… As Mansell's bottom-line shows. Following the best-practice mantra – everything from KPIs to partnering – the contractor boosted profit 50%. But what about the rest of the industry?
Mansell clinched the best practice award by demonstrating a single-minded dedication to improving every possible aspect of the firm's business. Partnering, benchmarking, training, supply-chain management, sustainability, technical innovation, a swift take-up of key performance indicators and Investor In People accreditation have all led to that elusive goal: culture change.

As an example to other firms, all these new approaches, which take time and money to implement, have brought the firm the most important benefit – a healthy bottom line. The tireless determination to improve has shown up in operating profit for 1999, which was 50% up on the previous year.

All this ensured that Mansell shone among a very bright band of entrants. "I was extremely impressed by Mansell's all-round approach," says Zara Lamont, director of sponsor Construction Best Practice Programme. "As a company, it is not just trying to cherry-pick key areas."

Mansell stood out, but other firms made great breakthroughs. The judges were impressed by client Dixons' approach to managing the supply chain, which resulted in a 60% saving in time and a 90% reduction in defects. The Peabody Trust was commended for its pioneering work in modular construction techniques.

Of the contractors, Crispin & Borst stood out for changing its strategy after visiting another contractor participating in the CBPP company visits. David McLean's partnering with Shell was also highlighted by the judges.

"The standards were extremely high and show how the construction industry is embracing these types of challenges," says Lamont.

How is the industry doing?

From finely tuned partnering deals to tackling sustainability and sharing information, construction is embracing best practice. “The sceptics are finding that it can work and deliver for everyone,” says Construction Best Practice Programme director Zara Lamont (pictured). Clients are central to the improvements, in particular local authorities, which are overhauling their procurement to ensure best value for the public. “We are getting lots of questions from clients on how to procure in the correct way. They realise that lowest price is not best value,” explains Lamont. Even partnering is being refined. Veteran users are finding that what they first thought was partnering was nothing of the sort. The new deals ensure that risk is more equally shared, aided by repeat contracts. The sector has woken up to the benefits of measuring performance, and the strange key performance indicator spider-web graphs are starting to become more familiar. Construction is also spending more on training. The CBPP believes that more firms are using the Investor In People scheme to benefit the firm as a whole rather than simply as a logo on stationary. But it does not stop there. An area of best practice that will come to life over the next year is sustainability, as clients and contractors ask where materials are sourced, recycle materials and look at the whole-life costs of buildings. It is easy to pay lip-service to best practice, so it is a credit to the industry that there are so many real examples. Cultural change is taking place across the industry, as shown by the attitude to exchanging information. “A year ago, everyone said we didn’t have a hope of getting people to share information; that has proved wrong,” says Lamont.