Vital role of project managers in the North East highlighted

With a turnover of £647m and responsibility for providing water and sewerage services to 2.7m people each day in the North East, Northumbrian Water is continually building new assets and repairing its existing infrastructure

Northumbrian Water picture of mains cleaning - enabling works new valves at Hebron reservoir

With a turnover of £647m and responsibility for providing water and sewerage services to 2.7m people each day in the North East, Northumbrian Water is continually building new assets and repairing its existing infrastructure.

Recent schemes include a £36m mains cleaning programme which took place over four years to improve tap water quality for half a million customers in South East Northumberland, North Tyneside and the north of Newcastle.

Homes in Longbenton are benefiting from a £6.4m investment programme to alleviate sewer flooding to 93 properties, whilst the Howdon and Bran Sands advanced anaerobic digestion facilities have placed Northumbrian Water at the leading edge of sludge treatment, enabling it to treat 2,000,000 cubic m sludge per annum and produce 80,000MWh of renewable electricity.

Serving the major centres of Tyneside, Wearside and Teesside as well as large rural areas in Northumberland and County Durham, Northumbrian Water’s vision is to be the national leader in the provision of sustainable water and waste water services.

Its infrastructure is managed through the company’s capital investment programme which is costing around £250m per annum. Some assets include 29 impounding reservoirs, 234 treated water reservoirs and 416 sewage treatment works together with 17,000km of water mains and more than 29,500 km of sewers.

As a natural monopoly the water industry is heavily regulated with all of its price limits, investment plans and outputs set by Ofwat on a five-year cycle. This has put the need for effective project management skills very much under the spotlight.

The Association for Project Management is a natural partner for Northumbrian Water in its mission to become the national leader within its sector. Northumbrian Water has embarked on the APM accreditation process to develop the capability of its staff so they become more effective project managers and the organisation now in the final stages of the accreditation process.

Northumbrian Water’s Ian Lumley, registered project professional and project manager in charge of the accreditation process, believes that not only is APM accreditation integral to the successful delivery of Northumbrian Water’s capital investment programme, but it enables Northumbrian Water to produce more consistent project outcomes through increased professionalism.

It also helps Northumbrian Water to stand out to prospective employees as a company committed to the development of project management professionals.

In a recent customer satisfaction survey, undertaken after construction work had been carried out by Northumbrian Water to relay pipes, a mean score of 8.2 out of 10 was achieved for overall satisfaction with over half the sample awarding Northumbrian Water 9 or 10 out of 10 – which demonstrates the importance of the project manager’s role in effecting a smooth roll out of Northumbrian Water’s capital investment programme.

There is growing recognition of the value that competent and capable project professionals can offer and as the largest professional body of its kind in Europe with individual and corporate members world-wide, APM expects to see further development of its role wherever professional project management skills are required.

:: Robin Merlane, chairman of the APM North East branch and a project manager for MWH

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