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CASE STUDY THREE Account Manager at Osborne Construction Ltd

I oversaw two contracts on behalf of Osborne’s client Network Rail. Initialy, I was appointed as Senior Contracts Manager on the SPACIA contract, which Osborne’s had held for a number of years for all properties within the M25. Their performance had tailed off and the contract was split into two, north and south of the Thames. They retained the south, and I was hired to improve performance sufficiently so as to hold on to it, and to hopefully win back the north area.

 

It took me over a year, but I achieved both goals and was praised by Spacia for being able to manage so many projects at once, yet always delivering on time and to a high standard. They also said that my involvement, particularly in successfully accelerating projects had been a critical component in the re-awarding of the whole contract.

 

I was successful for two main reasons. Firstly, although the jobs were straightforward and often very similar, and the programming generally appropriate, the monitoring and subsequent controls were very lax. I therefore introduced a simple progress monitoring system that clarified and pinned down the site manager’s responsibilities, whilst flagging up and allowing me to deal with any problems as soon as possible.

 

Secondly, all the work on every project was carried out by a variety of sub-contractors. This meant that if one was delayed for whatever reason or had to return because of minor changes or rework, then the project often couldn’t be handed over on time.

I therefore started a small direct labour workforce of twelve assorted tradesmen that were parachuted in, as and when necessary, almost totally eliminating unnecessary delays. I also persuaded the client to let us start more projects at once so as to have more flexibility with the use of both sub-contractors and labour.

 

The introduction of this direct labour team was particularly welcomed by Spacia, who made its expansion a condition of the renewed contract.

 

I then took over as Account Manager for all Southern Zone properties. Unlike Spacia, Osborne had lost the whole contract then later been given part of it back, but only on trial for a few months. They hadn’t performed particularly well and were subsequently only given a one year renewal.

 

As a result of my success with Spacia, I now had the complete confidence of Osborne’s executive team. This meant that I was fully empowered to do whatever I had to, and also 100% supported and enabled to achieve it. Consequently, I turned the contract around within five months, including winning back the section that had previously been awarded to another contractor.

 

I did this in several ways. Firstly, by identifying the urgent needs of the client and putting arrangements immediately in place to capture some ‘quick wins’ while I reformed the rest of the operation. I then interviewed and assessed all 38 operatives and 12 staff - identifying and confirming that 3 operatives plus 2 staff and 1 manager were a problem.

 

I took personal charge of these people issues without delay. As a result of my direct involvement, the 2 staff and one of the operatives arranged to be transferred to other contracts within a few days and the manager left within a few weeks. The remaining two operatives had been used to working together and I split them up so that they were always working on different sections. One subsequently left after a couple of months and the other was no longer a problem.

 

The way the work was organised and carried out was very inefficient, based on three wedge shaped areas out of three London mainline stations, Waterloo, Victoria and London Bridge. Osborne had the Kent and Surrey wedges and the Sussex/West wedge, known as Wessex was with the other contractor. The two Osborne wedges were managed and run by two completely separate teams, so when there was an out of hours call out to a station just south of London Bridge and the on call operative for that team lived in Dover, then he would drive all the way in when there was an operative available from the Victoria team living just a few miles away.

 

I had been running the account for two months and now had a complete grasp of what needed changing and how. I had had sufficient time to prove myself to the Network Rail Southern Zone management and had their general support.  I therefore proposed that the best and most efficient way forward, was to split the whole area into five sections instead of three wedges - two within the M25 and three outside, stretching to the east and south coasts.

 

I also proposed that an internal ‘possessions’ system, as practiced for major line works be introduced, so that the operative teams could have more flexibility. Most of the repairs took place during the night and if you were prevented at short notice from working at a particular station by the client, then the team had nothing to do but the client still footed the bill.

 

There was always work to be done at many stations, and being able to quickly divert to a nearby one was beneficial to all. I hired a Possessions Manager, who each day would book possessions at nearby clusters of stations so as to almost totally avoid downtime.

Both my proposals were accepted by Network Rail and I trialed it across what had been the Kent and Surrey wedges. So successful was it that after three months we won the whole contract back.

 

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