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Growing The Business

12 October 2010

Costain's *Geotechnical Services Division (GSD), is raising its profile and geographical reach.

The Division plans to ensure that clients - both within Costain and external third parties - know that its capabilities extend well beyond the activities for which the GSD is best known.

GSD is based in the Buckinghamshire village of Bourne End, five miles from the Group's Maidenhead HQ.  Additionally, it operates a geotechnical office in Allerton Bywater, West Yorkshire, while it has recently opened another laboratory in Cheadle Hulme, near Manchester to support several major projects including three Managing Agent Contractor (MAC) contracts to oversee the upkeep of roads and the Greater Manchester Waste construction phase. These 3 offices are able to manage any works across the UK.

Other GSD staff are constantly out on the road in vehicles fitted with multiple testing equipment, or based at long term site laboratories such as at Felixstowe, Church Village and Peacehaven.

The Bourne End HQ has extensive laboratory facilities, primarily involved in soil sample and materials testing.

"We handle any size of ground investigations from £500 to £1.6million, undertake the sampling, the lab testing and produce the reports," explains GSD General Manager, Phil Parsons. "We also handle comprehensive materials testing, such as concrete and aggregate but are constantly looking for new opportunities. We have recently extended our capabilities into blacktop site and lab testing as well as dust monitoring"

Besides these long-established skills, Costain's Environmental Services Director, Andy Bull, feels the time is now right to ensure both colleagues and external clients are aware that GSD can do much more.

"Costain has grown a lot in recent years. Although GSD has grown consistently over the last 10 years, it is quite small in Costain terms and a lot of people genuinely don't know we exist." He accepts that its reputation requires some burnishing: "Part of that is getting people to try us and part of it is them knowing that we do more than just testing things in the ground".

"We want to give a premier performance and part of that is getting people to realise we're upping our game. GSD have adopted an extensive programme of performance management and customer feedback over the last 18 months and this has delivered consistent improvement since its inception, recently ranking GSD within the top 25% of suppliers within the Group's supply chain".

The environmental and ecological considerations that surround projects today open up new opportunities for GSD, in areas such as dust, noise and vibration monitoring, structural monitoring and groundwater surveys.

And while GSD does have long-standing expertise in soils and materials testing, associated skills possessed by staff mean that it also has the capability of becoming more heavily involved in the various MAC road maintenance contracts that Costain has picked up in recent years.

Its new Cheadle Hulme laboratory has recently achieved the United Kingdom Accreditation Service's stamp of approval for a wide range of services. It intends to expand UKAS accreditation into further MAC-related activities, including structural surveys and pavement engineering. Bull says Costain would realise considerable cost efficiencies if MAC teams used GSD for such work.

"There are some really knowledgeable people in the division," says Bull, "There's a lot of untapped expertise that we can share around the Group."

Although most staff join GSD directly, one of Bull's objectives is to encourage more people to transfer across from the main Group structure, both to widen their knowledge base and also to bring GSD's skills to a wider audience.

*(Costain Geotechnical Services provide a geotechnical and geoenvironmental investigation service focused on high quality and rapid response. Our resources are targeted at difficult access/overwater/slope investigations combined with a high level of engineering supervision. In addition we undertake both insitu and laboratory testing of soil/concrete/aggregate using our UKAS accredited laboratory.)