A united approach

The relationship between Severn Trent & Amey can be described as‘partnership in action

In April this year, Amey and Severn Trent announced an extension of their existing wastewater contract. The extension, worth £250 million, sees Amey taking over the repair and maintenance of Severn Trent’s entire wastewater network acrossa vast area of the UK, stretching from mid-Wales to Rutland andfrom the Bristol Channel to the Humber Estuary.

The contract is another milestone for the growing utilities business within Amey’s Central Government and Utilities division, led by managing director, Dan Holland. Since the 1960s the company has built an impressive portfolio of utilities clients. In the water sector, it currently works with Yorkshire Water, United Utilities, Scottish Water, Welsh Water and Affinity Water, as well as Severn Trent.

The partnership between Amey and Severn Trent has been in place since 1997. Amey is now their biggest supply chain partner moving from a ‘reliable contractor’ in the early days to form the current strategic relationship.

Amey’s Peter Walsh, Business Director, Central Government & Utilities, explains the scope of the company’s work with Severn Trent. “We currently have five contracts, delivering a varied portfolio of planned and reactive services around the clock, 365 days a year. We undertake planned and reactive maintenance across 44,000 km of sewerage network. That is enough pipework to stretch around the equator.

“Our asset creation teams design, build and maintain the network that delivers high quality drinking water to households and businesses across Severn Trent’s geography. We also design and build the critical infrastructure that protects the environment and properties from flooding and pollution. Another aspect of our work is carrying out the planned and reactive metering required for Severn Trent’s customers covering domestic, industrial and commercial users and assisting housing developers when they require new water mains.”

With such an extensive portfolio and a team of 1600 people working across the contracts, the demands to deliver on the client’s requirements are rigorous. Peter explains that the two biggest drivers for Amey on all of its utilities contracts are customer service and safely delivering cost efficiencies.

“We could not do our work effectively if we did not provide a great customer experience that meets our clients’ customer’s needs. In a highly regulated sector such as water, delivering against the end user’s expectations is an absolute must.”

To this end, Amey has implemented a three-year plan to build upon its customer-centric culture and provide an operating framework that improves the customer experience for millions of people every day. The approach is tailored to each contract, drawing on intelligence gathered through account management, clients’ individual priorities and the needs of end users. The framework is underpinned by a network of Customer Experience Leaders (CELs) who drive local improvements to deliver a superb experience for all customers and those who may be affected by Amey’s activities.

The cost of repairing, maintaining and building clean and wastewater systems means that being efficient in how services are delivered is a key measure of Amey’s performance criteria with Severn Trent. Itprompts Amey to constantly think about ever-smarter ways of contract management and service provision.

An example of this is the penalty and reward mechanism that Amey has signed up to.The company operates under the same regulatory scrutiny as Severn Trent in its delivery of services. This means that both organisations are completely aligned to the same outcome delivery incentives.

Along with day-to-day delivery Amey believes that constantly looking ahead and advising clients accordingly is critical to a good strategic partner relationship. Peter explains: “Of course delivering on the contract is the critical part of our work; however, we advise clients about what we believe is coming our way over the next five years. As we gear up for the AMP7 cycle, we are having conversations now about where we want to be and how we think our operating model will work to deliver the best possible outcomes and customer experience. With AMP7 starting in April 2020, we are already looking at the business planning that needs to start from spring 2017 on this programme of work.”

With such a long established partnership between Amey and Severn Trent, it is easy to think that complacency could set in.To avoid this, Amey continually challenges itself by providing a forum for all colleagues to meet to propose, discuss and action improvements. Locally run the forums involve teams from across all operational and support activities, and culminates in an event to progress and implement business efficiencies.

While Amey has a wide range of continuous improvement mechanisms in place that sets it apart from other utility service providers, it firmly believes the culture and nature of its colleagues are key to its success. According to Peter, it is all aboutthe people.

“With 1600 colleagues currently working across our Severn Trent Water contracts, my primary responsibility is keeping them all safe every day. It is my responsibility to develop them through training, upskilling and personal development reviews to address any skills gaps that we may have and support long-term staff retention. As a company we have recently retained our Gold standard accreditation from Investors in People endorsing our commitment to invest in the longterm future for everyone at Amey. What we ask in return is that our people invest some ‘personal equity’ in our customers and us. As a result, Amey colleagues regularly ‘go the extra mile’ for our customers. They realise that when working on behalf of our clients, they are providing a service to the end user and the communities that we serve.”