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Small firm: Walters UK

In the notoriously tough world of the small contractor, Walters UK’s results are nothing short of staggering.

With a civils profit of £2.5M on a turnover of £35M its margin of 7% is extraordinary and well worthy of scoring the NCE Small Contractor of the Year Award.

“We are pleased with our commercial achievements and the fact we have continued to grow successfully as a main contractor and as a specialist earthworks and remediation subcontractor,” says Walters’ modest managing director Nick Richards.

“As engineers we value good engineering and don’t settle for second best believing passionately that we have a lot to offer projects, especially when involved early in the design phase.

“As contractors we are willing to take and manage risks and our results reflect this good risk management,” he says.

The firm has some excellent projects to boast about, not least a £90M ECI road project in Wales working with NCE’s Major Contractor of the Year Costain. Here it identified significant savings for the client – a fantastic indictment of the skills available in the construction supply chain.

“Our in-house design team accurately model and balance earthworks solutions providing invaluable input on design and value engineering options leading to significant cost savings. At Church Village, over 1,000,000m3 of material was to be removed and this input helped reduce earthworks quantities by over 35% contributing significantly to a reduced scheme cost,” says Richards.

At present its flagship project is the £18M Ffos Las Racecourse in Carmarthenshire.

When open in 2009, it will be the first new national hunt racecourse for over 80 years. The former brownfield opencast coal site was developed by the Walters Group with Walters UK responsible for the design and construction of the whole project.

The scheme began in 2007 and involves 1,500,000m3 of earthworks, 40km of drainage, 45,000m3 of soil forming and 17ha of specialist sports turf. It also involves, sustainable irrigation, roadwork’s including two bridges, services and eight buildings including grandstands, stables and hotel.

“The project demonstrates that within the Walters Group we have the necessary skills to conceive and successfully deliver a project of this scale to a tight overall programme,” says Richards. “Taking our chairman’s original concept, we have led a team including consultants and racecourse specialists to develop the strategy and detail necessary to gain regulatory approval and project delivery.

“We have in place a strong construction team who carry out the works directly utilising the Group’s vast plant resources and even undertaking normally specialist subcontract works, such as landscaping, fencing and specialist sports turf,” says Richards.

Walters UK clearly leans heavily on the Group’s strengths, and this is set to continue as the firm looks to developing markets such as renewable energy.

KEY FACTS

Civils turnover: £35M
Civils profit: £2.6M
Civils work in hand: £14M
Overall turnover: £35m
Overall profit: £2.6M
Engineers employed: 25
Head office: Aberdare
Flagship project: The £18M Ffos Las Racecourse in Carmarthenshire

Highly Commended

Alpha Construction

Zero accidents is a goal aspired to by many a firm with far, far more resources than that available to a £13M turnover contractor. Which makes Alpha Construction’s performance last year clearly worthy of recognition.

Certainly managing director Robert Smith has no hesitation in declaring it the firm’s outstanding achievement of the year.

“Our biggest achievement in the last twelve months has to be the success of our site and office staff working together to produce a high quality service on very safe sites. The 50% increase in our workload and all of our clients from 2007 returning with repeat business is testimony to their efforts.

“This is further reinforced by the glowing report by Investors in People following their recent visit to the company. Our zero reportable accident record for 2007 demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our activities are undertaken safely.”

Going forward, client relationships are key. “The intention is to continue to foster the excellent relationships we have with our existing clients and to develop new relationships in other sectors, primarily waste, renewable energy sources and manufacturing industries,” says Smith.

The value of close working relationships is perfectly demonstrated by the firm’s flagship project – Project Omni for Nestle (UK) at its coffee factory in Tutbury, Derbyshire.

“This major project requires us to have a very close working relationship with the client, design team, architect and structural engineer, all of whom are working from Switzerland,” he says.

KEY FACTS

Civils turnover: £13M
Civils profit: £0.4M
Civils work in hand: £4M
Overall turnover: £13m
Overall profit: £0.4M
Engineers employed: 36
Head office: Derbyshire
Flagship project: Nestle UK’s Project Omni in Derbyshire

Shortlist

The Small Firm Award is a new category this year and aims to highlight and demonstrate the great work being done across the UK by firms that rarely get to see the limelight. Working predominantly as subcontractors to the big boys, it is well-known that the life of a small contractor is tough, with margins and profits always a struggle. Which is why it is great to see that all five shortlisted can boast significant profit growth on last year to go with increased turnover and, pleasingly, strong order books.

DCT Civil Engineering, Dew Construction (Oldham) and Eric Wright Civil Engineering all see profits up by 80% or more on last year. Alpha Construction matches this performance and this, along with its zero accident record earns it a high commendation. But the winner had to be Walters UK.

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