The days when a manufacturer could win jobs simply by providing a decent product at a decent price seem to be well behind us.Service is the key word in today's economy, and often it is supplying extra elements of service that swings a contract.
Hanson definitely found this to be the case when an enormous paving project came up in Bilbao. At the end of 1997, the Ports Authority of Spain asked the company to bid on a contract to supply 750,000 pavers for the development of Bilbao Harbour.
'There was high competition between a few of the overseas manufacturers and ourselves, all revolving around cost and delivery, 'explains Nick Thorne, architectural design technician at Hanson.'Companies in mainland Europe were likely to have an inherent advantage, so we tried to sell hard on our design service.'
Paucity of design information allowed the company to emphasise the service aspect. There were no drawings available, only an Ordnance Survey map of the harbour. Hanson's team managed to find a website for Bilbao port, which included a picture of the harbour.
'We then played around with some very simple layout patterns, such as a compass design and a nautical theme, ' says Thorne. He points out that at the time, CAD rendered information was not the matter of course it is now.
The company put about 200 man hours of design time into the project, using AutoCAD to do layout design, generate rendered images and superimpose these on photographs.
This was not the only angle of attack.Price was also important, and one way Hanson tackled this was by showing that it would be possible to use 50mm thick pavers rather than the standard 65mm.Bilbao Harbour is a marina-type development, so the traffic is relatively light. Hanson put the slimmer pavers through all the standard tests - compression, water absorption, transverse loading - and, says Paul Rogatzki, head of design and technical services, 'we found the 50mm pavers did get adequate physical results'.
Savings came on several fronts. In terms of manufacture, both material costs and firing times were reduced. Transport was cheaper, which was crucial as Hanson was the most distant bidder. Preparation cost was less because the depth of excavation was reduced and laying was simpler because the pavers are lighter.'It was a good all-round lifecycle cost approach, 'Thorne says.
As a result of all its efforts, Hanson was awarded the contract - although, ironically, the final designs bore little resemblance to its proposals.
Having won the contract, Hanson supplied comprehensive layout information, assisted by its understanding of how the process of laying works.
'On a practical side somebody may get a drawing from a manufacturer and try to follow that drawing exactly, ' Rogatzki says.'But you cannot do that - you have to rely heavily on the expertise of people laying the paving.'
While quality control is always important to Hanson, on the Bilbao project it was crucial that nothing was allowed to go wrong.'There was no room for error, 'Rogatzki recalls.
So what did Hanson get out of this? It put in a lot of work, although relative to the size of the project it was eminently affordable. It has ended up with an excellent showcase project in a country where it had not done that kind of work before.
Rogatzki says it is yet another example of how a materials supplier does much more than merely supply material: 'It is essential for most materials suppliers to give a complete support package around their project.'
Following the Bilbao scheme, Hanson has won several more paving schemes in Spain.They are not as large, or as photogenic, but not as demanding either.Having pulled out all the stops to show that it can operate effectively in Spain, and offer an incomparable service, the company is now reaping the benefits.
Deliveries started 30.11.98
Final delivery 19.04.99
BRICK TYPE & QUANTITY
Buff multi chamfered cobble paver 210 x 105 x 50mm 12873m 2(579,285 approx)
Blue brown chamfered cobble paver 210 x 105 x 50mm 3850m 2(173,250 approx)
Blue brown chamfered cobble PA 2.1 Kerb type 1 180 linear metres (1800 approx)