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Hot Bunking At Site Installation Facilities – OpEd

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“Hot Bunking” is a common practice mostly in the naval armed forces and on submarines where several soldiers share the same bed. The bed is still warm from the prior user, hence the term hot bunking. When sleeping quarters are limited, as they particularly are on submarines, and when staffing is required around the clock, soldiers both work and sleep in shifts. This could mean as many as three people share the same bunk on a submarine.

Due to the overcapacity in many overseas site facilities and offshore platforms, there have been that practice for the workers to also work and sleep in shifts. This type of hot bunking would provide more bed space.

The idea of sharing space for sleeping has led to other means in which people might also share limited resources. The term “hot desking” has been created to mean several shift workers who share the same central desk at different times of the day. Since they don’t work the same shifts, the desk would otherwise not be occupied. From a perspective of saving space, “hot desking” is an economical and now more popular practice in the business world.

Another idea related to hot bunking is the idea of people in companies sharing cars, or the idea of several people owning a shared car. This is still called hot bunking a car, though as it becomes more common, it may soon lead to a different term. Again the focus is on pooling resources, saving space and money.

Not everybody is a fan of hot bunking, and it has sometimes been used in armed services in a discriminatory way. Fears particularly in the US military about women and men using the same sleeping quarters, or even more so, concern about people with alternative lifestyles in the US armed forces has led to accusations that occasionally hot bunking is used to keep certain people from serving the same shift and sleeping at the same time.

Often the practice of hot bunking is not based on discrimination but merely a practice of best using resources. It can give you pause to think about what it might be like to never get to sleep in a freshly made bed. Yet it is only one of the many sacrifices people in active military service must make to perform their jobs under difficult circumstances.

When we were at Bechtel facilities in Tengiz Kazakhstan, we visited the nearby Turkish Contractor’s site a few miles away. Compared to our major contractor’s site facility, which was purchased from the former Hungarian State contractors, and kept in operation with minimum renovation, Turkish site facility was new, and much better.

Each worker/ technician/ engineer had a separate room with shower and toilet. They had satellite TV access, latest PC hardware and software, construction machineries, all in good condition, machine shop etc.

They had delicious fresh food, and very civilized working environment. They were subcontractors of TCO and Bechtel at oil field, pipeline construction and engineering in the offices. I have been other Turkish contractors’ site facilities in overseas construction; we had very civilized working conditions everywhere. Food was always extraordinary. Workers lived in reasonable high standard accommodations, no mention of “hot bunking”. However nowadays we have another interesting development in our local market. Due to their ultra low prices, and their concurrence with high penalty clauses, companies from Far East are receiving power plant/ steam boiler orders in our own local market.

Careless investors are placing orders to those FarEast companies just because they are too cheap. Not only Western companies but also our own construction companies are not in competition with those low prices. FarEast companies are constructing three CFB based thermal power plants in the local market where they bring 500+ qualified labour to the each site for civil works and site installation activities.

Our local laws and regulations don’t prohibit them to bring such large scale labour inflow. “Hot Bunking” is an untold but almost always general practice in their site facilities.

Other than that, our local investors don’t care about quality/ performance/ efficiency of the final product they are purchasing, all they care about the cheapest price. The cheapest price is the virtue of FarEast companies. When you declare the expected cheapest price in any tender, FarEast have always a better / lower price than that.

There are explanations that these new foreign workers are either soldiers or young prisoners with good manners. They work hard, 12 hours per day, 7 days per week, in a civilized environment, with a clean bed to sleep, 3 shifts of good meal. The most important issue to point out is that they have a sort of “Hot Bunking” practice in their accommodation facilities. You are to accommodate so many number of workers in that available small space.

Solution to cut site expenses lies in “Hot Bunking”. FarEast companies are getting the order turn-key, complete with design, fabrication, procurement, leaving almost nil to the local partner. They are much cheaper than the Western companies, although they are rather inexperienced/ or shy in their early design. It is strange to disclose the latest news that their crane/ material/ equipment cargo containers also carry food (rice, beans, spices etc) inside. Local partners have great difficulties, high risk, and high unforeseen costs in their customs clearance.

Their design drawings are not at the best standards. Most of the time, they can’t meet the guaranteed figures, expected performances. They also do not care details and importance of environmental protection equipment since these are not importance in their home country.

It is a common saying that “FarEast companies have no backbones. They have very flexible ethics” which means certain red-flag warnings in application of anti-corruption measures. Earlier we hoped that service business- civil works and site installation would be ours at all times, by all means. Not any more.

Now it is time to create our own technologies as lead companies, there is no more subcontracting. We need to focus on high value, high technology items; not only the traditional construction. Many of our companies are focused on working as simple “contractors” with only interest in the “C” (construction) of the “EPC” contracts. “Engineering” is usually a small part of the project but the procurement is a big ticket, where a lot of profit is.

Taking economics into account, the companies need to focus on turn key projects to build the local expertise we are talking about. The problem is such that people only focus on the things they understand. A professional who knows a little about the technical matters and risks of building a power plant will end up focusing on the price. Because this will be the only way he will be able to provide “value”.

We often have trouble to assign tangible value to the intangibles to convince people about its benefits. $ signs show up in people’s spreadsheet cells, how do you assign $ value to quality, which will enable you to have more efficiency, less breakdown and of course more productivity? This is a never ending fight between CAPEX and OPEX. The client gets a cheap plant and pays arm and a leg to operate it. It is simply stupid economics! But if one’s intention is to build a junk then get qualified for the payment then nothing else matters. I am afraid it is about building stuff not about building things that function well and pay back and make financial sense.

That’s why, I would like to extend the meaning of a project to longer time duration; say 5 years after the delivery to account for the operations results. Then, the front-end-heroes, or we call them the early participants of projects that way will see that their evaluations and personal stakes lie in a longer term, not just ending when the keys of a plant is delivered.

How many times have you heard things like: “…well, I will be retired then, it will not be my problem, etc…”.

When I explain these thoughts, local decision makers of big private local contracting companies start to stare at me with empty faces, but time has changed, so their organizations should also be changed/ restructured accordingly, otherwise they will face the consequences, since it is the world of the fittest. Our Public companies have the following attitude these days. They say “Since we should get 3- offers and evaluate for almost 3-months for each bolt we need, we cannot finalize any investment in the modern times in a reasonable short period of time. Therefore we ask private investors to make the investment. We expect the maximum rental fee for our treasury.” Good point, good thinking, very logical. Surprisingly traditional Turkish scope at an industrial construction covers only civil works and site installation, plus maybe some construction of administration buildings / some catering. That is all. It is a pity. Most of our companies don’t have courage to exceed these simple activities.

These activities are simple, hard work with minimum cost, almost with minimum value added value. It is so sad to say that our companies cannot handle basic engineering, they cannot handle overall leadership. So we all handle the hard work, whereby our international partners get the biggest portion of the scope and profit.

We all have the same design software and hardware available as elsewhere, and we can purchase the necessary technical license to handle design works of all types’ thermal power plants.

In the international markets, today US or UK companies, German/ French/ Italian even our local companies are too expensive. They can not receive any order in our local market due to their high market prices. On the other hand China, Indian, Korean companies are relatively much cheaper in turn key EPC contracts.

If we do not show our engineering expertise, our market will soon be dominated by these FarEast companies and as a result our local companies will be barely doing only the simple hard work with lowest profit margins. We visualize a sort of inability/ immobility in our local contracting companies. That is unfortunately created by our public companies over the years while looking for international foreign companies. All we need is courage, at least within our own environment. We should start to construct our own thermal power plants by ourselves.

Foreign companies cannot design; construct power plants to fire our special local indigenous lignite. Only Turkish engineers can do it, since we live all our life with this local fuel.

It is our sincere feeling that those local investors who dare to place order to Chinese contractors have great difficulties, high risk, and high unforeseen cost in their project execution. Our local private companies are to decide if they will continue to have simple works all the time, and vanish, or make drastic change and start doing new investments on engineering talent by supplying the engineering staff with appropriate software and hardware, plus necessary technical licensing, to enable their companies work as turnkey EPC contractor as leading company.

That is the most important key decision now.

And the earth brothers had worked all together
like a song sung together
was ripped up
by the hooves of horses bred in the Edirné palace, — Nazim Hikmet- THE EPIC OF SHEIK BEDREDDIN


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Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli

Haluk Direskeneli, is a graduate of METU Mechanical Engineering department (1973). He worked in public, private enterprises, USA Turkish JV companies (B&W, CSWI, AEP, Entergy), in fabrication, basic and detail design, marketing, sales and project management of thermal power plants. He is currently working as freelance consultant/ energy analyst with thermal power plants basic/ detail design software expertise for private engineering companies, investors, universities and research institutions. He is a member of Chamber of Turkish Mechanical Engineers Energy Working Group.

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