Ashish Kumar, Co-Founder &President of PCI
Dr. Ashish Kumar is a professional civil engineer with a Ph.D. specializing in construction project management and controls. During his over three decade long career, he realized that it was quite common for large construction projects to experience impacts on cost and schedule due to insufficient planning and/or unforeseen changes in conditions or requirements. By the time these impacts are acknowledged and addressed, the damage to budget and schedule is already done, and the project’s overall objective now has to be adjusted. The efforts to address these project challenges with the goal to build an operation primarily focused on all aspects of project controls and program management led Dr. Kumar to cofound Program Controls Inc (PCI). PCI is a professional engineering consulting firm that offers a complete range of state-of-the-art project management and controls systems, methodologies, and techniques for large, complex construction projects and programs. Dr. Kumar remarks, “Our experience extends from small projects to large capital improvement undertakings in Aviation, Water, Port, Transportation, Education and Commercial fields.”
PCI guides the owners by providing best-in-class controls practices, tools, and services to extract relevant data in order to be able to make quick and informed decisions. The company also considers the challenge of the owners not having dedicated staff or in-house capabilities to execute their projects. Hence, PCI provides the needed professional representation and handles the project for them. Once a project is complete, PCI moves on to the next one, which spares the owners of added overhead of full-time staff.
In its services, PCI assumes the cradle to grave approach, covering from the very inception of a project to final close-out. The company helps the clients with initial planning and risk assessment at the early stages. PCI develops an overall program budget and schedule, and as the project moves, it manages costs against the budget by estimating the scope, tracking the commitments, and controlling the changes. On the schedule side, the company manages the program schedule as well as reviews construction schedules, mitigating any potential claims that may arise later due to project changes. PCI also ensures that the project stays on track, and if it deviates, the company provides solutions to bring it back on track. In the case of risk management, PCI identifies the risk to each project and recommends them to allocate enough measures, contingencies, and reserves, for the risk can be handled when the time comes. The company also implements change management systems for its clients, as they affect a lot of the progress. Finally, PCI helps the clients to close the projects by financial close-out and commissioning to the quality and specifications acquired for the project.
Through these streamlined services, PCI upholds the motto ‘plan the work and work the plan’ and avoids any unintended surprises for the clients. Even when any disputes arise in the complex construction processes, the company understands that it is often because the parties involved lack the information needed to make decisions or feel that their interests are not being served. To resolve this issue, PCI emphasizes communicating through proper analysis and reporting.
PCI further focuses on having a realistic and accurate estimate, as it is the basis for the expectations of a project to meet its budget. To have such an accurate estimate, the right resources assigned to it and to use the most recent information becomes necessary. In addition, the cost varies significantly from region to region; hence it is crucial to know the local market conditions. With these many factors under consideration, cost estimating becomes more an art than just a collection or a quantity take-off and assigning a cost. Dr. Kumar remarks, “We pride ourselves in having estimators who are skilled and experienced, and also come from a general contractor background, where they know what it takes to build a particular project. With these efficient estimators, we always help our clients in seeing the true cost of the project, and not just a number based on some calculations of quantities and dollars.”
As the efficiency of PCI services can be better understood with the real-life applicability, Dr. Kumar recollects a success story of the company with the Miami International Airport (MIA). He notes that in 2005, the North Terminal program of MIA, nearly a $3 Billion program, was under a myriad of trouble with cost overruns, non-payments, and schedule delays. Once PCI stepped in as an integral part of the new management team, it took numerous initiatives and supported innovative solutions to the problems. The program was a great success. Dr. Kumar states, “Our efforts and contributions for the project were greatly appreciated at all levels of the airport and were even recognized by the Dispute Resolution Board, an independent review panel. The project won numerous awards and recognitions such as Best 2010 Vertical Transportation Project, Top 15 Most Noteworthy World Airports, and so on.”
The key differentiating factors of PCI include its unaltered focus on its core expertise. The company doesn’t risk diluting its quality of service by trying to do everything like many of its competitors. Dr. Kumar notes, “We have a strong foothold in our subject matter, because of which we have been able to maintain a very talented and dedicated group of professionals, who are our biggest asset.” The company essentially focuses on adding value to its customers with cost-effective solutions. Hence, PCI doesn’t push any products or specific solutions on its clients. It analyzes every client for their specific needs and caters to the solution in the most effective way. As a result, the company has received high praise and endorsements for its performance from all of its clients.
During the COVID situation, many public owners, especially transportation facilities, are taking advantage of the current slowdown to focus on asset management, deferred maintenance, and improvement of existing facilities rather than new expansion. Dr. Kumar says that the work which was already funded didn’t slow down, and in some cases, the pandemic offered them an opportunity to work faster. In the post-COVID environment, PCI anticipates increased infrastructure spending at both federal and local levels. Looking ahead, the company plans to continue expanding its role beyond South Florida to other parts of Florida, South Carolina, Texas, and recently in Colorado. Adhering to the principles, PCI believes in nurturing its values with sustained growth, which it considers to be more important than having to compromise its quality for a steeper growth curve.