

On-going reports over the years have signaled the serious deterioration of the infrastructure. Energy is limited, water supplies are threatened with shortages and toxicity. Plants break down and are not 
repaired. Roads deteriorate to the point where maintenance is no longer viable. Health care and education gets worse. It’s a classic case of thermodynamic entropy – lack of work to overcome the tendency to move into a natural state of chaos, all at the same temperature and in social and economic reality, the lowest common denominator.

Can we derive a message from this? A characteristic of the obvious solution is that if the system is not intentionally reversed by leading a focused endeavor to recreate those aspects we call the built environment, it will not reverse and not improve. 

It is critical time for the Engineer to enter the fray, participate in the call for action, play a leadership role, and get to work developing the skills base, training the new graduates, using the retired (and mostly white) engineering  capacity to transfer their experiential skills to the younger generation before it is too late and they are all gone.

There is no room nor role for BEE and its misplaced execution in this activity. To hell with politics, this is serious stuff. It’s all hands on deck and the sooner the better for time waits for no one and we do not have too much left to avoid passing the point of no return.

We now have about 500 new Mechanical Engineer graduates emerging from university each year and mostly finding employment in industry, aside from those that emigrate or go into say financial services and other non-engineering activities. We have the latest and well developed outcomes based professional compliance structure, a willing group of Voluntary Associations hosting the training model, many willing retired or semi-retired Engineers willing to become Mentors, commitments from the SETAs to fund the candidate training costs (including the payment of Mentors), and we hope a willing number of employers in industry wanting to play a role in developing new skills. This will also enable those existing employed graduates to undertake their candidate phase training.

What are we waiting for? Who will lead the movement? Pay me and I will manage it with a vengeance.

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Stop producing Engineers………?

Posted By Chris Reay, Monday, 15 December 2014

It has often been raised that we should limit the supply of Engineers to the market in order to increase the remuneration levels through normal supply/demand dynamics. The ensuing debate tends to indicate that employers would then employ unqualified or untrained persons with the resultant risk of the failure of the system through poor design, operation and maintenance.

The answer must therefore lie in addressing both limitations and to converge towards a combination of necessity and sufficiency and meeting a standard of safety and reliability which effectively means a level that is decreed by adherence to the laws of science. That is a pretty good advantage we have in our profession.

SA is essentially set up for this structure via internationally accredited tertiary qualifications, a well-defined candidate training model with professionally focused assessment criteria, which will shortly be joined by the requirements of Identification of Engineering Work (IDoEW). As with any great rules and structures, they are only any use if implemented effectively by the parties concerned.

Can there be any doubt that Engineers would want to maximize the return on time and effort? As the income levels rise, more Engineers will enter the profession. But engineering, of all the professions, is 
probably the one most readily open to the "quacks" of the discipline, employing guess work, non-adherence to standards, quick fixes and obfuscations which can delude the public. Examples are rife. 

Then there is the take-over of roles that should be performed by the Engineer by bean counters and politicians and the like in matters of selection of cost effectiveness on maintenance, for one example.

This prostitution of Engineering can therefore only be contained by regulation. Thus, as we proceed from the well regulated tertiary starting point, we recognize the need for competence standards and assessment criteria for registration, followed by IDoEW in the realm of practice.

The demand then for the numbers of Engineers required will follow from the needs of society. The constant refrain on scarcity of skills would indicate that the demand still exceeds supply. This imbalance is aggravated by the social engineering effects such as BEE which frequently skew the balance of skills. If only the system would recognize the serious loss of continuum created by expelling the older experienced white Engineers. When their intellect is gone, how will the younger Engineers develop?

We may have a bit of a breakthrough on the involvement of the retired Engineers as Mentors. To encourage this, as from April 2015, the SETAs are obligated to fund the training of Candidate Engineers. 

Most of this funding is destined to pay Mentors in a structured mentorship process.

In reality, engineering remuneration is growing to hopefully compare with the other professions. Let's keep it that way. Professional recognition, upkeep of high standards and ethical conduct will raise the status of Engineers in society.

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The “must” country that rarely delivers

Posted By Chris Reay, Thursday, 25 September 2014

 

For all the “must” talk in which those in government indulge, very little actually gets actioned. If there have been intentions to make it easier for small business to flourish, then they seem to fall into the category of rhetoric only. I learnt only this week of a new product line that the manufacturer has introduced into some 105 countries over that last five years, and who has stated that SA has been the most difficult, bureaucratic and plainly obstructive of all, as though the intention is to prevent the business from proceeding. And it is one which would enable the self-owned business or entrepreneur to develop and grow with little investment other than time, hard work and focus.

 

We are all tired of reading the usual “speeches” by officials at the interminable conferences and congresses about what we “must” do. Most of it is simply common sense that does not need a Minister to harp on about as though it were new rocket science level discovery. “We must improve our science and maths at schools” stuff as though it was news to us. All interminable talk, little action.

 

Now there are the new entry requirements for potential immigrants and tourists. Ministerial prerogative finds it acceptable to defy the objections from the airline industry, employers seeking specialized skills, tourists and business in general. The vulnerable falling Rand and investment rating downgrades do not encourage foreign skills currently on Dollar, Euro and Pound rates seeking a Rand equivalent in SA to get accepted. It’s too high for local industry.

 

The “reality” dashboard shown last month continues to see the pointers moving further into the red. Is it believable that the policy makers can be so disconnected from the reality of an economy in crisis? The “cleva people” as defined by Zuma are noticeably and more audibly astonished and frustrated by the lack of concern and action. Do they really think that the NDP is going to save the country? Please, Mr Minister of Finance, do answer the question we have been asking for the last 3 years: from whence cometh the R840 billion to do the 18 SIPs projects (in three years - your own claim) and where will the required skilled engineering resources, placed in the right structures at the right time, come from? You will also need to rescue Eskom first.

 

Shortly, a presentation on the most recent exercise on scarce engineering skills will be presented at Ministerial level. It has taken note of years of ineffective action and will make some radical proposals to get skills development moving properly. The SAIMechE input made it evident that candidate phase training needs to be taken seriously by both employers and the SETAs with the SAIMechE providing a facilitating role to enable the collective participation by Candidate, Employer, Mentor and Supervisor focusing on the criteria of the outcomes by which the programme is assessed. Those industries that are the likely participants in the SIPS/NDP will be asked to identify the resource needs at a job specification (not generic) level so that training in those disciplines can be actioned.

 

I would like to ask one question of the Minister of Higher Education. Do the subsidies that are paid to universities for the students in the Faculties of Engineering and the Built Environment get used fully for that purpose, or are they diverted to other “non-engineering” causes?

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The Reality

Posted By Chris Reay, Thursday, 25 September 2014

The South African economy is sick. The diagnosis has been going on for a long time, but the prescriptions have been ignored. It is evident that the body may not find the energy and perhaps the will to recover without some serious surgery. The danger of infection is greater as the invasive nature of the surgery is complex. The doctors and specialists (quacks?) may not succeed in finding a recovery routine before incapacity of the patient becomes permanent. To make matters worse, the patient is in a state hospital.

I am writing these words as the engineering based industry, having just had a serious dose of platinum deficiency syndrome, is now steeped in a viral bout of non-metal-working plague. It is going to take a patient with a very strong immune system to overcome this one. Many of the limbs that support the body may simply not survive, suffer from permanent damage and shrink into a state of paralysis.

All the machines (that are working) are monitoring the patient as follows. For clarity, the health monitor dashboard terminology has been calibrated with economic metrics.

Productivity: declining with the record showing the index has shown a reduction of 41% in the last 10 years. The meter rider position shows that the current level is the lowest in 46 years.

Employment: declining.

Unemployment: Increasing

Economic growth rate: Declining, now below 2% pa

Rand parity with world currencies: declining.  Rand: US$  1994: 3.55:1   2014:10.80:1

International Investment rating: Declining towards junk bond status

Corruption factor in government and the economy: increasing, reaching epidemic levels

Infrastructure status, education and service standards: declining

Small Medium Enterprises development rate: at best static but declining in small manufacturing.

Inflation rate: increasing

“Real” recession: evidently active and technically in stage of stagflation

Cost of living of basic items basket: rising (at alarming rate)

Centre of gravity of skilled and experienced engineering resources: moving into 50-60 age spectrum

Potential for Engineers to survive economically at retirement: declining

I do not think we need any more metrics to realize that the patient is in really big trouble.

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Project performance

Posted By Chris Reay, Thursday, 25 September 2014

My interest and activities in the field of constraints theory over the last 15 years inevitably leads me to evaluate how its body of knowledge has impacted on industry. It was developed by the late Eli Goldratt, who described his reasoning behind developing the Theory of Constraints (TOC) was to help to teach the world to think more effectively. Perhaps the most resonant feature of TOC is that it simplifies complex issues due to the logical manner in which the thinking processes are applied.

Project management has had few really significant breakthroughs over the last 50 years with the exception of the applications of the TOC to the processes. Reviewing the statistics published by organisations that carry out this type of research indicates that the overall project failure rate (as defined by collective metrics) had not changed since the early 80s and has remained at a level of some 70%.  Indications are emerging that over recent years this may be starting to improve.

Projects essentially fail on the two main measures; costing well over original budget and finishing well beyond due completion date. In fact it can be said that there is no such thing as a project that meets its original cost estimate even though it may finish on due date. The challenges that arise in projects which require resolving normally face the inevitable conflict: finish on time at no increase in cost or finish at original cost with no increase in time.

TOC realized that until measures to address this typical conflict were created, the situation would not change. The thinking processes reviewed the assumptions being made and extent of the focus. The most interesting to me is that the changes that TOC proposes are of a human behavior nature rather than high-tech algorithmic solutions. When this difference is observed by the new-comer to TOC, the response is often “why all the hype, it looks like common sense to me”. Eli, is his characteristic way, would respond that the observation is entirely correct; the problem is that common sense is not that common.

Projects are once off activities and have not had the benefits of the production industry that has adopted the constraints theory to implement and practice the focusing steps. Touch time in projects is long whereas in production it is generally short. But both processes utilise the same fundamental rule of applying the focus onto the constraint, subordinating to it and making use of buffer capacity to meet the throughput requirements.

The evidence is now robust that the most effective project improvement that has occurred over recent times has been from the application of TOC methodology.

What can we learn from all this in the hoped-for implementation of the 18 NDP projects? It is apparent that whatever project approach one uses there is one endemic mistake made on so many projects today. That is, starting to construct before the design is complete, which is to me a culture driven by the bean- counter mentality that, in its ignorance, believes the project will finish sooner and cost less.

A quick lesson from TOC would propose the following: start activities as late as possible, ensure resources are available which includes design work, avoid multi-tasking with limited resources , cut the normal (over) estimated times back by 50%, allocate half to the task and half to the project buffer, start the activity on time and thereby run your project with safety in hand instead of losing it before you start.

The biggest concern I have for the NDP is the evident lack of engineering and project management capacity at the Owner’s team level. Will government, provinces and municipalities take this issue seriously and ask private industry to help with resourcing this?

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Will the NDP actually start happening?

Posted By Chris Reay, Thursday, 25 September 2014

We have been subjected to the National Development Plan for some time now with various degrees of emphasis. Government, or at least in reality the ANC, continues to use it as a manifesto item typical of political posturing presumably to convince the public (and the voters) that the country is all set to have an era of great investment, new projects, employment opportunities, export improvements, and reversal of the fiscal deficits amongst many attributes. The better life for all stuff. The alliance continues to nitpick at it and academic and research organisations find flaws in the numbers and the statistics as though it is all an exact science. It has taken on the form of a sort of hallucinating drug that one places one’s faith in when faced with the current economic reality. It all depends on what is one’s own perspective of current reality.

Engineers would be inclined to agree on the need for the NDP, the 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) and the spin off from the designing, planning, constructing, commissioning, maintaining and operating of all these projects. These will use all the engineering capacity that we have, and more. Never mind from where the investment funds are to come from, that remains all smoke and mirrors and it’s hard to believe that the country will suddenly find R800 odd billion and then spend it over three years on completed projects.

Perhaps closer to the Engineer’s concern is, if we had all that money, where are we going to find the sufficient number of engineering resources to spend it (properly)? We will avoid contemplating the potential behind the corruption that is now endemically entrenched in our country with very little accountability. The efforts to ascertain the available engineering resources by the PICC/SIPs/DHET/ECSA/Volunteer committees will presumably produce some results but so far the numbers do not seem more than high level estimates. I believe it was an exercise to find out what we already knew: we have a scarce skills problem. My own evaluation is that the systems and processes used cannot measure the extent of the scarcity in a meaningful way if the time frame is that of the SIPs programme. This is an example of breaching a very fundamental engineering ethos: if you cannot measure it, you do not know much about it. Clearly, if the metrics used to measure the scarcity do not take this into account, the process while necessary, is insufficient.

The 18 SIPs projects are reasonably well defined at a high level. From this a start should be made to identify the required resources by a reasonable relationship between project size and type. The reality is however, that those who will need the resources normally specify the needs at a granular level, not a generic level that emerged from this committee. Efforts of the SAIMechE to propose a model to measure the needs, to locate as many as possible from the existing market and to focus Candidate Engineer development in those scarce areas are met with a sort of glazed, unconvinced response by the “authorities”. After all, we have to find ways to spend R800 billion effectively, but it would appear that to spend a few million on getting knowledge of the course to take to manage the scarce skills issue is considered either too expensive or unnecessary. The real reason is uncertain as the response has been nil. If the proposed model were to show a return on investment, it would only have to save about one thousandth of one percent of the programme budget to cover its cost. It’s a no-brainer when one realises the costs, delays and consequences of the scarce skills impact on projects. Take a look at Medupi and the Durban-Jhb pipeline as examples. Consider the impact on infrastructure service delivery alone.  There are legendary other cases out there that show the result of technically incapacitated owners’ teams alone.

But then that makes the assumption that the NDP actually is going to happen. If history is anything to go by, we may still be talking about it this time next year. With elections over and “won”, why hurry? At least it may all work as a dream forming drug.

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The case for free-lance, paid Mentors

Posted By Chris Reay, Tuesday, 27 May 2014


The new outcomes based registration system for Engineers is now underway albeit that ECSA has not yet developed the online system for the capture of the submission data. The release of the systems for Technologists, Technicians and Certificated Engineers is in progress.

SAIMechE, under its Professional Development Programme (PDP), has finalised the development of the training curriculum for each of the eleven outcomes, the submission capture formats and the introduction to the complete programme and the training programme for Mentors who play a necessary, regular and specified role in the process. The PDP has been developed using the exact outcome and assessment criteria for registration as those formulated by ECSA under the R02 model. SAIMechE will facilitate the Candidate's training programme by the provision of the documentation that guides the Candidate on the requirements for each outcome and the coordination of the activities via a monthly Mentor facilitated workshop per Candidate cell.

We call this the regular procedure that is intended to be applied to facilitate the training programme for professional development for members of SAIMechE. This process will result in the issue of an SAIMechE Certificate of Competence that will enable any holder thereof to use the same content to apply for ECSA registration.

A necessary condition for the process to work is the structured involvement of the Mentor, and it is here that, for the PDP to have its intended industry wide effect, the role of the "independent" Mentor is required. Currently, and under the legacy training system, the employer provides Mentors from its own employ that provide the service to its own employed Candidate Engineers. This generally limits the availability of mentoring in the case of smaller businesses that may not have the capacity to employ persons who can act as Mentors. The role of the Mentor in the legacy system is generally much less involved than that required for the new system. Thus the PDP is, in conjunction with the other VAs, ECSA and the "scarce skills" forums, striving to obtain formal and substantial funding for free-lance Mentors to undertake the mentoring role as a revenue earning activity.

Accordingly, SAIMechE is inviting its members to consider applying for the role of Mentor for the PDP. The role will be defined in the Mentor training programme. This includes the review of all the PDP curriculum material, the workshop process, guidelines on the forming of candidate cells for ease of access and meetings, referee roles, sign-off documentation, remuneration and administration functions. The referee or sign-off process must finally be done by a Mentor who is a Pr Eng.

Ideally the business model would encourage a Mentor to seek and oversee up to six candidates in a cell who would all attend a one day workshop per month. Each workshop addresses one of the eleven outcomes in turn, thus making eleven workshops per annum per cell. Depending on the number of candidates available to an area, a Mentor could select to practice mentoring full time for as many days of the week he or she chooses. Thus the income potential is attractive.

This is a bold move forward to stimulate the level of professionalism in the industry and to utilise the valuable experience of the Mentor. The question remains, can we find sufficient Mentors?

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Seeking the good news

Posted By Chris Reay, Tuesday, 18 March 2014

If ever there was a time when we wanted the good news, it must be now. A time to listen to that classic hit by Crocodile Harris " Give me the good news”

If we accept the word forever
Maybe we should live together
And not be scared to watch
The late night news
You can't use guns to build a nation
A bullet never was creation

Engineering wise, SA is really in the doldrums. Can we be positive and expect that things should now get better? That, of course, only happens if people make it happen, so we can do some dreaming that we hope will turn to reality. Positive thinking helps. Consider the options:

The active start to the National Development Plan. The 18 strategic infrastructure projects actually start to happen. The talking and conferences that have consumed any energy associated with them stop and the action starts.

We get let into the secret by treasury as to how these are to funded. The engineering community is invited to participate at the highest level in the Owners’ teams, the project planning and conceptual engineering to ensure that the projects are correctly structured, engineered and managed. The politicians wake up and realise that it’s all about the built environment, and that is created by science and experience, not hollow, electoral promises based on ignorance.

Government and private business interests start to work together for the common goal of increasing the economic growth rate: what about an economic codesa? Corruption gets serious attention.

The unions and the mining industry together reach a win-win understanding and proceed to jointly add value to our massive commodity assets sitting underground that are useless unless mined and treated in a competitive manner. This in turn encourages the reluctant and unconvinced investors to consider SA as a less risky investment destination. Funds start to flow into the economy again and the current account deficit reverses back to a reasonable level. The Rand stabilizes.

Education? Well, while we are dreamimg and hoping, the training and development of teachers becomes a reality as this is the primary necessary condition for our youth to acquire the essentials of literacy and numeracy. The 30 % pass rate becomes history. Idle Funds in the skills development and Seta accounts are applied to the training of engineering resources including the funding of Mentors.

Last but not least, the government becomes convinced that cadre deployment in place of resources with skills and expertise is a disaster.

If you are willing to be part of the solution, by clicking onto http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JACJjid9WWY should provide some inspiration.

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HR : where is the added value in recruitment?

Posted By Chris Reay, Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Some recent investigations into the views that engineering resources have on the benefit that they accrue from the HR function in their organizations is most revealing. It is almost entirely negative.

I adopted a neutral role in the inquiry process so as not to influence the issue from an emotional perspective as I have my own views on the role of HR in the recruitment process. It just was so evident that the consensus confirmed my own views.

The first issue raised is how much do HR practitioners know about the role of engineering functions that enables them to assemble a job specification that is meaningful and practical?

The second issue raised is how much do HR practitioners know about the role of engineering resources that enable them to actually evaluate CVs with any credibility?

The third issue is how many engineering resources feel almost insulted when requested to be interviewed by a young inexperienced HR person who may be half the age of the candidate and possessing some soft skill qualification perhaps at the most. Those that pass this session of questionable worth are then selected to proceed to the line management interview.

Then the issue is raised as to the time line management spend evaluating the CVs presented to them. It continues to astound me as to how fickle this is. If the assortment of technical boxes is not ticked or the candidate is too old or has not been in the same type of business, there is invariably a rejection. I have seen more time spent adjudicating offers for a conventional pump than spent assessing the credentials of the most valuable asset in the company: the Engineer.

We have a scarce skills problem and do not think that the current economic downturn is going to have any significant impact on this other than in the short term in specific roles.

Some suggestions to address this issue.

  1. HR must desist from making it apparent they are constructing their own job needs by becoming a valueless and time consuming constraint in the throughput process of recruiting engineering resources into employers.
  2. HR must cease the process of "cutting and pasting” as many functions in intricate detail into job specifications. Some of the inclusions are hilarious at best.
  3. Any job specification that calls for a large number of very specific skills and experiences that the employing body is calling must ask themselves: where is their own succession planning? Who "out there” is expected to provide these in place of your own organisation?
  4. Enable communication between the candidate and the line Engineer to discuss detail even before the formal interview.
  5. Use recruiters that understand Engineers and engineering as a profession.
  6. Start seriously undertaking the training of Candidate Engineers within the employer organization and stop expecting 35 year old Engineers with 15 years of high value project and business experience to be waiting around for your call.

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SAIMechE’s suggested contribution to solutions for the scarce skills challenge

Posted By Chris Reay, Wednesday, 06 November 2013

At the recent workshop held by the Department of Higher Education (DHET), the President’s Infrastructure Coordination Committee (PICC) and the Council for the Built Environment (CBE), the objective was to assess the status of the scarce skills in South Africa by assembling Occupational Teams (OTs) that would be assembled largely from the voluntary engineering organizations and academia. Two days were spent following the earlier work done by the PICC/DHET/CBE team to prepare a list of what was determined by the 18 Strategic Infrastructure Projects (SIPs) to be the scare skills for this programme. This list covered the management, professional and trades identified as such by the Organising Framework for Occupations (OFO) model.

The 18 SIPs are identified at a very high level, for example SIP1 being "Unlocking the Northern mineral belt with the Waterberg as the catalyst”. For what was alleged to be "security” reasons, not much else is published on this SIP to expand on the detail, but it can be reliably gathered that a large component will be for coal mining development to take up the supply that is dwindling in the Witbank/Middelburg area.

The projected list of scarce skills, when reviewed on the basis that it should enable some effective action to commence, is in my view a rather useless piece of data insofar as the Mechanical Engineers are concerned. It simply shows "about 500” needed at a scarcity level of "20-50%” whatever that may convey.

The SAIMechE team filled in their answers to the OT list on the wide spectrum of questions and these will then presumably be assembled and evaluated for action with all the others. Most of the questions we have been addressing for years that seem to do no more than lead to the next conference or workshop. One simply comes away with the feeling of perpetual talk and no perceived action.

The first concern the team had was that the workshop called for voluntary conveners to fill variety of time consuming roles, and this just seemed to illustrate a poor business model. Here we have the National Development Programme (NDP) with its first 18 projects worth hundreds of billions of Rand in total installed value (TIV) that has no funds to pay for a properly structured resource development team that would comprise a fraction of a percent of the TIV cost. It simply illustrates the importance given to this role in the success of the programme. There is no contracted leverage with voluntary teams.

The SAIMechE team made three constructive, actionable suggestions. Firstly, establish a top level professional resources team who would be paid to get the scarce skills issue measured and solutions developed, and which would be in a position to advise the SIPs owner’s teams on the appropriate resources required at owner’s level that could be seconded from the profession in a similar way that the accounting profession does for state bodies.

Secondly, develop a model for evaluating availability of scarce skills to identify the scarce resource with the relevant, engineering specific attributes. It is based on the Engineer’s credo that you do not know much about anything until you can define and measure it. Scarcity needs to have two references to be measureable: what you have and what you need. Accordingly SAIMechE could offer to facilitate working with professional engineering resource recruiting bodies to create a large and well configured, best-in-class, dynamic database of engineering resources for these and other South African projects. By simply stating that we need a number of Mechanical Engineers does not resolve the issue. The only time the real scarcity is known is when the employer specifies the need at granular level of definition. For example one can search on Mechanical Engineers and get hundreds, but then ask for those with the specifics such as 10 years of coal plant processing experience or conveyor and coal chute design, one may be lucky to find a few if any under today’s dwindling expertise that largely exists in near retirement age groups or who may have emigrated.

Thirdly, with this information and working with the employers undertaking the projects and who issue the job specifications with these details, we can identify those who should be taking on the Candidate Engineers that wish to do their training under the SAIMechE Professional Development Programme. SAIMechE would be the paid conduit to provide information on scarce skills to the PICC or the CBE on an on-going basis enabled by the dynamics of the model. We need to ensure that the expectation of perpetual voluntary work by professionals is not presumed. It’s a business reality to pay for value. It would it addition be of value to be able to second experts from the Membership, exploiting the immense, collective intellectual capital of the Institution and effectively meeting the essence of the mission statement.


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The realization on scarce resources

Posted By Chris Reay, Friday, 20 September 2013

After many months (years?) of no apparent action following the publication of the National Development Plan, various bodies are now awakening to the reality of the resource requirements in order to be able to effectively manage and spend the billions on infrastructure projects.

It was always going to be a tough challenge: R800 odd billion over three years. Someone was smoking something to actually believe that this was viable. Dwell for a minute on the realities of project spend patterns. Firstly, no spending pattern is ever linear, or in terms of Rand over time, would it ever represent a consistent average from start to finish. Thus represented, it is the area under the curve that amounts to the total project spend.

Forward to reality: project spending patterns have the s-curve feature: they rise slowly as concept, design, procurement occurs and then start to climb steeply as deliveries and construction follow. It then tails off at commissioning and handover. The essence of this that there is a peak, and for the area under the curve to meet the project budget, the peak is considerably higher than the average.

What does this mean? Most likely it means that resource needs are not linear and have the same peaking nature. So when estimates are produced reflecting the numbers of resources needed, are these factored by the time axis? Most times not, and we invariably get the classic multi-tasking that is imposed on the scarce resources. This then adds to the potential delay in due performance dates being met. Multi-tasking creates its own delays, and anyone who believes otherwise should attend a few workshops that demonstrate this admirably.

Let’s then add another classic activity that for some pernicious reason remains the foundation of project planning: critical path scheduling. How many projects ever give consideration to the only development that has had the most time and cost saving successes on projects over the last 50 years? It’s called critical chain scheduling. As an aspirant believer in this process, it continues to amaze me that management does not know that it even exists let alone how it works. Far worse is the regular experience one has in presenting the process to the potential users, who most times praise the fundamentals that define the process, but return home only to be faced with the common response - business as usual.

Well, the NDP could do a lot worse than, once the reality of limited skilled and experienced resources has sunk home, have a good look at adopting a critical chain scheduling philosophy. It may just assist in preventing the project durations and costs to emulate the dreadful experiences we seem to have with most major projects such as Medupi.

The usual responses continue to be heard to using such a significant variation to standard procedure. It is too difficult: management won’t understand it. Perhaps then we need to study the experiences of major USA and Japanese projects as examples that have proved the point. The main changes occur in the human behavior of project management due the discipline imposed by critical chain principles: prioritising projects, assuming most durations are overestimated, aggregation and buffering of the safety before it’s lost, starting on time and measuring progress in time and not money. It not only sounds sensible, but it actually works.

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