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Environmental Services Spreads Its Wings

19 March 2012

Costain Environmental Services aims to increase its areas of expertise over the coming year as it seeks to boost both turnover and profit margins.

The business – known until last year as Geotechnical Services – is broadening its portfolio as it follows the Group’s remit of expanding the range of services it offers clients.

Leading the change will be new Operations Manager, Paul Clough, who took over the day-to-day running of Environmental Services from Phil Parsons at the end of January.

His first task was to confirm the new name; on his appointment he found a variety of titles being used, reflecting its switchover last year from Geotechnical Services.

“It’s been a bit ad hoc implementing it so far,” he says. The name-change is now being instituted in areas such as document templates and e-mail signatures, with more expensive facets, such as altering the livery on the division’s vehicles, to come later.

Paul, previously Construction Manager at 4D, the framework contract on which Costain works for Southern Water, says the Bourne End-based business is already expanding from its traditional specialities of geotechnical services and materials testing.

“We’re moving into areas such as waste consultancy and geo-environmental studies, which involves monitoring nuisances such as noise and dust. We’re also expanding into such things as instrumentation and monitoring – we’ve won a job recently at Paddington Station to install inclinometers and other sensors measuring alignment and displacement in the huge box that is being dug for the new Crossrail station.

“Historically, our geotechnical services and materials testing have been highly regarded and we fully plan to support those businesses, but in terms of profitability we do see other markets as more beneficial. Some of the margins, particularly in materials testing, are tightening.”

He aims to build on the esteem in which the division’s traditional services have been held, while continuing the drive to improve service delivery. With even internal customers – Costain’s project managers – putting the type of work handled by the division out to tender, “We need to ensure we’re on those tender lists and become the natural choice.

“We’ve made leaps and bounds in customer satisfaction over previous years, but there are always improvements to be made.”

His priorities for the coming year, he says, are to boost both turnover and profit margins.

“Over the past year we’ve been trying to grow the business organically. People have been coming in from other parts of the business and now that we do have these new business streams on board we have to start getting the work through the door.”

Over the long term, he does not rule out external acquisitions to expand the business further.

“We need to make ourselves unique. The plan for the long term is we’re aiming for a one-stop solution for customers, from Early Contractor Involvement onwards.”