Collaborative Procurement – A better way of procuring and delivering Engineering Construction Projects.

The saying don’t fix what isn’t broken is sometimes good advice, but when something is broken beyond repair, then replacement is the only effective option.

A great deal has been written about why mega projects fail and many hypotheses have been expounded. The simple truth is that engineering construction projects, mega or otherwise, succeed or fail because of human endeavour and behaviour.

The procurement models in common use in Engineering, Procurement, Construction arrangements (eg. Lump Sum Turn Key, Lump Sim etc) are not of themselves bad; it is the way in which they are used and abused that sows the seeds of project failure and because, most frequently, there is little or no opportunity for collaboration and improvisation.

In the long history of humankind…those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed (Charles Darwin).

Collaborative style contracts have been around for several years. However, it is not the contract itself that brings the results, it is the people using the contract that practice collaborative working within the legal framework of the contract that drives success. Mindset and the willingness to do things differently are the basic levers for success – collaboration and improvising to prevail as per Darwin’s observations.

Those that have practiced collaboration and improvisation on their projects effectively have generally been successful – performance and delivery is achieved safely and to the required quality, in less time and at less cost than other procurement methods and provided a satisfying experience for the people. What is there to disagree with? In engineering construction, use of the ECITB’s Collaboration Toolkit has shown significant improvements compared to “traditional” methods of contracting in the UK North Sea sector.

So why has collaborative working practices on engineering construction contracts not been adopted universally when the benefits are so obvious to substantially reduce or eliminate the risk of project failure or put another way – increase considerably the possibility of success?


  • although those procuring engineering construction supplies, work and services often recognise the obvious benefits of collaborative working, many prefer the master – servant relationship that resides at the core of LSTK EPC and similar contracting arrangements, and
  • those financing the projects often prefer that the supply chain takes and absorbs the risks, even though it is invariably well-recognised that they are not the parties most able to bear and manage many of the risks.

Here lies the origin of project failure. Those continuing to participate in this approach are destined not to prevail. Except in specific circumstances where used and applied as orignially intended, the LSTK EPC and similar contracting models are broken beyond repair and no longer fit for purpose. What further damage will be done to the engineering construction industry by perpetuating procurement of EPC work on the basis LSTK and similar contracting arrangements?

Conversely, those organisations willing to adopt collaborative working practices within the framework of suitably crafted contracts will create the opportunity for successful project delivery, leading to greater and more certain investment and industry sustainability.

The European Construction Institute in collaboration with Constructing Excellence, is holding a WEBINAR on 6 May 2020COLLABORATIVE PROCUREMENT. This will explore, through case studies and the personal experiences of a panel of practitioners and specialists from a wide spectrum of industry, including an exposition of the successes achieved thus far with ECITB’s Collaboration Toolkit, the benefits of collaborative working for the engineering construction industry and the actions needed to be taken to accelerate the use of this procurement model.

This WEBINAR is open to owners / investors, contractors, manufacturers, suppliers, specialists and consultants engaged in global engineering construction projects.

To register your participation and receive details of the WEBINAR, go to

Join us and help to transform your industry and put an end to failing projects.


John Fotherby


European Construction Institute

Downstream EPC Conference

John Fotherby, Chair, European Construction Institute (ECI) is joining Tony Maplesden, Collaboration Coordinator at the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board (ECITB), to deliver The Benefits Of Collaboration and Collaboration Contracts at the Downstream Project Management Conference in Brussels on 3 and 4 December 2019Project Management In the Age Of Digital Transformation. John and Tony will remind delegates that it is people that deliver Engineering Construction projects and put the proposition that the universal adoption by the industry of digitalisation, collaborative working practices set out in the ECITB Project Collaboration Toolkit as well as other complimentary interventions being supported and promoted by the ECI, Construction Industry Institute (CII) in the USA and other industry bodies will, collectively, revolutionise the way projects are conceived and delivered. The ECI is a membership organisation open to all organisations engaged in global Engineering Construction.

ECI & Constructing Excellence Productivity Workshop 23 October – output

ECI & Constructing Excellence Productivity Workshop 23 October – output

We had a lively and productive day at the joint ECI and Constructing Excellence workshop on Eliminate Waste – Maximise Productivity – Become Successful.

ECI John Fotherby from Kingsfield Consulting provided a stark message that if the industry does not change itself, disruptors will and urged a holistic approach across the four key areas of People, Process, Technology & Organisation.  We are thankful to the excellent facilitation provided by Constructing Excellence members Aspen Global to drill into delegates priorities and viewpoints.

Attached is a paper that covers a summary of the key points arising from the pre-event survey output from delegates, output from the event and proposed approach to getting the Revolution underway. We have prepared this in PowerPoint format so that you have a good visible representation of the workshop that you can share with your colleagues, management, customers, subcontractors, vendors and consultants – we seek your support to “spread the word” and generate interest in the Revolution that we agreed at the Workshop was necessary if the industry is to be sustainable. We would also appreciate you and your colleagues’ input / comments / suggestions regarding the way forward proposed in the attached paper.

We encourage you to join the ECI portal on Microsoft Teams. Those who were present on the day should already have received an invitation link to Teams. Please email for further invitations or help logging in.

Help us prepare for the next event in February 2020 where with your help and support we will drive the Revolution to the next level.

Thank you for your continued interest, support and commitment.

Engineering Construction : Radical Change For 21st Century Prosperity

In 1829 Stephenson’s Rocket was cutting-edge but became not-fit-for-purpose due to changing market conditions & requirements, technological innovation and business demands – the world moved-on.

Engineering Construction Business

According to the US Heavy Construction index, as reported by Yahoo! Finance, contractors’ average profits in 2018 were 1.8%. This year, the same index is tracking a $400 million collective industry profit on $94 billion in revenue which is equal to 0.5% profit! What does 2020 hold? The supply chain is not doing much better, if at all.

Those that are doing better than the average should be grateful, but nobody can afford complacency – the contracting business environment is far too fragile. Contrast this with the owners’ experience of uncertain and delayed completion and start-up, substantial cost overruns and challenges in bringing industrial facilities up to and maintaining their full specified operational performance. Whichever way one looks at it the industry does not paint a pretty picture and is not attractive for existing and potential investors.

The Case For Radical Change

While many in the industry are not sitting idly by and hoping for better times to come but are considering and taking measures to improve their lot, the fact is that without radical change the engineering construction industry is not sustainable in the medium term. It is not a matter of tampering with the current models to get slightly better results, because even if these are achieved the ‘success’ will be short-lived. Most of the potential cost and schedule reductions have already been taken out of the traditional-model supply chain.

30-Year-Old-System Not Fit-For-Purpose

The concepts for project delivery and contracting methodologies that have served the industry for the last 30 years or more are no longer fit-for-purpose in today’s world. The notion that obligation and risk can be passed down to the lowest bidders in a supply chain of twelve or more levels and expect effective, efficient and economic performance back up the supply chain is misguided. The amazing thing is that this is nothing new – John Ruskin in mid-19th century England said of doing business “…if you pay too much for something you lose a little money, that is all, but if you pay too little for something then you run the risk of not achieving the thing you wanted…”. How often do owners not get the things that they wanted? … and why is this?

Recent “Successes”

Recent reports of some owner project successes in terms of delivery times and costs may suggest a turning-of-the-corner but when one digs a little deeper into the reported “successful deliveries”, these are not all that they are made out to be. And we must consider that those projects were delivered at a time of low project investment and a high level of resource underutilisation with the result that they attracted a lot of experienced attention. It is not too surprising that they went tolerably well.

Radical Change – What Does It mean?

So what does radical change look like? Stephen Mulva (Director, Construction Industry Institute (CII), University of Texas, Austin, TX) illustrates this well in his presentational slide OS2 Business Model (vs. OS1):

The triangle illustrates ‘OS1’ – ie., Operating System 1 which is the 30-year-old model, and contrasts this with ‘OS2’ which is currently being researched and developed under the auspices of Stephen and the CII. The striking thing is that the inefficiencies of the transactional arrangement in the multi-layered supply chain account for more than 40% of project development costs. The component parts of that 40% are illustrated in another of Stephen’s presentational slides;

It is to be noted that the sum of the figures listed amounts to more than 40%. This is because the CII researchers applied a formula to accurately reflect the overall effect of the individual items listed to arrive at the 41.43%.

But there is another benefit from removing this waste – shortening schedules. This means owners get the products from their new plants to market far quicker.

Tampering With The Old System Will Not Reduce The Costs or Schedule

The fact is that no amount of tampering with OS1 will reduce significantly the transactional costs because they are an intrinsic part of the 30-year-old system. Hence, the system must go and be replaced by something far more efficient – OS2. This will operate on an Open Sourced, Cloud Enabled Thin Platform specifically developed for this industry – currently there is not one. For more information on this follow the link to

What Evidence Is There That Such An Approach Works?

Stephenson probably had many nay-sayers when he developed the Rocket – this new-fangled technology will not catch-on – it won’t replace horses! How often has this been said in other contexts – telephone, airplanes, the “wheel”? But Stephenson’s cutting-edge technology in 1829 was soon overtaken by “events” and became not-fit-for-purpose.

Firstly, like it or not, we are living in the age of technology and have been for some while. If like me you are of a certain age, today’s rapidly evolving technology is a challenge! However, the issue is the present and the future, not the past. The industry is already embracing technological advancements cloud-based computing, BIM, digitalisation, artificial intelligence, drones, off-site factory fabrication etc. OS2 utilises these and goes much further.

But other industries are far more advanced in this area than engineering construction – shipbuilding, automotive and aerospace are but three examples. Engineering construction is a relative newcomer to technological advancements – why? Again, Stephen Mulva in a presentational slide illustrates Boeing’s approach to the 787 (Dreamliner) development:

It worked – the plane has been operational for some time and is the best thing in the air from an ordinary passenger perspective. Boeing set the tempo that others will have to follow. But think of what Boeing achieved in terms of engineering construction – 40% reduction in development costs and 33% reduction in schedule – and that is fact not myth! I know what will be said – manufacturing in a factory is quite different from construction work on site. Absolutely correct! but isn’t that why the construction industry is turning to maximise off-site factory fabrication and site installation – rather than on-site stick-built construction?

European Construction Institute (ECI)

As ECI Chair I am passionate about fundamental change to improve engineering construction, not just from the commercial business results and sustainability perspective for owners, contractors and the supply chain but also as an attractive career for the next generation of well-educated women and men – it is high time the industry is available to 100% of the population instead of 50%!

The ECI is committed to supporting the CII OS2 initiative. As part of this our focus is on productivity improvement across all construction sectors by working with and learning from organisations engaged in construction sectors in addition to engineering construction. Follow this link to see our approach

What can you contribute to and / or learn from this debate? Why not join in a see what prosperity in engineering construction in the 21st Century might look like. To learn more about ECI and its activities contact us via

John Fotherby – Chair, European Construction Institute
Chairman, Kingsfield Consulting International

Output from ECI Member Forum 3 April 2019

Thanks to those of you who were able to join us on 3rd April for our Spring Members Forum.  Please find the event report and links to presentations here. Please let us know if you have any questions or queries.

There are some immediate opportunities for you and your teams to engage in the following activities:

We look forward to actively working with all of you to advance this agenda.  Don’t hesitate to get in touch to share your ideas for how we can work together on this.

Engineering Construction Industry Training and Development Awards huge success

The seventh annual Engineering Construction Industry Training and Development Awards which took place on 11 October at the Bloomsbury London,celebrated the achievements and successes of individuals, companies and training providers across the engineering construction industry.

ECI was pleased to sponsor the Large Employer of the Year Award.

You can find a list of the winners here

Rethinking how capital programmes are delivered – report of the ECI conference on 3rd October 2018

Fluor hosted this conference in Amsterdam. There was a consensus with Paul van Weert of Shell who said that a step change in the way we do projects is needed to secure improvement of 30-50% in cost and 30% in schedule. Clearly that won’t be achieved by squeezing margins of suppliers but needs deeper collaboration and a radical transformation enabled by digital disruption. Andy Brown of ECITB presented on the latest approaches to collaboration and alliancing, and Stephen Mulva from CII in the USA presented on progress with their OS2 ‘Prairie Dog’ research programme in this area which is supported by ECI and which will seek to drive the digital disruption. You can download the presentations by clicking on the links below. A summary report of the conference is available below:

ECI Conference October 2018 report

Don Ward and John Fotherby presentation

Frank von Willert presentation

Andy Brown presentation

Stephen Mulva presentation

ECI roundtable for Owner Operators and Investors – 2nd October 2018

ECI and McKinsey facilitated a roundtable of owner operators in the engineering construction sector which was hosted at Shell’s headquarters in The Hague. Capital efficiency and the need to work together better as a sector to address it remains the number one issue for clients. Compared with ECI’s report 2-3 years previously, issues identified included: the crisis led to incremental improvement but not transformational change; competition for capital has increased while project performance has not; industry-level standardisation could eliminate a lot of waste but remains elusive; banks assert more control and drive risk further down the supply chain, increasing cost; and many companies still fail to capture lessons learned and transfer knowledge to new projects. The discussion identified a number of familiar themes for improvement, which require articulation of a clear road map to go from today to a different way of working, which would feature more collaborative contracting/alliances, harnessing the full power of innovation and digital technology to enable structural transformation of how projects are delivered, and sector-level standardisation of processes and requirements. A summary report is available here. You can view the presentations here.

View from the Chair: June 2018

The oil price is now hovering between USD 70 to USD 75 per barrel. Increases in the market price of other industrial commodities have also occurred. There seems to be a gradual upward trend in the award of new projects across several industry sectors including considerable interest in renewable energy, especially photovoltaic plants. So is this the time for rejoicing? I think not.

Firstly, there does not seem to be any significant increase in margins – if anything they are becoming tighter. EPC businesses are not sustainable on profit margins of 1% to 2%. At the same time project schedules are typically becoming shorter, contract conditions are often more onerous for contractors and they are being obliged to take on greater levels of risk if they want to win new orders.

Secondly, for owners and despite the “squeeze” on contract prices, in order to meet their investment needs the cost of plants remains too high, delivery times are unacceptably long and there is often uncertainty regarding plant start-up and performance – all of which can compromise the business case for the investment. Owner target reductions of 50% in investment costs and 40% in delivery times are not uncommon objectives. Research reveals that 40% of investment costs are in transactional costs. This is where attention needs to be focused to bring down the cost of plants, not the prices paid to contractors. Research also shows that delivery tiems can be reduced. However, there will be no improvement without radically changing the way capital projects are delivered.

In Engineering Construction there has been no real improvement in trading conditions since 2014…and they were not great before 2014!. Continuation of current trends will inevitably build up serious challenges in the future for owners, contractors and the supply network – the trading conditions are simply not sustainable. Many in Engineering Construction are well aware. More importantly, the current trading condition trends will not enable owners to achieve their price and schedule reduction objectives. For Engineering Construction to become healthy and sustainable in the medium to long term it is essential to fundamentally change how capital projects are delivered – ACTION TO BRING ABOUT THAT CHANGE NEEDS TO BE TAKEN NOW! The ECI event ‘Rethinking how capital programmes are delivered‘ in Amsterdam on 21 February 2018 confirmed this.

In the USA there is significant growing interest in and support from owners, contractors and supply network for CII’s Prairie Dog initiative led by CII’s Stephen Mulva. It is also gaining interest around the world. This initiative is designed to achieve three prime objectives: (1) significantly reduce investment costs, (2) substantially shorten delivery times to plant operational start-up and (3) create meaningful improvement in shareholder value for all stakeholders. The underlying philosophy is to deliver the plants the world actually needs at times when they are required by utilising more effectively the available resources to produce results that sustain and develop industry capability and performance. This effectively means delivering more plants with the present levels of resources.

In order to ensure the membership has access to and may take benefit from the research outputs from Prairie Dog the ECI has fully endorsed it and will take a small share in the special purposes company set up to develop the operating platform that will ultimately deliver the new approach to capital project delivery. Indeed, the CII is looking to ECI to take the lead in Europe to support and promote Prairie Dog in the research, development and operational phases. This is an opportunity not to be missed if Engineering Construction in Europe is to prosper and develop.

The findings from the ECI Amsterdam event on 21 February 2018 were followed-up in a subsequent event in London on 3 May 2018 which resulted in the formation of three groups to decide upon the research questions on the following topics;

  • Investors
  • Digitalisation
  • Sustainability

Presentation of these questions is expected by the end of June 2018 and research is expected to commence in September 2018. We need to form research groups comprising academics and industry professionals. This is where YOU and your ORGANISATION can actively contribute to and support the change that needs to take place to the way in which capital projects are delivered. CII and ECI can provide the forum but it is only industry that can make and implement the change. Please email to register your interest in participating in a research group and to obtain more details about the research programme and how you can contribute.

The ECI Annual conference will take place on 3 October 2018 and will be hosted by Fluor at their offices close to Schiphol Airport, Netherlands. The Conference topic will be Changing In The Way Capital Projects Are Delivered – Taking Action. It will be preceded on 2 October 2018 by a Client Round Table to be held close to the Conference venue. More details to follow in the next ECI Newsletter.

Recalling JF Kennedy’s sentiments – ask not what your industry can do for you but what can you do for your industry. Let’s work together to make the change that we agree is necessary for a prosperous and sustainable Engineering Construction industry. Your support and contributions are highly valuable and valued.

ECI is reliant upon the continuing support of the current membership and the growth in new members if it is to continue to provide opportunities for Engineering Construction to discuss, determine and implement significant improvement in performance and reward across the industry. It is not only membership fees that are crucial but also active participation in and support of ECI events and initiatives – join-in and help make the difference!

Challenging the mindset in nuclear construction: ‘Construction Factory Thinking’

The nuclear theme group of Constructing Excellence has published the first report in its Productivity Series. The report can be downloaded here.

In his Foreword, the chair of the group Adrian Worker writes:

“[Poor productivity] is not just a perception of the nuclear sector but of the wider construction sector… It needs to be urgently addressed by all involved at all levels if such perceptions are to be altered and greater value delivered to clients reliably and with confidence given to potential investors. It is a burning platform issue which is constraining the development and growth of the sector and therefore the national economy. Changes do need to be led by the major clients and without the creation of an environment where all parties can be successful nothing will change.

Productivity must be a high priority in any delivery model throughout the lifecycle. We also know productivity is an outcome of numerous factors including the environment and structures created by clients and the many inputs and constraints that impact the construction processes. There are views that client capabilities need to be strengthened, delivery models revised, the digital environment embraced and the other factors be improved. We are not seeking to address these aspects in this paper but to highlight the change in thinking required using the proven tools from other sectors could create a new mind set where productivity becomes the norm across all parts of the sector.”

Also in the Productivity Series, Simon Flint of Blu-3, another member of the Constructing Excellence nuclear theme group, has written a blog on the investors’ views of financing nuclear newbuild in the UK, highlighting the challenges including productivity improvement that must be addressed in the sector if it is to secure investment. The blog can be read here .

Report of the third conference of the #CEnuclear theme group
The third conference of the Constructing Excellence nuclear theme group was held in London on 10th May 2018. It addressed investors’ views of the sector, which are cautious based on the perceived high construction risk, and this discussion was followed by the launch of the first in the theme group’s Productivity Series. Read the event report here.