12 April 2007 | Paul Snell
Construction firms need to work more closely with their suppliers in order to get "more for less".
Don Ward, chief executive of Constructing Excellence, a non-profit organisation aimed at improving performance in the industry, said working together improved design quality, health and safety and cut costs.
"Clients and suppliers want the same thing," he told delegates at the Achieving More for Less in Construction Procurement conference in London. "You just have to talk about it."
He said collaboration was a "radical change", but the improved performance was worth it. He said removing the tender process could shave six months off a project's length.
He also argued that construction buyers needed to get out of the habit of buying on cheapest price.
"We need to think of the built-life cycle. All suppliers should begin their dialogue with their clients, and their clients' clients, at the start of the process."
Buyers were also urged to consider spending more on the design process at the start of a construction project in order to cut costs, and get better returns later on.
Ward said design costs were minimal compared with the outcomes that businesses and organisations expect from their buildings.
Ensuring the best design at the start would reduce the construction costs, operating and maintenance costs, which in turn reduce overall business costs.
But buyers were urged to remember collaborative working is a two-way process, and allow suppliers to review their performance.
John Lorimer, director of capital projects at Manchester City Council, said: "If it is to be a true relationship, contractors must be allowed to have their say."