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Construction Management and Economics

ISSN: 0144-6193 (Print) 1466-433X (Online) Journal homepage: http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/rcme20

Subcontractor perspectives on supply chain


alliances

Andrew R. J. Dainty , Geoffrey H. Briscoe & Sarah J. Millett

To cite this article: Andrew R. J. Dainty , Geoffrey H. Briscoe & Sarah J. Millett (2001)
Subcontractor perspectives on supply chain alliances, Construction Management and Economics,
19:8, 841-848, DOI: 10.1080/01446190110089727

To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01446190110089727

Published online: 21 Oct 2010.

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Construction Management and Economics (2001) 19, 841848

Subcontractor perspectives on supply chain alliances


ANDREW R. J. DAINTY 1 *, GEOFFREY H. BRISCOE 2 and
SARAH J. MILLETT 2
1Department of Civil and Building Engineering, Loughborough University, Loughborough,
Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK
2
Construction Labour Market Research Group, School of Science and the Environment, Coventry University,
Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK

Received 21 February 2001; accepted 10 August 2001

Since the publication of the Egan report in 1998, there has been a strong and consistent emphasis on the
need to integrate the project delivery process via partnering and strategic alliancing agreements throughout
the UK construction industry. However, given the continued reliance on subcontracting within the sector,
future performance improvement also requires an acceptance of the bene ts of supply chain partnering and
integration from the small-to-medium size businesses who carry out the majority of construction work. This
paper presents the ndings of a research project that examined subcontractor perspectives on supply chain
alliances. The study has uncovered serious concerns among subcontractors that point towards a fundamental
mistrust and scepticism within existing supply chain relationships. These have the potential to inhibit further
improvements in the ef cacy of the project delivery process. A range of attitudinal change requirements for
integrating smaller companies into the drive for continuous improvement are identi ed. It is suggested that
leading clients should take responsibility for engendering the necessary attitudinal change throughout their
supplier networks if further performance improvement is to be realized within the sector.

Keywords: Subcontractors, supply chain management, partnering, integration, culture

Introduction Barlow et al., 1997; Crane et al., 1997; Bresnen and


Marshall, 1998).
Traditionally, the UK construction industry has There are many de nitions of partnering, and over-
suffered from cost overruns, programme delays and arching de nitions have the potential to obscure its true
poor productivity, as was recognized by both the extent (Barlow et al., 1997). However, normally part-
Latham (1994) and Egan (1998) reports. These reports nering is regarded as a strategic arrangement whereby
have suggested mechanisms for change within the a contractor is engaged in a series of projects with the
industry, and have set ambitious targets to reduce aim of lowering costs and improving ef ciency, or can
costs, programme time and defects. They suggest that be a short term single project arrangement (Harris and
these targets could be met through improvements in McCaffer, 2001). Partnerships can operate indepen-
product development, partnering of the supply chain dently of strategic alliances, where collaborators, hav-
and the standardization of components. Research ing demonstrated a commitment through previous
addressing the Latham and Egan agendas has concen- behavioural attitudes, co-operate and share resources in
trated on improving interactions between clients and pursuit of common goals. Thus, each team member is
main contractors, and in particular the formation of jointly anchored to project success (Walker et al., 2000).
partnerships and strategic alliances (Himes, 1995; Alliances can range in scope from an informal business
relationship to a joint venture agreement, the common
*Author for correspondence. e-mail: a.r.j.dainty@lboro.ac.uk feature being that collaborators work towards a joint
Construction Management and Economics
ISSN 01446193 print/ISSN 1466-433X online 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd
http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals
DOI: 10.1080/01446190110089727
842 Dainty et al.

goal. However, establishing rigid de nitions of what integration of those involved in the production process.
these concepts mean in practice is problematic (see An espoused bene t of supply chain management is
Bresnen and Marshall, 2000a) and often the terms are the closer relationships between parties involved in the
used interchangeably. ow of goods from the supplier to the end user
Despite the huge level of fragmentation within the (Stannack, 1995; Lamming, 1996; DSouza and Frank,
industry, the role and in uence of small and medium- 1997; Spekman et al., 1998). Supply chain relation-
size (SME)1 subcontractors and suppliers within part- ships should extend beyond the simple exchange of
nering and strategic alliancing has largely been ignored. materials or services, to integrate the design, distribu-
This is a serious omission, given the large number of tion, marketing, and knowledge exchange between the
smaller rms that form the supply chain of most parties (Levy et al., 1995). However, the failure to
construction projects, and could inhibit the achieve- involve smaller companies in the development and
ment of better supplier integration, process conformity implementation of supply chain performance improve-
and alignment. ment measures raises questions as to the likely success
Clearly the UK construction industry has made of such initiatives, especially as main contractors
advances since the publication of the Egan report. The frequently have had poor relationships with their
establishment of the Construction Best Practice subcontractors and suppliers (Matthews et al., 1996).
Programme2 and the Movement For Innovation3 have Previous research has shown that better relationships
helped to promote management techniques such as with subcontractors is likely to have a signi cant effect
benchmarking, partnering, lean construction, whole life on lowering bids, and hence project costs (Uher and
costing and supply chain management, all of which are Runeson, 1985).
now more prevalent within UK construction compa- This paper explores supply chain management issues
nies (Barrie, 1999; Cook, 1999; DETR, 1999a; Leitch, predominantly from subcontractors perspectives. The
1999). However, it is larger companies that have aim is to identify the barriers to greater subcontractor
tended to take responsibility for managing change, with and supplier integration, focusing on continuous
subcontractors and other suppliers having provided improvement initiatives, and to establish the attitudinal
very little managerial input (London et al., 1998). change requirements for breaking down obstacles to
Although there are many good examples of strategic downstream supply chain integration within the UK
partnerships that have led to considerable improve- construction sector. Initially, the role of subcontrac-
ments in construction project delivery (see Barlow tors in the UK construction industry is explored in
et al., 1997; Bennett and Jayes, 1998; McLellan, 1999) order to identify the importance of their integration for
these have been restricted largely to clientcontractor performance improvement. The paper then goes on to
linkages, as opposed to developing strategic alliances outline the research study which explored the perspec-
throughout the supplier network. tives of a number of subcontracting companies on
Matthews et al. (1996) indicated that partnering with supply chain alliances. The results of the study are
smaller rms will help to improve relationships. presented, and a framework for addressing current
However, there remains a lack of recognition of the barriers to supply chain integration is established.
importance of subcontractors and suppliers, most of
whom are SMEs, within the partnering literature. For
example, other advocates of partnering (Bennett and The importance of subcontractors in UK
Jayes, 1995, 1998; Barlow et al., 1997) do not focus construction
on these important contributors to the construction
process. This may stem from the industrys traditional The tasks of speciality subcontractors may appear
approach of vertically differentiating the construction straightforward upon rst examination, but further
process, which results in a subordinate position consideration of their role shows that they have to
for subcontractors within the hierarchy of relation- concurrently engage in numerous preparation, produc-
ships forming the traditional designmanagement tion and scheduling tasks across many different
construction process. Consequently, main contractor projects (Tommelein and Ballard, 1998). The critical
subcontractorsupplier relationships are often found to importance of subcontracting to the success of
be strained and adversarial (Hinze and Tracey, 1994; construction projects has long been recognized. Gray
Latham, 1994). The widespread use of labour-only and Flanagan (1989), in their comprehensive study of
subcontracting has further complicated this process subcontracting, concluded that it would account for
through the existence of several tiers of subcontractors an increasing proportion of total construction work-
within a single project environment (OBrien and load. This is because main contractors use subcon-
Fischer, 1993; Reed, 1999). This further fragments the tracting as a means of surviving the volatility of the
project delivery process, thereby inhibiting a fuller construction business cycle.
Subcontractor perspectives on supply chain alliances 843

Accurate data with which to quantitatively measure Table 2 The structure of private contracting in Great
the importance of subcontracting (incorporating mate- Britain for 1998
rial supply) in the industry are dif cult to obtain, but Size of rm No. of No. of Amount of
an approximation of the degree of subcontracting can (No. of rms (%) employees work done
be derived from published government statistics. Table employees) (%) (%)
1 presents data produced by the Of ce of National
Statistics (ONS) to indicate the large number of enter- 1 53.8 9.5 9.1
23 29.4 18.2 8.8
prises that comprise the construction sector. Gross out-
47 10.0 10.0 7.3
put is disaggregated into material purchases, industrial 824 4.4 12.4 11.8
services (construction sector subcontracting), non- 2114 2.0 18.6 22.0
industrial services and the residual net output compo- 115 or more 0.4 31.3 41.0
nent. Some 57% of the gross work done involves the
Totals 163 236 Firms 813 600 Employeesa 59.0 B
buying-in of materials and subcontractor services. This
p.a.
overall average incorporates a large element of small-
scale repair and maintenance, where subcontracting is Source: Housing and Construction Statistics 19881998 (DETR,
1999b).
relatively less common. On larger new-build projects a
Includes working proprietors, operators and APTC non-manual
the proportion of gross output involving purchases and staff, but excludes the self-employed.
subcontracting is likely to be signi cantly higher.
Statistics produced by the Department of the all these small rms. Table 3 presents a breakdown of
Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), work done by the main trade of rm. Most small rms
using a different register of construction rms from are specialists, although some are classi ed as general
that adopted by the ONS, provided further details on builders or civil engineers. Bricklaying organizations,
the nature of construction industry subcontracting. for example, are treated as general builders. The data
Table 2 shows the size distribution of the rms on the in Table 3 indicate that some 44% of the industrys
DETR register (some 163 000 as opposed to the rms are specialists, and many of these provide key
ONSs 177 000 enterprises). It should be noted that production services to the main contractors who
these data exclude many material supply companies manage the new projects.
who usually are classi ed as part of the manufacturing
sector. There is a marked dominance of very small
rms, with some 93% of all such rms employing seven Methodology
workers or less. It is among these rms that a majority
of specialist subcontractors are to be found. Table 2 Establishing the barriers to SME involvement in supply
shows they are critical to the production capabilities chain management presented several signi cant
of the industry, as they account for about a quarter of
the industrys total work done. Table 3 Distribution of construction work done by main
Further analysis of the DETR contractors survey trade of rm in Great Britain for 1998
yields information on the nature of the work done by
Construction trades Percentage of work done
General trades 55.8
Table 1 Analysis of construction work done in Great
Britain in 1997 Builders 30.3
Civil engineers 11.5
1 Number of enterprises in 177 228
General contractorsa 14.1
construction industry
2 Value of gross work done in 87.7 Billion (B) Specialist trades 44.2
industry
Electrical contractors 10.0
3 Material and component purchases 24.4 B (27.8%)
Heating and vent. engineers 4.7
made outside of construction
Plumbers 3.1
industry
Painters 2.7
4 Cost of industrial services obtained 22.5 B (24.4%)
Roofers 2.5
within the industry
Carpenters 2.4
5 Cost of non-industrial services 3.2 B (3.6%)
Glaziers 1.9
bought in (includes plant hire,
Other specialists 16.9
insurance and bank charges)
6 Net output of the construction 37.6 B (42.9%) Source: Housing and Construction Statistics 19881998 (DETR,
industry 1999b).
a
These represent contractors providing both building and civil
Source: ONS (1999) engineering services.
844 Dainty et al.

challenges for the research design. First, supply chain Table 4 Summary of the project participants
management draws on a wide range of managerial prac-
Key business areas Turnover No.of employees
tices, such as electronic data exchange, quality man-
agement, relationship assessments and the management
of material ow, supplier relationships, costs and value A Car park barriers 1m5m 119
(Saunders, 1994; Lamming, 1996; Macbeth, 1997). B Tiling 1m5m 4059
The relevance and impact of these diverse processes C Glazing >5m 60+
D Services >5m 60+
needed to be explored across a range of SME compa-
E Flooring 1m5m 2039
nies in order to establish how they could be integrated F Internal partitions <1m 119
into the production process. A second problem existed G Steel fabricators >5m 60+
in that supply chain management is a relatively new H Demolition 1m5m 60+
concept within the construction sector. Thus, nding I Services 1m5m 2039
SME companies who had been exposed to managed J Tiling 1m5m 2039
supply chains was likely to be problematic. A nal dif- K Services 1m5m 2039
culty concerned the need to provide results that were L Labour only <1m 4059
not restricted in applicability to a single supply chain or M Steel fabricator 1m-5m 119
a unique set of supply chain relationships. This required N Drilling and grouting 1m5m 2039
O Services 1m5m 2039
the participating SMEs to be drawn from a number of
P Services 1m5m 4059
projects that had been subject to a wide range of sup-
Q Services 1m5m 2039
ply chain management concepts. R Civils 1m5m 4059
To overcome these dif culties, a number of large S Materials supplier >5m 2039
contracting organizations were approached to partici- T Roo ng and cladding 1m5m 119
pate in the project. These organizations were involved
with demonstration projects set up by the Movement
for Innovation, and were committed to the wider imple- using qualitative analysis software QSR NUDIST
mentation of supply chain management within the NVivo. This software tool was used to model the data
industry. These selected companies agreed to facilitate to identify the core issues that de ned the nature of
access to their supplier networks on some of their larger particular supply chain relationships. Collectively, the
projects. Initially, simple relationship maps were analyses allowed the identi cation of the generic
developed for each project; these identi ed all sub- requirements for supply chain integration.
contract linkages where some form of interaction took From the NVivo analysis, particular issues were
place (see Rummler and Brache, 1990). From these identi ed that clearly were preventing satisfactory sup-
maps, a large number of SME subcontractors were ply chain relationships between the subcontractors and
identi ed who were approached to take part in the suppliers and the companies at the head of the supplier
study. The companies were chosen on the basis that network. In order to con rm the validity of these nd-
they had been exposed to a wide range of supply chain ings and to identify ways of improving the current sit-
management practices on a number of different projects uation, focus groups were then held with a selection of
being managed by the large contracting organizations. main contractors, subcontractors and suppliers. These
The participating companies represented a broadly meetings allowed a comparison of the perspectives of
strati ed spread of companies with turnovers ranging the participants with regards to the issues raised, and
from under 1m to around 20m (see Table 4). for mutually acceptable solutions to be identi ed for
In-depth semi-structured interviews were held with overcoming the barriers to further integration.
managing directors or senior managers within the
participating companies. Each was asked a series of
questions relating to their perspectives on the indus- Results
trys current performance improvement agenda, their
relationships with the other companies making up the Subcontractor interviews
supply chain, their attitudes towards partnering and The companies interviewed held generally negative
strategic alliancing, and how further integration could views of partnering and supply chain management.
best be achieved. In addition, each informant was They believed that some main contractors did not
asked to discuss the nature of the skills, knowledge and understand the principles of partnering and strategic
attitudes required by those within an integrated alliancing, or that their motivations for adopting such
supplier network that would facilitate continuous practices were not for reasons of engendering mutual
improvement. The interviews were all recorded and trust, support and bene t throughout the supply chain.
transcribed verbatim, and then coded and analysed Although some of the subcontractors had experienced
Subcontractor perspectives on supply chain alliances 845

successful partnering relationships with client organi- little or no effort had been made to align the systems of
zations, they believed that successful alliances with subcontractor and supplier companies with those of
main contractors would be far more problematic. Key main contractors, or to impart the necessary skills to
themes emerging from the subcontractor interviews are enable such problems to be avoided. Such misalign-
summarized below under headings drawn from the ment was seen as a demonstration of the lack of effort
NVivo analytical framework. on behalf of main contractors to show a two-way com-
mitment in investing in their supplier relationships.
Financial/cost-related issues
Directors of SMEs viewed partnering-related practices Quality of information and related issues
such as open-book accounting merely as mechanisms for Subcontractors complained about the quality of infor-
main contractors to drive down subcontractor pro ts. mation received from the main contractor. Problems
Competitive tendering remained the principal mecha- included missing, late and/or inaccurate data, and a
nism for subcontractor selection, particularly for non- general ambivalence towards subcontractors needs for
specialist services. This was seen as being against the prompt and accurate design information. There was
ethos of alliancing, and as militating against long term also believed to be a general reluctance to draw upon
relationships. Main contractors were criticized for the expertise of specialist subcontract and supplier
accepting the lowest tender price, even where they knew companies. Again, many of these problems were attrib-
that there had been a pricing error by a subcontractor, or uted to a lack of information technology integration
where another supplier offered signi cant added value to and alignment between the parties, together with a lack
the project. Adversarial relationships developed through of willingness by main contractors to develop an equit-
the tender process were found to have led to serious able involvement climate between the parties.
problems with regards to payments during projects.
Traditional contracts were seen as being biased Attitudinal issues
towards the main contractor and as encouraging bad Main contractors front-line managers were criticized
practices and adversarial relationships. The legislation by subcontractors as inhibiting better integration. For
provided by the UKs 1998 Construction Act had example, some contractors quantity surveyors, with
failed to ensure on-time payments to subcontract and responsibility for managing payments during projects,
supplier companies, or to prevent main contractors were accused of acting aggressively towards subcon-
from unnecessarily withholding retention payments at tractors and suppliers and of preventing their early
the end of contracts. Such practices commonly led to involvement in projects. Main contractors estimators
cash ow dif culties and to a breakdown in trust rela- often were perceived to lack any understanding of the
tions. Some SMEs had become so sceptical that they demands placed on subcontractors, and of expecting
regarded supply chain management as merely another immediate quotations for complex works packages. Site
mechanism to ensure that they took on the burden of management teams were felt to have greater concern for
the short term nance of projects. This had led some completing projects in the shortest possible time than
rms to build in contingencies to their tender submis- in co-ordinating and integrating the specialist trades
sions to mitigate the risk of late payment. effectively. Subcontractors were rarely praised for
adding value to a project through their own innovation,
Programming/time-related issues or made to feel an integral part of the delivery team.
Programming dif culties constituted both a symptom
and a cause of poor supply chain relations. Smaller sup-
Focus group discussions
ply chain companies generally felt that programming
times were often unrealistic, resulting in poor quality A selection of the companies taking part in the initial
buildings and latent defects. Other problems included interviews, representatives of main contractors and a
frequent accounts of specialist subcontractors arriving selection of training providers were invited to attend
on site to nd that the main contractor was not ready a series of informal workshops in order to discuss the
for their input. Again, smaller companies complained earlier research ndings. The aim of these workshops
of being expected to be exible without any acknowl- was to con rm the validity of the interview ndings, to
edgement of their own business requirements. This sug- establish the changes necessary to integrate construc-
gested that risk was passed down the supply chain, tion supply chains more effectively, and to identify ways
rather than being shared amongst the parties in the of overcoming current barriers to greater subcontractor
spirit of a true partnership. These problems existed involvement. Accordingly, a frank exchange of views
despite the availability of information and information was encouraged between the parties during these meet-
communications technology which could easily be used ings. In particular, the focus groups sought to con rm
to mitigate such programming dif culties. However, the validity of the interview ndings, not just from the
846 Dainty et al.

perspective of the SMEs but also from the standpoint supply chain solution (Thompson, 1998). The ndings
of the main contractors. of this study have suggested that signi cant barriers
The barriers identi ed were seen as being sympto- remain to supplier integration, and to the further devel-
matic of a lack of understanding and empathy with opment of supply chain alliances. The lack of trust and
SME needs by main contractors, particularly with negative attitudes towards many of the essential require-
regard to cost and payments issues. Although it was ments of supply chain management suggest that the
accepted that partnership arrangements had the poten- industry is a long way off being able to align systems and
tial to resolve many of the payment issues, main con- procedures for improved project performance.
tractors acknowledged that frequently they saw little The key barriers to greater integration seem to stem
bene t in forming alliances with companies with which from the historical fragmentation of project delivery sys-
they did not work regularly. While the bene t of pro- tems, and the contractual and adversarial nature of con-
ject speci c partnerships with clients was recognized, struction project relationships. Clearly, leading
these were not seen as applying to downstream supply companies must agree to share the bene ts of greater
chain linkages. Subcontractors blamed the lack of trust integration with their supply chain partners. However,
between the parties on the adversarial nature of their there appears to be a belief at present that existing sup-
working relationships that had characterized the indus- ply chain management techniques seek to enhance main
trys operation for many years. Indeed, the cultural contractor pro tability at the expense of other supply
issue of mistrust between the parties was seen as a chain companies. This is symptomatic of a lack of trust
fundamental barrier to the increased understanding of between main contractor and subcontractor/supplier
each others needs and further supply chain integration. organizations. Bresnen and Marshall (2000b) showed
In terms of nding solutions to the lack of integra- that even further up in the supply chain contracts let
tion within construction supply chains, it was agreed under partnering arrangements still retained quasi-com-
that subcontractors and suppliers must be integrated petitive methods of control which led to the mainte-
formally into communication and reporting structures nance of mistrust and con ict between main contractors
within the project organizational structure. Both and client organizations. This seems to be re ected fur-
subcontractors and suppliers saw this as an effective ther down the supply chain in the second-tier supplier
way of allowing them to establish the closer relation- relationships between main contractors and subcontrac-
ships for better supply chain integration. Some of these tors. This mistrust and scepticism appears grounded in
barriers were also seen as capable of being broken the ingrained adversarial practices that characterized the
down through soft skills developments, and especially industry in the past. Hence, persuading construction
in terms of improving communication skills amongst SMEs of the bene ts of supply chain partnering and
project-based staff. It was agreed that future training integration is likely to be extremely problematic.
should focus on engendering inclusive attitudes Despite the problems inherent in managing and inte-
amongst such employees, and efforts should be made grating construction supply chains, essentially the
to address the lack of trust arising from traditional alignment of systems and cultures is improving the
adversarial practices. Subcontractors also argued that performance of the industry. In order to convince
better integration depended upon client actions in SMEs that the motives are mutually bene cial to the
managing better supply chain integration. However, strategic alliance, the partnering processes would need
although this was possible for larger clients using a to include mechanisms for engendering an involve-
de ned number of suppliers, it was seen as problem- ment climate (see Barlow and Jashapara, 1998). Such
atic for those who procured little construction work. integration is likely to require those further down the
supply chain to align their systems and procedures with
those at the head of the production process. This points
Discussion: a framework for improved towards two speci c needs for better integration: a
supply chain integration greater degree of client leadership in order to drive the
integration process and an insistence on transparent
A central tenet of construction supply chain manage- and mutually bene cial processes for all parties in the
ment is that the greater provision of integration will supply chain. Initially, this would require de ned
solve many of the problems that fragmentation has protocols for ensuring the inclusion and fair treatment
caused within the sector. This assumption relies upon of smaller companies within the process. These could
the notion that those involved in the construction come in the form of an integrated contractual system
process have an inherent preference to become inte- that ensures a parity of responsibilities and obligations
grated into project delivery systems. However, the at each level of the supply chain. If backed up by
nature of construction and its products means that there appropriate legal sanctions, such a system could be
are no easy answers to developing a fully integrated used to develop better integration in the future.
Subcontractor perspectives on supply chain alliances 847

Engendering the attitudinal change required for effec- supply chain relationships at key project interfaces
tive supply chain integration is unlikely to be possible (client/contractor, consultant/contractor, contractor/
without fundamentally rethinking the current inter- subcontractor, subcontractor/supplier, etc). This will
organizational relationships and dynamics that exist require the facilitation of better supply chain relation-
within the construction industry. This change needs to ships across the production process, through a contrac-
come from a variety of sources, including the education tual system that emphasizes parity of obligations and
of the construction workforce. For example, communi- responsibilities at each level of the supply chain. In the
cation skills, knowledge of other types of organization interim, subcontractor integration could be in uenced
operating in the construction supply chain and the bene- by the clients approach to construction procurement.
ts of partnering can all be taught in classrooms (Briscoe For example, if clients who practice good supply chain
et al., 2001). Change relating to contractual documents management principles within their primary business
need to come from the organizations responsible for their activities transfer these principles to the management of
preparation, not just in re ning contractual provision but their construction supply chains, then this could bene t
also in espousing the bene ts of these new documents. the integration of subcontractors into the process.
Finally, the most important change at an organizational In order to address the issues arising from this study,
level, particularly within main contractor and client further work is now being undertaken to establish how
organizations, is to accept that subcontractors can bring the supply chain management practices of large client
added value to the construction project delivery process. organizations can be applied to their construction
This must be accompanied by a willingness to share supply chains more effectively. The general procure-
knowledge and communication, because if this change ment practices and resulting relationships at four tiers
does not occur internally then criteria such as trust of the supply chain are being investigated with a range
between parties, fair payments and early involvement of major construction clients. Best practice with regard
with projects will not take place. Only if such changes are to managing relationships at each level is being iden-
made will it prove possible for longer term relationships ti ed for their core procurement operations and devel-
to evolve between the parties in the supply chain. oped to provide an improvement framework that can
be applied to their construction procurement activities.

Conclusions and future work


Acknowledgements
This study has identi ed some signi cant barriers to
supply chain integration by smaller subcontractors and The authors would like to thank the European Social
suppliers. It has shown that the UK construction sector Fund, who funded the research on which this paper is
is a long way from being able to derive bene ts from based, the rms who participated in this project and
true downstream supply chain integration. Apparently the interviewees who gave their time to be part of the
the 1998 Construction Act has made very little differ- study. In addition, they would also like to thank the
ence to this situation. There remains a general mistrust anonymous referees who provided detailed and con-
within the SME companies that make up the construc- structive recommendations for the improving the initial
tion supply chain, and a general lack of belief that there draft of the paper.
are mutual bene ts in supply chain integration prac-
tices. This appears to be preventing the active involve-
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