Setting a high bar: Malaysia’s MMC Gamuda wins three global tunnelling awards

Malaysia’s KVMRT Putrajaya Line has been named Major Project of the Year (over €500 million) at the ITA Tunnelling Awards 2021, which was hosted virtually by the International Tunnelling and Underground Space Association based in Switzerland. The event took place from 29 November to 2 December 2021.

Additionally, the Putrajaya Line won International Project of the Year at the Ground Engineering Awards 2021, held in London by Ground Engineering magazine (the official publication of the British Geotechnical Association); and Tunnelling Project of the Year (over US$500 million) at the NCE Tunnelling Festival Awards 2021, also held in London by New Civil Engineer magazine (the official publication of the Institution of Civil Engineers).

Key evaluation criteria included evidence of innovative, industry-advancing techniques to overcome significant technical challenges, and value delivery for the client and local community. Non-engineering initiatives, such as efforts to improve local workforce capabilities, inclusiveness and diversity as well as sustainability themes were also assessed.

MMC Gamuda was honoured for its extensive experience in managing all phases of the Putrajaya Line’s project delivery – from engineering to procurement, construction and commissioning. The awards further recognised the company’s ‘new normal’ ecosystem for managing Covid-19 risks on the project, which enabled the tunnelling works to be carried out on schedule.

Award-winning innovations

Building on the success of the variable density tunnel boring machine (TBM) introduced on the Kajang Line, the Putrajaya Line broke new ground with more cutting-edge innovations.

Tackling the labour-intensive, risky aspects of tunnelling works, a group of engineers from MMC Gamuda developed the world’s first autonomous TBM – a plug and play, AI-driven system that can autonomously operate any TBM with minimal human input. Having successfully navigated over 10 km of tunnelling in challenging mixed ground conditions, this system (known as A-TBM) was named Technical Product/Equipment Innovation of the Year at the ITA Tunnelling Awards 2019. [Scroll down to watch video of the A-TBM.]

Along with that, the company’s BIM digital infrastructure – first in the region to be certified BIM Level 2 by the British Research Establishment – offered endless opportunities for impactful applications. One example is the BIMAR (augmented reality for BIM) mobile application that uses the camera on a tablet to overlay 3D BIM models on the actual built environment, allowing for clashes and errors to be spotted instantly onsite, thus minimising costly rework. [Scroll down to watch video of the BIMAR mobile application.]

Another award-winning innovation deployed on the project is MMC Gamuda’s cloud-based geospatial information system (GIS) portal to enable seamless collaboration between stakeholders. It integrates drone surveys with BIM models for monthly up-to-date 3D progress reports of all the construction sites.

A ‘new normal’ ecosystem

Recognising Covid-19 as the top risk to project delivery, MMC Gamuda has set up a one-of-a-kind ‘new normal’ ecosystem which comprised the only private (non-healthcare) owned RT PCR laboratory in the country, with a dedicated crew of over 40 medical professionals to carry out fortnightly screening for the entire workforce of over 20,000 – from senior management down to site operatives.

“This frequent screening regime coupled with very stringent standard operating procedures was crucial, allowing the project team to nip in the bud any spread of Covid-19 before it developed into larger clusters,” explained MMC Gamuda.

Going a step further, the company established an in-house triage centre for staff to provide advance 24/7 medical care and management for Category 2 Covid-19 positive patients, aimed to minimise deterioration of personnel to symptomatic Category 3 and in turn reduce the burden on the public healthcare system.

With the rising national Covid-19 cases, MMC Gamuda pivoted quickly to construct new centralised labour quarters (CLQs) in under three months to enable the redistribution of its workforce across these facilities for reduced density and improved social distancing.

The existing CLQs on the project were also reconfigured and retrofitted with segregated common facilities to minimise the potential for any spread of Covid-19 as well as isolated quarantine blocks for positive cases. “These facilities were touted as a gold standard for Covid resilient worker accommodation by local authorities, and covered extensively in local media as a model to follow,” shared MMC Gamuda.

Such efforts have resulted in a clear divergence between rising national infection trends versus the organisation’s relatively low infectivity rates, thus securing the confidence of authorities for work approvals throughout the nationwide lockdowns.

MMC Gamuda’s commitment to exemplary safety & health outcomes and international best practices has culminated in four consecutive 5-star Occupational Health and Safety Audits by the British Safety Council (BSC) since 2018. On top of that, the company was accorded two consecutive Swords of Honour for its safety & health performance from BSC with a third currently pre-qualified.

Large-scale upskilling

To develop a strong pipeline of local talent and expertise, MMC Gamuda has undertaken large-scale upskilling initiatives. Highlights include the establishment of Asia’s first purpose-built Tunnel Training Academy (TTA) – a BIM academy that has trained more than 2,500 personnel – and the KVMRT Safety Training Centre where more than 50,000 staff have been upskilled.

At the TTA, more than 1,000 personnel – many of them are school leavers hailing from underprivileged backgrounds – have graduated and launched their tunnelling careers on the project and subsequently the TBM refurbishment initiative, according to MMC Gamuda.

The TBM refurbishment initiative is a “tour de force of collaboration,” said the company, involving its German technology partner Herrenknecht AG with local SME partners and suppliers for technology transfer. Eight TBMs from the Kajang Line were refurbished and recommissioned for the Putrajaya Line, resulting in over US$100 million in client savings plus sustainability savings in terms of reduced carbon emissions from this local refurbishment initiative.

All images: MMC Gamuda