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UK work outsourced to India

Vital detailed design and CAD work for utility diversions on London’s Crossrail project is being sent to engineers in India to cut costs, NCE has learned.

Work heads to Bangalore

Consultant Hyder is to outsource most of its work on the project to its office in Bangalore. It is managing the relocation of Thames Water assets affected by the project.

Hyder will scope out work and carry out optioneering and feasibility studies in the UK. Once this is agreed, the firm will send most of the detailed design and CAD work to its office in Bangalore, India. Once completed, the work will be returned to the UK for technical review and presentation to the client.

Hyder explained the move to staff in an internal newsletter, seen by NCE. “Crossrail is a very challenging client and wants the design consultants to show greater efficiency and value for money in the delivery of schemes,” it says.

“The Bangalore design team offers a flexible resourcing arrangement, to meet scheme delivery demands at a competitive cost.”

It claims that the firm is now able to undercut its competition on cost, without reducing quality.

UK graduate redundancies

But a source close to the project told NCE that the move had led to graduate redundancies in the UK as only senior engineers are required to manage the work.

Hyder’s UK managing director Graham Reid denied this. “We are proactive in developing our graduates,” he said. “It’s not a new thing [to move work] and over 70% of our revenue is from overseas. We are a global firm and our work location is driven by technical competence.”

Reid said that a lot of competitors were adopting similar approaches.

“We’ve always used remote sources − it’s not just in Bangalore. There is cost pressure now as well and the Philippines and Bangalore can offer us cost efficiency”

Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke

Britain’s biggest consultant Atkins angered its employees in October 2009 when it told them that work for its water company clients was being sent to its Bangalore design centre (NCE 25 November 2009).

At the time Atkins chief executive Keith Clarke rejected claims that the outsourcing would compromise commitment to UK employees, reduce investment in the UK or become the equivalent of outsourced Indian call centres. “We’ve been doing it for five years,” he said.

“We’ve always used remote sources − it’s not just in Bangalore. There is cost pressure now as well and the Philippines and Bangalore can offer us cost efficiency.”

Thames Water has been cooperating with Crossrail over the last two years to assess the project’s potential impact on its own assets. Where necessary it has come up with solutions so Crossrail’s construction programme can proceed while minimising the impact on its customers.

Hyder opened its Bangalore office in 2009.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Clients might in the future consider cutting out the "middleman" and dealing direct with overseas offices. Perhaps NCE might like to visit some of these outsourced offices to see how they operate?

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  • Nick Munro

    Very few if any of these British consulting engineers who have established design offices in India work on contracts based in India. Virtually all their design work carried out in India is for the UK and the Middle East.

    Where is the opportunity for British graduates to be trained one might ask if the bottom line is the only focus of our remaining consulting engineers? Perhaps they will have to go to India and work for Indian salaries to be trained in future!

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  • After 10 years of working in the Middle Est one became accustomed to work being out-sourced to Indian resources. The justification was generally only a matter of cost. Regrettably quality, responsiveness and advancement of local resources suffered for the sake of the bottom line. Shocking false economy.

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  • This is a bold step and makes sense given the high quality of Indian engineering.
    When I was with Hyder in the 1990s I recall proposing this approach, having met senior people involved with rail engineering. I recall the response was that India had less to offer than Bangkok at the time from one or two other senior execs. Now technology is so good and people are keen to learn together as a team, the comments made by others over quality indicate poor management or systems.
    There will always be a place for UK graduates in the system too. Given my recent experience sponsoring an Indian Engineer to do a doctorate at CICE at Loughborough I can only say - the best will rise to the top, regardless of location.
    Finally our UK graduates are an excellent mix of local and international students. Embrace this UK advantage and get to know people from other regions of the world as friends and colleagues.

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  • Adapt.

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  • Jeffrey Crawley

    Having worked in main draiange/public health engineering most of my career I have frequently had the opportunity to work alongside many outstanding Asian engineers but I'm not sure the "never mind the quality feel the width" policy is always right.
    A couple of years ago I was working for a multi-national whose policy was to outsource 10 - 15% of its work to their Mumbai office. A series of pdf copies of design sketches were sent over and the overseas office simple traced over them in CAD - no attempt at scale or anything like it. They then designed the surface water system for a highway in Ireland and simply made every pipe 225mm diameter - quality control was low and we were not at all impressed.
    I hope this is the exception rather than the rule.

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  • I also am afraid that the focus is on lowest cost regardless of quality, and if our design work goes overseas, who is going to review it to ensure good value for the client? A lowest cost design is seldom value for money overall.
    When will ICE have to change its expectation of design work for Professional Review if no detailed design is done in UK offices any more?

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  • The most economical design is a design done within budget, produced on time, and is clearly communicated via properly detailed drawings.

    A properly detailed drawing shows details in accordance with design standards, best practise, and takes into account buildability, health and safety, and best practise.

    From my own humble experience, many designs done in the UK (with designers, contractors and clients all under one roof) and under tight quality control procedures do not meet the description above. It will be interesting to have case studies and see how the delivery was measured/ benchmarked.

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