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Making a difference

QUALITY IN CONSTRUCTION AWARDS - The Quality in Construction judges are looking for companies that have really helped push the industry forward, writes David Taylor

WHEN Construction News launched the Quality in Construction Awards over 10 years ago, the industry was entering a critical phase in its evolution.

Decades of adversarial contracting had created an environment of confrontation that compromised efficiency and nurtured a culture of blame on many projects.

The relatively new ideas of partnering, supply chain management and continuous improvement became hot topics and before long construction teams were actively pursuing common aims, sharing information and reaping the rewards.

Of course, the rump of the industry carried on as normal. But change had already started to take place. Management processes have continued to evolve over the ensuing years and the Quality in Construction Awards have tracked - and championed - the trail-blazers.

Today it is not uncommon to find individuals, companies and whole teams who are challenging the boundaries of the construction process.

The changes wrought over the past decade are now ingrained into the industry's culture.

More significantly, perhaps, there are many lesser-known innovators out there whose achievements have gone unsung.

The Quality in Construction Awards are now seeking those champions of change whose company culture has yielded real benefits to the industry.

If you think your company can demonstrate such achievements - whether in management processes, the use of IT, or perhaps in health and safety or training processes, we want to hear about it.

The Quality in Construction Awards will take place in the Hilton Hotel on March 21 2007. Deadline for entries is October 13 2006. For more information on entry categories and judging criteria and to download entry forms, visit www. qicawards. com

COMPANY CULTURE: STARS OF 2006 TRAINING ACHIEVEMENT

Open to individual const ruct ion companies both large and small, this category includes training initiatives of all kinds, whether for operatives or senior managers. The winning entry will show a positive approach to producing well-trained staff committed to delivering exceptional quality to their customers.

Last year's winner was Seddon, based in Stoke, a large regional cont ractor that takes its role in the north Staffordshire community very seriously. All employees receive appropriate training, whether it be vocational or higher education; inhouse, on site or at local colleges.

Seddon's training initiative also extend to subcontractors and clients - indeed to any individual working in the construction team where this is relevant and benef icial to the overall success of the project.

According to the judges, 'this was a great example of ethical trading in the local community'.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY ACHIEVEMENT

The winner of this award will demonstrate significant advances in the quest to trade ethically and responsibly.

Hinging on continuous improvement, this category will reward the candidate that has made most headway rather than declare which company is the most socially or environmentally responsible.

The winner last year was Balfour Beatty, one of the largest UK-based construction companies but also the one which, of all the finalists, had made most progress on corporate social issues in recent years.

Developing a series of Stakeholder Codes of Practice two years ago, Balfour Beatty set minimum standards for its interaction with employees, customers, suppliers and the wider community.

Balfour Beatty has worked hard to increase the openness and transparency of its business - a daunting task for such a large organisation. 'Balfour Beatty is mak ing a real effor t to cor rect past failings and it's doing it very effectively, ' commented the judges.

HEALTH AND SAFETY MANAGEMENT

For firms that make health and safety a top management priority.

Perhaps the industry's biggest corporate headache, health and safety is a constant challenge. But as previous winners have shown, it is possible to complete large, complex construction projects with high levels of health and safety.

The winner of this award will show that health and safety forms a key part of a corporate 'respect for people' agenda and that accidents and hazards are systematically reduced through deliberate management processes.

Kier, the winner of last year's Health and Safety Management award, impressed the judges by showing continuous improvements during a period of rapid growth.

The company decided that it had to 'live and breathe the health and safety system' and so to bring about real change it addressed basic behavioural issues. 'Kier has taken a great leap forward, ' commented the judges.