Ground engineering reaches new heights
Dave Warner, Director of Van Elle’s new rail division, explains how the company is helping to drive the sector forwards with investment in new rigs, techniques, training and safety initiatives.
The past 12 months has been quite a year for the ‘2011 Ground Engineering Specialists Awards Winner’. Having become the UK’s largest independent piling & ground stabilisation contractor, securing many of the year’s most prestigious contracts and further developing what is already the sector’s most diverse service offering, Van Elle, have again, managed to outperform every other piling company to claim the top spot as most profitable specialist and winner of a Plimsoll award for ‘Outstanding Company 2012’. Continued recognition of the service provided to clients is through being nominated as finalists in the ‘2012 Specialists Awards’ and the ‘2012 Ground Engineering Awards’.
In addition to this and to further improve the service provided to clients within the rail sector, a new ‘Van Elle Rail’ specialist division has been launched.
“Our recent growth in this sector is unprecedented and our ability to offer clients a one-stop shop for services such as site investigation, piling and embankment stabilisation has played a role in this. The ability to install a wide range of piling systems including driven steel cased, CFA, bored, rotary percussive drilling up to 600mm in diameter and drill systems such as ODEX, DUPLEX & SYMMATREX using modern, restricted access, versatile and, in some cases, bespoke rigs have also been a major contributing factor. The main reason for success, however, is the teamwork, dedication and innovation demonstrated by our staff over recent years. Whether it be restricted access/open site piling, drilling & grouting, ground investigation, soil mixing, Smartfoot® precast ground beams or the design & installation of ground anchors & soil nails, we are committed to providing all clients with the very best value engineered solution regardless of the value, location or complexity of their project.” Dave Warner, Director - Van Elle Rail.
Throughout the economic downturn, Van Elle continued to invest in innovative equipment, sustainability-led solutions i.e. geothermal piles & boreholes and in IT packages allowing efficiency to be maximised and costs minimised through the reduction of material usage. Having recently taken delivery of a new DAF 105XF wagon, a Llamada P140TT CFA rig, a bespoke purpose built Klemm “Vulcan” KR708-2 restricted access drill rig and a GP Services D1004 restricted access drop-hammer rig, the ability to operate safely, reliably & profitably looks set to continue for years to come.
Focused on the quality and value engineering of the services offered whilst continually striving to exceed all customers’ expectations has presented the opportunity to secure many large, complex and specialist projects in the past few years. A great number of these have been on the rail network and for many of the UK’s largest and best-known rail contractors. Bam, Carillion, Costain, Volker Fitzpatrick, Balfour Beatty and Birse are amongst a long list of respected contractors to have entrusted Van Elle to undertake work on rail schemes including the Birmingham Gateway Development, Croydon station, Reading station, Dalston Western Curve, Medge Hall, Newport Station and many more.
As the UK’s largest independent ground engineering contractor, during this challenging climate, Van Elle have not had the benefit of a parent company's contracts to rely upon so the quality of work, health & safety, awareness of environmental issues and experience has enabled the company to remain competitive, retaining and expanding the client base and increasing market share.
Many competitors have diversified over the years; however, Van Elle made the decision to concentrate on where the company’s experience and expertise lays and to remain true specialist contractors, only diversifying within the geotechnical sector.
Training & Safety
Van Elle actively encourage safer ways of working through the safety scheme ‘Think Safety, Act Safely’. With 96% of staff currently holding the relevant CSCS card, the platinum level of accreditation has been retained and all foremen, not just supervisors, have completed their SSSTS (Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme). Link-up, Building Confidence, CHAS, ConstructionLine, Safe Contractor, Safemark, SMAS accreditation and FPS membership are amongst many safety audit schemes held and all rail operatives are fully PTS trained.
Implementation of a hazard & near-miss reporting system has helped to prevent accidents rather than making procedural changes in hind-sight and this has proven to be a huge success seeing a significant year-on-year increase in reports and a reduction in accidents for both Van Elle and other contractors working on site. In addition, a safety attitude survey is carried out annually across the workforce, prompting improvements in working practices and collaboration between offices and divisions, ensuring that all learn from others’ experiences.
Van Elle has grown steadily and until 2008 had seen a year-on-year growth since it was founded in 1984. Turnover peaked in 2007/2008 at £47m and with a record profit of £3.7m, gained a place in the Sunday Telegraph Top 100. The company were also finalists in the 2011 ‘Construction News Awards’ and were highly commended at the ICE’s Merit Awards; the only sub-contractor able to claim this accolade.
Well placed to exit the downturn with a stronger client base, a significantly increased market share and having made healthy profits every year since being founded, Van Elle are continually striving to excel in their activities helping to drive the industry forwards to reach new heights in health & safety, sustainability, design and innovation.
Van Elle Ltd
T: 01773 580580
F: 01773 862100