TWST guides the collaboration in a two-phase process

Infrastructure projects are increasingly working with a new way of tendering: in the two-phase process, pricing for the construction phase follows only after the design or engineering phase. This should reduce (financial) risks, but such a new way of collaborating naturally also presents challenges. This is also the case with the Hansweert dyke improvement project. TWST supports the collaboration between the Westerschelde Water Board and the construction consortium Answest.

In recent years, major infrastructure projects have been in the news with some regularity, and almost never because they went so smoothly. Take for example the construction of Zeesluis IJmuiden. The project was delayed for 2.5 years and due to a design flaw, the developer suffered a loss of €200 million.

Other well-known examples are the Zuidasdok and the Hoevelaken intersection, where developers dropped out or the project was stopped. And for the road widening of the A15 near Nijmegen, VolkerWessels and BAM even stepped out of the current tender.

What these projects have in common is that they were tendered through the now infamous UAV-GC. At a time when infrastructure projects are becoming more and more complex, this type of contract poses (too) much risk for the contractor, contractors complained. In 2019, McKinsey & Company endorsed this conclusion in a study commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat.

Following advice from the strategy office, Rijkswaterstaat switched to a different form of contract: the two-phase process. Because the pricing only takes place after the design or engineering phase, this form of contract gives more room for coordination and consultation, which should limit the (financial) risks.

Dike reinforcement

Other customers are also increasingly working with the new form of contract. This is also the case in the dyke improvement project at Hansweert, a Zealand village situated on the western Scheldt. Five kilometers of dykes have not been found safe enough and are therefore being reinforced. The Scheldestromen Water Board and the contractor combination Van Oord and KWS are working together on this.

Robert Oskam from TWST supported Van Oord and KWS (who work together under the name Answest) in properly structuring the collaboration with the client.

“We started working on the Belbin roles, team roles that are necessary in a well-functioning team and between teams,” he explains. “In addition, we had the necessary attention to the decision-making process and management. In other words: Emphasis is placed on the hard design side and the adaptive interaction side of collaboration.”

Catch setbacks

Oskam also has close contact with the water board to further strengthen cooperation. Cooperation is also the key word within the two-step process, he explains.

“In short, we previously had the tender phase and the implementation phase. Now not one, but two phases follow the tender. In the first of the two phases, you as builder and contractor now work together much earlier and more intensively. Are both satisfied with the first phase? Then it goes to the execution phase. At Hansweert, the first phase was set up as a construction team.”

“The idea of ​​the two-phase contract is that you really use the first phase to map out future setbacks.”

This must avoid the pitfalls of a traditional tender process. The delivery time to arrive at a good offer is often (too) short. And there is still a lot of information missing, especially about possible risks. After that phase, there are therefore still many uncertainties.

“Then there were sometimes unintentional ‘errors’ in the offer,” explains Lennart Booster, Answest project manager. “They will come to light later. The idea of ​​the two-phase contract is that you really use the first phase to map out future setbacks, take a firm hold of them and make good agreements about them with each other.”

“We went through all the contract requirements together,” adds Pol van de Rest, technical manager at the Scheldestromen water board. “Otherwise, disagreements may arise about it at a later stage, because it can be interpreted in different ways. We have now had this discussion before we agreed on the contract.”

Building predictability

While the project is still in full swing, Booster and Van de Rest are very pleased with the two-phase process so far. Booster: “It is also in our interest as contractors to have more time to think about the risks at the front. We can better identify the economic consequences and better distribute them correctly. It went less smoothly because of bidding pressure or the desire to win projects.”

“Now we actually had a long preparation phase where we really tackled a lot of things together, with the aim of making the next phase predictable in terms of time, money and quality for both parties,” agrees Van de Rest. “Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but we certainly think so.”

A different pace

So, so far, there is a lot of excitement about the two-phase process. But this way of working together is of course new for everyone. “It takes some getting used to and shifting gears for a lot of people to get into that build team mode anyway,” says Van de Rest. “Colleagues suddenly find themselves with the contractor, working together towards one project goal.”

“In this TWST process, we also learned that we don’t have to explain everything.”

For the contractor in particular, it may require a little extra patience. Booster: “As a contractor, we are used to tackling, reviewing and making decisions quickly. It is different in such a collaboration. It has a different pace, and you have to get used to each other’s working methods.”

“The first phase took 2.5 years and very little has happened outside,” he explains. “It’s not for everyone. If you work for a contractor, you have an idea to prepare for 6-7 weeks, then you’re not doing those people a favor by saying they have to sit in the office for two years. “

Oskam advised on the new way of working together. “In this TWST process, we also learned that we don’t have to explain everything,” says Booster. “Because we wanted to be transparent, we had that tendency. Our goal was transparency, but then you get questions about all parts. It sometimes delays cooperation unnecessarily.”

Fly on the wall

The construction phase – phase one – is now complete. The actual implementation has now started. The collaboration is also supported by TWST in this respect.

“In addition to periodic project follow-ups, we provide support through sparring and (business) coaching,” says Oskam. “We also offer guidance at work, for example as a ‘fly on the wall’. Finally, ‘it’ happens in the work. There, TWST can observe, reflect in action and let team members see, think and act differently in the moment of collaboration.”

And while implementation will undoubtedly still be accompanied by challenges, Booster and Van de Rest foresee fewer setbacks than under the traditional form of contract thanks to the long and careful initial phase.

“For example, we do not underestimate the execution time,” explains Van de Rest. “We have relatively long lead times and therefore have to carry out the reinforcement at intervals. We already take that very well in advance.”

“We have a lot of inside knowledge from the first phase,” adds Booster. “New people are now being added to the teams as we move towards output. The great thing is that we can actually use the lessons we learned in the first phase more quickly in the implementation.”

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