It’s been quite a baptism of fire for TBH (Tracey Brunstrom & Hammond) managing director Jonathan Jacobs, who took on the role about a year and a half ago.
TBH is Australia’s largest privately owned, independent specialist planning and management consultancy, with offices across Australia, Asia and Middle East.
Since its first major rail commission in 1977, TBH has undertaken more than 250 separate commissions in this sector, including trackworks, OHW, signalling, stations, train procurement and maintenance.
With a large pipeline of rail projects currently being carried out across Australia, the company has been a major beneficiary of the boom, as rail operators and contractors seek out TBH’s consultancy expertise in planning and project controls to help deliver their programs efficiently and on time.
“We’ve experienced some phenomenal growth,” Jacobs said. “We’ve increased our numbers by more than a third and the same goes for our revenue, so it’s been a very prosperous couple of years.
“But we are seeing some softening in the market, so we’re keeping a close eye on things and I think productivity improvement will be a key differentiator to delivering successful projects.
“Basically, we need to increase our output with the same amount of inputs.”
Jacobs said research had shown that productivity in Australia has not increased since 1990.
“We’re coming from a long way behind. That’s something that’s really of interest to me at the moment and I’m keen to see how we at TBH can help companies improve productivity, because there’s still an enormous pipeline of projects out there in the rail industry.,” he said.
“There are headwinds everywhere, but we are fortunate enough to be in a position where Australia is still forecasted to grow 1.8 per cent annually over the long term.
“I think we need to remember the basics, which is that it’s all about people, processes and systems; and systems are not something that just stand alone.
“You have to have people that understand what ‘good’ looks like and why they’re doing things a certain way so that they can get the best outputs and they understand what they are looking at.
“Then you need to have robust processes to help incorporate repeatability and traceability into the way things are done, so that information is consistent and reliable – then you can start using lessons learned and help improve productivity going forward.
“And then there’s the technology aspect, collating all the data, sifting through it all and then disseminating it in bite-sized pieces.
“We now have good reliable data for better trend analysis and better forecasting. And from that, we can automate reporting which gives us early warnings and genuine insights as to what things are working, and what are not.
“So we have the time to actually do something about the problems, and we have the ability to mitigate issues as well as take proactive actions.
“That’s something that I’m quite passionate about at the moment, and what TBH will be focused on, in helping our clients to increase productivity.”
THE TBH PROCESS
TBH’s clientele list is certainly impressive, a veritable who’s who of Australian rail: Western Sydney Airport, Sydney Metro, Cross River Rail in Queensland, the Suburban Rail Loop project in Melbourne, various METRONET jobs in WA, and indeed, every metro line in the country.
“What our client partners want is an organisation like ourselves, that truly understands how to deliver a project, and what key indicators to track and what works and what doesn’t,” Jacobs said.
He said a new service TBH offers is Organisational Change Management (OCM), which is used to imbed the project controls uplift they provide their clients.
It is based on putting the right governance in place then educating the project team as to what their roles and responsibilities are and how this fits into the bigger picture.
“So for example, what are the gates you need to go through? What are the standards you need to achieve? How do you move from one gate to the other? What are your exit and entry criteria? Who is responsible for doing what and what is the process?
“And then marrying that with a Change Management and Communications Plan to help bring along their people for the journey so that they buy in to this change. That’s something that is essential to lift productivity and drive efficiencies, as people get comfortable doing things the way that they’ve always done it.
“If you don’t get them to buy into the change, they’ll just revert back to old practices.
“You also need to give people visibility of the journey and you’ve got to allow them to feed back into the process so that they can own their future.”
Jacobs said TBH specialists had thorough knowledge of the drivers of both client and contractor.
“We understand contracts. We understand which risks are associated with the particular types and can quickly identify and highlight where the challenges and opportunities lie.,” he said.
Jacobs is a big supporter of collaborative contracting, where all parties work together for the successful completion of a project.
“It’s not just about the project, it’s also about the benefits that project brings to communities and to our country as a whole,” he said.
“We should be aiming for win-wins instead of just doing things the same way and hoping for a different result.
“In such a constrained market at the moment, I think collaborative contracting, especially for complex, high risk projects is particularily attractive. For these projects to be delivered successfully, the risks need to be allocated fairly to the party that can best manage them: parties will be incentivised to work together to acheive a common outcome and we’ll see fewer cost blowouts and delays.”
TBH has been a regular exhibitor at AusRAIL conferences and will be there again this year. To catch up with Jacobs, email him at email@example.com to learn more about the TBH way.