This year's Geotechnical Services File is the biggest ever, listing 326 companies involved in the UK geotechnical industry.
As last year, the file lists firms in three main categories: consultants, contractors and manufacturers/suppliers. Over 700 questionnaires were sent out this year to companies identified to have an interest in geotechnics in the UK. This list was sourced from Ground Engineering's own database of companies, along with those held by sister publication New Civil Engineer and other divisions of publisher Emap Construct. Additionally, regular notices have been placed in GE and NCE, to try and catch those companies missing from our databases.
New this year is the criteria that companies (with only a very few exceptions for firms offering complementary services such as legal advice) must employ at least one geo-engineer (be it geo- technical engineer, engineering geologist or technician). This is to ensure that all listed companies have a genuine claim to offer geotechnical services. The questionnaire revealed a small number of companies claiming to offer specialist geotechnical design and construction services which do not appear to employ any staff with geotechnical expertise. These companies do not appear in the file.
The file contains company details, primary activities, staff numbers, turnover, technical areas of work along with the trends and concerns given by respondents, who are generally senior members of industry.
This all adds up to give an unrivalled insight into the industry as it stands on the cusp of the new millennium.
Companies were asked to predict the outlook for the coming year, in terms of staff numbers and workload. Current estimates show that some 5,800 professionals are involved in the UK geotechnical industry worth around £750M.
Outlook for the coming year is optimistic, with figures for increased workload (75%) and staff numbers (59%) similar to last year (76% and 65% respectively). But firms are still finding it difficult to get suitably qualified and trained staff, a complaint that filters down to one of the industry's main concerns, that site supervisory staff are not of sufficient quality - 'breathtaking ignorance' was how one respondent described the problem.
Other concerns have a familiar ring; late payment, work being awarded on the basis of cost instead of quality, leading to poor quality work being carried out, often by 'cowboys'. Competition is also hotting up, causing margins to tighten even further than before.
The main trends again seem to be the continued growth in environmental work, especially the redevelopment of contaminated land for housing. House building continues to rise and is compensating for the fall in mainstream civils work. Projects continue to be small to medium sized rather than the big contracts of a few years ago, more than likely due to the continued fall in investment in infrastructure, namely road building.