Technical Assurance / Quality Assurance / Handover process from Early Works Contracts to Main Works Civils Contracts
This paper discusses lessons learnt on the Technical Assurance, Quality Assurance and Handover process discipline, based on key delivery experiences whilst working on the Enabling Works Contract (EWC) on the southern section of High Speed Two (HS2) phase one.
The key point of learning of interest to future projects and programmes – particularly those consisting of a large number of packages of work – is that assigning dedicated personnel from both the main contractor and sub-contractor ensures end-of-project lifecycle processes can be effectively progressed and kept on target. It is important to undertake progressive assurance throughout the packages, utilising existing resources and package knowledge.
Background and industry context
It is good practice for Technical Assurance (TA), Quality Assurance (QA) and Handover documentation to be delivered in tandem with the package scope of works. However, it is often left towards the end of the project lifecycle which can increase the following risks:
- Overrunning of the project.
- Late handover and completion of the works to the client.
- Additional costs – in time and resources to finalise the works.
- Poor quality documentation.
- Reputational damage.
- Technical debt – where staff leave a project and/or have to return to close out the handover, incurring loss of knowledge and further costs.
Leaving TA/QA/Handover documentation this late could be down to a number of factors:
- Lack of resourcing – the package not allowing a dedicated resource to manage this within their budget.
- Relying on site engineers to manage the assurance, whilst carrying out their day-to-day site duties.
- Not understanding the full requirements of the handover process.
- Sub-contractors not appreciating the importance of the TA/QA process or not understanding the requirements of the handover process, and therefore not allowing sufficient resources to manage this.
- Lack of retention of personnel with the knowledge of the works kept on the project to close the handover process.
In order to reduce these risks on the Enabling Works Contract (EWC) on the southern section of High Speed Two (HS2) phase one, delivered by the Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv), the programme of works had dedicated technical support which provided overall support and guidance to the work packages on the TA/QA function. These specialists guided teams through the various stages towards the final sign-off of the Level 3 Certificate and Work Package Completion Certificate. (Learning Legacy paper: Best Practice in Level 3 Self-Certification ). The support functions assisted where possible and where urgency was required, however it remained the responsibility of the work packages to manage the production of TA/QA documentation.
On certain occasions, some packages can be affected by the above factors. Following the physical completion of works, team members can be moved onto other packages where they are most needed, resulting in reduced numbers of personnel available to close out, including assisting with the final account and producing the required handover documentation. The number of deliverables can also increase. However, learning that has emerged from the programme demonstrates that the impact of these factors can be significantly reduced through dedicated support, as has been the case on the Victoria Road Utilities Works.
Victoria Road Utilities Works: Good example of TA/QA/handover management
P083 Victoria Road Utilities Works involves the diversion of utilities, abandonment and/or removal of redundant services and upgrading of existing utilities to withstand the Main Works Civils Contact (MWCC), anticipated ground movement within the Victoria Road area of North Acton and the adjacent highways in the London Borough of Ealing. A significant number of statutory undertakers are involved.
- On P083, CSjv and the sub-contractor both have assigned dedicated personnel to manage the TA/QA/Handover requirements for these works. This is not always standard: some packages rely on existing personnel. Previous learning on the programme led to the recognition that the amount of work and personnel involved on P083 required these two dedicated personnel in order to record and assure in a timely manner.
- All TA/QA documentation, which includes Inspection and Test Plans (ITPs), Material Approvals Records (MARs), ITP Handover Packs and Operational and Maintenance Manuals, has been produced and approved for the completed works, and other documentation has also been updated and accepted by HS2.
- A Big Blue Table (BBT) Technical Assurance (TA) Status Report has been used and managed by the TA Support Function to track progress and updates to the TA documentation required for the Level 3 Certificates. An example BBT is provided as supporting material for this learning legacy paper.
- The two dedicated personnel have worked well together to ensure that the TA/QA/Handover requirements are progressed, kept up to date and on target.
- In line with the HS2 Works Information 0700 Completion requirements and CSjv requirements (see Completion Procedure and Work Package Completion Process Map), P083 was set to be progressively assured with three HS2 Level 3 Certificates. As a result of the measures put in place, in August 2021, a section of the works went to the HS2 Level 3 review panel and was accepted, which is testament to the good work on the package. The provision of dedicated support for handover leads to a higher probability of success at the panel.
Outcomes and learning
- It was learnt on the Victoria Road Utilities Works that work packages should resource in line with the quantity, value and duration of the work scope to manage the TA/QA/Handover process from start to finish. Resources should also be allocated according to the size of the package team and the complexity of the works (considering, for example, the number of interfaces with statutory undertakers). The resource/s should be priced-in at the tendering stage and allocated within the package budget.
- The same was learnt to apply to the EWC sub-contractors carrying out the works: they should resource accordingly to manage the TA/QA/Handover process, producing required documentation for CSjv to review, approve and submit to HS2.
- Early engagement between all parties has been very important to record and assure what has been built in a timely manner in accordance with the contract, and so avoid additional costs and delays. It took between six months and a year of dedicated time to build up the appropriate documentation for handover on P083. CSjv, relevant sub-contractors and HS2 had to understand the requirements for handover and what assurances had to be carried out during the works, with support from TA/QA Support Function Team. Engaging with knowledge and learning gathered on other relevant packages was useful to understand what was required. Working from good examples of key documentation such as ITPs, ITP Handover Packs, and Operation and Maintenance Manuals is also recommended.
- Packages should retain key personnel with knowledge of the package and works to ensure successful closure and handover in a timely manner. As projects wind down, people often begin looking for new opportunities, which presents a challenge in terms of behavioural management. The key is to give people the confidence to stay on and close out before they move onto their next role, and to ensure a thorough and timely internal handover with any transition that occurs.
- A Lessons Learnt Report should be completed for each work package towards the end of the works to demonstrate where things went well during the package, and where improvements can be made and good practices taken into future packages and projects.
- Project Managers, Package Managers and Commercial Managers should ensure that the TA/QA/Handover element of the works is properly resourced for the duration of the works and a period of time after the works are completed to ensure satisfactory closure out and handback of the works.
- Do not necessarily rely on or expect the site engineers to carry out this role. They have a lot to deal with as regards the site works. When the site workload reduces, the site engineers should become more involved with the handover and close out, producing the relevant documentation.
- Ensure the TA/QA is managed from the start of works and understand what is involved.
- Do not leave it to the end of the works. It will then be rushed and not carried out to the required standard which will delay completion/handover.
- Retain key personnel with the knowledge of the works, whether full-time or part-time, for the close out.
Morrisons Utility Services and P083 Package Team