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Eight firms recognised for business excellence

Eight engineering consultancies large and small have been recognised for their business excellence in the NCE/ACE Consultants of the Year Awards.

The awards recognise individuals, teams or companies that exemplify sustainable business excellence. Stand out winners this year were Aecom, AKT II, GCA Consulting, Knight Architects, Mott MacDonald, Mouchel, Peter Brett Associates and Tony Gee & Partners. The winners were named at the NCE/ACE Consultants of the Year Awards lunch at Claridges in London on Friday.

The prestigious Outstanding Achievement of the Year Award went to Tony Gee & Partners’ Dawlish Emergency project team.

The award is designed to celebrate and reward a person, team or company that has achieved something beyond expectation. Tony Gee’s Dawlish team did that and more, said the judges, turning a disaster into a great example of UK engineering at its best.

The collapse of the Great Western railway line at Dawlish in Devon last year gave news outlets an iconic image that came to represent the devastation caused by some of the worst flooding ever seen in the UK. An 80m breach in the sea wall adjacent to the railway left the tracks suspended in mid-air, as the ground beneath them was washed away – a dramatic picture that was beamed around the world.

But equally newsworthy was what prime minister David Cameron described as the “herculean effort” of the “orange army” that got the line back up and running just two months after it was destroyed. And it is that effort that is rewarded in this year’s NCE/ACE Outstanding Achievement Award – specifically that of Tony Gee & Partners, design consultant for the £35M repair project.

GCA Consulting’s James Thomson took the Young Consultant of the Year Award. It identifies young people – under 35 year of age - working in consultancy and engineering who have a clear vision of the sector in the future. The judges were extremely impressed by Thomson’s energy and enthusiasm for engineering, and his desire to use his skills to make a difference to their local community. The judges described our winner as a “well rounded engineer”.

Mott MacDonald landed the Sustainability Champion award, in recognition of its clear plan to use sustainability to strengthen its core business. The award, sponsored by Lafarge Tarmac, has been developed to celebrate individuals, groups or teams that are champions for sustainability in the consultancy profession, either through a specific project or by their on-going commitment to raising awareness of sustainability as an issue.

The judges said Mott MacDonald had clearly placed sustainability at the heart of its organisation. There was clearly emphasis on the value sustainability brings. It is a real game changer, they said.

Knight Architects landed Specialist Consultant of the Year.

The judges were looking for companies well known for their specialism and acknowledged as experts in their field. The judges said Knight Architects exemplified that as a small group of skilled professionals, operating globally and punching above their weight.

They said Knight Architects had a clear sense of purpose, knew exactly what it was offering, was clearly focused and not afraid to innovate and push both architectural and engineering boundaries.

UK Consultant of the Year with under 250 employees was AKT II.

This category is for firms that fit the business world’s criteria for SMEs. Some are on a growth path, and some have carved out a niche at this smaller size. Judges were looking for sustainable business strategies and an understanding of the place of the SME in the wider sector.

Of AKT II, the judges said that it was a business that stood out for its use of experimental projects to not only deliver great engineering for its clients but also to push boundaries, research and qualify the use of new material and develop bespoke software products in its projects.

UK Consultant of the Year with 250 to 2,500 Employees was Peter Brett Associates, for the second year running.

The category for medium-sized firms, judges were looking for companies that are well set up and capable of sustaining their business in this highly competitive arena.

The judges commended Peter Brett for its “strong understanding of its clients’ commercial perspective”. They also lauded its “impressive work in encouraging girls into STEM subjects” and for its supportive undergraduate programme.

The judging panel was also impressed with the way Peter Brett has outlined its corporate ethos in a corporate booklet “The Common Thread”. “This was impressive in setting out the values and ethos of the company and helping to maintain these across the business cycles,” they said.

Mouchel was named Major UK Consultant of the Year for firms with over 2,500 employees.

The award, sponsored by Mabey Hire, recognises UK-owned firms, but their main areas of activity can be either inside or outside the UK.

The judges felt that Mouchel had reinvented itself and focused back on its core market, bringing innovation to its main client, the Highways Agency and had a strategy to take its core skills overseas.

Aecom landed Global Consultant of the Year. The award for firms based anywhere in the world, the judges said Aecom showed strong evidence of clear global strategy with an impressive centre of excellence and a global capacity to deliver. But they noted how it combined this with a strong local presence in the markets it operates in.

Entry to the awards this year was by entry form. All shortlisted contenders were then grilled by the judging panel in a 30 minute face to face interview.

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