Collaboration is the future for local authorities

(L-R) Peter Shone, managing director of highway maintenance company JPCS, Councillor Judy Foster, cabinet member for transport, and Mike Gower, environmental street care manager

– by Peter Shone

Taking a collaborative approach with local authorities creates the most effective partnerships, helping to reduce maintenance costs, whilst delivering a quality service for end users, says Peter Shone, managing director of national civil engineering and highways maintenance contractor JPCS.

The relationship between local authorities and the supply chain is changing. With budgets being so tightly squeezed, a new approach to how contracts are managed is needed to ensure the most cost effective solutions for all parties.

The supply chain needs to engage with local authorities to see tasks and objectives through their eyes, helping them to then develop the most efficient and cost effective solutions. Taking this approach will not only help secure new business, but also build productive business relationships with local authority clients.

Reducing lifecycle costs

Contrary to popular belief, the procurement departments at local authorities are not just looking for the cheapest product, solution or service when putting maintenance work out to tender. Budget cuts have meant they need to take a long term approach and select the contractor or supplier who is going to be able to provide the best efficiencies over the entire lifecycle of the product.

This creates a challenge for the supply chain – how can we provide a reduction in long term costs without compromising quality?  Innovation is the answer.

For instance, our years of experience in the highways maintenance sector made us realise that a more cost effective solution was needed for pothole repairs, which lead to the development of Rejuvopatch.

Rejuvopatch provides a cost effective and sustainable method of carrying out a wide range of repairs to defects within bituminous bound surfaces. The Rejuvopatch material is a hand lay, cold applied microasphalt patch repair material made up of bitumen emulsion, granite aggregate and granite aggregate fibre reinforcement. It is suitable as a permanent patching or surface treatment product.

A great example of how we’ve been able to use this innovative product, in collaboration with a local authority, is the work JPCS has delivered to Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Since 2009, JPCS has been working in partnership with Cheshire West and Chester Council, along with contractor Bam Nuttall, to implement an ambitious highway and infrastructure renewal and maintenance investment programme. After a joint site audit with the council it was agreed the innovative Rejuvopatch would be the best product to address the defective areas of carriageway and undertake pothole repairs. The Rejuvopatch was specifically designed to address the local site requirements, mixed on site and hand applied.

By selecting and using the innovative Rejuvopatch system, JPCS provided a permanent patch repair to defective areas of carriageway.  The finish of the product is both aesthetically pleasing and hardwearing, permanently arresting deterioration and oxidisation. It also created saving for the council as it was installed for 20% of the cost of full reconstruction which in turn created dramatic cuts in the whole life maintenance costs across carriageway assets.

Kevin Carrol, highway manager for Cheshire West and Chester Council, said:  “Our focus is on asset management and value for money.  We undertake permanent repairs where and whenever possible making sure that consideration is given to the treatments to ensure they are appropriate to the road type and the longevity of the treatment.  The Rejuvopatch product has flexibility and has been used over a number of years our urban areas with great success.”

After the project, the Council received a national award for the standard and quality of the work in filling reported pot holes from the UK National Cyclists Organisation, also reaching the top of the league for both the ‘speed of fixing’ and ‘quality of repairs’ category (People’s Vote).

Integration in the supply chain

Partnerships across the entire supply chain are going to have a growing importance in the infrastructure sector.

The benefits of term maintenance contractors and direct labour organisations embracing and integrating the specialist supply chain are plentiful. It ensures an improved understanding of programmes priorities and strategic objectives, which mean all parties are working to the same goal.

This aligned approach will not only help with programme scheduling, reduced lifecycle costs and quality control but also creates a platform for both suppliers and clients to deliver the highest standards and continually improve working practices.

For example, we’re working with Balfour Beatty and the Highways Agency on maintenance works on the A50 Stoke to Derby. We’ve developed an integrated approach with Balfour Beatty and set service level agreements, this has meant we have been able to guarantee all response repairs are completed within the five day service level agreement, with an excellent safety record – zero incidents to date.

Collaboration boosts sustainability

A good working relationship with local authorities can create more than just cost savings and innovation, it provides an opportunity to boost both the supply chains’ and councils’ sustainability.

For example, JPCS have been working with Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council since 2001 and, in partnership with the council, has developed a footway recycling solution to avoid costly reconstruction, saving the client thousands of pounds.

The process involves removing the existing asphalt and recycling it by a mobile excavating machine. This new recycled material is laid as a new binder course and then overlaid with a thin surface course.

Councillor Patrick Harley, cabinet member for transportation at Dudley Council, said: “We were not only impressed with JPCS’s experience and cost effective maintenance solutions but also its green credentials. The business illustrated fantastic examples of CO2 and waste reduction and we will work together to make our borough greener.”

Collaboration clears roads

Collaboration can help secure happy end users. Projects in the infrastructure sector have high pressure on them to be finished not only on budget but also within the shortest time period possible. The public don’t want to have road works taking place for weeks on end and local authorities don’t want to have to deal with complaints from the public when infrastructure projects cause disruption to the road network.

These challenges led to JPCS’ traffic management and vehicle restraint systems (TM/VRS) unit developing a bespoke vehicle which is revolutionising traffic management.

Taking a collaborative approach for this project, the TM/VRS team spent time consulting with all stakeholders, local authorities, on the ground operatives and the vehicle manufacturer, creating a unique design which is completely fit for purpose. By converging the specifications of a barrier rig with those of traffic management and vehicle restraint system vehicles; JPCS has developed the first bespoke, single vehicle which performs these tasks in one single operation.

The new vehicle combines the key features of two separate vehicles, thereby reducing labour, fuel and maintenance costs as well as minimising the environmental impact. It will make a significant difference to the way these operations are undertaken around the country in the future.

The custom-built vehicle incorporates a barrier rig for VRS and crash impact protection for traffic management. It has also been designed with twin barrier hammers for repairing barriers, an in-built compressor, remote control hiab, tower lights, generator powerpoints and a storage area for cones, signs and VRS components.

This has been a complex project which required significant planning but it has certainty been worth it.  The annual fuel cost savings alone are £15,000 and we predict JPCS will be able to generate a total of £30,000 worth of savings every year through the new vehicle.  This, in turn, means we will be able to offer a more efficient, cost effective and environmentally friendly solution to local authorities and contractors. It also speeds up the time TM/VRS work will take, thus helping clear roads and reducing the impact on public road users.

In our view this innovation, which was born out of collaboration, will become a benchmark for highway repair operations in the future.

Collaboration is the future

I firmly believe collaboration is vital to the future of the infrastructure industry. The best working relationships will be the ones where the supply chain take time to listen to local authorities’ needs and frustrations – and vice versa. This approach will help partnerships to innovate and deliver all projects successfully, sustainably and cost effectively – for the long haul.

As featured in the Infrastructure Journal in December 2012