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Collaboration & open innovation

Source: Rail Technology Magazine April/May 2013

Chris Williams-Lilley, founder and managing director of Rail Champions, refl ects on issues arising in tenders and in the supply chain ahead of Railtex 2013, as constructors and suppliers are judged not only on price but increasingly their CSR credentials and whole life running costs.

As I sit writing this month’s editorial, I’m riding on a London Midland train heading into London, mid-afternoon on a Thursday – ready for a major bid presentation with a client. It’s a timely reminder of the current market, where a lot of effort has been put in to get to this stage. The fi nal decision will ultimately be made on the back of each supplier’s pitch, bid submission and ability to convey ‘they/we’ meet and exceed the client’s expectations.

We spend an awful lot of time keeping track of the latest thinking, and keep ahead of our competitors. You must do the same? The only way to win work is to meet the client’s goals, offering guidance and support on bid solutions and act responsibly when the order have been placed. At Rail Champions we also work with some very inspirational people, from all quarters of the industry, so it comes as no surprise we want to investigate the workwinning strategies emerging in the rail sector – which brings me to the Platform Sessions at Railtex, and why we would like to invite you to attend these interactive sessions.

Our vision at the very start was to explore and investigate key topics that regularly feature in the rail press, creep into tenders and may offer suppliers some insight into the changing commercial landscape; it may just help your organisation win more work too!

We are delighted to have 12 experts leading the discussions, including Paul Zanelli (head of R&D) from Network Rail, Chris Leech MBE (national account manager) from BITC, and Richard Graham (head of strategic growth) from Balfour Beatty Rail, to name but a few, each sharing their thoughts and answering your questions on transformation, sustainability/ CSR and innovation.

The back story to these topics is simple. Suppliers these days are seeking to match the needs of an ever more informed client, which may lead to new opportunities to refi ne technologies and deliver a more effi cient service. Can this actually be achieved whilst the UK is in the grip of the worst recession in 50 years?

There has been cost-cutting, loss of skilled labour and increased competition from new suppliers entering the market. Nobody said it was easy.

Asset rich operators and maintainers are demanding incremental benefi ts from suppliers and employing ‘whole life cost’ analysis, which is a positive step forward, and something Network Rail has built into Control Period 5 (CP5).

Why is this an important step? A benchmark study completed in 1998 found that construction projects exceeded their budgets by 50%. Thankfully times have changed, and now it’s evident from tenders that key principles such as outline design, running costs, a clear brief and simple payment terms are yielding signifi cant results.

Testament to this was the completion of East London Line Project, which came in on time and to budget, and transformed London.

It’s great to celebrate the past successes, but there are new challenges ahead. We are moving into a new era of the ‘knowledge age’ so it’s becoming popular to share ideas and be open to collaboration and open to innovation.

Remember too that old habits die hard. In a recent report by TfL, it alluded to the fact that £34m was casually spent on drawings and consultancy for the West London Tram, which had no chance of happening!

Transport operators are serious about both sustainability and innovation – so should you be. Both subjects are inextricably linked. As key players in the rail supply chain, organisations like yours are encouraged to co-create the next generation of products and services.

We believe it’s not just about generating profits and great ideas; it’s also about solving real-life problems – about continuous engagement and motivation to do better. That means embedding Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) into our daily lives.

Back to reality, and I’m just passing Edgeware Road Tube station, and recall that if the holepunch signalling equipment goes wrong down there, then 250,000 passenger journeys are disrupted. Added to which, 40% of our trains running up and down the UK are past their expected lifespan. Let’s not get onto the franchise plans just tabled by the Government, we’ll be here all day! If you want to continue the discussion, let’s meet at The Platform Sessions, which run from 30 April to 2 May at Railtex.

Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at [email protected]


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