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Dec 06

RADAR Roundtable Output – The Essential Role of Collaboration in Delivering the UKs Infrastructure Projects

UK Infrastructure

An industry roundtable exploring the use of collaboration and a change to working cultures to deliver the UK’s ambitious infrastructure delivery plan over the next twenty years.

This Roundtable led by Dr. David Hancock and hosted by Resolex on 29th November 2016, is part of the RADAR knowledge community created by Resolex. The topic incorporates two of the most popular areas of discussion in the UK construction industry and the Roundtable focusses on the importance of collaborative working, examples of changes to working practises and upskilling of the industry.

An in-depth and popular presentation on the Heathrow Terminal 5 project provided a fascinating example of a change of behaviour to a collaborative approach during the construction phase, an agreement based on ‘Relationships opposed to a traditional contract.  This resulted in the project overcoming significant delivery challenges, outperforming the remaining programme durations from implementation, delivered the project within market rates and importantly, resulted in no formal disputes between contractual parties.

Why was collaborative working implemented during the construction phase? It was a result of a serious incident that induced the need for the client to break tradition and try a radical new approach, collaboration!  Not just collaboration but a brave new world of working together without the primal instinct of protecting your own interests and profit margin at all costs, instead in a way that protected profit margins, drove out a claims culture, approached risk in a radically new way and got on with the most important thing, to build the project together.

Who owns the risk? There is a common acknowledgement that whilst time can be spent on negotiating risk ownership and management within contractual arrangements, ultimately the Client owns all the risk, if they do not complete on time, it is their reputation at stake more so than the supply chain, such as the Heathrow T5 project.

With a large pipeline of UK major infrastructure projects, there is a realisation on the important role of collaboration to meet ever increasing challenges to budgets and delivery timescales.  Clients are realising that whilst they may be the holder of power on a project, they may not have all the answers themselves.  However, this can still be a challenging thought process for many who have not been party to a collaborative working approach before.

Clients who have engaged contractors at an early stage and openly discussed their needs, budgets and timescales, have seen some hugely encouraging responses from the supply chain that felt relieved to be part of the whole team and have found solutions to problems that the Clients may not have themselves.  A ‘Grown Up’ approach, with dialogue focussing on ‘real’ issues and not ‘contractual’ issues.

Some good examples?  Manufacturers often question why Clients insist on designing bespoke components and the demonstration of standardising components can often be a quick win for reduction in both time and money to the Client.  Other examples include the use of client land or facilities to assist in manufacturer or storage of materials close to the site.

So, if Collaboration is so important to deliver the UK infrastructure projects, why are we not seeing the majority adopting this approach? Change comes from the top!

Clients may be used to the traditional approach and perhaps need to consider breaking from tradition and exploring the benefits of collaboration in more detail.  The publication of greater success stories of collaborative working, alongside the work of the Construction Industry Council should help attract the attention of Clients, it can often take one strong player to turn the tide and for it to become the norm!

Can other industries help drive collaboration in Construction? The manufacturing industry has some fantastic examples of gender equality, efficiencies and lean working methods.  With the collaboration with manufacturers of construction components involving open discussions, could we see a greater influence from the manufacturing industry on the construction industry?

Skillset for the future? What is clear is the need for the construction industry to embrace the changes in working practises through collaboration, technology & BIM to move with the times.  This will require the help of Further Education Colleges, Universities and Project Managers to implement the new way of working and familiarisation of new technologies to assist the UK in ensuring that they ‘do not work in a digital age, in an analogue way’.

With the pipeline of UK Infrastructure projects showing no signs of reduction following the political events of 2016 and the support of investment through the Autumn statement, the UK has the perfect platform to implement collaboration on a large scale and produce some leading examples to the rest of the world.

Attendees to the Roundtable are invited to continue the discussion on the LinkedIn RADAR group.

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