Boulting Group is enhancing its position in the water and utilities market. Having been successful in delivering projects in excess of £20 million in other market sectors, it is now engaging in major seven-figure projects, including a £2.5 million energy efficiency and asset up-grade improvement with Thames Water.

This pump station, built in 1923 is an ongoing project, due for completion in 2015. It will provide a return on investment (ROI) in less than 5 years, and will provide efficient and reliable performance for many more years.

Boulting carried out the review, consultancy, front end engineering and design and are delivering a full Engineering, Procurement and Construction project. Whilst there is a hard edge in terms of achieving optimum performance, there is also a desire to maintain the original character of the pump station.

This has provided a comprehensive portfolio of engineering delivery options and solutions but it is something that has spread and in recent year’s business has grown through looking at pump and system optimisation for the water industry.

Brian Conway, Director at Boulting Group, said: “It’s really an energy-efficiency initiative some of the water companies have picked up on in recent times. If you had looked at it about 10 years ago the cost of electrical energy supply was about 2.5p per kilowatt hour and now it’s 10p per kilowatt hour, and even though we were able to get the same amount of energy savings, the ROI on the projects took a lot longer back then. In many cases, due to the extended ROI, projects were shelved.

“Now these companies are able to see a much more rapid return on their investment, and we have seen an increase in business through natural osmosis as a result.”

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In general, pump systems are responsible for 70 percent of a water company’s electrical bill. In the UK it is estimated the energy used by pump systems would be worth somewhere in the region of £1 billion.

Much of the company growth since the 1990’s has come through expansion of its engineering skillset and transferring its expertise in to other markets. Its manufacturing of automated motor control centres and specialist process control software, together with mechanical fabrication and refurbishment now account for 50% of the business. The remainder of the business is focussed on delivering engineering projects or site based maintenance. 

Energy efficiency

Water companies are beginning to consider a different approach in terms of energy efficiency. Where they would have typically gone out to ‘Tier One’ contractors to do the consultancy, provide the analysis, develop the specification and so on, they now bypass this and ask Boulting to do everything.

This is far more time and cost efficient for the client, and it streamlines the whole process, reducing the time from front end consultancy to commissioning of a project by about 50 percent.

Conway said: “Where we have been successful in energy-efficiency services, we want to really develop that right across the UK. We have three UK water companies we work with at the moment and would like to extend that further.

“It’s a massive market and there is a lot of improvements that can be made. A lot of what we do is improvement to the existing infrastructure, improve how it operates, the design, replace it with more efficient equipment, and modify the process control and software.

“So we would look at all the different aspects of the system and we’d also look at how they manage their electricity tariffs as well, so the equipment would run at the lowest electrical consumption and cost.”

Typically, Boulting can get between 10 and 30 percent energy efficiency improvement. Other six-figure projects can achieve ROI within three years, and in some cases, on smaller projects up to £30K, less than 3 months.

Some of them are straightforward, where the group just train operators to enhance standard operating procedures. What has made the programme more effective is the enthusiasm of the client and management and commercial infrastructure to enable efficient delivery of the programme.

The company also works closely with the Environment Agency, providing independent advice to help reduce energy consumption of existing assets often without incurring any capital cost, and significantly improving asset standardisation and efficiency throughout the northwest of England. We have provided assistance in the strategic development, both technical and commercial, which included upgrading assets and maximising interchangeability.

Group-wide evolution

At the time of the management buyout in 1994 when Boulting had been under the ownership of East Midlands Electricity, electrical contracting equated to 80 percent of the business and it employed 140 people with £8 million turnover.

The water sector was less than 5% of its portfolio 20 years ago. Now in the present day, the water and utilities industry is responsible for more than 30%, its second largest market, and very close to top market sector of the business.

The company has historically been based around the Warrington and Cheshire area, but whilst that has been the centre, it now has nine satellite offices around England with one in Grangemouth, Scotland. Boulting works out of its Bristol facility to support any of the work it does in Wales.

Health and Safety standards are also important to the group. The company’s Reportable Injury Frequency Rate (RIFR) is between 0.0 and 0.2 and the industry average is between 4.0 and 6.0. It has been awarded the RoSPA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents) ‘Order of Distinction’ and has received the ‘Gold Medal Award’ for the last 19 consecutive years.

Well recognised training schemes have seen 26 apprentices and 14 graduates join the company, and some work towards being chartered engineers through the company’s training.

“Those who don’t want to go through management, would still be considered as equally valuable contributors to the business, and not everyone’s a manager.” said Conway.

“In terms of growth, we foster relationships with existing clients and 60 percent of our business is actually repeat business. If they grow, we grow”

Exports now amount to 10 percent of Boulting business and that has developed considerably over the past decade. The continued evolution of the firm is demonstrated when it conducts complete design and build of process plants for major international blue chips, mainly in Africa.

“It’s a great company. It cares for its employees, and it cares for its clients.” concluded Conway.

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