Director, Billy Jones and Chief Engineer, Peter Holmes from Millcroft explain why collaboration works best when it’s based on candid information sharing
“The reality of the procurement process in the construction sector is that the person putting together the brief for the scaffolding specialist is not an expert in scaffolding and probably won’t be based on site so doesn’t fully understand the demands of the project. As a result, there’s often a disconnect between what’s in the brief and what’s actually required on site if we simply respond to a traditional brief with a spec and a cost. That’s why we like to do things a little differently at Millcroft, working collaboratively with the client at different touch points to ensure our solution doesn’t just respond to what they’ve asked for but actually delivers what they need.
“Often, this not only provides a solution that is more fit-for-purpose and aligned to the requirements of the varying trades that will be operating on site, it can also provide significant cost and time savings because we’re designing and engineering a bespoke approach, without unnecessary over-specification.
“When we get a brief, our response is to interrogate the requirements and sit down with the person who’s prepared it to find out more. Our general approach is not to find out what scaffolding they want, but to find out what they need to do on site, because we can then advise them on a the best solution to answer the requirements of the site teams. It’s that process that adds value to the briefing phase of the scaffolding project and we then have the in-house design, engineering and skilled scaffolding experience to deliver the right solution.
“In fact, many of our regular clients start the brief with this discussion and explain what they need to be able to do on site, compiling the paperwork of the written brief once we’ve agreed a solution. They trust us as scaffolding experts and value our advice.
“We also work collaboratively with clients at bid stage. Often, they just need to be able to put a spec and a price into the job and will be quite prescriptive about what they need and we have to respond with a price based on that outline in order to be competitive. However, we’re happy to work with clients to help them get their bid over the line and will often respond with an outline of what they’ve asked for along with a summary of how we think it could be achieved in alternative ways that may aid buildability, save time, reduce materials etc.
“This is a particularly vital approach to collaboration for the kind of complex and bespoke projects in which Millcroft specialises. For a straightforward residential building, for example, we understand the sequencing of works so providing an off-the-shelf package for an off-the-shelf brief is quite straightforward. The more complex the programme is, however, and the more specific the project challenges, the greater the level of collaboration needed to design the right solution.
“The key is always early engagement and we prefer to be involved at the earliest stages of a job. Even if it’s already on site by the time we get involved, however, a culture of collaboration can make a massive difference to ensuring the scaffolding is really tailored to the needs of the project. Sometimes, we may even arrange a meeting with the subcontracted trades that will be using the scaffolding to understand what they need so that we can design to meet those requirements. For example, the scaffolding we delivered for The Painted Hall at Greenwich was the result of extensive collaboration with the conservationists who carried out painstaking work on the frescos, along with the client, who needed to ensure that there was no risk to the asset or to the safety of staff and visitors.
“If I had one piece of advice to offer a contractor when they’re briefing a scaffolding specialist, it would be to trust our expertise. Share information about the programme and the challenges of the site with us and we will help you develop the brief.”