Collaborative working relationships in construction

‘Collaborative working & procurement in construction’

CIRIA recently teamed up with European Construction Institute (ECI) held a seminar on 19 March 2014 which brought together industry leaders to discuss collaborative working methods and case studies within the construction industry.

Speakers from HS2, Costain, Network Rail and Hochtief presented and discussed their views of collaborative working with examples of how they have applied, and were planning to use, collaboration to drive forward business, particularly for large scale projects, and the challenges incurred throughout the supply chain.

Establishing collaborative working relationships can be difficult, taking time to build up understanding, trust, reliability and core knowledge of the opposite organisations. Fostering a culture of trust is imperative to the process but requires a continuity of people and trust throughout teams, from leadership down.

Although it can be difficult to prove or quantify the benefits of moving beyond a transactional contract to a relationship or behavioural contract, it is important to consider benefits other than cost such as business growths, customer engagement, leaner processes, innovation created and time saved.

So why collaborate?

David Sanders, Costain, advised that collaboration is about identifying shared goals. There are certain things we can invest, or offer, to collaboration, and others that are benefits, or which we can get back. Offerings can include anything from information, data, processes, resources and skills and while an obvious benefit would be cost savings, there are other values to be considered as previously mentioned. Collaborative working can also support employment opportunities, cross sector training and experience and help to address skill gaps, supply chain engagement and transparent and timely procurement.

Bill Grose discussed how HS2 are building on work undertaken by Infrastructure UK and recommendations on improving the efficiency of delivery outlined in the Infrastructure Cost Review. Efficiency is not about being cheap, but about cutting out waste. The implications of BIM in collaborative working has been a huge advance, allowing data and information to be shared with ease and speed using shared tools and processes.

Using BS11000, Collaborative business relationships

A key document guiding collaborative working procedures is BS11000, Collaborative Business relationships (2010 BSI), a framework designed to establish and improve collaborative relationships in and across organisations of any size. Comprising of eight stages, it defines roles, actions, processes and responsibilities and supports collaborative decision making.

A case study – the Hitchin Alliance

A combined presentation from Nick Hilton, Network Rail, and Julian Spiller, Hochtief, illustrated the possibilities of a collaborative working relationship, as shown in the construction of the Hitchin Grade Separation, a flyover on the East Coast Main Line, constructed under the Hitchin Alliance, which was formed using BS11000.

Part way through the tender process, Network Rail introduced the concept of contractor and client fully integrating, co-locating and working under a modified contract, and awarding the contract as a ‘Pure Alliance’.

Sharing both commercial staff and engineers, resources were pooled from organisations to create a skilled and motivated team, all of whom were chosen on the basis of “best for the job”.

Key points of this collaboration included identifying and aligning aims and objectives early on, a “best for project” decision making process, combined teams and meetings to foster engagement and a shared risk procurement strategy.

The collaborative arrangement between Network Rail and Hochtief allowed opportunities for innovative solutions, processes, designing and delivery to be identified and developed between all parties involved. This project demonstrates the possibilities to drive forward innovation and create a culture of engagement and innovative thinking throughout the whole project lifecycle by using a collaborative working contract between client and contractor.

CIRIA – Continuing to promote collaboration across the industry

CIRIA are looking to build on their collaboration with ECI in delivering this event, plus the outcomes from other recent events on sustainable procurement and supply management, together with parallel research on risk management and lean construction, to continue promoting collaboration across the industry.