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Consultants File Awards 2010: Major Firm Award

Amey is ahead of the game in offering public sector clients a service that gives them more asset for less cost over the whole life cycle of a project. And it is this year’s winner in the major consultant category of the NCE/ACE Consultant of the Year Awards.

Winner: Amey

Amey stunned the UK consulting sector this year by bidding for and winning all of Network Rail’s Civil Examination Framework Agreements. That work − worth up to £235M to the consulting business over the next five years − was just one win in 12 months of success.

Over the year the firm also picked up two of the Highways Agency’s TechMACs, a longterm deal with Herefordshire County Council to run highways and property and became part of the South East Highways professional services framework providing services to five south eastern councils.

It is also an integral part of the team on the £2.5bn Birmingham highways maintenance PFI for which its parent, the £1.5bn turnover Amey group, is preferred bidder.

Amey’s managing director, consulting, Andy Milner believes recent success proves the benefit of a consulting business having access to the skills and balance sheet of a big contractor.

“Government and business are going to be relying on innovative solutions”

Andy Milner

“We can bring in a tremendous amount of operation and maintenance experience from the wider business to our designs so the design solutions can be optimised for cost effective operation.

“By recognising the whole asset cycle and how the conception and design stages can influence long-term asset performance, we are able to reduce whole life cost significantly while at the same time providing asset value,” he says.

With regard to the CEFAs, Milner says Network Rail was open to the consultancy bidding all five. “Our model was to integrate a broad range of services so Network Rail ended up with one asset database, one service level agreement, one way of measuring output and one way of doing the work,” he says.

As a group, Amey has spent the last six years repositioning itself away from low−value, high−volume contracting towards a more lucrative world of infrastructure management.

Its purchase in 2006 of former NCE/ACE consultants awards winner Owen Williams was a key part of that and since then the consultancy business has been building its capability to provide advice, professional asset management skills, design and construction management into the company’s three markets of environment, local government and the inter-urban sector.

“Our business model of offering an end-to-end service is perfectly positioned to help them do this and is an opportunity we should grasp.”

Andy Milner

Milner is keen to point out that 70% of the consultancy’s contracts are direct with the wider market, with 30% coming through work with Amey group or its parent Ferrovial. The business is all public sector, which could be a risk if predicted deep cuts in spending come to pass.

But Milner actually expects to win even more work going forward. “Public sector spending won’t turn off,” he insists. “Budgets will be curtailed, of that there is no doubt. But going forward the new normal is ‘with less do more’. All public sector departments are saying ‘how do I provide the same level of service with less money?’

“We believe government and business in the UK and beyond are going to be relying on innovative solutions to developing, managing and using assets to help them deliver this agenda.

“Our business model of offering an end-to-end service is perfectly positioned to help them do this and is an opportunity we should grasp.”

Key facts

Total staff 2,410
Fees £203.2M
Fees UK public sector £203.2M
Fees roads £79.9M
Fees rail £71.1M
Work in hand £450M

Finalist: Mott MacDonald

Projects like the Mbombela stadium, SA, have increased Mott's turnover

Projects like the Mbombela stadium have increased turnover

Managing an employee-owned company brings its own responsibilities, among them an imperative to nurture and retain staff when times are tough.

It’s a responsibility Mott MacDonald has handled pretty successfully during the current recession, working hard to share work around the group rather than lose staff whose business sectors have been hit badly by the downturn.

The firm’s diverse spread of sectors and geography has enabled it to weather the economic storm very successfully: in 2009 revenue was up 11% on the previous year, and turnover hit £1bn for the first time.

At the same time Mott MacDonald moved up three places to number five in the Sunday Times’ annual Best Big Companies to Work For survey, and achieved a customer satisfaction rating of 83%.

The new ‘Peer Assist’ project review approach is designed to challenge convention and drive innovation.

The last 12 months have also seen the firm pick up one-third (eight out of 24) of the design contracts on the massive Crossrail project in London − twice as many as the next most successful consultant.

That success has also helped the company win other major tunnelling and rail contracts as far afield as Australia.

To ensure standards are consistent around the globe Mott MacDonald has established “practice managers” and expanded its network of “practice leaders” − industry gurus whose expertise can be called on from anywhere in the world.

It is also pushing its “Peer Assist” project review approach to challenge convention and drive innovation at an early stage of every project.

A new behavioural approach to risk management has also been introduced. Communication, leadership, assurance, supervision and staff competence (CLASS) has become a mandatory part of induction training for new recruits and is being communicated to existing staff through a film presented by survival expert Ray Mears.

Key facts

Total staff 14,200
Turnover £1.016bn
Fees £937M
Work in hand £1.1bn
Biggest projects Masdar City Abu Dhabi, Dilmunia Health Island Bahrain, Alaskan Way Seattle

 

Finalist: Atkins

Atkins' Glasgow super campus

Atkins’ Glasgow super campus

Listed companies have a tough time of it in recession. The City is a hard task master and wants to see a quick reaction to changed economic circumstances and good returns for investors despite difficult times.

Atkins has managed to keep the City happy by maintaining good results over the last year although it has had to do what it calls “flex its resources to meet expected demand”.

Staff numbers have dropped as they have across most consultants but the business is seen as very strong for the future as evidenced by a shareprice that has held up in a falling market.

Atkins has kept the City happy by flexing its resources to meet expected demand.

Atkins cites the breadth and depth of its services, the technical excellence of its people and its strong client relationships as what makes it well positioned for future opportunities and challenges.

Clients key priorities are going to be driving cost efficiencies and the low carbon economy. In the last 12 months Atkins has established itself as a leader in bringing about industry action on climate change and its chief executive Keith Clarke was interim chair of Lord Mandelson’s Construction Innovation and Growth team reviewing how the industry can be fit for purpose in a low carbon economy.

Clarke has been retained as deputy chair of the IGT. The business is proud that it has shown consistently that despite difficult market conditions, it is possible to invest in and prepare for a low carbon future while also delivering successful financial results.

Key facts

Total staff 16,200
Fees £1.487bn
Fees UK public sector £986.8M
Fees road £282M
Fees rail £286M
Top three projects Glasgow Super Campus; expanding Hong Kong’s railway network; London 2012

 

The Major Firm Award is sponsored by Beale and Company

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