Building Better Processes and Skills
As the built environment sector continues to evolve, firms in the industry need to catch up on digital transformation and develop new skills. Mr Tan Cheng Chuah, Managing Director of PM Link, shares tips on how his company made the shift.
As a subsidiary of the multidisciplinary architectural and engineering consultancy CPG Corporation, PM Link Pte Ltd (PM Link) is a project management company that specialises in conceptualising, planning and coordinating building and infrastructure projects both locally and overseas.
In the past, work was straightforward and only involved a few partners such as structural engineers, mechanical engineers and architects.
The industry has vastly evolved with the rising need for safety and sustainability and the advent of technologies. Client requirements have also increased in tandem, and project management firms must now be knowledgeable in areas like design for safety and maintainability, acoustics, façade design, construction methodology and more, said Managing Director, Mr Tan Cheng Chuah.
“Despite having decades of experience, we realised if we do not continue to equip ourselves with new skillsets to handle this evolving environment, we would be out of business very soon,” Cheng Chuah explained. “It’s survival. The built environment is changing, so either you stay relevant or you stay out.”
Technology has changed the game
He added that technology has leveled the playing field, and in many instances, new entrants are able to compete on equal footing with established players. The winners will not be those who have been around longer, but those who can integrate technology into their business processes.
It is with this realisation and vision in mind that motivated PM Link to partner Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees’ Union (BATU) to form a Company Training Committee (CTC) in 2019 to tap on NTUC Training and Placement Ecosystem’s suite of support, starting with the development of a five-year Operation & Technology Roadmap (OTR) to support its business transformation.
The CTC partnership and OTR effort was timely as it guided PM Link on the selection and implementation of new technology which paid off during the pandemic. For example, PM Link implemented a digital solution to create 360-degree progress pictures of construction sites. This made meetings more efficient and most importantly, enabled the company to overcome the safety distancing restrictions without needing to visit the physical site.
To ensure the new technology could be implemented smoothly, PM Link also developed a core competency matrix to identify the new skills for its project management team. This led to the roll out of Building Information Modelling (BIM) and safety skills training through the CTC that were catered specifically to the needs of project managers, so staff would be able to use the new technology in their unique roles.
Transformation is a two-way street
In Cheng Chuah’s experience, although change started from the top, “to be successful, both the employer and staff must see the big picture of why we are doing this.”
He strongly felt that the CTC platform and OTR development process was useful to bring management and employees together to brainstorm for solutions. While commitment from the top management drove the impetus for change, allowing junior staff to share their viewpoints and be heard during OTR workshops fostered co-ownership and buy-in from the whole company.
Cheng Chuah shared that successful business transformation requires a strong culture of learning and it helps if staff were aware of their own skills. That’s why in 2020, PM Link and the BATU CTC worked with SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) to implement a skills profiling digital solution to empower its employees to assess and benchmark their skills proficiencies against industry standards.
“Staff don’t know what they don’t know,” Cheng Chuah stated matter-of-factly. He added: “They might think they have a skill, but with the skills profiler, they can now see clearly if they are lacking in emerging areas like BIM management, and specifically say ‘I think I need training in this area’.”
He believes that this platform can be a valuable tool to help employees understand areas of improvement as they grow in their careers.
Reflecting on the changes brought about by COVID-19, Cheng Chuah added that there was a silver lining in that the pandemic has made the sector more adaptive and open to new ways of working. “We cannot operate in silos and I hope the industry will continue to advance and move forward in the overall sector transformation,” Cheng Chuah gracefully concluded.
Credits: This article was first published in SkillFully Issue #6, a newsletter published by the Enterprise Engagement Office of SkillsFuture Singapore. For more information on the full suite of Jobs and Skills initiatives, visit the Enterprise Portal for Jobs and Skills or email Enterprise_Engage@ssg.gov.sg today!