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CN Briefing: Procurement; clients; early contractor involvement

“Clients see the procurement process as a slippery bar of soap: they try to take hold of it but it just keeps on slipping through their fingers.”

So said Arcadis head of commercial development Mark Cleverly this morning.

He was sitting on a panel at a breakfast briefing hosted by the consultancy, alongside Derwent London head of development Richard Baldwin and Mace chief operating officer for construction Gareth Lewis.

They were tackling the question: how do we make the procurement process work for everyone?

Design and build has been the dominant form of procurement in the commercial and residential sectors over recent years.

But the landscape has changed, and with it comes the need for greater innovation, particularly within procurement.

The consensus in the room was that we’re a way off from making the procurement process perfect.

However, there were a few suggestions on how it could be improved, and it didn’t take long for a few themes to appear: early design engagement; developing strong supply chain relationships; risk allocation.

According to Mr Cleverley, more clients are “frustrated” and want to take control of the procurement process, while Mr Baldwin and Mr Lewis agreed that far too many projects “start with uncertainty”.

For the Mace COO, a major sticking point was around design integration, with too few clients having a clear design plan sorted early on in the development process.

The antidote to this is early contractor involvement, Mr Lewis said. He called on clients to integrate contractors into the design process earlier.

Mr Baldwin agreed, pointing out that Derwent always seeks to bring contractors in on schemes early through a pre-service agreement.

All the panel members were keen to stress the importance of having strong supply chain relationships right through good and bad times.

As Mr Baldwin nicely summed up: by building strong supply chain relationships and engaging early, developers can start to build procurement strategies that work.

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