Transforming the procurement and delivery of civil engineering projects is a major issue for the industry at large. Leading the way are specialist SME companies like PCSG.
Croydon-based consultant PCSG is no ordinary SME. It boasts as chairman the government’s former building information modelling (BIM) tsar, Mark Bew.
So it should come as no surprise that digital advisory services are a key element of the PCSG offer. The firm is busy working with UK government clients such as High Speed 2 Ltd and Highways England, or spreading its wings globally and bringing BIM to Australia and the wider Asia-Pacific region from its Melbourne satellite office.
But Mark Bew is only part of the story. Where PCSG is focusing and where it is making waves right now is in helping clients deliver transformation programmes through new approaches. This frequently involves changes in mindsets, cultures and behaviours.
It is the passion of PCSG founder and managing director, Katherine Bew, Mark Bew’s wife. She started the firm as PCS in 2000 after leaving Laing Civil Engineering.
Back then PCS played to Katherine Bew’s strengths as a marketeer and largely helped contractors big and small with marketing strategies, business development, bid management, bid writing and bid production. Many a contractor secretly owes some big contract wins to her advice.
The key role for PCSG is to use leading-edge data and process techniques to drive maximum value at all stages of the asset lifecycle
PCS evolved organically until 2011 when, fresh from advising the government on its BIM strategy, Mark Bew founded sister company ECS to offer strategic advice about digital technology. Then in 2014 environmental consultant Earth to Ocean Ltd was acquired and the three firms were brought together as PCSG.
The firm, now nearly 50-strong, still provides bid support to contractors but is much broader and bolder.
“The whole point of bringing the three companies together was to leverage as much value as possible from our collective brainpower and solve key business issues with digital, environmental and people-centric strategies,” explains Katherine Bew.
Sellafield procurement transformation
Nowhere is that better demonstrated than at Sellafield, where PCSG has helped to develop a genuinely innovative, transformational new contractual mechanism.
The approach which has the potential to accelerate the delivery of remediation works at the nuclear reprocessing plant at best value for the taxpayer.
With its partners, nuclear engineering consultant Nuclear Technologies and project manager Enkom, PCSG is part of the project facilitation team tasked with supporting the trial of the use of an outcome based contracting (OBC) approach. The relatively small yet complex remediation of Pile 1 East Bower House was selected as the pilot project for OBC, which is being delivered using the NEC3 ECC Option A: the fixed price option.
The project outcomes of value to Sellafield are identified at the outset and defined in the tender – there are six in the pilot project. Fixed price payments are made on the successful delivery of each outcome.
The beauty of it, says Katherine Bew, is in the collaboration that takes place before contract award and then throughout delivery.
If someone trusts us to deliver, and we do deliver, then it leads to more work
“Considerable time and effort have been invested to really understand and define what is meant by collaboration in the context of remediation contracts at Sellafield.
“We’ve taken our high-performance team model which introduces the three key collaboration activities: proactive risk management, joint problem solving and learning leading to improvement,” she explains.
“If, as an integrated team, you are constantly doing those three things and you have the collaboration imperatives of strong continuous leadership, mutual trust and respect, and open communication, then you have the recipe for a true win-win. But you have to be committed and invest in it, from beginning to end,” she says.
There is a lot going on under the bonnet of PCSG’s collaborative approach and Katherine Bew has been instrumental in the development of an OBC toolkit to capture the principles and all the effort required from all sides.
“The OBC principles in the toolkit are really important – they ensure alignment of the project to corporate objectives and the basis for this highly collaborative approach. Alongside the OBC principles, there are 50 activities in total in the toolkit’s project roadmap and we have guidance and learning for each to help the collaborative process work,” she explains.
Transformational change such as this takes time, but overall the pilot – now over halfway through delivery – is already proving to be an award-winning hit and Sellafield has been working with the project facilitation team to roll it out on the next, bigger, project. “What could be better?” she asks. “It is a privilege to be part of this team.”
If that work is close to the heart of Katherine’s passions, PCSG’s work on High Speed 2 is close to that of her husband Mark. There, it is working on an equally cutting-edge project to deliver a platform that unites all the data being held in the mega-project’s plethora of work packages
“The key role for PCSG is to use leading-edge data and process techniques to drive maximum value at all stages of the asset lifecycle,” she explains.
The business is certainly going from strength to strength. It is looking to meet customer demand and maintain its significant growth rate by adding around 12 people to the team through 2019.
“We will only grow and develop if we can find people with the right values, behaviours and capabilities that mean we remain technically outstanding,” stresses Bew.
“As owners of the business we are in charge of our own destiny. We choose to invest significant earnings in developing both our people and our products,” she states.
Clients are missing out if their procurement strategies make it difficult to access the resources and skills of the innovative SME sector. “This could be eased if procurement processes acknowledged the untapped value that organisations such as PCSG can bring,” she says.
Much of PCSG’s work comes from reputation and personal recommendation and that, says Bew, is ultimately what matters.
“The reality is, if someone trusts us to deliver, and we do deliver, then it leads to more work, meaning we have a sustainable business while enhancing our clients’ businesses.
For me, it really is all about the win-win.”