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Deconstructing the engineering industry

TECHNOLOGY and increased competition have had the biggest impact on the engineering industry, according to the seven top engineering CEOs nominated for this year’s Engineering Elite.

Most of the seven admitted that they missed the “fun” of hands-on engineering but revelled in the task of building their companies.

Arguably the CEO nominee with the highest profile is Water Corporation boss Jim Gill, who is lauded as much for his economic abilities as his engineering credentials.

Dr Gill said the corporation was becoming involved with builders and developers to create more water-efficient subdivisions.

“As far as I’m aware, we’re the only water utility in the world that is trying to influence built form,” he said.

Dario Amara, CEO of multinational, multi-disciplinary Perth-based engineering company GRD Minproc, said he enjoyed the business of building businesses as much as he once enjoyed completing projects.

Mr Amara cited constructing the Yulara Resort near Ayres Rock in the early 1980s and winning the Hyatt Regency project in South Australia as some of his biggest engineering accomplishments.

“Yulara was a hotel and water treatment complex at Ayres Rock and it was a significant project at the time because all of the roads into Ayres Rock were unsealed. You couldn’t exactly pick up a mobile phone back then and call for help if there were problems,” he said.

CM Tucak CEO Charles Tucak said he still did the bulk of the engineering work for his company, which concentrated on land subdivisions. He also does some design work for the Water Corporation’s deep sewerage program.

Mr Tucak prides himself on the fact that he has not turned to Computer Aided Design.

He cited the 1,000 block Bennett Springs subdivision and assisting with the Town of Bassendean’s Town Planning Scheme number two as some of his larger engineering accomplishments.

Buckland Engineering’s Les Wanke said the Argyle Diamond Mine was one of his biggest projects.

He managed the early and final stages of the mine’s design and assisted with the main portion of the project.

Mr Wanke said Buckland was a design consultant – not a project manager, something that suited him.

The company works mainly in the oil and gas industry and has been involved with projects in South-East Asia, the Middle East and South America.

HBH Consultants’ Peter Hopwood described his firm as a mini GRD Minproc, which he and two friends formed in 1993.

Dr Hopwood said the business of engineering consulting was becoming more competitive but the process, thanks to computers, was becoming more efficient.

Transfield Worley CEO Peter Meurs said he cut his teeth laying “bottom tow” pipelines – where the pipeline is constructed onshore and towed into place – in Bass Strait, the first time that technique was used in this part of the world.

He said long-term alliance contracts, where an engineering firm partners with a client to ensure the best outcome, had been one of the biggest changes to the industry he had seen.

“It’s a constant challenge to improve performance, to do more for less,” Mr Meurs said.

Maunsell Australia operations director Paul Reed said he believed the move to alliance contracting had good for the industry.

In fact Maunsell, teamed with Clough Engineering and Henry Walker Eltin has won the $58 million contract to construct Stage 7 of the Roe Highway from South Street to the Kwinana Freeway.

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