Winner: Transport for London

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As Gordon Colborn of PRTM has noted in his commentary, directly relevant entries that were of Finalist quality were sparse in this, the first year of our Environmental Improvement Award. But that is not to imply that Transport for London is not a worthy winner. TfL itself is a regulatory, contract-awarding and policy-devising body, rather than being a direct player in passenger or freight transport. But this entry shows that, with appropriate political support, even ‘the bureaucrats’ can make a positive impact on logistics and supply chain management.

As is all too widely known, large parts of London seem to form a perpetual building site: inevitably and indeed desirably, given that this reflects London’s continuing pre-eminence as a financial and commercial centre on a global scale. But equally, London’s success depends on free-flowing traffic and site and construction activity often
militates against this, especially given the medieval street plan of much of the ‘Square Mile’. What TfL have done, and the basis of this entry, is to establish, in partnership with Stanhope plc, a leading commercial property developer, Bovis, the construction management company, and Wilson James Ltd, a construction logistics specialist, a unique partnership – the Construction Materials Consolidation Centre.

The concept is that this facility will allow plant and materials to be delivered in something like full truck loads (‘relative bulk’) to the Centre, which can then be transhipped, consolidated and shipped to construction sites on a Just in Time basis. In other industries the merits of this approach are to obvious to deserve comment, but in construction it is something of a rarity: TfL claims, not without justification, that it constitutes ‘a radical step change in construction industry supply chain management’. TfL has addressed some of the inherent challenges in construction, for example the large numbers of stakeholders (ranging from financers and putative tenants through all the main and specialist contractors, to third parties including neighbouring property-holders and local government as proxy for the people whose lives are affected by development). Construction is labour-intensive, and typically subject to financial penalties and legal actions for cost and time over-runs. Hence there is an enormous pressure to improve supply chain performance to develop stability and surety of supply, quite regardless of the desire to mitigate the impacts that even a modest construction project can have on the traffic systems of London. TfL suggests that by 2016, some 35,000 homes and 7-9 million square feet of office space will be constructed. Somehow that has to be achieved without gridlocking one of the world’s great cities.

The Consolidation Centre, in SE London, is modestly sized (5,000 sq m) and located just outside the current congestion charge zone – at this scale it is believed to have the capacity to serve 10 major projects (currently serving four). The results, even on this limited roll-out, are impressive – delivery reliability in excess of 97 per cent, site productivity improved by up to 20 per cent (in other words, hands aren’t standing around idle in the hope that materials may arise sometime): environmentally, TfL reckon that there has been a 50 per cent reduction in local journeys. Less obvious benefits include reduction in waste through ‘shrinkage’, on site damage, better site safety, better transit security (known drivers on planned trips, better inventory control, and increased possibilities for re-useable packaging and reduced landfill waste. The judges commented that ‘This was a new category in the Awards scheme this year, and the response was, frankly, a little disappointing. We are sure that all our finalists pay due attention to their environmental and corporate social responsibilities as a matter of course, but very few chose to highlight this work in their submissions. One entry which did, however, and which demonstrated real progress in this field, was that from Transport for London. The strategic deployment of the supply chain to achieve broader goals, in this case part of the Mayor of London’s regional development strategy, is evident. The judges would like to see more competition in this category next year, but Transport for London is a worthy first winner in this category’.

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