Ongoing incentivization

Heijmans has extensive experience in asset management. Clients are able to concentrate on their core activities whilst we take over day-to-day responsibility. We talk to Floris Vosse, Implementation Manager at Haarlem City Council, and our Framework Agreement Manager Pieter de Groot on how we can keep each other on our toes during such a long-term collaboration.

February 21, 2018

Never before has Haarlem City Council worked in this way, with set partners for their major maintenance projects. The Council has chosen to assume a role as controlling party within the compass of management and maintenance of the city. Long-term partnerships have been entered into for both day-to-day management and major maintenance.

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Implementation Manager Floris Vosse (left), Framework Agreement Manager Pieter de Groot (right)

According to Floris Vosse, Haarlem is one of the first local authorities in the Netherlands to have opted for this way of working. In addition to Heijmans, Dura Vermeer, construction firm Van Gelder and concrete and waterway construction firm Oosterhof Holman have been contracted for the implementation. Engineering firms Witteveen + Bos and Antea have been contracted for the purposes of work preparation.

The contractual term spans four years with the possibility of a one-year extension. ‘Due to the fact that political decision-making is an art in itself, we ourselves remain the party in charge’, states Floris. ‘Besides, we want to decide for ourselves what happens in our city.’

Division of roles

Because of the close cooperation with set partners, Floris is anticipating an increased degree of efficiency in the implementation of projects. He also believes that the quality of services will be enhanced. Moreover, the Council is hoping for greater clarity in terms of the division of roles between client, engineering firms and construction firms.

‘Besides this, our partners will be able to make a contribution to our circular economy and sustainability objectives in an innovative way. The Council will retain responsibility for participation and contribution. In this regard, the market parties only have an ancillary role.’

Keeping each other on our toes

Asset Management contracts entail construction firms being far more than just the party implementing the project. ‘We get involved as early as the consultancy and design phase and also immerse ourselves in maintenance strategy’, says Framework Agreement Manager Pieter de Groot. ‘In the case of these long-term contracts it’s all about trust and good cooperation. Less so in the case of individual assignments, where a project has a beginning and an end. We come, do the work and go.

Here, we encounter each other again on subsequent projects and we’re keen to learn from previous work. We work on the same site from a set office for four years. Each day we get to know our surroundings better. In turn, that helps us optimize the processes, thereby boosting quality.’

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But how do you prevent routine from setting in? Floris’s hope is that this will be countered by measuring satisfaction with the cooperation and services. ‘Effective communication with the construction firms is something that I consider to be extremely important. Which is why we’ve chosen to manage the construction firms ourselves rather than assigning that task to the engineering firms. We’re working with project teams that monitor the progress of projects within the scope of the framework agreement and carry out performance measurements.’

The Council has scheduled a monthly progress meeting with the construction firms, enabling it to amass data on the development of the partnership and the results of the performance measurements. Based on data trends, the Council will adjust course in order to do such things as improve quality.’

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Adjusting course and providing tips

The performance measurements prevent routine from setting in and impel innovation. Pieter: ‘In order to fulfil the objectives, we look at how the work is progressing on a daily basis. Casting a critical eye over our own processes ensures we are able to foster continuous improvement. It’s a two-way process, incidentally. We’re also allowed to point the Council in the right direction or provide tips. That’s the great thing about Asset Management’.

Local environmental manager

Not every construction firm is capable of building in a bustling urban setting. ‘Pretty much anyone can build a bridge in a meadow, but building the same bridge in the middle of a busy city is a different kettle of fish’, says Floris. ‘It’s not about the bridge or the technology but above all about how you as a contractor cope with the environment. Consequently, environmental management has been given a prominent place in the framework agreement.’

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Which is why Pieter’s core team not only includes a process manager but an experienced environmental manager as well. ‘As chance would have it, he’s from Haarlem. He knows the city like the back of his hand and knows exactly the lie of the land. What’s more, our team comprises a set group of 10 colleagues involved in implementation. We work as an integrated unit. We enlist the help of specialists for such tasks as renovating an embankment.’

In addition to repairing embankments, the framework agreement encompasses all work in public spaces that is due for replacement or major maintenance. This could pertain to work with asphalt, sewerage or plants. In fact, anything required to maintain the city.

‘Lean’ and efficient

Haarlem uses a handy formula to divide up the various projects among the construction firms. Floris: ‘We’ll be contracting out all work up to 1 million euros on the basis of turnover. As a minimum this will ensure we distribute 50% of the work evenly among the construction firms. We’ll divide up the rest by way of mini competitions’.

Yet another trigger for Pieter and his team to stay switched on during the term of the framework agreement. ‘We regard it as a mini tender. The Council is keen for its work to be done as “lean” and efficiently as possible. Which is why our tenders have to be clear and concise.’

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All parties are benefiting from this Asset Management contract. Pieter: ‘Over the next four years we’ll be getting guaranteed turnover from this task. Thus generating sufficient trust to invest in certain processes and solutions. We’re already seeing that this way of working is driving down costs. What this means is that we can take on more work for the same money. In turn, this benefits the Council. We’re carrying out more work without necessitating an increase in the budget.’

Increase in Asset Management contracts

According to Floris, the number of Asset Management contracts with provincial authorities and Rijkswaterstaat is on the rise. It’s only in the case of local authorities that this development is progressing more slowly. Floris believes this is down to the complexity of a bustling city. ‘In addition to having little space and the manifold transport movements, the local authority, which is susceptible to various influences, plays a significant role. The latter factor in particular can exert considerable influence on the success of your project.’

Nonetheless, Floris does think that Asset Management will increasingly become the norm within local authorities. ‘I’m not saying that this needs to become the new contractual form for local authorities in the Netherlands. What I do know is that many municipalities are wrestling with the issue of how best to retain control. Asset Management and the practical translation of this to strategic partners tie in well with this wish. Other local authorities are already looking over our shoulder and are interested in our approach.’