A Collaborative Approach to Innovation

25 June 2015

pipe delivery

We discuss how water companies can collaborate with the entire supply chain to deliver tangible results throughout AMP6

As the AMP6 period kicks in, it is clear to see that water authorities are looking to adapt the way that they work with the supply chain, with a view to implementing a more collaborative approach. Traditionally, utilities have engaged with each supply chain partner only at the point of purchase for each individual element, but, by sharing the project requirements and aims with all parties at the very outset, there is a real opportunity for significant savings to be made.

The installation of pipelines is no exception and by engaging with the supply chain earlier in the process, water companies can not only benefit from significant cost savings, but also improved health and safety, reduced downtime, increased productivity and quicker installation times. When combined, all these factors will deliver greater results over the lifetime of the system.

Innovation is all too often linked to product, but it can be as much about process and operation; non-product related innovations in areas such as manufacturing, logistics and installation can have as much, if not a bigger, impact on the value and success of a project.


Rather than pipelines being supplied as an ‘off the shelf’ product, a system can be manufactured to meet the specific needs of any application, helping to minimise the whole life cost of the project.

The pressure the system will be operated at is a major factor when manufacturing pipe and all too often there is a tendancy to over-design pumped mains on the incorrect assumption that peak surge pressure is rated pressure. For low pressure systems, the thickness of the pipe wall can be reduced, meaning less polymer is required, which in turn results in cost savings.

The length of the pipe manufactured will also have an impact on cost, storage and delivery. For example providing the pipe in 500m coils, compared with 100m coils, will result in less wastage, smaller storage space being required and greater flexibility and productivity on site.


Simple adaptations to the delivery and storage processes can see significant cost savings being made. However, to see real benefits, these decisions need to be made prior to manufacture commencing. Conducting visits to the installation site and proposed delivery points to assess access and egress points will enable the optimum pipe length to be determined based, not just on system requirements, but also on its suitability for delivery.

The issue of storage should also be agreed at the planning stage, as delivering direct to site, rather than to an off-site storage facility, can achieve a number of productivity benefits, in addition to reducing carbon footprint. Offloading pipe direct from a vehicle onto a polyhorse pipe handling system on site removes the need for double handling and reduces health and safety issues around the handling of pipes, particularly where additional vehicle movements are needed.


An example of an innovative service offered by pipe manufacturers, such as GPS PE Pipe Systems, is for a simulation installation to take place off-site prior to the pipework installation commencing. This involves all parties from manufacturer, installer and contractor through to the end client fitting the pipe that will be used by making joints and pressure testing the system.

This ensures any potential issues can be identified and rectified, skills or knowledge gaps can be addressed and any extra training undertaken if necessary. Implementing a ‘dry run’ in this way allows on-site productivity to be maximised and reduces the risk of poorly constructed joints on site, which is the biggest cause of joint failure resulting in water leakage.

It is estimated that early engagement of the pipe manufacturer could reduce project costs by up to 40%. Anglian Water have already started to reap the rewards of operating in a more collaborative way commenting: “We are seeing a big improvement due to a strong partnership between ourselves and our contractors and manufacturers and by collaborating with the entire supply chain we are edging ever closer to achieving zero leakage in PE pipe systems.”

Within tenders, water companies are beginning to ask how supply chain partners will collaborate to deliver cost savings and improved productivity. As the AMP6 period gets underway, all companies operating within the water industry will need to demonstrate the innovative added value services that they can offer to ensure they can continue to compete for framework agreements. 

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