Anglian Water on why changing approaches to methods, technology and results mean the sector could look radically different very soon.
There’s never been a more challenging time for the water industry.
A growing population and a changing climate are the backdrop for an industry where regulatory requirements are in a state of change.
Customer service expectations have never been higher, while the balance between affordable customer bills and the need for extensive infrastructure investment remains a constant topic of interest in press and political quarters.
All of these influences are likely to alter the way we design, build and manage construction projects during the next Asset Management Period and further into the future.
How we’ll respond to some of these challenges remains to be defined, but some indicators are already visible: we have a direction of travel, even if we can’t yet be sure of the final destination.
New approaches to lower build times
At Anglian Water, for instance, we are continuing to place even more focus on carbon, water use and energy consumption in our design and construction projects. Indeed, this is becoming more common across the industry.
A changing climate is shaping both the projects we are called on to deliver and the ways in which we design and specify them, along with the construction techniques that we subsequently deploy – something which is expected to intensify in coming years.
Over the past decade we have seen the time it takes to deliver projects steadily coming down; that is a trend I believe will continue.
If this is to be achieved successfully, though, I see two themes that sit at the heart of our projects becoming even more prominent across the industry: collaboration and innovation.
“Collaboration will take the form of early engagement of the entire supply chain. This will be vital to further reduce the time to construct”
Collaboration will take the form of early engagement of the entire supply chain. This will be vital to further reduce the time to construct.
It will rely heavily on greater exploitation of improvements in communication technology, as well as the wholesale adoption of building information modelling or product lifecycle management technology platforms.
It will also see the creation of risk and reward arrangements that are increasingly transparent.
These will be implemented through the entire supply chain to drive the right behaviours, and to encourage integration and collective planning to achieve quicker delivery of more cost-effective solutions.
Offsite to the fore
But we’ll need to do more than that to further increase the speed of delivery.
The construction industry will need to develop new ways of working in the management and execution of the whole design-and-build process.
For instance, we’re already seeing a move towards an assembly approach, with strong influence from the elite of the manufacturing industries being incorporated into construction projects.
“This will mean tier one providers will also need the skills to act as integrators. The relationship between the whole supply chain, including logistics, will be redefined”
As part of this, opportunities to exploit offsite manufacturing will be a key focus area, with project solutions becoming more and more about products and sub-assemblies than bespoke, one-off creations.
This will mean tier one providers will also need the skills to act as integrators. The relationship between the whole supply chain, including logistics, will be redefined over this time.
This will eventually influence the setting and creation of specifications, whereby product catalogues emerge at the forefront of delivery, allowing ease of review of solution development, optioneering and final product and solution selection.
As this trend develops, it’s going to require significant input from product and technology providers within the supply chain, to ensure innovation and ease of integration meet the challenge.
Rules changes will transform sector
Against this backdrop, the new regulatory demands imposed on the water industry for the forthcoming 2015-20 AMP will undoubtedly have a significant influence on the approach to construction.
Since privatisation, the industry has focused on ‘outputs’ – things built, constructed and delivered to a budget and a timescale.
For the forthcoming AMP, we have been encouraged to focus on ‘outcomes’; to challenge ourselves as to the overall objective we want to achieve with our work.
This will bring new perspectives for what will be required as we operate, maintain and replace our asset base.
The decision-making processes that underpin infrastructure investment programmes will be measured against new rules. It’s likely to be transformational for the industry.
In parallel to this, we’re seeing a move towards total expenditure (TOTEX), away from the current capital expenditure (CAPEX) versus operating expenditure (OPEX) model that has driven the industry since privatisation.
“The decision-making processes that underpin infrastructure investment programmes will be measured against new rules. It’s likely to be transformational for the industry”
While this TOTEX approach won’t be fully adopted until next year, it is already possible to foresee a future where re-use of existing assets, enhancements in operating and maintenance regimes, and major advancements in extending the life expectancy of assets all become increasingly important areas of innovation.
The input of the product manufacturing community will be crucial to achieving these things.
But this change stands as even more proof that the future of construction in the water industry will look and feel very different from that we enjoy today.
At Anglian Water, we passionately believe that working with the right supply chain in a truly collaborative way, while being open to and welcoming of innovation from throughout that supply base, puts us on the road to the transformation that is required for a successful future.
Whatever challenges the future brings, we’re setting the foundations to deal with them right now.
Jason Tucker is head of capital delivery and supply chain management at Anglian Water