Leaders For Tomorrow

10 January 2012

Customers are becoming more ‘intelligent’ in how they procure products and services from suppliers and contractors, and construction companies need to adapt and become more intelligent themselves to succeed in the current economic and commercial environment.

That was the message from Costain’s Adam Bennett, a Project Systems and Performance Manager on the M53 Bidston Moss Viaduct refurbishment scheme, and Katie Swanick, a civil engineer on Bidston Moss, who took part in a roundtable discussion, called Leaders For Tomorrow, on the future of the construction industry and how companies can provide an optimal level of service to their customers.

The debate was hosted at law firm Pinsent Masons in the City of London and was attended by major blue-chip service providers and a wide range of representatives from the construction industry.

The discussion focused around three questions: what makes an intelligent customer; what makes an intelligent supplier; and what are the essential features of a more modern commercial and contractual relationship?

An 'intelligent customer' has the financial, commercial, technical and operational capabilities to plan, procure, develop and manage infrastructure assets.

Citing the Highways Agency as an example of an intelligent customer and using the Bidston Moss Viaduct, the Avonmouth Viaduct and the Tinsley Viaduct as case studies, Adam gave a presentation on how the Agency has gradually evolved its procurement practice in order to maximise the use of its resources more effectively.  His presentation demonstrated how the Agency has learnt to become more successful in achieving expected outrun costs in delivering complex infrastructure projects.

In line with this, Costain has increasingly employed Value Engineering, which involves applying innovative tailor made solutions to project specific problems. The aim is to deliver the same or better product while using few resources, which can save time and money.

“The M53 Bidston Moss strengthening project is a perfect example of how to procure a complex project, involving early contractor involvement, a fully integrated supply chain and providing an environment for innovation.  This has allowed the project to be delivering key milestones ahead of programme and under budget whilst exceeding all customer and stakeholder expectations, and more importantly, reduced disruption to the travelling public,” said Adam.

Outcomes from the roundtable discussion will be presented in a paper, with Constructing Excellence, highlighting the value of infrastructure and its importance for the future prosperity of the UK.

Graham Robinson, Global Business Consultant at Pinsent Masons, said: “Adam’s presentation highlighted in a practical way the benefit of a more modern and intelligent approach to construction and how this has evolved carefully over a number of projects. Costain is to be congratulated on its innovative approach.”

Graham Robinson presented to the group the findings from Infrastructure in the New Era, a report published by Pinsent Masons and Constructing Excellence, where the concept of the intelligent customer and intelligent supplier were outlined.

Shy Jackson, a Senior Associate at Pinsent Masons, added: “What was interesting is that Costain could demonstrate the importance of an intelligent customer in procuring infrastructure of national importance.  The UK competes on a global stage to attract investment and our infrastructure is part of our future prosperity that attracts wealth generation.”