Sean Keyes, managing director at Sutcliffe’s explains how a ‘tech-savvy business approach’ has led the way in the construction industry during the Covid-pandemic
With the majority of the world confined to their personal computer screens at home during the last 12 months, civil and structural engineering firm Sutcliffe has had to evolve its business in order to stay ahead of the game, retain its client portfolio and continue to push for growth.
And that’s just what it has done despite the challenges of the pandemic. Fast forward to spring 2021 and Sutcliffe is enjoying a bumper start to the year, announcing a 5% increase in profit for the first half of its financial year (September 2020 – March 2021) compared to the same period in the previous year.
The multi-disciplinary, BIM-accredited chartered consultants, which has offices in Liverpool, Manchester, North Wales and London, is well on track for another record year-end, representing five years of growth for the company, with a number of projects with a construction value of £250m already secured for this year.
Implementing a tech-savvy approach
Having worked in the construction industry for over three decades, managing director Sean Keyes discusses how changes in technology have affected the industry and how Sutcliffe is responding by implementing a tech-savvy approach to its operations.
Sean said: “I’ve seen a drastic change in the way that civil and structural engineering firms go about their business and although engineers are now more skilled than ever, the biggest improvement in the industry is the way that technology continues to evolve and grow, especially during the current pandemic.
“Two decades ago businesses like ourselves were still using paper and drawing boards to work but now as we enter into the second half of 2021, one computer per person has been replaced by two, and even three, to allow multi-tasking, with phones and tablets also supporting the staff to provide the very best client experience.
“Forms of communication such as Zoom and Teams have greatly helped our business during the pandemic. Zoom in particular has been a great tool in recent months as we have worked on a complicated project involving retaining walls at Halton, and with no way of meeting face-to-face due to restrictions we have had to think on our feet and take on new ways of meeting others.
“With the retaining wall aspect of the Halton job needing to be approved by the Local Authority, and with the contractor based in North Wales and our own team located in Liverpool, we’ve been able to navigate these geographical difficulties through having regular conversations with all parties using Zoom, to discuss work and to transfer information across the country in a matter of seconds.
“On this particular project, there have also been Local Authority engineers and client groups, housing associations, a contractor and an architect involved, and with everyone working remotely these discussions in a world before technology would have taken a lot longer than it actually has done, saving everyone plenty of time and money in the process.
“One of the biggest evolutions in technology in our industry and for our company in particular has also been the new software on the market, with all of our designs now produced and drawn in AutoCAD and Revit.
“The geotechnical side of our team regularly uses software which allows them to produce their reports both in the office and remotely, with the information then gathered and sent directly to the office for our engineers to look at and distribute accordingly.
“As the proud holders of Level 3 BIM accreditation, I have seen a big push by many companies to reach a Level 3 standard, with the majority of large publicly funded projects no longer accepting companies on projects unless they are at least at Level 2. With all parties using BIM, everyone can now work on the same model, with this information then saved in the system forever and accessible if a project ever needs to be revisited.
“Sutcliffe as a business has retained a high proportion of its client portfolio throughout the last 18 months and in fact also won a number of new projects due to our Level 3 BIM accreditation and investment in technology. By having the fastest computers and the most modern software, our clients can rest easy knowing that they will be offered a quality product, which will be cost-effective for all parties.
“The speed of technology is now doubling every two years and despite weathering the pandemic reasonably well, I dread to think where the industry would have been if we were living in a world without the technology we currently have at our disposal, with high-quality information now produced at lightning-quick speed, in return driving improvements and standards across the sector.
“As we head towards a post-pandemic world, the technologies implemented during the last year will stay with us for a lifetime and I am intrigued to see just how far we can take things in the years to come.”