Z-Tech Control Systems

Z-Tech Control Systems Ltd. Provides engineering solutions for a wide selection of blue-chip clients, with a particular focus on providing an in house maintenance service for all instrumentation and control systems in the pharmaceutical, rail and utilities sectors. Customers include EDF Energy, Thames Water, Scottish Water, the NHS, Crossrail and Tube Lines.

The award-winning company, based in Swavesey, near Cambridge, decided to pursue BS 11000 Collaborative Business Relationships certification as a strategic anchor to allow the company to pursue more work in the years ahead. “The sectors we work in are all moving towards collaborative working” confirms Z-Tech director Jeremy Bull, who is responsible for all the company’s management systems.

“Our approach has always followed the guidelines of BS 11000; however, this standard allows us to demonstrate this with a simple yet formal structure.” A relatively new standard, BS 11000 is the world’s first collaborative business certification. There is strong evidence showing that collaborations in business in any form, from more informal arrangements to long-term alliances and joint ventures, can make customer relationships more robust and enhance performance.

The BS 11000 standard provides businesses with the necessary framework to integrate and execute a recognised model for developing collaborative and sustainable relationships, and conform with industry good practice. “Now that we have the framework in place, we have criteria for when to apply it,” says Jeremy. “It’s a strategic decision and is based on things such as the length and size of the contract. We use the framework selectively, where we think it will benefit the customer.”


Z-Tech Control Systems Ltd. commenced the certification process in September 2014.The framework is based on a flexible and scalable eight-stage approach designed to enable organisations to apply best practice principles to their own way of working and get the best out of business relationships.

It can either serve as a new roadmap or can complement and help formalise a company’s current processes, if any are in place. This was the case with Z-Tech, which had a pre-existing ethos that embraced collaborative business principles in its relationships with customers.

The first three steps in the eight stage approach are strategic, with the business conducting an internal assessment to understand how relationship management fitted in with its business objectives, building a sound knowledge base, and developing procedures to identify potential collaborative partners and initiate a risk- assessed action plan.

Working with a trusted customer, Z-Tech “retro-fitted” an existing contract to incorporate the framework, agreeing a formal foundation to the collaborative partnership including joint objectives and responsibilities. As part of this Z-Tech held regular meetings with their customer, adding value to their relationship by encouraging innovation and strategic, continual improvement in the delivery of service.

This relationship was then monitored and measured through a process of ongoing management, with a joint exit strategy defined for when the collaboration came to its planned conclusion. All 200-plus staff at Z-Tech – split across three offices in Swavesey, London and Edinburgh - received training during the certification to explain the new processes that had been put in place, as well as the benefits of the new framework.

Jeremy says that the biggest challenge encountered during the certification process was the timescale, as he explains. “We needed to get certification in place within six months as we had a big bid coming up for a joint venture. “There was a lot of work to do in six months, with lots of new paperwork, training procedures and processes to implement as part of the framework. It was a big ask.” Despite the tight deadline, Z-Tech passed the audit and certification was awarded in April 2015. 


Z-Tech has worked with multi-certification body Exova BM TRADA to achieve a number of certifications over the last few years. The company has achieved UKAS accredited certification for ISO 9001 Quality Management, ISO 14001 Environmental Management and OHSAS 18001 Health & Safety Management, and recently applied for ISO 27001Information Security Management.

For Jeremy, it was a logical choice to partner with Exova BM TRADA for BS 11000. “As this standard is new there were not many certification bodies able to work with BS 11000 and certainly not within our timescales.

Exova BM TRADA stepped up to the plate working with us to enable us to achieve certification. “Besides the auditors being easy to deal with, Exova BM TRADA has been around for a long time and are well known in the industry. That history and credibility was important to us and our customers.

” He added: “We are also planning to gain UKAS accredited ISO 50001 Energy Management next year and all these certifications are of strategic benefit to Z-Tech and ensure we can continue to keep ahead of the game, which our customers appreciate.”


Z-Tech has always aimed to align itself with its customers, according to Jeremy, and with BS 11000 in place the company is able to tender for contracts that they would otherwise be excluded from.

He said: “Our big thing is running service contracts and BS 11000 gives us that all-important edge in the market.“By having it in place it means we have seen enhanced credibility and brand reputation, and can bid for contracts we couldn’t before.

“Also, the new Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015), which regulate how projects need to be run, was written by the same people who drafted the BS 11000 standard.

“There is now, for the first time, a requirement for a level of collaboration and by being compliant with the standard we can satisfy these requirements. It’s a big driver for business and customers are delighted with what we can offer.”

The standard has also had a positive impact on customer relationships and improved the level of service while reducing costings – an important factor in retaining clients on a long term basis. “The standard has relevance to a lot of things we do,” said Jeremy.

“Say we need to go and service an electric motor. To do that you need to have access to the site and traditionally we would require one of our customer’s team to be there to let our staff in and isolate the right piece of equipment for us to get to work. “If we turned up and found that the motor couldn’t be taken out of service then we would have to inform the customer and move on to the next job. The work will be done, but time is lost and it’s more expensive for everyone.

“Working collaboratively, we look at things in a different way. It gives us a framework to bring to the table and get everyone pulling together rather than against each other. “The end result we all want is for the motors to be serviced, so we will work together, for example to have extra training allowing our team to work without the customer needing to be present. “There is an extra level of trust developed, everyone knows what is expected of them and the work is done per plan. Is this meant to say to plan?

“It also allows us to examine our services and innovate. Taking the example of the motor, we may suggest that as we are already going along to service it then we can also perform other tasks at the same time. It saves money and time for the customer rather them doing it themselves.

“And if the contract is, for instance, running for five years then we service the motor and suggest in year two that we do something else instead, such as make the motor run more efficiently by upgrading the control logic.

“The customer enjoys reduced energy bills, things run more efficiently and overall we will have a much more productive relationship with them, which will encourage them to keep using us rather than go back to market.”


Jeremy recommends BS 11000 to all businesses that value customer relationships and best practice. For companies planning to become certified, he advises to keep things simple. He said: “I’d definitely recommend BS 11000. It’s a change of mindset, and a good one.” 


BS 11000 can help support collaborative decisionmaking; providing access to more services, bigger opportunities and making your business relationships all the more valuable. Every company wants to enhance its competitiveness and performance, and provide added value to its customers. BS 11000 can help organisations to do just that. Sharing knowledge, resources and skills to meet mutually defined objectives and deliver new levels of value.

BS 11000 enables organisations to focus their efforts from concept to disengagement and can be applied to any size or type of business. Using an eight stage approach, the framework is designed to enable organisations to apply best practice principles to its own way of working; getting the best out of business relationships.

BS 11000 provides a robust framework for establishing collaborative programmes for mutual benefit. BS 11000 does not enforce a single rigid approach and recognises that every relationship has its own unique considerations whilst harnessing a range of benefits. Specifically, BS 11000 will: 
  • Identify how relationship management can help achieve its business objectives 
  • Evaluate the benefits of entering into single or multiple partnerships 
  • Select the right partner to complement its objectives
  • Build a joint approach based on mutual advantage 
  • Measure and maintain maximum benefit
  • Develop and execute an exit strategy.