Contractors to be partners in highways savings drive

13 December 2001
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13 December 2001 | Robin Parker

The Highways Agency has radically overhauled its procurement strategy to streamline its supply base, speed up the delivery of projects and meet the government's ambitious transport goals.

The strategy aims to integrate the supply chain through establishing long-term partnerships with fewer suppliers to spend the agency's £1.5 billion annual budget more effectively. It calls for the earlier involvement of contractors and improved monitoring of the supply base.

Supply chain management teams for north and south England will be set up to manage strategic supplier relations and communicate the agency's long-term ambitions.

The strategy is partly a response to the Transport 2010: The 10 Year Plan initiative launched in July last year by the former Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, which earmarked £21 million for road improvements, including 100 new bypasses and 360 miles of trunk road and motorway widening.

The agency first published a procurement strategy in 1997, which introduced framework contracts, a supplier database and project partnerships for major contracts.

But since these were applied on a project-by-project basis, the agency did not reap their full value, according to Steve Rowsell, procurement director.

"Over the next six months, we will transform procurement into a long-term process," he said. "Before, we partnered with our main suppliers and one or two key sub-contractors. Now we're developing earlier partnerships in an integrated supply chain."

Rowsell said the strategy will create a "right first time" mentality to use resources more efficiently. "It's taken 10 years to deliver some projects in the past and we can't do this if we want to meet the 2010 deadline. We will be encouraging early design and build to hopefully deliver major projects in three to five years."

The organisation will trial an e-procurement system in the new year, and will use the clients' charter scheme from the Confederation of Construction Clients to measure supplier performance.

SMdec2001

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