Transforming highways

24 Nov 21
Transforming highways

A post on GIRI’s LinkedIn account highlighting the cost of error in UK construction caught the eye of Mark Ollerton, commercial director at National Highways, earlier this year and brought the Get it Right Initiative to his attention.

“£21 billion lost each year across the construction sector on error and rework - that could potentially build a lot of infrastructure,” says Mark.

The message particularly resonated with Mark because of the Government’s £24 billion road investment strategy to 2025, delivered by National Highways, and its own commercial delivery models, namely the £9.5 billion regional delivery programme. 

“The funding we receive for a five-year period (2020-2025) comes with a requirement to deliver 10% more efficiently,” explains Mark. “Simply put, if we can get our supply chains to improve quality, we could easily meet that 10% efficiency challenge. This not only creates better value but would also serve to improve supply chain profitability, which can be invested in skills and capability.  

“There is a commercial advantage for us as a client and for our supply chain to get it right first time, and this runs right through the project lifecycle from design to construction.”

National Highways has three imperatives: safety, customer, and delivery. “For us to achieve the targets that sit under our imperatives, we need quality.”

From a safety perspective, one consequence of not getting things right is unplanned activity, such as defects that require time and resources to go out and fix them. National Highways has halved the number of accidents in its supply chain over the last five years, but every error that has to be rectified inherently creates a safety risk. 

“Quality is important for our customers,” says Mark. “They need us to get it right, so we can get on and off the network as quickly and safely as possible to minimise disruption and improve their experience as road users. Doing so also means we unlock the economic benefit of the scheme sooner. To put a figure on that benefit, every £1 we spend enhancing the network delivers £3 to the economy. If we deliver the scheme early, we unlock the value early. 

“Finally, on delivery, quality means greater predictability, for both our customers and our supply chain. It means our customers have smoother, more reliable journeys and our supply chain is getting paid fairly and has a more visible pipeline of work.

“GIRI has given us a flag to rally around, but it is more than just a badge. It is not about building cheaper, or faster. GIRI will enable us to increase value, improve customer satisfaction, reduce safety risks, and help us deliver better.”

However, achieving that requires a culture shift around quality, says Mark. “We need to win hearts and minds in the way the industry did about safety; we need to make it important to get it right and share the benefits of delivering better quality outcomes.

“And it has to start with design. Around 90% of the cost of construction is designed in pre-construction. If we are going to left-shift that quality during the early stages, getting it right becomes essential.

“Getting one small element of the design wrong can have a ripple effect that results in a series of major issues once a project gets on site, so design is key. We need the design community to think about quality outcomes, about delivering a design that is right first time, fit for purpose, on budget, and can be built safely.” 

It is early days for National Highways and GIRI and Mark says the first step towards embedding the principles of zero-error into projects will be engaging with staff and the supply chain to focus on getting the basics right. “As an industry, we have quality systems and processes in place, but are these joined up? We need to make the best use of the mechanisms we have, look for gaps, and identify future improvements and developments.”

“We are going to transform the way highways are built and maintained, both digitally and with low-carbon solutions where quality is at the core. If we can get this right, then the whole of the infrastructure sector and the wider economy will benefit – right first time equals lower carbon, better value for money, and faster delivery.” 

Follow GIRI on Linkedin.

Sign up to our newsletter.


Back Back