Many large building and construction companies rightly invest significant amounts of money into ongoing training and development for their employees, realising that growing and nurturing employee potential feeds back directly into productivity, innovation and the bottom line.
Such investment is less common, however, with suppliers, perhaps because of the external, less exclusive nature of the supplier-customer relationship.
If done well, however, investment in training and development within the supply chain – especially when it comes to long-term suppliers who operate in areas which are integral to operations – can pay enormous dividends.
Toward this end, Costain, one of the biggest construction and engineering firms in the United Kingdom, recently launched its Supply Chain Academy, an initiative aimed at helping key suppliers to improve operations and deliver maximum performance.
Last month, the first batch of 15 suppliers commenced 20 modules covering business administration, commercial and financial best practice, insurance, health and safety, behavioural safety and quality.
The initial program will run until December, with the company planning for two intakes per year after that, the next of which is scheduled to start up in January.
Costain says the program is entirely voluntary and free of charge.
While the suppliers themselves will be the primary beneficiaries of the program, Costain believes it too will benefit through better integration with – and between – suppliers, better supply chain performance and improved operational practices, which will feed through to lower costs, fewer delays and greater reliability in its ability to deliver projects on time and within budget.
Thus far, the company says supplier responses have been positive. Will Hart, director of Taylor Hart Ltd, a ceiling and partitions contractor, says the Academy provides an opportunity for his company to align itself more closely both with Costain and with supply chain partners.
“We are always looking to increase our competency levels in all areas of our business,” Hart says.
In difficult times, Costain’s new initiative in this regard is both far-sighted and refreshingly innovative.
If companies are going to spend millions of dollars in training and development for employees (who are, in a sense, long term suppliers of labour to the company) then surely it makes sense to invest in training for suppliers as well – at least those with whom you desire to have an integral and long-term relationship.