As an industry our overriding objective should always be to keep improving not just how efficient we are in terms of better value for money, but how effectively we deliver the benefits for the ultimate end customer – in this case, the road user.
How do we do that? I believe we need to put far more emphasis on an integrated way of working through collaboration at every phase of a project. This leads to better outcomes by embedding innovation and boosting productivity while tightening up risk management.
A more integrated approach offers true potential for programme efficiencies and cost savings by getting the right input from the contractors from the beginning of a programme. This enhances ultimate value since it has a deciding impact on every aspect of the process: practical buildability, technology integration, data management and safety considerations.
Bringing a new mindset
We often refer to this as ‘early contractor involvement’ and in our experience it can make a considerable difference by resulting in demonstrable benefits at every phase of a project. But this only scratches the surface of what could be achieved. Engaging with the experts in building and operations at a more strategic level from the start gives customers a better chance of making sound decisions, whether it is a change programme, the management of a complex portfolio or a single project.
Nor is the expertise that contractors offer limited to design and buildability. At Costain, for example, we have worked with Highways England to run the BIM change programme, we have supported customers through behavioural safety programmes and advised on management of local stakeholders through development consent order processes. The common factor is the determination to achieve greater value for our customers.
I am well aware that this is a major shift away from the traditional hierarchical model we are used to. The problem we face is the industry’s traditional mindset, where a consultant does some early work for the client, followed by the design specialists, the contractors and the maintenance experts. They all have their different drivers and business objectives and view the project lifecyle only through the prism of their own involvement.
But it is inevitable as we increasingly realise that as an industry if we persist with the ‘business-as-usual’ approach any scope for substantial improvement is very limited. So we have to find agreed ways to leverage the skills and knowledge of organisations at different stages of delivering complex infrastructure investments to achieve more for less.
Offering more integrated solutions through collaboration not only delivers improved value for money but brings innovation, delivery and engagement to a higher level. It’s time to embed it into the industry.
Costain are exhibiting on stand E07 at Highways UK on 16/17 November.
Adam Bennett – Advisory Services Manager, Costain