Insight

Interview: Smart thinking is just the start at Murphy

21 August 2017 | By James Kenny

Will Reddaway tells James Kenny how his appointment as head of innovation at Murphy is part of a wider growth strategy based on advancing technology use.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality and big data haven’t traditionally been associated with infrastructure and utility contracting. But things are changing – at least at Murphy, which is the latest high-profile building firm to appoint a head of innovation.

Will Reddaway joined in March as part of its stated aim of becoming a tier one contractor and more than doubling in size from over £648m in 2015 to £2bn by 2025.

Reddaway made the move from Crossrail, where he spent four years as innovation programme manager and was involved with the £24bn rail project’s Innovate18 and Infrastructure Industry Innovation Programme (I3P).

Europe’s biggest infrastructure project became a hotbed of new technology, developing the use of smart helmets and drones and adapting everyday technology such as GoPro cameras and Pico mini projectors for construction. It is this willingness to push the boundaries that he is keen to bring to Murphy.

“Sensors and advanced AI algorithms allowing for better predictive modelling, exploring non-penetrative testing for ground surveys, and using wearable technologies to enhance operative safety are some of the areas we want to explore.”

Will Reddaway, Murphy

“Sensors and advanced AI algorithms allowing for better predictive modelling, exploring non-penetrative testing for ground surveys, and using wearable technologies to enhance operative safety are some of the areas we want to explore,” he says. Overall the firm aims to focus on the core infrastructure sectors of rail, power, water and natural resources.

Reddaway believes the firm can make a positive contribution towards advancing the use of technology in utilities, with the aim of reducing service strikes, bringing disruption on excavations to a minimum and cutting the number of people having to work in trenches. This in turn will improve health and safety.

Fostering a more collaborative culture is key: “The first practical step is setting up an internal online portal where all employees can share ideas and they can be developed further.”

Further down the line he hopes to reach out to academics and apply for funding from InnovateUK and other government catapults. “This is a long-term plan – it’s not only about technology but also about people. But who knows? In the future there could be a Murphy Labs for testing new ideas and tech. Why not?”

Reddaway is the latest in a raft of hires by Murphy. The 4,000 strong firm recently appointed ex-Lendlease man Kevin Moriarty as investment director.

Other big names include former Serco finance boss David Burke as its chief financial officer, ex-Laing O’Rourke director Russell Kellett as group operations director and Capita’s Alastair Smyth and Chris Green as engineering director and commercial director. In 2016 Alex Jones joined as head of BIM and digital transformation, a key part of future plans.

“We are investing heavily in upskilling our workforce and reinforcing our technology to develop best-in-class digital engineering. It will become an integral part of our management system,” says Reddaway.

“We want to move Murphy up to a tier one contractor. Part of that is making the company an early adopter of innovation, ways of working and technology. Its a long-term plan but something everyone is getting on board with.”

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