Most people would agree that there are some inherent problems in the construction industry. Projects too often go over time, over budget, and can lack innovation, productivity and efficiency.
There’s now a major drive coming from clients to shake-up procurement and business relationships and bring about lasting positive change in project delivery. It comes from the ICE’s Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) and is called Project 13. Its aim is to get the industry to operate on a more collaborative, long-term basis to become more productive and innovative, while developing a higher level of consistency and reliability. The ICG describes it as moving from a transactional to an enterprise business model – so what does this actually mean?
Under the transactional business model, the supply team on a project has its relationship defined by the transaction – the amount it is paid in exchange for the service it delivers. This, argues those behind Project 13, means that keeping down cost is the overriding factor for delivery rather than what is best for a project’s lifetime and outcomes. It is argued that if a supply chain works as an enterprise – everyone collectively working together as one business towards the project outcomes – the project will be more efficient, more innovative and more productive.
“Project 13 is about collectively working as a single enterprise, where each part of that enterprise knows how to contribute to the challenge and how we can find the right solution to achieve the right outcome for the customer stakeholder,” says Mace chief executive Mark Reynolds, who is part of the Project 13 team.
“Our current approach to delivering infrastructure is at best questionable,” he continues, referring to the sector at large. “We develop solutions before properly considering the outcomes we want to achieve. We then try and design something that hopefully meets the brief, then we put out the budget based on past performance data, and then we add on optimism bias. Need I say more.”
Reynolds went on to say that the procurement process “takes forever and costs everyone a fortune,” and is based on detailed specifications rather than outcomes. In addition he says risk is pushed down the supply chain and bureaucracy results in “everything getting lost in translation”.
“Then five, maybe 10 years later, when we’ve finally finished our fantastic new shiny infrastructure, what have we actually produced? The project doesn’t exactly meet the needs and it’s barely recognisable from the concept that was announced with great fanfare years earlier and, disappointingly, the supply chain has lost millions of pounds in the process. This cannot continue, if we don’t change we won’t have an industry,” says Reynolds.
“Today it’s time for all of us to embrace this change but how do we affect that change? Clearly we must do it ourselves and we must do it quickly.”
Rather than specify the change that needs to be carried out and leave it at that, the team behind Project 13 intends to walk the sector through it so that change will become sustainable.
This is where it is calling for engineers to help. Project 13 wants the profession to get involved, help develop concepts, test and challenge ideas and create a new business model – in particular it wants future leaders to get involved.
Speaking at the launch, Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said that the estimated value of the work in RIS2 will be around £20bn, but to move to a more productive and enterprising form of project delivery needs collaboration throughout the industry. “We can’t turn this supertanker alone, no one can.”
By March next year it hopes to produce products and tools to help businesses achieve change, including a blueprint for transformation and developing training, mentoring and peer reviews.
Anglia Water’s @onealliance director Dale Evans, who is also part of the Project 13 team, says: “We believe we can deliver more effectively through integrated, collaborative enterprises.
“You don’t go home on a Friday working on a transaction and then come in Monday to an organisation that’s suddenly an enterprise and works differently. The whole concept of the journey seems to have resonated, so we have taken that as part of our lead for the organisational workstream, and we’re going to provide a roadmap which effectively sets that journey out.”
But it’s not just the industry that Project 13 is calling on to help. The government must play its part too.
“They can help us on our journey by committing to a policy that specifies outcomes and engaging the supply chain for advice before announcing delivery mechanisms, timescales and costs,” said Reynolds.
Find out more at ice.org.uk/project13