Supply chain highlights need for water firms to embrace innovation
21 Jul 2020
British Water’s annual survey of leading utility company performance reveals widespread frustration among suppliers over the slow rate of uptake of new technologies.
Its annual UK Water Company Performance Survey asks contractors, consultants and suppliers to rate their clients’ performance in 11 areas, including professionalism, contractual approach and communication.
Innovation was the lowest scoring area in 2020 – at a time when regulator Ofwat is expecting water companies to find new ways of working to address key issues, without increasing customer bills.
The sector is facing unprecedented challenges – from climate change, population growth and rising customer expectations - during Ofwat’s AMP7 period.
EPS general manager and incoming chair of British Water's UK Forum, Shaun Stevens (pictured) commented:
"While innovation has been a core theme in water companies’ dialogue for many years, issues including underfunding, adversarial commercial models and out-of-date technical standards can be blockers to the adoption of new technologies."
In December 2019 regulator Ofwat confirmed a £200 million innovation fund for the AMP7 investment period. Stevens described it as “a step in the right direction…we can only hope yields the required outcomes” in AMP7.
Overall, this year saw a small drop in score across all areas. This is likely to be attributable to the transition from AMP6 to AMP7, when key teams would have been engaged in regulatory submissions, which can directly impact on supply chain engagement and perceptions.
Stevens said there had been an overall improvement since 2016, citing D?r Cymru Welsh Water and United Utilities for making significant improvement this year by targeting suppliers’ ‘pain points’, while Northumbrian Water secured top spot with a range of digital initiatives to achieve great relationships with their suppliers.
British Water chief executive Lila Thompson said: “Embedded within all levels of the supply chain are the skills and expertise to deliver tangible improvements for customers and the environment in AMP7. I urge water companies to take their valuable feedback on board.”