Cranes, Trains and Drains provide the perhaps unlikely focus for a new ESRC funded study being
conducted by a Newcastle research team comprising members of CURDS, Newcastle School of
Management and the Department of Mechanical, Materials and Manufacturing Engineering. The research
is examining strategic procurement in long term engineering projects in collaboration with Clarke Chapman
(Rolls Royce Materials Handling), ALSTOM Passenger Transport and Northumbrian Water.
The projects in question are the provision of a bulk materials handling port facility for an Argentinian steel
works, the supply of the new ‘tilting trains’ for Virgin Train’s operations on the West Coast Main Line, and
the Regional Sludge Treatment Centre on the Tees estuary. Each provides an example of how changing
customer and regulatory requirements are affecting the low volume, ‘bespoke’, capital goods sector.
Increasingly, customers require contractors to take on more and more of the project delivery, through life
operation and maintenance, and even disposal at the end of the product lifecycle. For contractors and their
supply chains, this involves engaging with new areas of technical, regulatory, business and financial
knowledge and their strategic integration in complex networks of organisations and institutions.
The research is part of the EPSRC/ESRC’s Learning Across Business Sectors (LABS) programme within
the Innovative Manufacturing Initiative. One of the key objectives of the Newcastle project is the
facilitation of learning about knowledge management issues across the collaborating companies. Pictured
are members of the Newcastle research team, with personnel from the three participating companies, at the
first research workshop held recently at ALSTOM’s Birmingham production facility where the new Virgin
trains are being assembled.
Pictured from left to right are: Paul Green, Sourcing Director, ALSTOM Transport; Alfred Thwaites
CURDS; Kevin Johnson, Operations Director, Clarke Chapman; Dr. Neil Alderman, CURDS; Dr. Roger
Vaughan, School of Management; Chris Ivory, CURDS; Mark Dowson, Proposals Manager, Clarke
Chapman; Steve Coverdale, Investment Unit Manager, Northumbrian Water; Ted Welding, Contracts
Procurement Manager, Northumbrian Water; Philip Johnson, Project Manager, Northumbrian Water; Prof.
Ian McLoughlin, School of Management; Dave Archbold, Commercial Manager, Northumbrian Water; and
Ken McBean, Stretch 30 Manager, ALSTOM Transport. The sixth member of the project team, Professor
Paul Braiden, was unable to attend owing to University business.