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Building new capabilities

Hua Siah Construction is leveraging technology to achieve cost and manpower savings.

A system to easily erect and dismantle metal column casts used to build columns results in a cost saving of S$8.90 per sq m.

HUA Siah Construction has been busy in recent years putting in place new technologies that can help improve its efficiency and reduce its reliance on manpower.

Since 2014, for instance, the company has been using 3D modelling and design visualisation technologies to manage its projects more effectively. Collectively known as building information modelling (BIM), these solutions have enabled the company to achieve over 20 per cent in manpower savings. The company has so far completed two projects using BIM, with another one currently ongoing.

Hua Siah focuses on the construction of industrial developments, and has completed more than 100 projects in Singapore to date. The company, which has 74 employees, registered a turnover of around S$53 million last year.

BIM is just one example of how the company leverages machinery and automation wherever possible to reduce manpower for works which are labour intensive, such as building formwork and concreting on site.

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For instance, it uses an innovative modular technique for the construction of floor slabs. The system uses a contraption that can be lowered or hoisted to construct a floor section. According to the company, this can reduce the floor cycle time from 25 days using a conventional method to 18 days, a 28 per cent productivity improvement. It can also save around S$13 per sq metre in costs.

Another system allows the company to easily erect and dismantle metal column casts used to construct columns, helping it to achieve a cost saving of S$8.90 per sq metre. For its concreting work, Hua Siah employs equipment with laser guided controls that achieves fast and accurate levelling, a quicker transfer and placement of concrete, and 30 per cent in overall manpower savings.

"We introduced these productivity innovations to deliver better quality work to our clients, as well as to be in line with the government's direction to reduce reliance on manpower," says Chua Chin Cheong, senior manager at Hua Siah.

The company has had to invest in training team members so that they are able to take full advantage of the new measures. "The challenge has been to change the mindsets of our staff to adopt the new technology and systems," explains Siew Yee Chuh, the firm's senior project manager.

For its efforts in employing new technologies, the company has been recognised with a number of industry accolades, including the BCA Construction Productivity Awards-Advocates (Builder-Open), Gold in 2014, and the BCA Green and Gracious Builders Merit in 2016.

Going forward, the company intends to implement more productivity initiatives.

These include using customised software for site inspections that can reduce inspection time from 20 to 12 minutes, expanding the use of BIM, and implementing a formal suggestion scheme to encourage its employees to contribute ideas for improvement.