In my 27 years working for SES Engineering Services, I’ve seen a huge amount of evolution – both within the company and the wider industry. With SES celebrating its 60th anniversary last month, it is this commitment to continuous improvement from the business – and the incredible people who work here – that has ensured our firm has stood the test of time and will continue to do so for many decades more. We are determined to work together to inspire better ways of creating the places, communities and businesses of tomorrow as defined by our Guiding Framework ‘Creating Tomorrow Together’.
Looking at the business now, the scale of projects we have worked on, and the reach of our national network, it’s hard to believe that when I first started, we only had a presence in Yorkshire. It wasn’t until our first job outside of the region – my first job – for Findus Foods in Longbenton, North Tyneside that we started to look further afield and grow our presence across the UK.
Before, as a business we had an overall turnover of around £20m, and now we deliver £20m jobs consistently as one of the UK’s top ten specialist M&E contractors. Our history of landmark projects up and down the country include the conversion of Drax Power Station to biomass; the delivery of Hitachi Rail Europe’s first rail vehicle manufacturing facility in County Durham; the Queensferry Crossing, Scotland’s largest infrastructure investment in a generation; the high-tech research laboratory at the Quadram Institute in Norwich; and most recently, the refurbishment of two floors at the Royal London Hospital in only five weeks, to support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
But how have we got there?
I firmly believe it is SES’ approach towards embracing new technologies that has helped us succeed. We have constantly adapted to be ahead of the curve when it comes to digital construction, incorporating 3D modelling into our projects since the early 00s and embedding data into our models since 2010. This culminated in SES being the first M&E contractor to become BIM Level 2 accredited in 2016 and we didn’t stop there.
We’re now using technology more than ever before, applying Virtual Reality regularly as a tool to show clients what we’re capable of – a method which has only just started to gain industry momentum this year, but what we were originally experimenting with back in 2007.
While we’re already delivering several ‘smart buildings’ – the future of new schemes, particularly in the commercial sector, allow an entire building to be controlled and monitored digitally, and require immensely complex MEP systems. These mean building services can now represent as much as 50 per cent of an overall project.
Likewise, we have always prided ourselves on being pioneers for offsite construction, through the use and subsequent expansion of the Prism facility, now based in Coventry. We’re constantly looking to push the boundaries of what prefabricated MEP works can do.
The sixth industrial revolution
With the use of digital being heralded as the fifth Industrial Revolution, we now need to look towards what the sixth will be – blending these technologies in with people and more Artificial Intelligence (AI).
Our people have always been at the heart of our business and while we may rely ever more on innovations using digital construction, our commitment to our employees has remained the same throughout our 60-year history.
We are unique in our approach towards maintaining a consistent direct labour force allowing us to invest more heavily in their training and progression. Subsequently, we have a huge portion of our workforce which has been with the business for over 20 years, like myself, and we’re always looking to bring in new talent to be the future of our firm, such as our BIM apprentices.
Without the ingenuity and determination of our SES people, it would be unconceivable to imagine that our business would have been able to thrive and grow as it has done over the past 60 years. They are the solid foundation that allows us to flex and accommodate so many new technologies and building methods and, with them in place, our business can be future-proofed for hopefully another 60 fantastic years.