Delivering the ambitions of the government’s Industrial Strategy will require a number of key enablers, underpinned by the improved and increased use of digital construction, to work together, says Barry Rust of Tata Steel
The UK government’s Industrial Strategy is an ambitious, long-term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the country.
One of the five key foundations of the strategy is a major upgrade to the UK’s infrastructure, including an increase in the National Productivity Investment Fund (public spending earmarked for raising economic growth) to £31bn to support investments in transport (£4.9bn), housing and digital infrastructure up to 2023.
For companies like Tata Steel involved in the infrastructure sector, these are extremely exciting times.
We have a long history of successfully supporting the UK’s infrastructure requirements over more than half a century, from our supply of more than one million tonnes of pipeline for oil and gas projects in the North Sea over the past 25 years to our involvement in such iconic buildings as Wembley Stadium, the Etihad Stadium, The Shard, Wimbledon Centre Court, the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff and Glasgow’s SEE Hydro Arena.
Elsewhere, we have provided steel for many structures including the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai – the Stade Velodrome in Marseille, the Sochi Ice Dome in Russia and the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans to name just a few.
From our experience of working on major projects, we have identified key enablers that will be critical to the success of the Industrial Strategy’s infrastructure proposals.
Early vendor engagement and Communication
A critical element in the successful delivery of any infrastructure project is effective communication, specifically early vendor involvement. Aligning the objectives of the project, especially in the design brief, with the practical experience of the supplier at the earliest opportunity can create significant benefits both in identifying cost reductions and the agreement of mutual outcomes.
Part of the communication process will be an understanding of the vendor’s capacity to deliver in the contractor’s required timeframe, especially where the vendor is managing several large projects concurrently. This can be a particular issue for smaller suppliers and reinforces the message that early vendor involvement allows for effective planning and delivery as part of the project’s overall success.
Stick to the brief
Another critical element in ensuring the end results meet the original brief will be to ensure the specifications set by the project owner at the start are adhered to throughout the supply chain.
If carried out as stated by the government, the Industrial Strategy has the potential to spearhead the UK’s economic growth well into the mid-21st century. This is too big an opportunity to ‘fudge’. Cost engineering to deliver a project that approximately fits the original plan cannot therefore be accepted.
The Industrial Strategy will generate ambitious and innovative programmes of work. These will demand innovation from suppliers in the delivery of products and services.
For example, to avoid congestion issues and on-site waste, some of the country’s largest infrastructure projects, such as the high-profile Heathrow 2.0 proposal, are planning the creation of supply chain logistics hubs with products assembled into component parts, at a distance from their final destination, so they can be installed more efficiently on site.
In these circumstances, suppliers may have to abandon traditional business models in favour of more collaboration and adaptability for the greater good of the overall project. Tata Steel, one of the largest landowners in the UK, is in a unique position to contribute to this more efficient form of construction.
Innovation will also be required in the sustainability of materials to be used with the intention of further reducing lifecycle costs and delivering more circular economic solutions. As an example, Tata Steel has developed a number of product solutions from energy-generating steel facades in construction to weathering, maintenance-free steel that significantly reduces corrosion potential and will generate clear benefits in terms of reducing maintenance during the project lifetime and therefore enhance cost optimisation.
Enhanced and improved digitalisation Innovation through the improved and increased use of digitalisation across the board to collate and deliver data at speed can improve processes and enhance communication. Tata Steel is developing digital product provenance solutions to enable the increased ‘circularity’ of products and more efficient processes in the infrastructure supply chain. The drive towards greater digitalisation will effectively underpin the above enablers and the delivery of the strategy.
The National Productivity Investment Fund was launched initially in 2016 to add £23bn in investment from 2017 to 2022 (expanded now to £31bn), with spending focusing on areas fundamental to the productivity of the UK, such as research and development, economic infrastructure and housing.
Tata Steel will benefit from this fund in two ways. Firstly, it will drive the company’s innovation and research and development in developing sustainable steel products and services. Secondly, Tata Steel will be a key enabler in delivering the outcomes of the funding by contributing to building the infrastructure required to enhance UK productivity.
In her foreword to the Industrial Strategy white paper, Prime Minister Theresa May talks of building a Britain fit for the future. To achieve this, the six enablers outlined above will all have to work together successfully, and we are ready to play our part.
Marketing Manager, Energy & Sustainability
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