Despite prolonged economic uncertainty and challenges, companies in the global engineering and construction sector have fresh confidence in the growth prospects for the industry. Data from the company indicate an upward trend. The industry is also changing, as it realises the importance of quantity surveying (QS), says infrastructure cost management consultancy firm Mandla Mlangeni Quantity Surveyors (MMQS) COO Themba Moyo.
Traditionally, there has been limited QS involvement in infrastructure projects, which resulted in these projects being mainly run by engineers; however, owing to the changing industry complexities and larger budgets, QS – which covers cost and resource management, procurement planning and asset capitalisation – is now regarded seen as an integral part of any infrastructure development.
“We are starting to see more large-scale multiuse projects, such as Waterfall Estate, in Johannesburg, which not only has residential units, but also a school, a hospital and retail blocks,” says Moyo, adding that this does not differ from African and international experience – it just means we are catching up with the rest of the continent and the global market – and that the role of the QS is evolving.
“The industry is moving away from managing budgets and spreadsheets to being cost managers – a person who is able to provide invaluable consultation and cost management services for clients and contractors,” highlights Moyo.
“A project’s cost manager is intrinsically involved in defining, managing and cementing all four pillars – scope, quality, time and cost – of the overall success of any project, which, with the changing industry, has certainly become more dynamic,” he adds.
The overarching role of cost management is to keep costs down, or at least within the budget, and to protect the return on investment – though this role is more complicated than merely being able to provide the project manager and the client with a holistic view of budgets.
In addition to budget management, a cost manager should also be able to undertake forecasting cost analysis, taking micro- and macroeconomic influences – including things such as cost of labour, inflation and exchange rates – into consideration, as these can have a significant impact on the project team’s ability to deliver within budget, says Moyo.
Further, a cost manager should also assess the risks associated with the project’s location and be proactive in pre-empting such risks with the project manager and/or client – as, in certain cases, such risks can make or break a project, he adds.
“Going forward, construction and engineering consortiums will need to complement each other from a skills strength point of view to be effective. Times are changing – budgets are tighter, expectations are higher and risks are amplified – so, to ensure that the construction industry is on the right path to meeting its expectations in terms of driving growth, those in the industry need to drive innovation, diversity and collaboration to make the change a positive one,” concludes Moyo.