The Spartans team from WS Atkins India led throughout the final stages of the MERITmanagement game at Loughborough University on 12-13 May, to receive the trophy from ICE President Sir John Armitt.
Indeed this year was something of a triumph for Atkins’ overseas operations, with a team from the firm’s Hong Kong office as runner up, and two other Atkins India teams among the six finalists.
MERIT (management, enterprise, risk, innovation and teamwork) is a web-based computer simulation game competition. It allows young professionals, working in groups and acting as a board of directors and managers, to run their own virtual construction company. The early rounds are played against a computer, with just the top six of this year’s 117 entries making the finals, where they competed against each other.
Spartans’ Akrisht Pandey attributed his team’s success to tactics including finishing jobs early to improve client relationships.
His team also sought out different clients to provide a broader client base. But success was also down to sheer hard work: since January the team had been working on MERIT for two or three hours every night, plus some mornings and weekends.
Much of the work was done on line, as the team was spread over two Atkins offices – in Bangalore and in Gurgaon near Delhi.
“We were really enjoying it,” said Pandey, ”especially after the first two rounds when we realised we were doing well.”
The Indian team’s success may well reflect what is going on in the real world, believes Atkins’ global design centre interface manager Julien Green who accompanied his teams to Loughborough. The firm has more than 1,400 staff in India, enabling Atkins to resource projects in the UK and the rest of the world to provide additional support. Education in India is more than a match for the UK, says Green, and staff motivation is particularly high. ”And our Indian offices are more than matching the performance of our UK offices on a range of measures – innovation, delivery on time, quality and budget, right-first-time.”
Inevitable difficulties, particularly around client interface and differences in culture, are addressed by regular exchange visits: Atkins invested nearly £20,000 in bringing its teams to the finals, but the trip also included visits to several of the firm’s UK offices.
Just pipped into third place by the One Atkins team was SUPERnOVA from Arup’s Hong Kong office. The only UK team to reach the final was Nott MacDonalds from Mott MacDonald’s Sheffield office in fourth place.
On presenting the ICE silver salver to the winners, Armitt laid down two challenges to the participants. The first was to recognise that central to the success of major projects was politics and money: ”There are always technical issues, but there are also politics and funding. We as engineers don’t like doing this. But we have to articulate the arguments. It’s a challenge for the profession, we must get out and join the debate.”
His second challenge was to stimulate innovation, where he believed construction has fallen far behind industries like biochemistry, aerospace or telecoms. ”Who is going to make the breakthrough in materials technology, or how to build better houses more efficiently?”, he asked. ”Your success here has demonstrated you have the capabilities to tackle these challenges. With people like you coming into it, this industry has a great future,” he said.
Also attending the finals were Alan Crane, past president of the Chartered Institute of Building, which added a cash prize to the winner, and Mick Guy of the Construction Industry Training Board who presented a cheque for the sponsors award , which went to Atkins India.