As a first step in the process, almost 40 delegates from across the UK, representing NDA, SLCs and Tier 2 contractors, attended a one-day workshop in Manchester last week to discuss interfacing with small businesses operating or interested in the NDA estate market, and to propose possible mechanisms that would widen opportunities while bringing benefits to all parties.
Top Tier 2 contractors (those who have the highest-spend direct contracts with SLCs) across the estate had already completed a survey aiming to gather information on any existing policies or practices focused on Small to Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs), defined as employing 250 or fewer employees, and local suppliers:
Ron Gorham, NDA’s Head of Supply Chain Optimisation, said:
“The workshop was a valuable sharing exercise and it is encouraging that many Tier 2s are already actively supporting SMEs. A range of very positive proposals emerged from the discussions and I am confident these will build into some tangible actions. We are grateful for the time taken by all the participants and for the stimulating discussions.”
He added that SMEs and local suppliers often offered highly specialised and innovative services at competitive costs, as recognised by the larger contractors, but, with limited manpower resources, could also face challenges with, for example, the level of documentation, compliance conditions, liability insurance, etc.
“We hope to find mechanisms that improve opportunities across the estate, not only for the SMEs but also for larger contractors seeking a specific expertise or localised knowledge,” said Ron.
After collating the feedback, the next step will be to organise a further discussion forum in the autumn, this time targeted more directly at the SME community, to ensure that the proposed actions will be of benefit and explore other improvement opportunities.
Among the proposals that will be shared with the SME community are:
- Central repository for information, eg, a web portal for estate opportunities at SLC and Tier 2 level and below
- Standardisation of Pre-Qualification Questionnaires
- Tier 2 open day/meet-the-buyer events
The Government has challenged all public organisations to provide wider access to their markets for SMEs. Among measure envisaged by the Government are cutting away unnecessary red tape and improving transparency in commissioning.
Meanwhile, the NDA’s recently published Strategy for 2011-2014 recognises the importance of a robust supply chain, and responses during the public consultation period indicated that support was particularly needed for SMEs.