Clients in the East of England are echoing calls for collaboration and innovation in the supply chain. Alexandra Wynne reports on the second of NCE’s series of regional workload spotlights.
Given that the East of England is home to Anglian Water - a firm considered to have been one of the pioneers of truly integrated, collaborative partnering in the world of infrastructure delivery, a supply chain engagement event in the region raises expectations of its ambitions.
And Anglian Water, represented by programme manager Matt Humphrey, came armed.
For its latest Asset Management Period (AMP6 running between 2015 and 2020) of works, its mantra in working with supply chain firms - or rather partners, as it prefers to call them, is innovation, collaboration and transformation.
This last point is one to be dwelt on. Much has been made of the shift in the regulatory environment for AMP6 generally - away from AMP5’s emphasis on good management of capital expenditure to a new focus on the whole life cost of building and maintaining assets as well as managing demand - now familiarly referred to as Totex (total expenditure).
And so Anglian Water is focusing on transformation, not only for the current AMP but also further into the future.
Says Humphrey: “In the next five years it’s about us saying: ‘What could a water company look like in 15 years time? And what technologies will we be using?’.”
Technologies have the potential to deliver huge benefits for the firm - particularly in offsite manufacturing and reducing carbon output. Humphrey points to “stretching offsite targets” that mean the firm is seeking a 50% reduction in construction time. And to enhance its carbon busting efforts, it has launched the Anglian Water ‘shop window’ - an online portal that Humphrey describes as a “Dragon’
Den, so to speak” whereby firms with innovative ideas pitch to a judging panel with the ultimate aim of being given space in its online shop window, which promotes innovation across industry, or being incorporated into Anglian’s investment plans.
It is symptomatic of the firm’s intentions to reach out beyond its tier one alliancing partners to give space to smaller, specialist firms that it might not otherwise reach. Another example will come in the way that it is planning to create a network of tier two and tier three suppliers - a single pool of talent.
“We’re looking at aggregating demand across all four of our alliances and approaching the tier two and tier three suppliers in a smarter way,” says Humphrey. Instead of each alliance partner going out separately to market, they will be able to approach them in a collective way.
A desire to stimulate innovation has a home in the highways in the region thanks to the presence of the Norfolk Partnership Laboratory, which, as well as carrying out geotechnical work, focuses on testing and development of new paving materials.
Greater Cambridge City Deal - the first five years
- Milton Road bus priority £23M
- Madingley Road bus priority £34.5M
- Histon Road bus priority £4.3M
- A428 to M11 segregated bus route/A428 corridor Park & Ride £24.5M
- City centre capacity improvements/cross-city cycle improvements £22.7M
- A1307 corridor to include bus priority/A1307 Park & Ride £39M
- Chisholm Trail cycle links / Chisholm Trail bridge £8.4M
- Year one to five pipeline development £10.6M
- Year six to 10 programme development £9M
- Programme management and early scheme development £4.5M
The lab’s work is enabling the roll out of new surfacing materials across the Eastern Highways Alliance - which was formed in 2011 with the help of Department for Transport funding aimed at stimulating collaboration and comprises 10 local authorities.
Since June 2012, it has been running a four-year framework with contractors Eurovia, Jackson, Osborne and Lafarge Tarmac.
The alliance, according to its manager Chris Poultney, is big on learning lessons, sharing those lessons and best practice, innovation and keeping a record of innovative techniques.
Poultney admits that the alliance had a fairly slow start - with a spend of around £4M a year, but says it is now “up to speed”.
Which is just as well as it is now embarking on awarding a four-year framework worth a whopping £500M to £700M - the current OJEU limit is £75M. A supplier day is being held this week to discuss the alliance’s needs but the basics are that the first lot will be for works with a value up to £1.5M with a second for works between £1M and £20M.
Cambridgeshire County Council service director strategy and development Bob Menzies rivalled the alliance’s ambitious programme with a veritable feast of projects underway or in the planning. But he is not complacent - stating plainly that he remained “disappointed” with the money secured via its local growth fund.
In July last year government set the local growth fund for the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Local Enterprise Partnership (Lep) at £71.1M, which was subsequently added to with £38M.
£500M government funding
However, Menzies is more celebratory of the fact that in June last year the Greater Cambridge City Deal secured £500M in government funding over 15 years: “We did better than anyone,” he says, qualifying its success by explaining that “people come and invest in Cambridge” in a way they do not in the rest of the UK, thanks in part to its academic institutions, science park innovation and also because cycling in the city and its surrounds is a “serious mode of transport”. The first five years of spend has recently been agreed and committed to and the work is set to take off at pace (see box).
Menzies is keen to emphasise that although there is much to be done, it is vital to get through all the approvals process to ensure smooth running of the workload and avoid a clash roads are not all “dug up at the same time”.
But then quality of delivery, speed of delivery and the quality of finish will be paramount, he says.
Speed of delivery will be equally high on the agenda across the region’s wider highways works in the coming years, outlined by Highways Agency network delivery and development regional director
Catherine Brooks. As anyone who has had any interest in the investment in the strategic road network knows by now, there will be a vast rise in the delivery of infrastructure projects, not least in the
East of England (see fact file).
So a huge focus for Brooks is the Collaborative Delivery Framework set up to manage the bulk of the work, and in turn, as it says in the name, so is the manner in which the supply chain works.
To reflect this, 30% of the score obtained by firms will be given as a result of behavioural assessments with the teams - the organisation is seeking suppliers who will “collaborate, innovate and challenge”, according to Brooks.
There remains a challenge on how to reach beyond the tier ones to tier twos, she adds, which is something she lays at the feet of tier ones. “It’s difficult to see how tier ones are going to reach out,” she says. “There’s a massive amount of work for them to do.”
Highways Agency proposals for the East of England
Schemes under construction
- M1 Junctions 13-19 - Upgrading to Smart Motorway
- M11 Junction 7 - Junction Upgrade
- M11 Junctions 8-14 Technology Upgrade
- A1(M) Junctions 6-8 Smart Motorway
- A12 Whole route Technology upgrade
- A12 Junctions 19-25 Widening
- A428 Black Cat to Caxton Gibbet Improvement
- A47 Wansford to Sutton Dualling
- A47/A141 Guyhirn Junction Upgrade
- A47 North Tuddenham to Easton Dualling
- A47 Blofield to North Burlingham Dualling
- A47/A11 Thickthorn Junction Improvement
- A47 & A12 Junctions Great Yarmouth Improvements
- A47 Acle Straight Measures to address safety
- A12 North Renumber to A47
Schemes committed subject to other contributions
- A5-M1 Link Road Improvement
- A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon Improvement
- Schemes developed for the next strategic review period
- A12 from M25 to Junction 19 Widening
- A12 from Junction 25 to Junction 29 Widening
- A1 East of England
- Oxford to Cambridge Expressway
Behavioural assessments are also being adopted on the railways as Network Rail has been conducting them of late as part of its effort to “engage in an honest and open dialogue about the challenges and issues we all face”, as Network Rail Infrastructure Projects Southern head of commercial Cameron Burns describes it.
The recent start of its five year spending period kicks off a capital projects spend in the Southern region, which includes the East of England, of £2.7bn.
Behavioural change is not all on the shoulders of the supply chain, according to Burns. The railway infrastructure owner and operator is aware of its past shortcomings.
“We had a reputation in the past of being too quick with the stick and too slow with the carrot,” he says. “Now we’re looking to collaborate with suppliers. We don’t have all the answers and we’re acutely aware of that.”
It’s no doubt reflective of a national movement to collaborate more to deliver better infrastructure. But the issue is high in the minds of those in the East of the country thanks to the potential the region now has to correct years of underfunding.
As Chris Starkie, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership managing director, puts it. “We have a significant historical infrastructure deficit [within Norfolk and Suffolk].”
“But now we have ambitious plans to grow over the next decade.”
Many will be hopeful that not only will all of the development go ahead, but so will the development of a modern, innovative and prosperous supply chain.