Evolving performance criteria resulted in a supplier changing their tunnelling method © Crossrail
Evolving performance criteria resulted in a supplier changing their tunnelling method © Crossrail

Crossrail: How we measure supplier performance

15 February 2017

Crossrail worked with its contractors to improve sustainability reporting tools and metrics across the lifetime of the project.

Cathy Myatt, environment manager at Crossrail, said at the beginning of the project she wasn’t “able to completely plan out the data that we wanted to collect”.

“There was a real mixture of ways of collecting data, and what was important to us was flexibility to enable us to do that, and the flexibility of our supply chain to respond to that, which in most cases they did,” she said. “It was very difficult 10, 12 years ago to think what we wanted to collect today because things have moved on so much.”

Speaking at a supplier day for the rail industry, run by the Supply Chain Sustainability School in London today, Myatt explained how Crossrail worked with its contractors to measure sustainability targets including energy use, noise pollution, emissions and waste management. 

As there was no benchmark for how much energy Crossrail should have use “[we] had no way of determining what good looked like,” said Myatt. Her team developed a tool over a number of years in which suppliers entered their individual energy savings. “It was us asking our contractors, ‘How have you done this [reduced energy]?’ We put this back into our tool, we fed it back to them. They said, ‘Hum, it’s not working for us’. It was really a collaborative effort.” 

The tool allowed Myatt to calculate the energy savings Crossrail was making as a whole, which she said was around 15%.

Crossrail also started using qualitative data to measure sustainability targets. Numerical measurements for noise levels at work sites was not a good method of assessing how contracts were performing, said Myatt, as noise “depends on the work you’re doing. Some things are more or less noisy than other things, and complaints are very dependent on the sensitivity and the nature of the community.”

“So we created a set of qualitative noise performing criteria and measured against that,” she said. These included looking for evidence of proactive planning among suppliers, at the leadership’s stance on noise, at how complaints were dealt with and whether monitoring was acted upon. One of the outcomes was that a contractor changed their tunnelling method to one that was quieter.

“The key to me was the transparency, that really helped,” said Myatt. “It was that feedback loop, it wasn’t just us as a client collecting the data and then self-congratulating ourselves and telling our board about it, but actually feeding it back down to our main suppliers to enable them to take action.”

The Supply Chain Sustainability School is an industry initiative that provides training and tools to help make the construction supply chain more competitive on sustainability and social value.

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