It's good to talk

It's time the practice of partnering on projects went a step further, says Alison Luke.

COMMENT, Business

Anyone who has worked in the UK construction industry over the past decade will be familiar with the term partnering. Unlike other industry buzzwords that have been forgotten over time, it has stayed the course - and as the years have passed, it seems this is justified.

On a small scale, partnering is evident in the many joint ventures that are formed between firms to carry out projects. This is common practice on many of the major jobs within the Middle East, as contractors join forces to tackle ever larger and more complex masterplans. But is it time to take this practice a step further?

The excitement in the UK did not centre around two or three firms agreeing to work together to complete an individual project. The focus was on the long-term benefits that such teamwork could bring to both the firms involved and the projects on which they worked. This meant looking at the bigger picture and at the earliest possible stage involving every firm that may contribute to projects. It also meant firms signing agreements that could be applied on future projects yet to be won.

Full supply chains have been established in the UK construction sector, with every party - from product manufacturers to main contractors - agreeing their terms of work in advance. Deemed 'strategic alliance partnering' it is this type of agreement that can make a real difference to jobs. The project team can hit the ground running when contracts are awarded and lessons learned on one job can be carried on to the next as the supply chain stays together. This enables continued improvements in construction techniques and, inevitably, build quality and efficiency.

This month's interviewee was a central figure in establishing such processes at one of the UK's largest contractors and he is now aiming to emulate that success in the Gulf. Charles Lever believes that the time is right for firms operating in the region to truly embrace partnering. And looking at the current marketplace, it would be hard not to agree. With the number of projects on the drawing board, plus the speed of construction expected, surely any method that can ease their efficient completion is welcome.

The signs are that change has begun. Speakers at June events hosted by ASHRAE and the Emirates Green Building Council focussed on the ability of integrated teamwork to create more energy efficient MEP designs and the audiences reported firms within the local market moving towards more teamwork- orientated procurement practices. Partnering seems set to become the new buzzword in the region, which must be a positive move for all involved.

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