Fostering a good working relationship with clients and suppliers is important for any business, with a number of benefits for everyone involved.

But for us in the trenchless industry, fostering good working relationships can also help reduce the risk of time delays, cost overruns and quality defects.

As a trenchless subcontractor, one of the key benefits we have found with having and maintaining good on-site work relationships is that together with the contractor, we can achieve better project outcomes.

In one example, Edge Underground was able to set a new benchmark for the industry when we completed the first stage of works for a sewer installation in only six days – we had been given six weeks.

We were able to provide such a large time saving due to project efficiencies that came about from the working relationship we had built with the contractor over time.

Like other microtunnelling subcontractors, when we get to a site we rely on the contractor to be organised and have all the invert grades and lines, and shafts prepared in advance for us so we can go in and install the pipe.

As a company, we know our equipment and what we can achieve with it under the site conditions, so we let the contractor know what we need from them and when, otherwise we will start installing a pipe but get to the point where we have to stop working because we’re putting pipe in the ground faster than the contractor can prepare shafts.

The problem is that on projects where we’re working with a new contractor, it often surprises them how quickly we can get pipe into the ground.

And that is often because their experience is that it takes a bit of time to prepare a shaft, which they have as the borers can take their time as well. That’s all part of the process of learning, and building contacts and good working relationships on-site though.

It was the same with the contractor on the project in Townsville, but since that relationship had been built, they knew what we needed and we knew how they liked to run, so they were able to complete all site works in advance and together we were able to achieve great project efficiencies.

Communication to build trust in the industry

Another key aspect of fostering working relationships is having honest conversations with contractors and project engineers to discuss the specifics of the project, any potential problems and how they can be mitigated.

You should be ready to suggest an alternative if what you offer is not going to get them the best results after more details about the project or site are found.

Each trenchless method has its strengths, and if you’re clear up front that better outcomes could be achieved with a different method, you not only build trust in your services and expertise, but help the industry as a whole by ensuring that clients will be confident in choosing a trenchless option, as they know they’re getting the best solution for their project.

Because of that trust, clients will be assured that they can approach you for an expert opinion and to tender for future projects, and they will be more likely to consider trenchless options as they know they’ll get the desired outcome.

About Stuart Harrison

Global microtunnelling pioneer Stuart Harrison is the Managing Director of Edge Underground, where he specialises in on-grade microtunnelling installations with millimetre accuracy. Stuart is also the inventor of the Vermeer AXIS Guided Boring system, and he is constantly working to improve the effectiveness of this and other trenchless systems used in the installation of gravity sewers. To discuss your next microtunnelling installation, contact Stuart on 1300 JACKED or at [email protected].

This Ask an Expert content was brought to you by Edge Underground. For more information, visit

Charlotte Pordage is Editor of Utility magazine, a position she has held since November 2018. She joined the team as an Associate Editor in October 2017, after sharpening her writing and editing skills across a range of print and digital publications. Charlotte graduated from Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2011 with joint honours in English and Latin. When she's not putting together Australia's only dedicated utility magazine, she can usually be found riding her horse or curled up with a good book.

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