The Value of Collaborative Working

As a major part of a number of our negotiated framework extensions for AMP6, we are tasked by our clients to embrace the concept of collaborative working.

The ethos behind the initiative is to provide better and more efficient project deliveries, beneficial to all parties. The ultimate aim is to create a closer working relationship with not only the client, but also between different framework contractors working for the same client.

To operate a framework successfully, mutual trust and co-operation has always been essential. True collaborative working now requires the working relationship to be more transparent than ever before.

Monitoring the value that collaborative working is delivering, we have been set by our clients various efficiency targets between 10% to 20% savings by 2020 based on AMP5 tendered rates. Eighteen months into AMP6 we would consider that we are approximately 50% of the way towards these goals.

This portion has been surprisingly easy to achieve through various planned initiatives such as: 

  • Batching of schemes such as reservoir membrane replacement. This allows us to take control of the programme, ensuring the same labour teams can be utilised. This has meant each similar project is delivered consecutively and quicker through task familiarity. This method provides programme savings and also allows reservoir assets to be out of service for much shorter durations. 
  • Live working for reservoir membrane replacement. Stonbury has worked hard to provide a robust method of working over live reservoir assets for membrane replacement. This method allows us to carry out such work in the summer months, when traditionally assets are not taken out of service. Working in good weather reduces the risk of delay and provides the benefit of longer working hours. The increased efficiency is passed back to the client.
  • Changes in working methods. Innovative ways of delivering work differently and more efficiently is in some respects one of the biggest challenges, but one we are completely committed to. We are working closely with material manufacturers, emphasising the importance of reducing cure times for over-coating and of applied material. The cure time for return to service with associated programme savings is an example of this.

The real challenge now is to get from 50% to 100% and beyond the clients expectations of efficiency from collaborative working.

Communication for better collaborative working is critically essential. Some clients hold detailed progress meetings or forums between all framework contractors, others do not. For some clients that do hold communication exercises, information sharing between contractors is still extremely limited. Unless all parties are willing to share their best practices then the true value of collaborative working will never be realised.

Similarly, some clients encourage co-operation between high level framework partners and the lower tier framework contractors. However contract restrictions are imposed on getting 3 separate ‘subcontract quotes’ from both framework and non-framework companies. In reality these restrictions limit the possibility of discussing best value, as work is often awarded based on cheapest price.

Collaborative working is not just about efficiency, health and safety also plays an integral part of the concept. Some clients engage all framework partners in H&S forums to discuss best practice, highlighting common issues for lessons learnt to all. Whilst other clients provide no interface between interested parties, making collaborative working challenging. 

As a point, we are not aware if the UK water companies are working collaboratively. Collaborative initiatives between water companies encourages the sharing of best practices and the lessons learnt, which in time will contribute to a better industry standard of working.

In summary, Stonbury has seen a huge benefit already from collaborative working, but realise that the journey has only just started. The true value of collaboration is, however, still a long but exciting road ahead. 

Stonbury collaborating with material manufacturers