Quality Matters – Join the Conversation

August 15, 2022

The drilling sector, largely through the efforts of the British Drilling Association (BDA) is now one of the most respected sectors of the wider construction industry. It strives to improve continuously standards, safety, and professionalism and much of this has been achieved through open dialogue with those in the drilling sector, as well as those who use the services of or are associated through the supply chain to the drilling sector.

Underpinning all ‘conversations’ is that ‘quality matters’ and the BDA is now looking to client organisations to get involved, to be a part of the conversation and help ensure that there is one consistent message that runs from the BDA through to its members and on through to member’s customers. Specifically, the use of a BDA membership on a project, whist not providing any guarantees, should still reduce the risks of something going wrong on a project and when combined with the BDA Audit should certainly provide a high degree of confidence in the competence of the driller and drilling company providing the service.

Whilst reducing risk is extremely important, there is more to it than that; quality should be paramount and not something to be traded off – or weighed off against risk on any project, typical of the old ‘lowest-cost-wins’ model and which sadly still exist in some areas of the construction economy!

The COVID pandemic reminded us all just how fragile the economy is, but also just how important the construction sector is to the UK’s economic success. Construction’s resilience throughout the pandemic certainly helped stabilise the economy, being able to work safely throughout and in many ways acting as the example of just how to get things done in a crisis. Its resilience, especially the ability to function ‘COVID-safe’ through the pandemic, owes much to the sectors safety and quality policies.

Those issues such as safety, quality, standards and regulations have underpinned the stance of the BDA, but whilst all are important, it is its stance on quality that has done most to elevate the sector’s standing and has also done much to promote upskilling, as well as the equally important encouraging future entrants into the industry and help address that ever present and growing skills shortage.

The BDA’s “Quality Matters” Roadshow, which it ran during 2019, specifically targeted specifiers and consultants throughout the UK, with the BDA’s mission statement and goals, as well as highlighting more specific topics – such as drilling operations compliance; the importance and understanding of appropriate qualifications; obtaining quality samples; best practice; membership criteria; industry representation and the BDA Audit. A key aspect of the roadshow was to inform and educate attendees on the correct standards and qualifications that they should be specifying.

The BDA has been reaching out very successfully to client organisations for their input into its pursuit of even higher standards and professionalism. In fact, the client perspective brings hitherto unknown issues and solutions to the table from the customer, and it is this real-world use of those in receipt of drilling services that is helping shape many of the BDA’s initiatives. And the BDA has been successful in recruiting client members, which is extremely encouraging as it shows just how much value they place on quality and the differentiators that BDA membership brings on site to a project. It also shows just how the perception of the drilling sector has changed in recent years. For example, an industry spotlight survey conducted in 2016 by the BDA/AGS recognised that consultants, clients, and specifiers were not aware of the importance of specifying quality drilling contractors to work in the industry safely and to the correct standards. This is and continues to change for the better!

So, what does differentiate the BDA member? Well, for starters, leading BDA members have a large proportion of their drillers audited, which means the drillers and the companies they represent are driven by good practice, professionalism, and quality. This in turn means that clients are procuring companies dedicated to investing in training, competency and providing a career structure for staff. As well as reducing that all important risk on site, it also plays a part in helping to address the skills  shortage within the industry as this has been shown to go hand-in-hand with a sector’s positive perception through its desire to raise overall standards.

Drilling was not being viewed with the credibility and importance – especially from a safety perspective. The roadshow addressed this specifically, although the much broader end-goal was to increase professionalism, improve the quality of projects and add value to both companies and employees, while at the same time counter the  perceived lack of knowledge and adherence to the requisite standards.

The BDA has and continues to demonstrate that specifying site investigation specialists, or drillers, which adhere to the correct standards and procedures has an enormous knock-on effect of raising the overall quality of the entire industry. Quality is infectious and raising it level will forever be fundamental to the BDA strategy and the BDA would encourage all clients to actively engage with the BDA through membership and help join the conversation and share their perspectives and knowledge for the good of the entire construction sector  and not just the drilling!

Author:  Paul McMann, Chair, British Drilling Association

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