Friday, March 30, 2012

EPC Services and Engineering Design Groups in India- Is there any HR crunch ?

I had earlier written a blog here highlighting the importance of engineering services departments for ensuring long term success of integrated steel plants of India. [You may read it Here !]

Engineering Services Departments (ESD) may be known in different names, but such a department is the key for ensuring success of capital project investments undertaken by the steel plants. Again success of the steel plants would invariably add to the economic progress of the country.

The same is applicable to other industries as well. For large process industries, existence of an ESD having a team of experienced and competent consulting engineers would be a great asset.

Some industries outsource the work of ESD to external engineering consultants. This is the only option for setting up a new industry. The following are some of the leading engineering consultancy service companies in India:

1. M. N. Dastur
3. Uhde
4. EIL
5. Tata Consulting Engineers
6. FP India
7. Fichtner India
9. Libra Process
10. Linde Engineering
11. CECON Consultants Pvt Limited

But once the industry has come in to existence, its in house ESD should be in a position to look after its future needs with regard to all additions, modifications, replacements and even modernizations.

But ESD's alone cannot guarantee success of any project involving Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC). While ESDs are responsible for drawing the outline of the project formulation and the project estimation from the purchaser's side, reputed EPC contractors having the core competency in undertaking the detailed engineering, procurement and construction of the project upto  its successful testing and commissioning are also essential to ensure the completion of the project successfully.

In India companies or firms having full fledged infrastructure in executing EPC contracts are limited in number. As a result, whenever massive infrastructure investments are taken up by a number of investors both in the private and public sector almost simultaneously the essential capacities of the EPC contractors with regard to expert man power and related infrastructure gets overburdened creating a bottleneck for speedy implementation of projects.

The reason for this is because of the haphazard planning by the authorities. You just cannot spend billions of rupees in one or two year's time if you do not have that many experienced people to execute the projects even when you think of outsourcing the contracts to foreign EPC contractors. EPC involves group efforts by many teams of experienced engineers in various levels and disciplines capable of doing works like surveying, development of basic and detailed engineering drawings, construction at site, equipment sourcing, inspection , erection, testing and other such activities.

In India expertize in the field of surveying, design and drawing, which is essential for any EPC contract to be successful, has not seen much advancement in the last many years commensurate with the requirements.

It takes years of work experience for engineers to develop expertize in this field. When you do not have EPC projects not taking place for decades at a stretch, there is no chance that those engineers who are placed with EPC related work are getting experience that is required to be gained. Again, lack of adequate work in this field has caused many organizations, both in public and private sector, to curtail the strength of engineers in this field or altogether redeploy them to other areas of work.

Thus during the period from 1990 to 2005, there has been a big slump in EPC related work in India in many sectors. Many EPC contract companies who used to have a good name in the past have just got vanished from the scenes.

Later when decisions are taken for massive spending in EPC contracts, the purchasers are left with no option other than awarding contracts to any one without actually ascertaining their capacities to do the work in time. Even those who have managed to get contracts are running here and there in search of experienced engineers to do the job. Those who took voluntary retirements from the sinking organisations of yester years are in great demand now.

But those who think that such engineers would be of some help in doing the work might not be knowing fully well about the complexities of the work done by an experienced team of engineers.

An individual engineer, even when he is experienced would be a helpless person unless he has got the backup support system by way of his peers , subordinates and others who used to be his strength. Besides, in a new place he is without his back up knowledge !

There are a few EPC contractors who are surviving the slump of the last decade and are perhaps doing well now. Now the time is good for them as there are plenty of orders and opportunities. Their order books should be full.

Some of the leading Indian EPC firms are :
1. Larsen and Toubro
2. Punj Lloyd
3. Jaypee Associates
4. Lanco Infratech
5. Nagarjuna Constructions
7. Simplex Infrastructure
9. Gammon India
11.Tata Projects
12. Shapoorji Pallonji
13. GVK
14. Siemens 
15. MECON (Public Sector)
17. EIL (Public Sector)
Whether it is an in-house ESD of a large industry or an engineering consultancy service company or an EPC service firm their efficacy and success depends on their ability to retain and develop engineering talent and expertise especially in the engineering design and consultancy field. This is indeed a difficult human resource development (HRD) task.

In engineering design and consultancy field every engineer from each of the specialized field of engineering discipline has to be with exemplary professional skills and knowledge. Without which the group cannot accomplish the challenges posed to it. Without having a steady inflow of assignments the group cannot gain experience. The group cannot expand to have more engineers to its fold, unless it has an assured income coming from engineering design and consultancy works.

EPC and engineering consultancy groups face this dilemma: to expand in manpower or not. Haphazard developments plans of the country is the biggest problem in this regard. EPC and consultancy groups are often compelled to play safe. They keep the man power at the minimum. Some consultancy companies that had grown too big in man power due to the work loads in the past decades had to adopt various means such as voluntary retirements to reduce its man power when work inputs reduced. This way a good chunk of their expertise in various areas got removed. Later when investment momentum began picking up, they faced human resource crunch which had its own effects in the quality of their engineering expertise and services. I would not like to name those groups because their managements officially would not like to highlight such drawbacks for obvious reasons.

The human resource vacuum that happened in India in core engineering fields with regard to real engineering experience, in all industries both in the public and private sectors, is the main reason why India is facing cost and time overruns in almost all infrastructural and industrial projects.

As engineering is a group activity, it would be very difficult to identify the areas of competency vacuums that exist in the various organizational hierarchy by statistical studies.

To identify this we need to adopt a different approach. The top authorities should open their eyes to recognize the ground realities in this important area that is critical to the country's future developments if at all progress is to be achieved in a reasonable time frame.

An open discussion by the people who are working in this area of EPC and engineering consultancy fields might be helpful.

It would be an interesting study if some one undertakes to find out the number of engineers working in design and engineering field in India and the details of their qualifications, experience, age, expertize, etc. I percieve a human resource (HR) inadequacy in this field. There is also a need to make this area an interesting career option for young and bright engineers. If the field does not attract them, progress of India would depend on foreign help perennially for ever.
I may be wrong in my perceptions.

Please correct me if I am.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

This is how we progress in form and mind !

When I read my favorite revelatory guide book, quite often I am awestruck by the sheer magnanimous gracefulness through which the superior revelators of each of the subject paper present the matter to readers like me.  Each and every stanza of the book is a wonderful and graceful presentation of some information that human beings should grasp if they have the capacity to do so.

Paper-48 of the book gives us the information regarding our first stage existence after death in a higher form of life defined as Morontia Life. There is no english equivalent of this word morontia. The definition of this word is given by the authors of the book.

Morontia is a type of material which is different from the materials that we see on earth. The earth materials are made up of about 100 odd elements which are again made of some 3 odd fundamental particles. Morontia is a material that is composed of certain fundamental particles with a different structure and internal energy levels that a morontia material can penetrate an earth material without the latter offering any resistance for that penetration.

But morontia is a material and not a form that we otherwise have known as 'spiritual'. Spiritual existence is also a real existence and it is a form higher in existence than morontia. A spiritual entity can therefore pass through both morontia material and earth material with the latters ever offering any resistance.

Just as there are material life forms as human beings, there exist morontia and spirit life forms in our universe. Majority of the material life forms exist in planets like earth which are evolved through a process involving controlled evolution. [In fact the first original life that existed must be that of God, the Universal Father God or the First Source and Centre of Everything and God existed and is existing in the Spirit Life form of the absolute original type.]

On the contrary, morontia and spirit life forms normally reside on enormous spheres that are specially designed and made by a totally planned process. The former ones are called evolutionary worlds and the latter are called architectural worlds.

There are trillions of evolutionary worlds and billions of architectural worlds in this great universe of ours.

Our material existence in our evolutionary world is our first life form. We develop our initial personality as human beings of this evolutionary world called earth.

Our next stage of existence is destined to be in an architectural world which is situated some light years away.

By our own scientist Mr Einstein, there is no chance of any one of us to visit such a distant world during our short life span with our material body because travel in light speed is impossible for anything that is material.
That is the limitation that we have with our material body forms.
We need to dematerialize to some form which would make it possible for us to travel by speeds much exceeding that of light to reach the next stage of our progressive existence which is in an architectural world light years away.

For that we have to leave our material body here in this world while our personality essence is taken out intact in some other form suitable for interplanetary transportation.

The process by which we leave the body here is our death here in this world.

And there exists a process by which our personality essence is preserved and taken out at the time of our material death here in this world.

There also exists a process by which our personality essence is transported to the next stage.

In the first architectural world then, we get a new body made of morontia material called the morontia body 'loaded' with the essential aspects of our earth personality.

Then our life proceeds for some years in the first stage morontia body in architectural world one.

Here our mind matures and learns more things after refreshing our memories and learnings from our first stage existence. We experience life in our second stage of existence. We are required to learn those things we somehow missed while on material life on earth plus additional things commensurate with our new morontia body capacity.
Then we proceed to our third stage of life which is in architectural world two after leaving our first morontia body to gain our second level morontia body.

We learn more things and gets more capacity to understand and perform more advanced things.

Thus we proceeds to morontia form seven and completes it to get spiritual body stage one.

This way we proceed covering several architectural worlds and perhaps study tours to other material worlds. At every stage we progress in our mind capacities with respect to knowledge, experience and much more that I am incapable of explaining with my present mind capacity.

Ultimately we reach the centre of every thing in the great universe. That is Paradise. There we will be in the presence of Universal Father God. By that time we will be highly advanced and experienced spirit beings capable of doing advanced functions that will be required to manage the affairs of this great universe during that time. Such of us who ultimately reaches the presence of God as experienced spirit beings of human origin in the distant future are going to be important functionaries of the universe affairs thereafter.
Is it not a great adventure ?

If so, why to worry much about this short life experience here in this world ?

There is no need.

But we have to pass successfully gaining certain essential learnings and experiences to be eligible to move forward.

Some essential progress in mind is needed to advance to the next advanced life form.

All those details are given in the book that I mentioned in the beginning.

I am skipping those here.

But I am intrigued to find some thing that is written in Paper-48 of this book which gives us some insight into what is called morontia mota.

Morontia mota is explained as the equivalent of human philosophy in Morontia Life. The lowest concepts of morontia mota equate with the highest concepts of human philosophy.

Now I will reproduce below those twenty eight statements of highest human philosophical concepts:

1. A display of specialized skill does not signify possession of spiritual capacity. Cleverness is not a substitute for true character.

2. Few persons live up to the faith which they really have. Unreasoned fear is a master intellectual fraud practiced upon the evolving mortal soul. 

3. Inherent capacities cannot be exceeded; a pint can never hold a quart. The spirit concept cannot be mechanically forced into the material memory mold.

4. Few mortals ever dare to draw anything like the sum of personality credits established by the combined ministries of nature and grace. The majority of impoverished souls are truly rich, but they refuse to believe it.

5. Difficulties may challenge mediocrity and defeat the fearful, but they only stimulate the true children of the Most Highs.

6. To enjoy privilege without abuse, to have liberty without license, to possess power and steadfastly refuse to use it for self-aggrandizement—these are the marks of high civilization.

7. Blind and unforeseen accidents do not occur in the cosmos. Neither do the celestial beings assist the lower being who refuses to act upon his light of truth.

8. Effort does not always produce joy, but there is no happiness without intelligent effort.

9. Action achieves strength; moderation eventuates in charm.

10. Righteousness strikes the harmony chords of truth, and the melody vibrates throughout the cosmos, even to the recognition of the Infinite.

11. The weak indulge in resolutions, but the strong act. Life is but a day’s work—do it well. The act is ours; the consequences God's.

12. The greatest affliction of the cosmos is never to have been afflicted. Mortals only learn wisdom by experiencing tribulation.

13. Stars are best discerned from the lonely isolation of experiential depths, not from the illuminated and ecstatic mountain tops.

14. Whet the appetites of your associates for truth; give advice only when it is asked for.

15. Affectation is the ridiculous effort of the ignorant to appear wise, the attempt of the barren soul to appear rich.

16. You cannot perceive spiritual truth until you feelingly experience it, and many truths are not really felt except in adversity.

17. Ambition is dangerous until it is fully socialized. You have not truly acquired any virtue until your acts make you worthy of it.

18. Impatience is a spirit poison; anger is like a stone hurled into a hornet’s nest.

19. Anxiety must be abandoned. The disappointments hardest to bear are those which never come.

20. Only a poet can discern poetry in the commonplace prose of routine existence.

21. The high mission of any art is, by its illusions, to foreshadow a higher universe reality, to crystallize the emotions of time into the thought of eternity.

22. The evolving soul is not made divine by what it does, but by what it strives to do.

23.  Death added nothing to the intellectual possession or to the spiritual endowment, but it did add to the experiential status the consciousness of survival.

24. The destiny of eternity is determined moment by moment by the achievements of the day by day living. The acts of today are the destiny of tomorrow.

25. Greatness lies not so much in possessing strength as in making a wise and divine use of such strength.

26. Knowledge is possessed only by sharing; it is safeguarded by wisdom and socialized by love.

27. Progress demands development of individuality; mediocrity seeks perpetuation in standardization.

28. The argumentative defense of any proposition is inversely proportional to the truth contained.

I am not sure how much of the above concepts are appreciated by you if at all you ventured reading these.

But if you are able to appreciate the meanings of at least half of these, you are indeed in a path of mind progress.

Perhaps you are a personality who is going to advance further in form and mind !

Use some fraction of your mind to think about it !

Best Wishes !

[Do you feel curious to know more about my favorite book that I mentioned above? Click Here ! You will get the links here to read the book online. If you are eager to read Paper-48 of the book right away Click Here !]

Thinking of owning a home in India ? You may consider these too !

There are basically two kinds of people who consider owning a residential property in India. The first types want to have a house of their own to live in happily ever after. The second types are those who consider houses as real estate assets that can be acquired and accumulated as means of wealth whose value rises with time. The first types would not dispose their houses come whatever may. On the other hand, the latter types might dispose off their houses at the most opportunistic moment of time. The former have sentiments attached to the house while the latter may not have such a soft thought.

The first types might be willing to spend a good fortune in building or furnishing their dream homes. For them home means many things such as a symbol of status, power, sentiment, pride, comfort, luxury, security, peace, showpiece, etc, etc., in addition to being a mere shelter for a living.

Whatever be the case, owning a magnificent home, unique in many ways is the dream of any human being. Whenever man gets enough money he looks towards making a house. For most people, whenever their incomes exceed the levels that are required for sustaining their lives with regard to food and clothing spending on home starts. The only thing that may precede this activity would be perhaps spending on jewelry.

In my home state, Kerala, a good number of people for the last two three generations have got opportunities to earn a few times more by working in foreign countries than their local cousins who toil similarly at their motherland. This excess incomes have translated into palatial homes in the nook and corner of Kerala for the last few decades. Those who could afford it made such huge brick and concrete buildings of all possible shapes and looks in just about fifty years time that consumed all the river sand this coastal state had accumulated ever since it came into being as a geographical entity! House building is such a craze with the Keralites now that all the natural raw materials for making a house such as sand, brick and timber are expensive materials for which the Malayalee would perhaps die or kill !

Taking a cue from the Malayalees and seeing their affluence as reflected in their palatial houses built from monies earned from hostile countries and regions abroad, the rest of India too got into action. Others from Bihar, Bengal, Punjab and Gujarat too began to venture out of India in search of incomes that their home country administrators would not allow them to make at home.

India is the only country in the world which has two types of citizens. Those toiling at home with lower incomes and higher taxes and those doing the same outside with higher incomes and lower taxes with the latter spending their excess in building homes as show pieces to show off their affluence to their less privileged country cousins.

Of late some of the foreign employers of Indians have realised this and began to set up their shops in Indian metros where they could employ them spending lesser than their own countries which have stringent laws in favour of the workforce than India. This has resulted in a spurt of demand for more comfortable shelters of international standards in the Indian metros.

Real estate business that used to be a phenomena of the Mumbai metro culture is now a booming industry all over India. The biggest gainer from this industry is the Indian governments and the colonisers (official name given to the private real estate business men)

Whatever be the case, there are more and more Indians who have excess incomes to divert to their dream homes. Some have more than enough to fulfil their dreams, while a greater number are with a comfortable earning more than that they need for their life routines.

Now the big question for the latter group is whether to venture into owning a residential property by committing their future excess income potentials to bank loan equitable monthly instalments (EMI) or not.

This blog is for this group of people.

My advice for them would be this.

If you have a house any where else such as a likely share from your parents and your income excess is just enough to meet you EMIs, I would advice you not to go for a house. It would be better for you to live comfortably in a rented accommodation and save you excess incomes to accumulate in other safe manner. Never ever make an EMI commitment which is just matching your excess income or higher even marginally.

If your excess income cannot afford a home in your place of work, for example in a metro city near to your work place,  but can comfortably afford one located in some other location, you may think of owning that as an asset. In this case, you should be prepared to dispose it when you are in need of cash or when you find a reasonable appreciation of your savings.

Once you have decided to buy a property, check the reliability of the seller and the details of the property thoroughly. In India, property related litigation and troubles are many. Just because the property is cleared by some authority does not mean that it is a safe investment. In India there are too many authorities who could cut each other at your costs !

Never buy a property which you cannot look after. You should establish your credentials in the locality where you are proposing to own the property and do all such things to physically take possession of it by making your ownership known to a few of your neighbours.

Ensure that all the property documents are properly made  with regard to the identities of the seller and the buyer. Ensure also that your property is well defined in the documents. Checking the details of the property with some legal practitioner experienced in this field is a wise idea.

If you are thinking of buying a new flat or apartment in a multi storied apartment building from a builder, you should know that there are certain things for which you are responsible. There are many things which are common facilities which need to be managed and maintained well for all the years later if the property need to be a good dwelling place. This includes the regular cleaning, garbage collection, lift operation and maintenance, management of security, water supply system operation and maintenance, parking space management, etc. As per the prevailing Indian laws as applicable in different states, these are responsibilities that are to be handled by the association of the owners themselves. These are not the responsibility of the builder of the real estate developer.

In India many buyers of apartments are pretty unaware of this fact. They are made to believe that the real estate company which sold the flat would take care of this always. The real estate company would not tell the buyers about this and they keep telling and advertising these in such a clever manner that the buyer would know about these only by hard experience later.

It is a wise idea to know the details of the other buyers of flats in the same apartment building. If the majority of the owners have just bought it as an investment, the place many not be a good one for a comfortable living, unless there is a responsible society which is in place to manage it.

The apartment owners societies are a type of local government and are formed by democratic principles. For the same reason, there is all possibility of vested interests or incompetent persons managing the affairs from time to time later making things not so palatable to the individual owners or residents.

But awareness of these things by the owners and their tenants would make things much easier for all.

The multi storey apartment management is not an easy thing. There should be a dedicated team of employees and a responsible management who knows fundamentals of good management. If not there will be hardships for the residents.

Future value of an apartment in a multi storied apartment building depends much on the way it is managed and maintained in the future years after the builder has sold the individual units. Much of this depends on the mutual understanding among the owners who form the management association of the apartment building. Mutual distrust and infighting between the owners can cause great damage to the individual owners. It is in the interest of the owners to encourage the few among them who volunteer to take the responsibility of forming their association. If no one comes forward they should be prepared to take up this responsibility themselves. If you are not willing to do this, you should not consider buying a flat.

If you are thinking of making a house of your own in a piece of land, then you should check the details of the land. All lands in India are not suitable for residential purposes. It is better that you check all these matters carefully.

My purpose of writing this blog is not to give all the details concerning property matters here. It is only to remind those thinking of owning a residential property regarding some of the important aspects that they should keep in mind before actually venturing in to it.

Buy or build homes that are of a size that you actually need. Huge sized homes are a liability even for those who have surplus incomes and wealth.

But if those of this kind want to indulge in showing off their riches, let them do it. After all what would such people do with the accumulation of money with them. If they spend those huge sums of money in making palatial buildings that would benefit the architects, artisans, contractors and the governments besides beings eyecatching delights to the commons. In one or two generations time those buildings would either become museums or ghost bungalows or hotels or government offices, if we take the cue from the past !

But ideally a family comprising of less than four members does not need a house which is more than 1500 square feet of carpet area. Any thing half that size I would say just a necessity and any thing double or more I would say an extravaganza.

I am a common man and I cannot think like aristocrats. But I do pity those neorich fellows who do everything in life to live like aristocrats of the past by building palatial buildings, some of them much bigger and stylish than the palaces of the royals of the past. Pitying because of their desparate dependency on servants and household staff on whom they have sold off their self esteem, privacy and personal hygiene. Real big houses are indeed prisons, may be even worse than prisons !

In one way you should be happy if you are not of the vulgar rich type who can afford a palace !

Friday, March 23, 2012

Paradise is not an Imagination; It is Real !

The celestial authors of the Urantia Book papers very categorically tell us about the abode of the Universal Father God and His divine associates. The word which has been in use for so many centuries is again used as the nomenclature of this eternal dwelling place of God. It is called Paradise.

Paradise is not an imaginary place. It is a real material body, which existed in this universe even before the rest of the heavenly bodies in the universe came in to existence.

Paradise is unique and is made of a single material substance not to be found elsewhere in the universe. It is the largest material object in the whole universe, much larger than any of the stars or such heavenly bodies.

Paradise is the centre of the Universe. All heavenly bodies in the universe is attracted towards this nucleus and they all move around it in one way or the other.

Paradise is the only stationary object in the whole universe. All other heavenly objects are continuously on the move-moving under gravitational force lines ultimately originating from Paradise.

Again, paradise is not spherical. Its shape is unique.

We never knew about all these things in the past. Now these things are all revealed to us.

More of that revealed knowledge about Paradise may be read in Paper- 11 of the Urantia Book titled: the Eternal isle of Paradise.

It is quite a readable paper of the Urantia Book.

Now what difference it would make if you know about this ?

To me it gave the greatest assurance that God is real. And I have all the reason to believe in the reality of God and live according to His will.

And His will is also a reality and not some one's imagination ! 

Unfair Business Practices of Indian Service Provider Companies !

In this blog I want to high light some of the unfair business practices adopted by some of the Indian companies especially doing business in the service sector directly dealing with individual customers. I would also like to highlight some of the business models which are adopted by some companies in a reasonably acceptable manner on which the customers should not have any complaints.

The kind of companies I want to discuss here are those with whom I have interacted in some business as a customer and where I have found certain kind of unfair dealings as being carried out by them. They belong to these services:

1. Banking Service

2. Life Insurance

3. General Insurance

4. Health Insurance

5. Telecom Service

In the banking service sector the banks have now extensively gone in for Internet enabled services. A good majority of the individual customers need not go to the bank for day to day transactions involving money. This is in fact a very good progress from the earlier days. Individual savings bank customers, from whom the banks get their money for doing their other financial operations, are also at ease as they are not to spare time to visit the bank branches. They are more and more getting accustomed to this convenience.

But here comes the annoying factor. For certain mundane things the banks do not have a system wherein the customer is exempted from visiting the bank. They are yet to incorporate a practice of customer interacting or communicating with them through a secured e-mail. Some banks have introduced communications to the customers when the customers log in. But a logged in customer cannot interact with the bank authorities of some of their problems. For customer care, some banks have adopted 7x24 services of phone banking and through call centre outsourcing. But the irritating feature here is that these services are outside the domain of the logged in customer.

But these are so horrendous and mechanized that no human being ever would like to use if they have a choice. I hate these fellows who invented these computerized telephone services which is of no use for genuine customers.

I just cannot understand what prevents the banks from having a one-to-one communication with the customer through a secured e-mail system. What I meant here is that the customer making a representation of his problem of demand through e-mail after he establishes his identity after logging in to the online banking service even for non-routine requests or complaints and the bank taking cognizance of the same and acting. It is the responsibility of the banks to make identity of the customers. But they can do that where ever they feel like by not making the customers visit their bank branches ( which are now located in inaccessible corners of crowded cities!)

Coming to the insurance service companies I would say they are extremely customer friendly at the time of insuring. They provide good incentives to their agents and officers for 'catching' the customers and insuring them with their various kinds of insurance 'products'. All of them provide home service. They take appointment and are willing to come to your home for selling their product.

But once sold their policies and obtaining your commitment in premium pay-outs they become too hostile when the customer ever become unfortunate to demand the insured sum from them. It is the case with all insurance companies in India, whether in public sector or private sector. Poor customers, they will know about the hard reality only at the most unfortunate time and that time is not so appropriate for running after them. So the insurance companies in India are too unfair in their services. They sell their fine print policy documents, no doubt in a friendly manner. But they would never ever show that friendliness if you ever happen to communicate with them afterwards. Their policies would not even show the procedure to be adopted or even the name and addresses of their officers with whom the policy holder should communicate in case of a claim. Even if such a thing is shown it would be written in such fine print or obscure way clearly showing their hidden agenda that they do not actually intent that any one should do it.

Coming to the telecom service. They have now come up with thousand and one ways of extracting the customers money without the customer ever knowing about it. They take small small amounts from the customers and keep filling their coffers. There is absolutely no way to prove a telecom company at fault. Even when their line do not work, they charge the customers. They are also one sided service providers.

But imagining that the customers are fools always is the biggest mistake these companies would be doing. They may be fooling around for some time and making money. But they would be doomed in the long run if they keep doing this kind of services for ever.

The inability of these companies to provide fair service to the customers is due to their unfair prioritization of policies. Their employees are not properly educated or inadequately trained.

Indian service companies have to learn a lot from their western counterparts. Name sake collaborations with some western companies alone would not be sufficient.

To do business without cheating the customers and to succeed on a long term basis they need to learn and understand the principles of business ethics and real customer satisfaction from their hearts and not just in advertisement gimmicks !

Now coming to the fair practices.

I find many of the on line service provider companies providing services of airline or railway ticket booking, travel booking, hotel booking, show booking, etc are doing fairly good service. Most often they automatically restore the moneys transferred where bookings were not effected. They also attend to the complaints to restore the customer confidence. More often their business models are hassle free in general. The general complaints are on account of the Internet connection failures or power failures which are mostly beyond their control. But their softwares do take care of such eventualities. Most of these companies also talk to their customers or send them e-mail communications to the satisfaction of the customers.

I also find the so-called radio taxi services which have been started in some of the metros reasonably good. These business models if extended on a large scale covering more areas would immensely help the general public. The main hindrance in the expansion of such businesses are the local administration and the state governments.

On the overall, there is immense potential in India for companies who wish to do business in a fair manner.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Archiving of Engineering Drawings: An Essential Requirement for Large Process Industries !

Sometime ago I had written a blog about the importance of good record keeping practices for better administration. [ Your can read that here !] In this blog, I would like to cover the importance of record keeping and record management with special emphasis on engineering drawings and documents.

Engineers who are employed in technical fields understand the importance of engineering drawings and documents in their work. Unfortunately, those who are in the top management of industries do not necessarily know the gravity of engineering document management for their respective industries. You can not find fault with them on this count because, their time and efforts are absorbed in keeping the business financially viable and profitable. Detailed technical issues are complex and it is not wise to get entangled in such things. That has to be left to the technical managers down below.

But yet engineering drawings and documents are be regarded with due respect and owe right from the time they are created. To understand the importance of engineering and technical documents, let us consider the case of a large process industry which is being set up involving a capital expenditure to the tune of Rs.10,000 Cr ( $ 20 billion) or above.

Nearly 25 % of this cost is towards design and engineering. That is the cost involved in making the drawings and documents that are needed to set up the plant. That is a cool $ 5 billion. The break up of this 25 % would be some thing like below:

         Preparation of Feasibility Reports, Detailed Project Reports : 5 %
         Detailed Engineering by Plant design consultants : 8 %
         Detailed engineering by equipment and system suppliers : 12 %

Again, nearly 30 % of the project time schedule is typically taken for design and engineering. That is for making the engineering drawings and documents that are needed for construction, procurements, erection, testing and commissioning.

If the designers and suppliers are doing the work mostly for the first time, the time taken would be much more. If they are adopting designs made and used in other projects earlier, the time taken could be reduced to some extent.

The extent of details of the plant and equipment that are covered by proper drawings and documents will be more in a properly designed and executed plant project. Such projects are likely to be implemented smoothly as planned and in time.

Drawings and documents are the language of the engineers and technologists. It cover many types of information for various purposes. [ See Engineering Drawings for more details ]

Depending on the purpose and the content, drawings are prepared and printed on standard sizes of paper or other media having some prescribed dimensions as per international standards, such as A0, A1, A2, A3 and A4, the first being the largest. [See Sizes of Drawings ]

Preparation of an engineering drawing typically A1 or A0 takes about one week time for getting prepared, provided the design engineer is clear about his designs. The time of drafting and revisions can be much faster when modern computerized design and drafting software such as Auto CAD are used. However, this also requires high degree of training and skills.

A project of the size that we have considered can come to shape only with the help of thousands of drawings.

As drawings and documents contains confidential and critical information, business organizations that realize the importance of these take utmost care in its handling , preservation and management.

Technical document management systems (TDMS) therefore becomes a very important function for industrial organizations of the size that we have considered above.

Drawings are most required at the time of erection of the plant. Without referring to the design drawings, construction and erection of the plant systems are impossible. Technical documents such as testing and commissioning instructions are needed while the plant systems are taken for testing and commissioning.

Depending on the type of information contained, engineering drawings are classified as Civil, Layouts, General Arrangements, Process Flow and Instrumentation (P&I), Architectural, Electrical, Mechanical, Structural, Piping, etc.

A plant which has been commissioned after spending a few billion dollars would become a national asset whether it is in the private ownership or in public ownership. It is required to be functional for a few decades.

No plant of this order and magnitude can operated for longer periods, unless it is maintained well and continuously improved upon by periodical additions, modifications and replacements (AMR) of its plant systems and equipment.

Whether it is for the day to day maintenance or the long term AMR, study of the existing plant and equipment details would be required to be done by the concerned technical personnel. This is possible only when the plant has a proper TDMS department entrusted with the archiving and reprographic functions of its technical drawings and documents.

In olden days this department used to be called the technical archives. Now-a-days it is known as the Documentation Centre of the Technical Document Management Centre (TDMC)

Drawings and documents generated by the consultants and the suppliers are made for the client who has spent the money for building the plant and hence belong to the latter. The consultants and the suppliers provide a few sets of copies of these to the client at the time of plant construction, supply, erection and commissioning. It is the plant owners responsibility to set up the TDMC to take care of the drawings and documents for its future use.

If care is not taken to receive and store the drawings with proper systems initially, the handling and management of the technical drawings and documents would pose a Himalayan task for the industry later.

Drawings made by the consultants and the suppliers will essentially have a drawing number and a title which briefly describes the contents inside.

However, the purpose of the individual suppliers of the plant and equipment in making their drawings are different from the client who is to preserve and use it for a longer duration of time later. The formers' responsibility is short term while the latter's is long term. 

It would be almost impossible to locate a drawing later when thousands of drawings get mixed up. Hence, keeping the drawings in a systematically indexed manner is of utmost importance.

Now-a-days drawings and documents come in different forms. Some are hard copies made on paper, such as blue prints, photo copies, machine drawn prints, transparencies, hand drawn or microfilms. Other types are digital copies or prints made with the help of many formats such as pdf, tiff, dwg, jpg, bmp, etc and stored in hard disks, compact disks (CD/DVD) or various other digital storage media.

All these have different methods for storing, handling, accessing and preservation. They all have different shelf lives. Microfilms and digital media, though good for better management on a longer period are also prone for quick destruction if not handled or managed carefully.

The TDMC should preferably planned in a separate building with due care with regard to its ambiance and aesthetics. Though drawings and documents appear to be value less paper for ordinary folks, they are of immense value for those who are in need of it. Sometimes, inability to retrieve a piece of technical information from a drawing or document can cost dearly to the industry concerned. Hence, wise and visionary managements do not mind spending a bit for setting up a TDMC and entrusting it with dedicated and committed personnel for managing it. Carelessness in handling the drawings and documents right from the beginning in the right manner would cause innumerable problems for the plant operating personnel in later years.

TDMC should essentially have building infrastructure ensuring an ambiance which is air conditioned, dust and vermin free, rodent free and fire protected. It should have properly designed furniture with good quality to hold all kinds of drawings in all forms. Separate rooms or enclosures should be earmarked for the repository areas holding different kinds of media.

There should be a receipt section where incoming drawings and documents are opened, studied, indexed and registered. It should be manned my archive staff capable of identifying drawings and documents and indexing them with proper coding and entering the key identification details in registers or computers. There are various kinds of drawing archiving software available for this purpose. [Click Here for Example] Drawings and documents as received in the TDMC of the industry from the consultants, contractors and vendors will now get a different archive number at this receipt section of the TDMC. This number may be a simple serial number or it can have a complex structure to help the users to identify the drawings at a later stage to some extent. However, one part of the number shall run serially as per the incoming sequence of the documents and it shall be the identifier to store the drawings and to locate them later.

Computerizing the drawing titles and archive numbers with appropriate key words would help to search a drawing quickly in later years. Hence, utmost care has to be taken to do this properly while the drawings are initially registered with the TDMC.

The TDMC should have visitors' section where facilities for searching the drawings and viewing the contents of selected drawings shall be provided to technical personnel having authorization to access such information. For the interest of the industry, it is advisable to keep the centre a protected area with restricted entry. There shall also be facilities for reprography of various kinds which would ensure easier availability of copies or prints of archived drawings for permanent use later for specific purposes and preserving the originals from not getting damaged or lost for ever.

An industry where good TDMC practices are adopted would be likely to be managed much better. Suppliers and consultants would be happy to work with such an industry later. Availability of relevant engineering data would make their work much more simplified.

Industries who have realized this are taking due care in TDMS and set up of proper TDMC with proper manning. As in all walks of life, there are industries who are ignorant in this aspect and mismanage this causing much distress to their overall management.

Interestingly many old industries in the western world are spending large sums of money to convert their old physical drawings that are archived to scanned images and vectorized digital drawings for making their TDMS functions in accordance with modern technology. Many Indian firms are helping them to achieve this task.

[For more on line reading click the links here : 1  ;  2  ; 3 ]

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

ഇലന്തൂരും ഇലന്തൂര്‍ സി ടി മത്തായിയും: ഒരു ഓര്‍മ്മക്കുറിപ്പ്‌ !

പത്തനംതിട്ടയ്ക്കും കോഴെന്‍ചേരിയ്ക്കും ഏകദേശം നടുവിലായിട്ടാണ് ഇലന്തൂര്‍ നെടുവേലി ജങ്ക്ഷന്‍. നെടുവേലി മുക്കെന്നു ഇലന്തൂര്‍ക്കാര്‍ വിളിക്കുന്ന ഈ മുക്കില്‍ നിന്നും ഒരു കിലോമീറ്റര്‍ ഓമല്ലൂര്‍ റോഡില്‍ പോയാല്‍ ഇലന്തൂര്‍ പുത്തന്‍ചന്ത ആയി.

ഇന്നീ ഇലന്തൂര്‍ ഓമല്ലൂര്‍ റോഡ്‌ വാഹന ബാഹുല്യം കൊണ്ട് നടക്കാന്‍ പറ്റുന്ന അവസ്ഥയിലല്ല. അതുമൂലം നെടുവേലി മുക്കില്‍ നിന്നും ഇലന്തൂര്‍ മാര്‍ക്കറ്റ്‌ വരെ പോകണമെങ്കില്‍ ഓട്ടോ തന്നെ ശരണം. ഓട്ടോകള്‍ക്ക് ഒരു പഞ്ഞവുമില്ല. ഉത്തര ഭാരതത്തിലെ പല വലിയ സിറ്റികളില്‍ ഉള്ളതിനേക്കാള്‍ കൂടുതല്‍ ഓട്ടോകള്‍ നെടുവേലി മുക്കിലുണ്ട്.

എന്റെ കുട്ടിക്കാലത്ത് ഈ റോഡ്‌ മെറ്റല്‍ ഇട്ട ഒരു പ്രധാന വഴി മാത്രമായിരുന്നു. പെട്രോളും ഡീസലും അല്ലാത്ത നീരാവി മൂലം ഓടുന്ന തീ വണ്ടി ബസുകള്‍ ഇത് വഴി സര്‍വീസ്‌ നടത്തിയിരുന്ന ഒരു കാലം ഉണ്ടായിരുന്നു. അത്തരം ഒരു ബസില്‍ എനിക്ക് ഒന്നോ രണ്ടോ വയസു പ്രായമുള്ളപ്പോള്‍ യാത്ര ചെയ്ത ഓര്‍മ്മ ഇപ്പോഴും ഒരു പുകപ്പാട് പോലെ മനസ്സില്‍ തങ്ങി നില്‍ക്കുന്നുണ്ട്.

അതിനു ശേഷം പെട്രോള്‍ ബസുകള്‍ ഓടാന്‍ തുടങ്ങി. കൂര്‍ത്ത മുന്‍വശവും കഷ്ട്ടിച്ചു പത്തിരുപതു പേര്‍ക്ക് ഇരിക്കാവുന്നതുമായ ഒന്നോ രണ്ടോ ബസുകള്‍ ആയിരുന്നു ആദ്യമൊക്കെ. കൊഴെഞ്ചേരിയെയും കായംകുളത്തെയും യോജിപ്പിക്കുന്ന ബസ്‌ സര്‍വീസുകള്‍. ആദ്യം ഓടി തുടങ്ങിയത് ഗോപാലകൃഷ്ണന്‍ ബസും കെ സി ടി ബസും ആണെന്നു തോന്നുന്നു.

ആയിരത്തി തൊള്ളായിരത്തി അമ്പതുകളുടെ അവസാനം കേരളപ്പിറവിക്കു ശേഷം വന്ന ഈ എം എസിന്റെ കമ്മ്യൂണിസ്റ്റ്‌ മന്ത്രി സഭയെ താഴെ ഇറക്കാന്‍ കോണ്‍ഗ്രസുകാര്‍ നടത്തിയ വിമോചന സമരം കുറെയൊക്കെ എന്റെ മനസ്സില്‍ തങ്ങി നില്‍പ്പുണ്ട്. ആരുടെ ഒക്കെയോ എളിയില്‍ ഇരുന്നു പോലീസ് വണ്ടിയില്‍ കയറിയ ഓര്‍മ ഇപ്പോഴും മാഞ്ഞിട്ടില്ല.

അന്നത്തെ ഇലന്തൂരിലെ പ്രധാന വിദ്യാഭ്യാസ ഉപാധികള്‍ ചാക്കല്‍ ഗവ. യു.പി സ്കൂളും (ഇന്നത്തെ ഗവ. മോഡല്‍ ഹൈ സ്കൂള്‍) ഗാന്ധി ശിഷ്യനായിരുന്ന കെ കുമാര്‍ജി നടത്തിയിരുന്ന ശ്രീ ഗാന്ധി സര്‍വോദയ ലോവര്‍ പ്രൈമറി സ്കൂളും (അന്ന് പെമ്പള്ളിക്കൂടമെന്നും അറിയപ്പെട്ടിരുന്ന ഈ സ്കൂള്‍ ഇന്നില്ല) ആയിരുന്നു. ഇതില്‍ രണ്ടാമത്തെ സ്കൂളില്‍ ആണ് ഞാന്‍ എന്‍റെ ആദ്യ വിദ്യാഭ്യാസം നടത്തിയതെന്ന് പറയാന്‍ എനിക്ക് അഭിമാനമുണ്ട്. കാരണം അന്നീ സ്കൂളിന് ലഭിച്ചിരുന്ന ബഹുമാനം ഇന്നത്തെ ഹൈ ഫൈ ഇംഗ്ലീഷ് മീഡിയം പബ്ലിക് സ്കൂളുകള്‍ക്ക് ഇല്ലെന്നത് തന്നെ.

ഇലന്തൂരിനെ കേരളം ആകമാനം അറിയുന്ന ഒരു പ്രദേശം ആക്കാന്‍ സഹായിച്ച എഴുത്തുകാരനും പ്രാസംഗികനും ആയിരുന്നു ഇലന്തൂര്‍ സി ടി മത്തായി എന്നറിയപ്പെട്ടിരുന്ന എന്റെ ജോണിച്ചായന്‍. മുട്ടത്തുകോണം  എസ് എന്‍ ഡി പി സ്കൂളിലെ അദ്ധ്യാപകന്‍ ആയിരുന്നു ഇദ്ദേഹം. എന്റെ ബന്ധുവും അതിലുപരി സുഹൃത്തും. ഇലന്തൂര്‍ പഞ്ചായത്ത് പ്രസിഡണ്ട്‌ ആയി വളരെ കാലം അദ്ദേഹം പ്രവര്‍ത്തിച്ചിരുന്നു. ഒരു പ്രധാന അധ്യാപക സംഘടനയുടെ സംസ്ഥാന അധ്യക്ഷനും ആയിരുന്നു.

പത്രങ്ങളിലും മറ്റും എഴുതിയിരുന്ന ഇദ്ദേഹം ആണ് ഇല്ലങ്ങളുടെ ഊര് എന്ന പ്രയോഗം ഇലന്തൂരിനു കൈ വരാന്‍ ശ്രമിച്ച ആദ്യ എഴുത്തുകാരന്‍. ഇലന്തൂരിന്റെ ചരിത്രം പഠിക്കുവാന്‍ ഒരു ചരിത്ര അദ്ധ്യാപകന്‍ ആയിരുന്ന ഇദ്ദേഹം വളരെ ശ്രദ്ധ ചെലുത്തിയിരുന്നു. 

അദ്ദേഹത്തിന്റെ അകാല മരണത്തിനു ശേഷം ആ ഓര്‍മ നില നിര്‍ത്താന്‍ ഇലന്തൂര്‍ക്കാര്‍ ആദ്യ കാലങ്ങളില്‍ കുറെയൊക്കെ ശ്രമിച്ചിരുന്നു. 

കെ കുമാര്‍ജിയും സി ടി മത്തായിയുമൊക്കെ അങ്ങനെ വെറും ഓര്‍മകളില്‍ കൂടി ഇല്ലാതെ ആയിരിക്കുന്നു.

വളര്‍ന്നു കൊണ്ടിരിക്കുന്ന പട്ടണ സംസ്കാരം അധികം താമസിയാതെ ഈ ഇലന്തൂര്‍ പോലെയുള്ള കേരള ഗ്രാമങ്ങളെ ഒക്കെ വിഴുങ്ങി എന്നിരിക്കും.

അത് നല്ലത് എന്നാണല്ലോ ഇപ്പോഴത്തെ ജന വിചാരം. 

കാലം പോയ പോക്കെ !

അല്ലാതെന്തു പറയാന്‍ ?

ഇലന്തൂരിന്റെ പുതിയ തലമുറക്കാര്‍ കൊച്ചിക്കും തിരുവനന്തപുരത്തേക്കും ഒക്കെ ചേക്കേറി കൂടു കൂട്ടാന്‍ ആഗ്രഹിക്കുന്നവരാണ്.

പേരെടുത്ത ഇലന്തൂര്‍ക്കാരായ പുതു തലമുറയിലെ മീരാ ജാസ്മിനും മോഹന്‍ലാലിനും ഒന്നും ഇപ്പോള്‍ ഇലന്തൂരില്‍ വേരുകള്‍ ഇല്ല.

അത് പോലെ മറ്റു പലരും.

അവരുടെ ഒക്കെ അടുത്ത തലമുറകള്‍ ഈ നാടിനെ ഒരു കാലത്ത് തേടി വരുമെന്ന് നമുക്ക് കരുതാം.

ആയിരത്തിലധികം വര്‍ഷങ്ങള്‍ കൊച്ചിയില്‍ തമ്പടിച്ചിരുന്ന ജൂതന്മാരുടെ പിന്‍തലമുറ ഇസ്രയേലില്‍ തിരിച്ചു പോയതും നമ്മള്‍ക്ക് അറിവുള്ള കാര്യമാണല്ലോ.

[ലേഖകന്‍റെ കൂടുതല്‍ മലയാള ബ്ലോഗുകള്‍ ഇവിടെ കാണാം !]

[The above lines are written in Malayalam -the native language of Kerala. It tells about my village Elanthoor (Elanthur) which lies between the two towns, Pathanamthitta and Kozhencherry  and about my childhood friend and guide who used to be known in Kerala as Elanthoor C T Mathai . He was a teacher, local politician and a local historian who had  exemplary literary qualities. His oratory skills in the vernacular language used to keep people listen attentively to him. It is over a decade that Elanthoor C T Mathai passed away. Many such prominent personalities of this village are no more. Though Elanthoor is an important administrative unit in the progressive state of Kerala, there is a growing trend among affluent and well known people of the village to move out of the village and to settle abroad or in other cities. But it is hoped that those left the village would come back some time later. ]

Reasons for Marital Discords : Understand these if you want to live in the heaven on earth !

A man is physically and psychologically different from a woman, though both belong to the same species of homo sapiens. Though there is an instintive natural attraction between the two, that attraction is for the purpose of ensuring the continuity of the species, and that alone cannot guarantee a cordial relation between the two kinds.

A man wants the company of a woman and vice versa. Without that they are ruined and feel lonely and desparate.

Yet when they are together for a long time, most of them cannot live in peace !

When separated for long, they want to be together and when together they want to be separated !

Is it not something difficult to understand ?

If the husband and the wife keep on living the way they loved and cared each other during the initial days of their courtship or marriage, all through out their earthly lives, how wonderful it would have been?

But why these two initially loving creatures become furious and annoyed at each other on some occassions even to the extent of killing or damaging each other and their near and dear ones including their own children?

They are intelligent, wise, caring, educated, respected, spiritual and what not.

But when they start the fight, they are none of the above !

Why do such a thing happen between the human couples ?

When they fight, they are least bothered about their reputation and self respect.

They are worse than those who have lost their consciousness to intoxicants.

Sometimes they do patch up after some time and regain the previous status of love and care, only to be retrograded to the state of fight and discord later !

Why such a thing happen in human species ?

Remember, they are intelligent and wise. Still this happens !

They don't even feel the shame at that mood !

Their blood pressure rise to such hights that if things are not okay, their vessels might burst !

When this happens, they keep thinking of killing the other or self. The same self or the mate who is so dear at other times !

It has happened with me too. I am not hesitant to admit.

I kept pondering over this issue for quite a long time.

Then I found that it is me who is at fault, and not my wife.

Because, my views on certain things are naturally different than hers.

We cannot agree on those because it is naturally in built in our system.

That is why I am a male and she is a female !

If we have to live in peace always, I have to train my male ego to adapt to her female ego.

For a male it is easier, than for a female.

Because, the Creator of these species had put up some genetic codes in that manner.

But once learnt the trick of adapting my male ego to the tune of my female companion, these discords seldom take shape.

That is what I have learnt.

But if both the male and female have learnt the trick, then I tell you, they should be the happiest pair on earth.

For the female is complement to the male and vice versa.

They are like the molecules of the active gases, like oxygen or hydrogen !