Keyline helps Kier on the road to success with eight-year Birmingham Highways contract

23rd Jan 2024

The brief: An eight-year highways contract proposal demanded a supply chain overhaul and introduced logistical challenges to Kier.

The solution: Keyline offer logistics solutions with the Birmingham branch, and help Kier manage the stock profile and deliveries for the project.

Birmingham Highways

Any multi-year, large-scale project requires extensive planning and a great deal of collaboration, but Kier’s contract on Birmingham Highways takes it to the next level. Keyline and Kier worked closely to make the commencement of the project a success, streamlining processes and developing sustainable innovations with manufacturers along the way.

Sourcing supplies and planning logistics for an eight-year contract is no small feat – but it’s even tougher when stepping into a project already underway. Kier’s proposal was for eight years with an agreed extension – the previous contractor had departed the project in 2019. To help ensure a smooth rollout, the team at Kier were keen to put a robust structure in place to guarantee efficient procurement.

Reviewing the supply chain

First on the agenda for Kier was to identify the contract requirements by reviewing and selecting a supply chain that could fulfil the demands of the project in a focused and methodical way, with the overall long-term benefit of the project team in mind.

Kier invited Keyline to price the civils and drainage materials in preparation for the contract. For materials, cost-effectiveness, sustainability and efficiency of delivery would all be evaluated alongside quality and ease of use.

Any supplier that could make the life of contractors on the ground easier would be a welcome addition to the project. Keyline was offering more than a standard supplier relationship, helping Kier to overcome any challenges they faced. From holding stock in the yard to acting as a point of contact between Kier and manufacturers, Keyline was prepared to offer a solution for each and any challenge as it arose.

Storage and logistical solutions

Storing and delivering materials for such a large-scale operation is a huge project in itself. It was clear that Kier faced immense challenges storing the required level of stock at their depot – and Keyline was quick to offer a solution.

Mike Rees, National Account Manager at Keyline, explained “On my visit to Thimble Mill Lane, and after a few discussions with Helen Davies, it was clear that the depot would have trouble holding the stock they needed in such a small area. Seeing this issue, we were quick to offer up Keyline’s Birmingham branch, which could act as almost an extension of the depot. We could hold the materials and then deliver when required. We wanted everything to be as seamless as possible for Kier.

Early on, we introduced a stock and quantity profile for our Keyline Birmingham branch – as soon as Kier process an order, we can deliver it and immediately replenish our stock levels. We hold regular monthly meetings to discuss how everything’s going and what we can improve.”

Kier’s Helen Davies added, “Keyline’s excellent communication and ability to be flexible and meet our requirements were vital. We can send them a picture of something we need and they’ll sort it for us. That’s the relationship we have.

Space is at a premium in our yard, but Keyline will hold the stock for us, which has given us the ability to order in bulk – which is more cost-effective, reduces the wait times and number of deliveries, and is of course better for the environment. We can take what we need, when we need it. It’s a system that’s worked very well for us.”

Tailored procurement: a bridge between contractor and manufacturer

Keyline acted as a bridge between Kier and manufacturers, working to support Kier in sourcing the stock needed for the project. Keyline could help identify the right manufacturers for the work, and if adjustments to certain materials or a particular innovation were required, facilitate communication between them.

John Armstrong, Category Manager at Kier, explained the procurement process for the project: “To make everything as streamlined and efficient as possible, we separated materials into different sub-categories. We evaluated each material carefully, looking at quality and value, but also examined the best manufacturer in terms of availability and stocking.

“It was important to us to speak to the people that regularly use the materials: what did the team on the ground actually like working with? We wanted to eliminate materials that made their lives harder. To make the supply chain as efficient and tailored as possible, a few changes in manufacturers were needed. Keyline supported us through that transition. A great case in point was Saint-Gobain PAM – they were the only UK manufacturer of a product we needed, and our preference for the project; Keyline identified a stock range and quantity from PAM that would be key for the work, and could be moved quickly into Birmingham. This came at a really good time for the project.”

Helen added, “We have a really strong relationship with Keyline. I have worked with Jordan Cornwall from their National Team for many years, which was a great foundation for the project. We could hit the ground running: any orders that need processing, any mad requests, any technical details, they will support us.

They communicate with us well and have the expertise to ask the relevant questions. We have a really robust supply chain. And through our monthly catch-up with the operations team, we keep on top of what’s working, and what isn’t. It’s a proactive approach – we don’t wait for something to go really wrong.”

Sustainable innovation

Kier and Keyline both have ambitious sustainability targets, and are always looking at new ways to achieve them. For the Birmingham Highways project, sustainable innovation came in the form of non-concrete bollards and a tagging system that makes managing the life cycle of a product straightforward.

Mike Rees commented on Keyline’s involvement, “We always try for a viable green alternative where possible – and we know sustainability is high on Kier’s agenda – so we have offered a non-concrete solution to the many bollards Kier is replacing on the network.

After discussions with John Hastilow, I was tasked with sourcing a pedestrianised gully grate and frame. We quickly found the right product, in keeping with his preference for Saint- Gobain PAM.

Working with PAM also introduced John to their innovative tagging system, which gives clarity on inventory, providing trackable info of when and where they’re installed, and if it’s been installed correctly. It’s an important step forward in becoming more sustainable – you get the full data on the material from cradle to grave”.

PAM’s innovative ReCover Ironwork Recycling Initiative proved to be of great interest to Kier, providing a solution to the end-of-life ironwork that is removed from the highway and replaced (80% of the ductile iron access covers, gully gratings and surface boxes PAM supplies are used to replace a product). The scheme would guarantee complete recyclability, whilst lowering carbon within the supply chain, and is a labelling and tracking system that can be used for future projects. For Kier, this could be a plus point when bidding on contracts – an added bonus for many clients.

Keyline’s own operations are designed to be as low emission as possible – Keyline is a FORS Gold accredited business – improving the sustainability of the wider project.

The Birmingham Highways contract proposal was a complex undertaking: collaboration between Kier, Keyline and manufacturers like Saint-Gobain PAM was essential to its success. A close relationship and excellent communication between Kier and Keyline made the proposal simple – Kier was clear on its requirements and Keyline was quick to offer solutions. With Keyline’s Birmingham branch acting as a centre of distribution for the project, and the manufacturers carefully chosen for their suitability and innovative products, Kier is on the road to success with this eight-year contract.