UK FIRMS should walk away from projects where they are being asked to squeeze their profit margins, Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin said last week.
He told NCE that the main message he had taken from the International Federation of Consulting Engineers (FIDIC) conference in Budapest last week was that his members should value themselves, and their services, more highly.
'Demand is high and supply is low in our market, ' said Ogunshakin.
'My members have to tell clients that if they want a good quality product it will cost them. I am prepared to tell my members that if a client wants a project done cheaply, to walk away.' The conference was a joint event with the European Federation of Engineering Consultancy Associations and its central theme was the need for engineers to be more commercially aware.
The Institution of Structural Engineers drew attention to the issue last month after it was revealed that on some projects profits had fallen to margins of just 1.2% from the standard 3.5% (NCE 21 September).
Ogunshakin's call to walk away from such projects was met with a mixed response. 'It's easy to say walk away, but it takes a brave man to do it, ' said Atkins director Bob Haywood.
'I believe one way to address this issue is to educate the clients on what they are getting for their money.
'If they want a reduced price then it will mean a reduction in scope.' Scott Wilson chairman and FIDIC executive board member Geoff French said that it was also a case of educating engineers to be more commercially savvy.
'In one sense, the biggest asset we have and the biggest challenge we face is the enthusiasm of our staff, ' he said.
'Our staff are learning how to balance the commercial aspects of a project with the technical challenges that they enjoy.'