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Pipeline logistics - no need for unwelcome surprises

In the Totex-conscious environment of AMP6, collaboration and a meticulous approach to logistics is required across the supply chain

by Graham Thomas, Logistics Solutions Manager, Saint-Gobain PAM UK

Reflecting the current outcomes and Totex-based regulation that is shaping Asset Management Period 6 (AMP6), driving down costs and optimising efficiencies are now more important than ever for water companies and their contractors. Predictability is therefore crucial, and nowhere more so than in the supply chain. Water companies and their main contractors are looking for long-term supply chain partners who really understand all this and can offer excellent predictability for outcomes. One area in which predictability can be optimised and significant efficiencies delivered is that of logistics. So, what sort of logistics services should a utility company and its contractor be able to expect of its ductile iron pipeline supplier?

Typically, the logistics process on any project should follow a series of steps. Initially, information about a proposed project from the customer should be carefully collated. Then, in-depth desktop research should be undertaken to identify problem zones such as restrictions on vehicle weight and height and those imposed by residential or school areas, both for vehicle routes and for delivery points. Information gained from this research should be then fed back to the project’s contractor, and meetings attended to discuss the research findings.

To supplement the desktop study, it should be possible to open up investigations to include physically driving the proposed routes delivery lorries will be taking, and to check thoroughly all delivery zones. The results of those physical investigations should then be used to upgrade those of the desktop research, and all the resultant information re-presented to the customer.

At this stage, any requisite changes to the proposed delivery areas and routes should be advised, for example in order to accommodate schools, villages and residential areas in order to optimise health and safety. Research results should also be used to recommend whether site compounds need redesigning. Indeed, a good pipeline supplier should be able to assist in optimising the layout of compounds to optimise safety and keep costs down for the contractor.

A risk assessment should be provided by the pipeline supplier, together with a ‘delivery point card’, including site contacts and delivery times. There should be close liaison with the logistical provider to ensure timely and efficient despatch of vehicles. The pipeline supplier should be able to offer a dedicated logistics solutions management team that is present at the site to ensure vehicles arrive safely and are offloaded safely.

Ask about on-site training. Is best practice training provided for delivery, offloading, handling and storage of ductile iron? In addition, technical training should also be available on how to put pipes and fittings together correctly and how to install them correctly and efficiently.

Here, I’ve only touched the surface of how carefully-handled logistics can be optimised to bring about that predictability that water companies and contractors are looking for. We know that cost reduction - for example by reducing the number of requisite compounds - is facilitated through optimised logistics, although quantifying by exactly how much varies from site to site. With value creation being a key element in the services that suppliers should be aiming for, top-class logistics management is clearly a very important part of the picture.

Info: www.saint-gobain-pam.co.uk

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