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Construction Round Table in Action

The big picture

'Agenda for Change' states the CRT's commitment to research and testing through demonstration projects; and to sharing results with others. In addition to setting up three Task Groups, the secretariat has developed a financial infrastructure to support the CRT's objectives. This financing structure is based on collaborative research in DETR's construction research programme and the engagement of ENTRUST to authorise use of Landfill Tax credits to fund our programme on waste reduction in construction. But our programme extends beyond the research of the Task Groups.

These include sustainability of construction and use of construction products, and at the personal level, skills and training issues such as those embodied in the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and the University for Industry which we are actively progressing. The Construction Round Table is considering whether its members should adopt the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and make it a requirement of suppliers.

Open sharing of information about research and testing is central to the CRT's philosophy. From the start we committed ourselves to transparency. We held our first major consultation with the industry in February 1998. This enabled each Task Group to create its own agenda and commission appropriate research and testing. The consultation with industry was very much a public affair. More specific to the CRT was a benchmarking workshop held in the autumn, where CRT members who had been benchmarking projects presented and discussed the results in front of an independent expert, initially for internal dissemination.

Last but not least, the publication of this review marks the launch of our web site, with links to the sites of CRT members plus the M4I. But the most important activities are those of the Task Groups.

Ken Treadaway,

CRT Chief Executive

Contribution of Design

Design's six Task Group members - BAA, Marks & Spencer, Thames Water, London Transport, the Highways Agency and Unilever - meet monthly.

From the first few of these meetings and feedback from the CRT's industry consultation exercise in February 1998, it was decided to prioritise the work around two key items; Standardisation and Customer Satisfaction. It took four meetings to establish common views: if you say Standardisation to someone producing bridges for a motorway they will see something quite different to another person making a food processing factory. Our principal objective is to produce directly usable results.

We discovered that the Construction Industry Research & Information Association (CIRIA) was about to begin a major study on optimising Standardisation, Pre-assembly and Modularisation. Since about half CRT's members are sponsors of CIRIA, it seemed an obvious resource to use. CIRIA agreed to ensure its work met our needs and we contributed financially to the study's costs. The idea was not just to produce a report but develop a 'toolbox' of methods and techniques which would become available to members. This meant creating questionnaires and process orientated checklists that would lead a design team to ask the right questions about what they do, and where they might be able to apply Standardisation, Pre-assembly and Modularisation. The 'toolbox' is being tested on a number of projects, including BAA's new office at Gatwick airport, a selection of bridge schemes and a school building. The CIRIA study began in September 1998 and should be completed during the summer.

Meanwhile we have also been working up a strategy to get at the even more intangible area of Customer Satisfaction. This has been difficult because different group members see Customer Satisfaction very differently. We decided to benchmark the different Customer Satisfaction measures used by CRT members, and to begin identifying measures that might have common validity. Results from our research are due shortly.

Michael Forster, BAA - Chairman, CRT Design Group

Zero defects, minimum waste

The Delivery Process group is committed to achieving projects with zero defects, minimum waste and agreed time-scales. 'Waste' is the priority.

In anyone's language, reducing waste translates directly into profit. The Delivery Process Group first needed to find out how much waste there is and how it arises. My own company, McDonald's, has made substantial progress adapting industrial 'time and motion' shop-floor methodology to its projects, to eliminate wasteful practice and duplication.

A major tool used by McDonald's was the CALIBRE system developed by the Building Research Establishment. CALIBRE enables tasks to be categorised. The Task Group decided to go one step further and use the basic methodology to produce a 'waste coefficient'. But before all this could happen, resources were needed.

We discovered a pool of money - tax credits that accumulate from the Landfill Tax. Via member John Hobson at the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions, it became clear that in principle the money could be available for research given that that research would achieve the same purpose as the tax, namely reducing landfill. Over the next three years therefore some £2M could be available.

The CRT will put in a contribution, around 5% of that, which will be matched by funding from the projects. The money will be used to study eight projects per year, using CALIBRE techniques.

Richard Ogden, McDonald's -

Chairman, CRT Delivery Process Group

The Trading Environment group of six members meets monthly in the search for an optimal way of trading that may or may not exist. The CRT is well placed in this quest because its members are clients who build not for sale but to further their businesses. They are interested in a 'whole life' approach, which considers how well a facility works, its maintenance, customer responses to it, and its long term value.

But approaches vary. The group is now finding out just what there is in common between CRT members.

We have commissioned the Building Research Establishment to carry out a benchmarking study among CRT members as a precursor to developing a truly effective mechanism for obtaining constructed facilities. Process maps have been developed, identifying common actions linked by common paths. They will later be used via M4I demonstration projects to identify key performance indicators (KPIs). The CRT hopes soon to engage the industry in debate to establish which of the developed initiatives are attractive in the supply chain.

The next step will be a study of specific projects and particularly of radical methods, comparing them as far as possible with emerging best practice. An example is the £120M Thames Water water treatment plant project. The project has been split on an east-west basis and, following selection, one contractor appointed to each area. The three bodies all then work closely together, unusually sharing methods and techniques.

Another example is the £17M London Underground Ltd repair work programme where cracked cast iron beams supporting buildings above the Circle Line will be replaced. There is no danger to the public, but the line is closed for three months. Instead of designing and tendering conventionally, LUL used a value selection process to pick a single preferred contractor. This careful preparation should ensure that a team approach prevails between LUL and the contractor.

Both examples are demonstration projects registered with the M4I scheme. Results will be used to enable continuous improvement in performance, and the CRT will develop a guide on Best Practice, which will be made available to others.

Richard Bliss, LUL -

Chairman, CRT Trading Environment Group

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