Keyline Civils Specialist is committed to finding better ways to support its customers while driving sustainability across the sector 

As the UK’s leading civils partner in the construction industry, Keyline Civils Specialist (Keyline) has built a strong reputation for delivering products and project solutions since 1988. 

Its nationwide network of over 40 branches and dedicated colleagues is ready to support clients’ national, regional and local campaigns by offering value and outcome focused solutions. The company boasts a huge range of materials held in stock, a civils specific fleet of FORS Gold vehicles and colleagues with expert product, project, technical and local knowledge. 

From fractured supply chains and tight budgets to an under-resourced workforce and projects struggling to stay on track, the civils industry has come to expect challenges on a day-to-day basis. Keyline, however, sees a different way of working; striving to work more collaboratively and strategically, with a focus on the bigger picture.

George Woollard, Technical Director

The company designs bespoke, value- and outcome-focused solutions that ensure projects run smoothly, anticipating and overcoming issues at the outset. It builds trusted partnerships to deliver innovative, value-added products and services, finding sustainable answers to today’s industry challenges. Keyline focuses on doing things differently, and better, breaking new ground with its thinking and processes. 

George Woollard, Technical Director, joins Construction & Civil Engineering to share insights into the organisation.    

“Our nationals team, within which the technical team works, looks after Tier 1 infrastructure and civils companies. We undertook extensive training to understand the different stages within those projects, focusing on highways initially to identify the markers where we specifically need to get involved. We’ve since rolled this approach out to our regions, so the training programme is going through the entire business. Our teams have industry-wide expertise in technical solutions and specialist civils products across all major construction sectors.  

“From national infrastructure schemes to local housing developments, we have the capacity and capability to deliver value regardless of sector. Whether in a specific area local to one of our nationwide branches or a project with a national or regional focus, our teams can manage all technical, design, and stock requirements, as well as orders and deliveries,” he begins. 

“Prior to our ongoing transformation, colleagues around the country would have information on projects in their own day books and spreadsheets. We’ve developed an in-house CRM system to facilitate information sharing and data quality across the organisation, thereby ensuring everyone who needs it has visibility of a project. Colleagues can also communicate via this platform and manage workflows and updates consistently, irrespective of the type, scope, and scale of the project.  

“We’ve introduced a project management team to support this transformation and help manage the flow of data, giving our colleagues a central source of assistance and our customers the knowledge that we have a greater understanding of their projects. 

“A further initiative that we’ve been involved with lately involves the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce and Sizewell C. We’ve got an open day booked at the end of February 2024. We’ll be hosting the day and inviting suppliers and key stakeholders to come along and see what we’ve got to offer the project. We’re actively taking steps to be more visible as a thought leader in this space,” George explains. 

“We work in a monster of an industry,” he continues. “Positioned between the supply chain and the contractor to facilitate transactions, offer assistance, manage accounts and hold stock. Our technical team adds a further layer on top of this already extremely successful model. We uncover prevailing industry problems and scrutinise specific projects. The team operates proactively to assess the intricacies of a project, forecast potential issues, and extract as much detail as possible. 

“We also work strategically with our suppliers to source options for the project, undertaking due diligence to ensure potential solutions are quality controlled prior to being assessed by the project decision makers. We facilitate conversations, arrange meetings and offer viable solutions to ease workflow, refine procurement and make the overall process as seamless as possible. By providing technical support, engaging in the early stages of a project, we add different value streams to the organisations we work with. 

“We also embrace innovation and are always on the lookout for new products and suppliers to introduce to the industry. We strive to be a leading partner to the civils industry, as well as a thought leader in improving industry quality processes. We want to become closer to the asset owners and consultants, to be part of steering groups and a leading voice in industry conversations,” he enthuses. 

Thought leadership 

The company’s aim to elevate its position within the civils sector is evident in the technical team’s work within the area of water quality and drainage. “We look at what we can do to make a meaningful impact,” George explains. “I investigated the core of what we do as a company, and drainage is one of the most important verticals in the civils game. I’m a member of the Institute of Water and the issue of water quality is increasingly crucial.  

“The current data surrounding pollutants going into the watercourse as a consequence of vehicular-based activity is difficult to quantify. We’ve decided to focus on this issue and have arranged a roundtable event, inviting industry leaders to come along to the group discussion, in the hope of developing ideas, products and working relationships with different stakeholders to make strides in this area.” 

Indeed, Keyline strives to forge strong relationships in all areas of its business interactions, from customers and suppliers to colleagues. “Our partnerships are key – it’s massively important to have long-standing collaborative relationships. Finding new suppliers and keeping an open mind is as important as not losing sight of our long-standing strategic relationships. Transparency and managing expectations are key in an industry like ours and the technical team adds a different flavour to our existing relationships.  

“This transparency extends to our wider teams and company culture. We encourage our colleagues to call out what they think could be done better, with the aim of improving on the positives as well as the negatives. We instigate initiatives that work for the business and set targets while allowing people’s personalities to shine. We don’t micromanage and appreciate that people work differently. People also give feedback on our learning sessions, and we act on that feedback which is a refreshing approach and makes ours an easy place to work when it comes to sharing ideas. We also focus on diversity and inclusion. Throughout the company, we have Mental Health First Aiders and wellbeing hubs in place as well. We work hard to develop our people through learning programmes and apprenticeship schemes.”   

Partner of choice 

Alongside sustainable leadership, Keyline also strives to be environmentally responsible. The company is wholly owned by the Travis Perkins Group, making it well positioned from a sustainability perspective. George elaborates: “We work closely with the group’s environmental team and my Engineering Manager, Serena Solanki, was Net Zero Lead for the Lower Thames Crossing Project in a previous position. From a technical team perspective, with every enquiry we make, we try to assess the embodied carbon data and whole life cycle for each product option we present to designers and engineers when they’re making their selections. 

“We’re also involved in the carbon delivery reporting function, looking at the emissions incurred during different journeys. We’ll be trialling this over the course of this year with selected contractors and suppliers. We work to science-based targets and have 2035 goals in place for Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions. We also have the capability to implement alternative fuels on certain projects, alongside monitoring hydrogen power initiatives. I suppose from our point of view, we’re trying to find the most efficient products, supplied in the most efficient way, to produce the right outcomes for the project, and those communities in which we operate.” 

Looking to the future, George believes Keyline today has much more to offer with its technical and project teams, working collaboratively to ensure that processes are streamlined. “2024 is going to look very different to 2023,” he elaborates. “We’ve bolstered the Keyline brand, and the technical team is slotting into the centre of operations, positively impacting all four project touchpoints: the contractor, the supply chain, the consultant, and the asset owner.  

“Elevating ourselves as thought leaders is positioning us differently in the industry moving forward. So, I think this year, you’ll see different things from Keyline. The leadership team, working cohesively to ensure we hone internal processes and maximise our systems, will drive a slicker, more robust organisation and mean we’re the valuable supply chain partner of choice throughout the coming years,” he concludes.