Early and often: The roadmap to collaboration
With the construction industry at a crossroads when it comes to tackling big ticket issues such as net zero, it is clear that old methods of working are no longer passing muster. Kriston Harvey, director at national engineering consultancy Rodgers Leask, believes that the best way to put projects in a place to succeed is through collaboration, both with clients and throughout the supply chain.
The idea of taking a more collaborative approach to construction is not exactly revolutionary – Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction white paper laid a blueprint for it nearly a quarter of a century ago – but in an industry with deeply entrenched behaviours, old habits die hard.
For the industry to get into a scenario where collaboration is truly valued in achievement of issues such as net zero, there needs to be a seismic shift away from a “lowest price wins” mindset. While it is understandable for clients to sway towards the cost factor, it can permeate throughout the supply chain, so it is the responsibility of all within the supply chain to rethink our approach of how we work together – once one supplier starts putting price before progress, the domino effect begins.
Key to this is valuing relationships between supply chain partners and holding each other to a high standard. For Rodgers Leask, the strength of our relationship with a certain partner is valued significantly higher than the cost of working with them, and it’s the same with clients we work for. This is proven through 90 per cent of our work now being repeat business and our level of service proving that there is an alternative framework for success achieved by offering quality over lowest cost.
Whether it is an old or new client, forming strong relationships is an absolute cornerstone of working in a collaborative way, and that starts with early engagement.
Key engineering constraints can be missed unless picked up right from the start, so having that early conversation can save clients significant amounts of time and money by preventing them from being led down the garden path.
It’s fairly common practice for multi-disciplinary consultancies to be asked for high-level advice at the very start of a scheme, so having that open and trusting relationship means that clients quickly understand all the things they need to be thinking about and make informed decisions moving forward.
It really comes down to a simple case of earlier engagement creating a better result all round.
A Multi-disciplinary approach
Collaboration from a supply chain perspective is especially important when you are dealing with projects that span the whole breadth of engineering disciplines. The vast majority of projects Rodgers Leask works on – such as the Becketwell regeneration in Derby city centre and our continuing work with Rolls-Royce Submarines – have multiple disciplines involved, and this is where clients can unlock some value in terms of collaboration by bringing everything under one roof.
From a client’s perspective, this minimises the external points of contact and brings an ease of communication that can help projects run more succinctly. Meanwhile, the consultant can leverage economies of scale, meaning that a multi-disciplinary firm can give clients more bang for their buck while overseeing a collaborative approach in the supply chain.
This is particularly pertinent with private sector clients, where the absence of more formal procurement routes mean that relationships are forged more strongly and repeat work is more common.
Together, everyone achieves more
While collaboration in the supply chain may be easier to achieve with private sector clients, it is arguably more important to achieve in the public sector, where every penny is monitored and every process is scrutinised.
With public sector procurement routes dictating how projects are awarded, there is often a significant weighting towards cost when it comes to consultant appointments via a traditional tendering process.
However, there are ways in which consultants can work collaboratively before entering the procurement process to ensure that local authority clients are getting the best of both worlds.
Consortiums are becoming increasingly popular, and Rodgers Leask has recently found success on the ESPO 2664 Property, Building and Infrastructure Advice and Management Services framework by leading a cross-disciplinary group of four consultants.
Working as one collaborative group – featuring project manager and cost consultant Bentley Project Management, architect Whittam Cox and mechanical and electrical engineers CPW – will mean that that public sector bodies can rapidly access all four practices’, bringing better value for money, fewer contact points and – crucially – a more efficient way of working.
With the Construction Playbook and Mosey Report pointing firmly towards more collaborative approaches being the construction industry’s future, the time has never been more right for consultants to look at their attitudes towards working with both clients and the supply chain.
Only by doing this can we look to not only tackle the big challenges of the day, but also deliver best value for clients looking forward.
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