Orchestrating Industry Collaboration: HPC Supply Chain Lab hosts event in London

‘Orchestrating Industry Collaboration’ was jointly hosted by the University of Bath’s School of Management and the HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab in London last week. As part of a series of events focussing on the interaction between the so-called ‘golden triangle’, leaders from industry, government and academia had come together to discuss current and future socio-economic challenges for large-scale infrastructure projects in the UK. 

Jens Roehrich, Professor at the University of Bath and Director of the HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab, opened the event by warmly welcoming the audience, the keynote speakers from Hinkley Point C and the panellists from Thames Tideway Tunnel, Heathrow Airport Expansion Programme, High Speed 2, Palace of Westminster Restoration & Renewal Programme, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), and the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA).

Keynote speaker Ken Owen, former Supply Chain Director at Hinkley Point C, started off by presenting a video which impressively highlighted the magnitude of a megaproject like HPC and the remarkable progress that has been made since its start. For a project of this size, complexity and duration, Ken emphasises the importance of establishing strong, long-term partnerships with the supply chain. These relationships should be built on trust and promoted through collaborative contracts and online platforms, which facilitate transparency and communication. Strong relationships will aid project managers in accommodating both the needs of their contractors, who require some degree of uncertainty and flexibility, and of their shareholders, who want the project to be as fixed and predictable as possible. In terms of leaving a socio-economic legacy, Ken demonstrates how HPC has managed to involve local SMEs and raise them to the scale required for delivering on the project. In doing so, HPC has already put £456 million back into the local economy. To preserve the knowledge acquired through such new ways of doing supply chain management, HPC has set up a collaboration with the University of Bath. The HPC Supply Chain Innovation Lab has since been working on not only mapping out of what has been done but also on taking learnings, and thus enabling even smarter ways of doing supplier management in the future.  

The second keynote speaker of the evening, Jean-Pierre West, current Supply Chain Director at HPC, highlights how HPC continues to explore innovative ways of managing its supply chain. With the civils part being nearly completed, the project will soon be handed over to the installation workers concerned with the mechanical, electrical and heating & ventilation features (short MEH) of the power station. The MEH suppliers will install equipment in 75 buildings with 4,000 rooms in the next six years. To manage the vast number of interfaces between suppliers, HPC utilises two approaches. First, by trying to understand complexity better beforehand: Here, HPC utilises 4D modelling software to design technical features and work processes upfront which helps in recognising difficulties early. Second, by reducing complexity through a new contracting approach with which the number interfaces are decreased: HPC has been working with the main MEH suppliers to set up a new joint venture. The MEH joint venture will deliver work on site in single multi-skilled teams consisting of experts from each of the firms. This not only enables HPC to be on target for its commercial start in 2025 but it also contributes to the 20% cost savings for upcoming nuclear project, Sizewell C.   

Veronica Hope-Hailey, Dean of the School of Management and Vice-President of Corporate Engagement of the University of Bath, emphasises the meaning of HPC’s legacy for the South-West region before welcoming the members of the panel discussion: Gavin Dobbing (Head of Programme Assurance and Stakeholder Management at BEIS), Rob Ewen (Delivery Director at Heathrow Airport Expansion Programme), David Hancock (Director at Infrastructure and Projects Authority), Andy Mitchell (CEO of Thames Tideway Tunnel), Fiona Spencer (Head of Profession for project delivery, Capabilities and Resources at Home Office), Mark Thurston (CEO at High Speed 2). The panellists addressed questions around their biggest concerns, which included the UK’s supply chain productivity, safety of workers, but also the over-optimism that seems to be at the heart of every large project. The panel further discussed leadership, trust and stakeholder management. While for leaders it is important to see the bigger picture they also need to accommodate expectations from different stakeholders and adhere to a social contract. At last the panel answered to questions from the audience around budget and time constraints of projects and competitive pricing. The evening was concluded with a drinks reception and the opportunity to network. 

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Drinks reception and networking between industry leaders and experts in supply chain management 

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