MMC Gamuda scores triple wins at prestigious global tunnelling awards
16 Dec 2021 | The Edge Markets

Our innovative design solutions overcame the complex and geotechnical challenges faced by the MRT Putrajaya Line project

MMC Gamuda capped off 2021 with triple international award wins for its work on the MRT Putrajaya Line project, the latest being the Tunnelling Project of the Year at the New Civil Engineer (NCE) Tunnelling Festival 2021, announced in London on Dec 8. This achievement comes hot on the heels of its winning the Major Project of the Year at the International Tunnelling Awards (ITA) 2021 as well as the International Project of the Year at the Ground Engineering (GE) Awards 2021 announced on Dec 2 and Nov 28 respectively.

We caught up with the company’s key leadership – Gamuda Engineering managing director Justin Chin Jing Ho, MMC Gamuda project director Adil Putra Ahmad and MMC Gamuda head of safety, health and environment (SHE) Sirajunnisa Mohamed Farook – to find out the secrets behind the international recognition the project has received.

MMC Gamuda is no stranger to winning awards. Could you elaborate a little about the significance and importance of this recent slew of wins?

Justin Chin Jing Ho, Gamuda Engineering Managing Director

We’ve received accolades for technical innovation in the past for our Autonomous Tunnel Boring Machine (A-TBM) from both the ITA and NCE, but this time we’ve brought home for Malaysia the biggest prize in tunnelling – the Major Project of the Year at the ITA, which is essentially the ‘Oscars’ of the tunnelling world – on top of two other Project of the Year awards at the NCE Tunnelling Festival 2021 and GE Awards 2021, which are very prestigious awards in themselves. As you can imagine, the entire team is quite pleased and encouraged by our hat-trick, as we have edged out some very strong competition, including top European and Asian contractors. For example, at the ITA, we came out ahead of a total of 56 global entries, which is a testament to our industry-leading delivery expertise on complex mega infrastructure projects.

Could you shed a little light on the winning theme at the centre of your award submissions and what factors made MMC Gamuda and the MRT Putrajaya Line Project stand out from the competition?

Technical challenges and complexities of the project aside, our three key differentiators were our ground-breaking technological innovations such as A-TBMs and BIM-AR (building information modelling paired with augmented reality), which were developed 100% in-house by our local engineers; our ‘new normal’ Covid-19 ecosystem, which enabled us to deliver the tunnelling works on the project on schedule at the peak of the pandemic; as well as our commitment to nation-building via our initiatives in upskilling the capacity and capabilities of our local workforce.

All mega infrastructure projects of this scale are extremely complex and challenging but these three key differentiators have set us apart from the competition.

Our Autonomous Tunnel Boring Machine (A-TBM) is the world’s first automated system featuring custom artificial intelligence control algorithms, allowing autonomous control of TBMs

Technical innovation is a core driver of many of the project’s successes. Could you elaborate on the strategies or work culture that has driven the discovery of these advancements?

Proven delivery capabilities of tunnelling and underground construction technology

Innovation has always been an integral part of our DNA at MMC Gamuda. Even from the early days of the SMART Tunnel, from our top management to operatives at our worksites, we have always encouraged and remained open to new ideas with demonstrable value. Open, honest communication has always been a key enabler, as well as a willingness to pursue out-of-the-box ideas and the establishment of an ecosystem that allows innovation to thrive in our organisation.

“We have put Malaysia on the map when it comes to tunnelling, so with almost a decade under our belt building railway systems, this is definitely a new beginning, not the end.”

With MMC Gamuda ending the year on a high note, having won these prestigious awards, elevating the company’s stature and status internationally, how does it feel?

Adil Putra Ahmad, MMC Gamuda Project Director

It says a lot about the capabilities of our local talent in terms of the expertise that we have accumulated over the years. Also, it speaks volumes about the conviction held by every team member to deliver at the highest level. We have put Malaysia on the map when it comes to tunnelling, so with almost a decade under our belt building railway systems, this is definitely a new beginning and not the end. I believe many from the project will continue to contribute to the development of future railway lines as well as construction in Malaysia as a whole.

How does MMC Gamuda stand apart in providing both the platform and opportunities that lead to the development of innovation?

No organisation ever created innovation; it is the people within an organisation who innovate and usually [comprise] those who are not afraid to lead. Therefore, we take great care to nurture leaders every step of the way, giving them the support and resources they need, which in turn gives the impetus to the younger generation to challenge the status quo and come up with creative solutions.

Health and safety outcomes were an important aspect of the judging criteria for each award, with a focus on Covid-19 management due to the global pandemic. Do elaborate on what makes the project different from the competition in this aspect.

Sirajunnisa Mohamed Farook, MMC Gamuda Head of Safety, Health and Environment (SHE)

Very early on at the start of the pandemic, we implemented regular testing and strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) for everyone on the project – from top management to site operatives – made possible by our digital contact tracing system, our Centralised Labour Quarters (CLQs) equipped with quarantine facilities and the establishment of our very own PCR testing laboratory, the only non-healthcare privately owned PCR laboratory in the country. This ‘new normal’ ecosystem is above and beyond what most others are willing to do, and our dedicated Covid-19 taskforce, which reports directly to top management, has continuously refined our SOPs and mitigation strategies along the way. This ecosystem has enabled our project to continue working through successive lockdowns with the full support of the local authorities.

Our very own in-house RT-PCR testing laboratory to support the mandatory bi-weekly Covid-19 testing and monitoring of the group’s 20,000 workforce

In terms of resources, how did you manage all these additional facilities and systems?

We had a choice – to wait for things to happen and react or be the change that makes a difference. We opted for the latter. At the end of the day, with the welfare and safety of our employees and workers at stake, we went the extra mile and made the necessary provisions with a dedicated team of over 40 medical professionals under our employ. Ultimately, our quick response in implementing these facilities and systems early has cost us less in the long run, as we have kept infections to a minimum with no disruptions to work progress. I’d say our investment was worth it.