Redefining Customer Expectations

1 May 2014

Costain recently held its Annual Planners Conference where Planners from across the business met to discuss how to improve performance and share best practice.

Costain’s planning community has held an annual conference since 2007 and the theme for this year’s conference, which was held at Highgate House in Northamptonshire, was called “Redefining Customer Expectations.”

A critical factor in the success of any project is how it is planned. After considering the methods for carrying out the work, Planners are responsible for developing the programme, understanding the resources required, assessing the risk, opportunities and outputs to be achieved, and ascertaining the potential constraints. Planners must then communicate the programme to the project team in order for them to carry out the work safely, efficiently and within budget. On top of these requirements, the Planner has to understand the customer’s needs, which are often evolving.

“The theme for this year’s conference was inspired by a topic that came up at Andrew Wyllie’s Leadership Day back in September. The message from the key note speaker, a Chairman of a major blue-chip customer, was: if you want to impress your client, don't just aim to meet their expectations, redefine them by being better,” said Brendan Johnston, Costain’s Head of Planning.

This approach is in line with the Costain’s Engineering Tomorrow strategy, the Company’s commitment to identifying, developing and implementing innovative solutions to meet the UK’s major national infrastructure needs. To reflect this greater emphasis, Costain has beefed up the number of planners it employs. In the last year alone, Costain has increased its number of planners to 86 from 55 in order to meet its business requirements.

Keynote speakers included Simon Taylor, the Head of Planning at Transport for London, and Mark Neller of Arup, who acts as National Grid’s Project Manager on the £1 billion London Power Tunnels project.

From Costain, delegates heard presentations from Mark Paulding and Andrew Leonard, Lead Planners on Crossrail C610 and London Bridge Station, respectively, on how best practice has been formulated on these projects.  Elsewhere, Charlie Sleep, Chief Engineer and Regional Planning Manager, talked about his work on the £850 million Swansea tidal scheme where he helped the client cut its timetable by a year by challenging the turbine suppliers to look at a new methodology for off-site fabrication and installation.

“Planners should be inspired by their ability, the role they have and the excellence of the Planning group. This year the conference had an emphasis on asking our customers how Costain and its supply chain can help them to achieve their objectives, and the results were then used to update the planning community’s vision going forward,” said Bill Hewlett, Costain’s Group Technical Director.

The day was brought to a close by Darren James, Costain’s Managing Director for Infrastructure and the planning community’s link to Costain’s Main Board, and Bill Hewlett.