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The message coming out of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) is that 2007 is the year that real preparation and procurement for the London 2012 Olympics starts.

And by all accounts, we are told, there is plenty of work for the whole construction industry and plenty of opportunity to demonstrate the UK's creativity and talent. And with over 2,000 packages of work there will be plenty of opportunity to make a profit.

'We are listening and we will listen more, ' said ODA construction director Howard Shiplee speaking at NCE's Games Briefing conference last week.

'We can't do it on our own - we are in a race to win resources and if we are not attractive to you then you will not want to work for us. We want to be a good partner, ' he promised the audience of designers, contractors and product suppliers.

Yet for all the 'good client' intention there was still a clear feeling among delegates - most of whom were looking to become part of the sub-contracting supply chain - that they could easily miss out on the opportunity to be part of this 'once-in-a-lifetime' project.

It is a fair point. Regardless of the ODA's 'robust, fair and transparent' process - 'levelling the procurement playing field for business' as set out in its procurement policy launched at the conference last week - it is clear that the main contractors will still control large parts of the supply chain.

The fear, perhaps the reality for many suppliers, is that if you are not part of, say, Team McAlpine's existing supply chain then you can pretty much forget about working on the stadium. And the same rules apply for the other major venues.

Yet while the ODA would not deny that main contractors are best placed to manage and control their own supply chains, it has made it clear that it wants to be an informed client. Shiplee said he expected main contractors to promote business opportunities and pass the 'level procurement playing eld' down through its supply chain.

he reason is obvious.

Although both Shiplee and ODA chief executive David Higgins made clear that the 2012 project is not about lowest price, ensuring that there is suf ent competition for work will be vital if it is to really achieve value for money.

Hence the focus on industry consultation and on being a good client. Shiplee said they had learned from the recent stadium procurement process, which delivered just one bidder, and would in future be spending much more time and energy consulting with the industry before launching into procurement.

Like so many other clients right now, the ODA is acutely aware that it has to work much harder to attract the best contractors and suppliers. If it wants shortlists of more than one in the future - and it does - it has to understand the needs and expectations of the market.

But the industry must also realise that there is no magic formula for winning work on any project. Breaking into a market and claiming a place on the supply chain requires more than just a good product or service.

As always, relationships will be the key. The ODA has signalled its intention to lift its gaze from any formulaic procurement process and to communicate. It must continue to do so if it is to drive and reward innovation from main contractors right down through the whole supply chain.

Antony Oliver is NCE's editor

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