Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Why are contractors still not collaborating to drive innovation?

Jim De Waele

Shouldn’t collaboration be a given?

It was interesting to read (NCE 9 January) that Thames Tideway Tunnel Chairman, Sir Neville Simms, is calling for Principal Contractors to collaborate to drive innovation for his forthcoming project.

Surely, years after the Egan Report, this should be a given?  Why are clients still engaged in this sort of rhetoric?  Well, of course, the reality is that our industry is still highly fragmented and we are for the most part focussed on projects that involve short term relationships. The challenge for the industry is for the industry to challenge itself and to either integrate more fully or to genuinely collaborate.

That said, there is a growing recognition, as Sir Neville points out, that it is at the level of the “tier two” contractors where the innovation is delivered.  Some clients, Network Rail for example, are now engaging more than ever before with their supply chain and requiring evidence of collaborative working, using tools such as BS11000 “collaborative business relationships” to help drive the desired behaviour.

The High Speed 2 project team did just that when it invited the Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) to engage with the scheme last year.

The FPS has been around for 50 years now and its members have always been at the forefront of innovation in ground engineering.  Developing solutions in piling, house foundations, ground improvement, diaphragm walling and geotechnical engineering, the FPS has led the way. The Federation represents the best of the sector and is therefore a great resource that clients can tap into if they wish to engage deeper into the supply chain.

When it comes to implementing innovative ideas that will genuinely deliver value, principal and tier two contractors alike will mirror the behaviour of the client.  Hence, if the rhetoric is to be converted into action, clients need to engage and collaborate at the earliest opportunity, selecting the team to deliver the project, not just the principals.

Jim De Waele is chairman of the Federation of Piling Specialists

Readers' comments (3)

  • Robert M J Millar

    Glad to see that little has changed in terms of the FPS approach to innovation and collaboration, but sadly most of the feed back on tenders I see still suggest its a dog eat dog world out there. For the present anyway.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • john patch

    FPS members need to grasp the wonderful opportunity that we have and ensure that Clients and Tier One Contractors know what we can do and what we can offer. With the continued and hopefully sustained journey out of recession we must demonstrate to those who employ us that we are knowledgable, reliable, innovative, enthusiastic, and customer-friendly. Only by demonstrating this will price become a secondary issue to value. Innovation can affect value considerably but unless we show what we can do we'll always be chained to "bottom line" thinking!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Any relationship needs to be two way with Clients and Tier One Contractors working together with the Tier Two Contractors to deliver the best possible project whilst embracing all the innovation available.
    The FPS members are best placed to bring best practice in to play and to provide both the collaboration and innovation that is required to take the industry forward.
    Like everything there is a cost attached and Clients and Tier One Contractors must strive to deliver the most cost effective solution and not simply the cheapest.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.