Balfour Beatty is going to use IT to save £20m a year by 2005 – a huge ambition, even for such a big company. The idea is to add the internet to just about everything the business does, from co-ordinating a project team to ordering paperclips. The way it is setting about it is to buy collaboration software and e-procurement tools from the BuildOnline portal. Everyone connected with a project, from architect to plasterboard supplier, then logs onto the portal through the internet. The impressive thing about Balfour Beatty's IT effort, however, is the vigour and political will behind it. Some procurement tools have been in use for six months already, and collaboration tools are being used on 20 contracts. In fact, as chief executive Mike Welton says, IT is at the heart of the group's competitive edge.
This company has no fewer than seven e-commerce strategies in place. At the heart of its policy is procurement and tendering, both of which live on the group's intranet. This functions as a repository of everything that Laing Homes knows – its corporate policy, national agreements, health and safety information and so on. Now, the main focus of its strategy is to roll out its e-tendering tool – currently being spearheaded by its Midlands division. But most interesting is its successful online link-up with builders merchant Travis Perkins.
This company does not suffer from false modesty. Its PAL (planning and logistics) system allows an entire project to be visualised and controlled, enabling the team to work out the most efficient way to go about the construction process. According to Architectural 3D, the system has, so far, delivered a 68-week contract in 57, allowed all trade contractors to be in place on day one, reduced wastage 35%, accelerated the build rate to 8000 ft2 a week and meant that projects are planned to the hour before they begin.
This is an integral part of their business; they’ve actually shown the costs it saves
East Thames Housing Group
This is a text-book case on how to introduce high-IQ working into a small office. First, make sure everyone has an internet-enabled computer and that they use it instead of paper. Result: the elimination of paper, printing and postage costs. The second step is where the IT element really takes off: project collaboration using BuildOnline technology. This cut project time 15%. Any other housing associations wondering how to draw up an e-strategy really should get in touch …
Building Awards 2002
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