Tata Steel--Mammoth Projects On Time and On Budget

Dec. 1, 2010
Before 2005, Tata Steel—one of the largest steel producers in India—created an optimistic plan and a pessimistic plan for its plant projects.
The managers involved in the projects inevitably took the pessimistic road. "It's human behavior that people take the most time allotted," says Sudipto Sarkar, head of technical services at the Hot Strip Mill at Tata Steel in Mumbai, India. "People start consuming the total time available and a sequence of delays gets passed on."For years, Tata offloaded project management to vendors. "We used to manage a project by giving it lock, stock and barrel to another company to do it for us," says Sarkar. "We used a lot of different vendors. We would tell them what we wanted, and they would organize it and make a plan."Even with plans in place, projects would invariably run behind schedule. So, in 2005, Tata decided to take project management back in-house. The company implemented project management tools from Realization, a software company in San Jose, Calif. "We converted around December of 2005, and now we've done about 100 projects," says Sarkar. "That includes a lot of different projects. Most are big construction projects such as building blast furnaces to convert pig iron into steel."Sarkar notes that the advantage of Realization is simple visibility. "We needed to take out the delays. So we made the projects visible to everyone all the time," says Sarkar. "When you go through the project plan, you see the time given to each group. Since the project is seen by everyone, the moment something is late, everything gets late. But if everyone sees it early enough, you can get the project back on time. With the visibility, there's shared ownership."The assumption behind Realization's program is that projects will always slip off schedule. "It's not that people don't make plans. People create very detailed plans," says Sanjeev Gupta, chief executive officer of Realization. "But sometimes suppliers are not on time, and within days, the plans are obsolete. If everyone is in the dark, you don't have everyone working on the same priority. We solved that problem by providing everyone with warnings. Instead of worrying about the schedule, they monitor what's going on and figure out what needs to be done."Related Feature - New Technology Keeps Projects On Time and On BudgetTo read the feature article relating to this story, go towww.automationworld.com/feature-7951.

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