In Touch with Tomorrow: Infrastructure

15/6/20: In a series of articles, Group CEO Mark Lawrence follows up the recent trading update with some more in-depth analysis of the Group’s prospects going forward and his reasons for confidence. In this one he looks at the opportunities in the Infrastructure Market

Infrastructure fills around 20% of our order book and we are satisfied with the scale and quality of those projects. Our teams have targeted and won projects that fit our capabilities and business model for profitable trading.  Add this to the Chancellor’s announcement of a £640bn cash injection into UK roads, railways, schools, hospitals, and power networks by the end of 2020 and we see great potential for TClarke.

But seeing potential is not enough for me to feel confidence. The confidence which we, as a board, express is based on three factors: 1 – the scale, geographic spread, and nature of government investment. 2 – the power of our nationwide network to support principal contractors, 3 – the reality ‘on the ground’ of the value TClarke people deliver for these projects. So, in this piece I am going to expand a little on these factors, to show our thinking and the solid basis for our confidence.

The Government’s investment programme features some of our key areas of market leadership nationwide

Firstly, let us consider government infrastructure investment. Although there are some market areas – like roads – that offer less value or interest for us, there are others – including critical healthcare, education, and power, where we are market leaders or have market leading expertise.

We have been fully involved throughout the COVID-19 with healthcare partners – even more so than has been announced, and we are on key framework agreements in England and Wales. Similarly, across our regional businesses we have an outstanding track record of delivering all manner of high quality educational and research facilities – as full design and build packages or as partners delivering building services with principal contractors. We have a huge experience of quality delivery in these and other areas like power and transport and can flex our offer and direct our new business pipeline accordingly as opportunities which meet our criteria emerge. All of this gives us confidence.

The plan to ‘level up’ will suit TClarke very well

The second factor is our nationwide coverage. Once again, our long-term strategy has proven to be effective. Critically, in recent years, we have made the investment in integrating and streamlining our operations and our business systems nationwide, with the stated purpose of making ourselves agile – creating the ability to enter specific new geographies at speed, with the complete quality of service and resource our partners and clients require. More than that, we can do so in a highly cost-effective manner. Just look at our new operations in Liverpool, Manchester and Newport. This foundation work has given us the agility we wanted.

High quality M&E teams are a finite resource across the country. This is a fact – and the perennial skills shortage in our industry is not likely to be eased during the period of Brexit. Moreover, TClarke has long experience of delivering our nation-wide resource of skilled people where it is needed. So, as quality teams are locked into these infrastructure projects, companies like TClarke with the scale, quality, agility, and geographic reach of resource will be well placed. 

We don’t just deliver quality work – we help deliver local growth and prosperity

The third factor is perhaps the most important – it is the reality of the work our people do and the experience of working with TClarke that people receive. Our Healthcare teams have received so many plaudits during the pandemic, but weeks before that, Garth Weaver Director of Estates, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust said the following:

 “What we value most about TClarke is the fact that they understand what engineering in a live hospital environment demands. Our trust has grown over the years that we’ve worked together.” 

There is nothing unusual in seeking or receiving a business testimonial – but this kind of comment really does form the bedrock of my confidence in our ability to win and deliver infrastructure projects. 

TClarke has a reputation for quality work and quality people. We have a reputation for training young people and delivering solid and lasting careers. Delivering value from the government investments that are going to be made in infrastructure requires professional excellence, teamwork, and practical capability – which we deliver as market leaders. But it also demands that local people, local jobs, and local communities gain benefits through the process itself. And once again, TClarke has an outstanding ability to help deliver the wider societal benefits which everyone, of every political persuasion, will see as a necessary dividend of this vast investment programme. 

We can take nothing for granted. Nothing is achieved without the hard work of our people. But the next years of infrastructure development across the UK present reasons for confidence in our business. 

In the next of these articles I am going to look at something that the wider world knows as prefabrication or offsite manufacturer, but which we at TClarke see as a whole engineering and construction philosophy aimed at transforming value, productivity, safety and programme efficiency – Design for Manufacturing and Assembly – or DfMA.