Just in time

Procurement for the social housing sector can be a long and costly process. Social landlords must comply with the 2014 EU Procurement Directives, which are enacted through the Public Contracts Regulations 2015 (in England and Wales) and the Public Contracts (Scotland) Regulations 2012, when project values are over specified thresholds.

In order to ensure fair and open competition, landlords must enter into a lengthy tender process for compliant procurement which can sometimes take as long as the project itself. The length of the process is dependent on meeting regulatory requirements, such as mandatory timescales for the submission of tender documentation following the publication of the Contract Notice. Then there is the time it takes to administer the tender submissions, which is influenced by the number submitted and the quality of the documentation.

Just in time

It is also necessary to consider the availability of resources in the procuring organisation to manage and complete the process. This depends on the ability and experience of staff to deal with procurement and their knowledge of the products and services being tendered for. Unfortunately, the majority of social housing providers do not have access to such a luxury in-house.

All of this can frustrate the understandable desire of landlords to turn around projects quickly in order to ensure the communities they serve receive the best service possible.

Contrast this to the ‘just-in-time’ approach to manufacturing made famous by the Japanese car company Toyota in the 1970s. The original concept relied on a high quality workforce delivering and assembling manufacturing parts as and when required. Fast forward to today and transfer this to a social housing context, and our clients are looking for many of the same benefits – a technical solution to their planned maintenance delivered by experts in a fast and efficient manner, while taking advantages of economies of scale.

This just-in-time approach is not only reserved for small works, such as replacing a dozen water-damaged kitchen units, but also larger and more complex projects such as replacing the kitchens for an entire estate or building much-needed new homes using off-site construction methods.

The need to be able to procure quickly and efficiently without compromising on quality is where LHC, a not-for-profit purchasing consortium, adds significant value. For 50 years, we have been procuring refurbishment and construction products and services for public sector bodies, saving time and money. Our frameworks delivered £256m worth of works in 2015/16, an increase of 250% over the last five years.

The use of framework providers such as LHC is intended to complement procurement departments within larger organisations, where bringing specialists into a project via a framework can speed up procurement by offering additional technical expertise and regulatory assistance. For smaller organisations, frameworks can provide the resource they do not have.

Where urgent works are required, frameworks come into their own, providing immediate access to companies that have already been assessed and can perform the task to the required level.

For more information please visit www.lhc.gov.uk.