02/09/2010 - 00:00

Engineering changes from the top down

02/09/2010 - 00:00


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The state’s major engineering outfits have experienced significant staff changes in the last 12 months as the sector stepped out from the gloom of the global financial crisis.

Engineering changes from the top down

The state’s major engineering outfits have experienced significant staff changes in the last 12 months as the sector stepped out from the gloom of the global financial crisis.

Although some believe the lingering effects of the GFC continue to hinder the global economic outlook.

According to WA Business News’ Book of Lists, WA’s top 25 engineering companies have undergone a raft of internal changes.

Some firms significantly increased employment of professional engineers and general staff, while others cut employment across the board.

The total number of engineers employed by the top 25 firms fell to 6,456 from 6,669 this time last year. That’s down from a record 7,883 the year prior.

Included in these internal changes were amendments to several firm’s local senior executives.

David Baughen, the former local head of the nation’s biggest engineering company, Worley Parsons, recently became a director in its local business development arm with Ian Wilkinson taking charge.

Sinclair Knight Merz regional manager (WA/NT) Gary Leyton officially starts his tenure in the top job next month after incumbent Patrick Hill opted for a different role in Perth as SKM general manager, power and energy.

Former GHD WA manager Graham Greenacre stood down about six months ago to join the firm’s business services office, handing the reigns to Ashley Wright.

Meanwhile Fluor general manager Perth operations Alan Pollard replaced Brendon Macken who returned to project work.

And Hatch Associates managing director WA Russell Anstey replaced David Hogarth two months ago.

Industry leaders suggest that the life of an engineer means being flexible enough to adapt to new surrounds, often chasing projects in other regions around the world when existing streams of work dry up.

“Most of us work in a project driven business,” Mr Anstey explained.

“It’s quite usual to circulate people from regional projects to more corporate roles so people maintain their skills.”

Lycopodium Minerals managing director Peter de Leo seems to buck that trend.

“If you look at our management, we’ve had one person come and go in the last three to four years at senior level but our management is generally long term,” Mr de Leo said.

Lycopodium increased its number of engineers in the past year as the company reported a $16 million profit in its annual results, a gain of 13 per cent on FY2009, despite revenues falling by 18 per cent to $120 million.

“It’s been good steady growth through our entire life, we have not sought to grow explosively,” Mr de Leo said.

Mr Anstey suggested Hatch’s reduction in engineers from 530 last year to 420 currently was because of reduced workload in the alumina area.

“For many years we had a significant involvement with Alcoa,” Mr Anstey said.

“We still do a lot of work for Alcoa but we’re not doing the sustaining capital work; that is being done by Worley Parsons and Fluor.”

Calibre Global managing director, Rod Baxter said the company’s dramatic increase in engineers, growing from 242 last year to 351 currently, will continue.

“We will be looking to accelerate our organic and acquisition led growth strategy, building on Calibre’s core strengths in iron ore and rail infrastructure with further bulk commodity and geographic diversification,” he said.

Brisbane-based Ausenco enhanced its engineering stable to 100, an increase of 48 in the last year, amid reporting falling revenues and an underlying pre-tax loss of $6.6 million for the six months to June 30.

Mr de Leo believes his company to be somewhat insulated due to the even split of domestic and international projects across multiple commodities.

But he is adamant that challenges around accessing quality staff and the stability of global economies remain clearly on his radar.

“Whilst we see a generally high level of activity in the marketplace there’s still some uncertainty,” he said.



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