|1||May to June 2018||During May and leading into June a dedicated team was involved in the Transport Scotland, A9 Berriedale Braes, Caithness investigation project completing a second phase of works, requested as part of the main contractors Dialogue Phase negotiations. At the same time the first of our annual six monthly British Standard Institute (BSI) ISO 9001, 14001 and OHSAS 18001 surveillance visits was undertaken yielding a successful (three minor non-conformities) outcome.|
|2||July to August 2018||The months of July and August were spent locally operating in the South Shields area undertaking the Holborn Enabling Work investigation contract. This was a large scale investigation and involved resources drawn from across the company in order to achieve the technical and contract objectives. The company also received word from the AGS (Association of Geotechnical and Geo-environmental Specialists) during July that we had successfully been accepted into the organisation. This notification constituted the conclusion of an appreciable amount of background work the reports team had invested in our geotechnical output capabilities and AGS 4.0 compliancy.|
|3||September to October 2018||In the period extending between early September and the end of October commercial activities were dominated by the Source Delineation and Isherwood Park, Carrington investigation, which was coordinated by our Northwest Regional Office. Our professional personnel were also augmented by the return of an old friend and a further graduate placement, straight from MSc studies, to engage in our engineer training programme.|
|4||October 2018||Although we were busy with site operations our annual UKAS Assessment visit to our Head Office laboratory facility could not be overlooked. Our performance, as in previous years, was excellent, with all the laboratory personnel showing how we had maintained our high standards of operation and attention to detail.|
|5||October to November 2018||Main areas of operation during October and November were in York, on behalf of the Environment Agency (administered by Jacobs) and in Carlisle on Phase 1 of the Southern Link Road for Cumbria County Council. The weather conditions were rapidly deteriorating with the advent of November, but the site teams acquitted themselves well in the fields surrounding Carlisle and York in often extremely challenging soft surface conditions.|
|6||November to December 2018||Continuation of our involvement at York FAS with some supplementary investigation operations, complimented by new Environment Agency contract work in Carlisle. It is likely that these principal areas of involvements will keep us relatively busy leading into the festive break, with a few smaller project commitments also scheduled to finish off the year. Meanwhile the environmental monitoring team is equally busy covering obligations arising from the larger schemes we have been involved with in the last few months, most notably Source Delineation and Isherwood Park, Carrington.|
|7||December 2018||The end of the year will be heralded by our second BSI surveillance visit followed by some time off to steady ourselves for 2019.|
Our estimating section has processed over 200 enquiries this year constituting a broad spectrum of site investigation proposals and Client outline requirements.
Across the company, but excluding smaller sundry sale type projects, we have successfully been awarded just short of 100 contracts this year.
Our busy reports section has prepared 90 final reports this year and has addressed a wide range of requirements (deskstudy, factual and interpretative) and content enclosures of various data complexity and content types.
The adverse events relate to well over 100, 000 hours of operational activity and can be subdivided into the following: 3 lost time incidents, 6 minor injuries, 4 vehicle accidents (resulting in under £10,000 of costs including third party losses), 2 minor environmental incidents and 6 near misses. The company feels it is extremely important to be fully transparent with accident statistics and uses adverse events to improve working practices and preventing further occurrences.
This year represented an important milestone in the company's journey, one that all the directors are privately very proud of. The company, through thick and thin, standing testament to good times as well as bad, has now been commercially active within the engineering sector for over 30 Years. We have retained the same name, remained strongly independent and in a few of the darker recesses and hideaways at Head Office, even have a handful of the original founding faithful who joined the company as it took its first faltering steps within the industry.
The success and resilience of the company over the intervening years can only be ascribed to three main elements, the personnel (at all levels), their effort and their overall belief in the business. Saying thanks doesn't go deep enough to redress the balance of the commitment and support given daily by all our personnel, but this sentiment and extent of gratitude is hopefully apparent in these words. After all they provide a competent foundation that the company has come to depend on regardless of circumstance.
Over the years plenty of talented professionals have had their say in the development of the company and provided their own distinctiveness to the contracts that we've had great pride being involved with. Many of those embody the spirit and renewal of the Northeast as well as other areas of development activity across the UK; the Angel of the North, Millenium Bridge, Newcastle Quayside, Tees Barrage, Stadium of Light to name an easy to remember iconic and local handful.
The company continues with many of the same assortment of ingredients, applying high standards of commitment and honesty to all investigation projects regardless of their size, complexity or technical difficulty. We use the experience we have gathered from these years on a daily basis and seek business opportunities as eagerly as we did, back in the day. With our eyes firmly fixed on the next 30 years and the continuing adventure waiting to be realised - here's to our personnel, our clients, 1988 - 2018 and the future!
MAY - DECEMBER 2018
Like the origins of the company it seems a long time ago since the weather over May to July surpassed all expectations and facilitated a much needed boost to our ongoing site operations. It never fails to amaze how a period of normal weather over the spring and summer seasons can raise spirits and revive the flagging optimism buffeted by the turbulence of difficult winter conditions. Excusing the metaphor, the company has also seen some sunshine having enjoyed a number of busy flurries at various points throughout the year. It hasn't been exceptional, with a number of slack periods thrown into the commercial blender for good measure, which at times has given us other concerns to contend with - specifically July/August when project work, like people, apparently head off for holiday. The commercial year does appear to be defined by a certain cadence these days, which is slightly at odds with recollections of years past.
Christmas was always a busy period, the holiday being considered more of a hard boundary with many clients wanting a site investigation delivered in the field before the break. That sense of urgency has, to some extent, dissipated and we can only wonder whether it has become a reflection of the extended lead-in to the Christmas festivities. Whereas January was generally slow, a time to take breath, in the last few years it has provided appreciably more activity and levels of income than would have been considered typical. The up, down and continuity of site investigations over the whole commercial year seemingly being susceptible to holiday influences, perhaps more so than previous. On a European level, not that we are involved significantly in a business sense in this arena, the spectre of some form of Brexit is almost upon us like a shambling zombie from a 1960’s B movie. With Pandora’s Box finally open for inspection there is little doubt that there will be an appreciable potential for greater uncertainty next year when the current bout of political madness is finally brought to a conclusion. Like most companies of our size and market position we are collectively holding our breath to see how choppy the commercial turbulence will be.
Contractually this year there have been a number of high points; Berriedale Braes (Caithness) during May and June was significantly less problematic on our return to this outstandingly beautiful corner of Scotland than it had been during the winter. Therefore the programme and progress of the works was decidedly easier with the assistance of dry days and light nights. It was also good to exercise a few skills that the company doesn't get to demonstrate very often, the key one being rock exposure geological mapping in accordance with ISRM and BS5930: 2015 (Table 30). Rock exposure mapping is a forgotten art which, although taught widely at University, seldom sees widespread use (at least in our experience) within the field of site investigation. Over the course of 30 years of experience it is easy to count on the fingers of one hand how often such specialism has been requested. Accordingly, it was good to have the opportunity to dust-off the trusty compass-clino and 50m tape measure with the aim of presenting some detailed observational engineering data. It was also quite reassuring to record the same set of discontinuity features that were represented in the rock cores and determined from supplementary geophysical logging undertaken in neighbouring fields.
The site investigation at Holborn, South Shields during August facilitated a return back to the River Tyne, lamentably a few years have passed since we were involved in a local over-water operation; on this occasion we opted for a floating approach using a bespoke pontoon spread. In earlier times, during the formative years of the company, the River Tyne could almost be considered as a second home especially during the intense development of Newcastle quayside (on behalf of Tyne and Wear Development Corporation). Essentially the investigation was largely supplementary in nature and yielded data on the structure components of the former dock environment, as opposed to solely focusing on the underlying ground conditions, the latter addressed more comprehensively during an earlier stage. Holborn was swiftly followed by the largest of this year's projects centred at Carrington, Manchester for HIMOR Carrington Limited which was coordinated through our Northwest Regional Office. Carrington presented the challenge of around 170 cable percussion boreholes and 50 trial pits to complete within a site duration of only six weeks in a sensitive industrial environment. Fortunately, we had previously undertaken a similar scheme in 2015 which eased the learning curve and assisted with the interaction with the various stakeholders. It was certainly one of this year's achievements to finalise the intrusive element of the work within the allotted time frame and to budget. Such would not have been possible without the organisation, commitment and applied ownership of the site engineering team which was a credit to the company throughout.
More recently the company was also commissioned to acquire information for the structural assessment of piles below a suspended quay. Again the approach was multidisciplinary and used visual mapping, cover meter, concrete coring, geophysics and exposure of the reinforcement elements to yield various aspects of the structural jigsaw puzzle. Information was ultimately compiled in scale drawings and plots showing various aspects of the recorded features and assessments. In July we were notified by the Association of Geotechnical & Geo-environmental Specialists (AGS) that we were successful in our membership application. There was a considerable amount of satisfaction with respect to the positive decision made by the governing senate and it is hoped that there will be opportunities in the future to contribute to the aims of the AGS. This process, in essence, comes off the back of work that the company's reports section and laboratory have continually invested into our geotechnical output quality and the efforts that have been made to become fully AGS 4.0 compliant.
With respect to our accreditations and industry affiliations, once again it has been a busy year with more to come in the week immediately leading into the Christmas period. In the first part of the year we were successfully assessed by Achilles and CHAS, which was followed somewhat later, in June, by the first of two annual surveillance visits by British Standards Institutes (BSI) covering ISO 9001, ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001. Three minor non-conformities were raised by BSI during this visit which have subsequently been discharged. In October, our laboratory systems were then scrutinised by UKAS. In all cases accreditation was retained successfully, with the laboratory performing excellently (exceeding their already high standards) during the two day surveillance period; in this case, led by a different team of UKAS assessors than we had seen previously. During the assessment process we operate as normally as circumstances allow - performing real work under the direction of the personnel who are responsible for those tests or activities on a day-to-day basis. The wise men from BSI make their return journey in the prelude to our Christmas break to reassess our three brightest stars over a further three day period, on this occasion, with the opportunity to muse over the variety of seasonal jumpers that are also normally on display. Throughout the year our in-house SHEQ Action Group continues to contribute pro-actively to the SHE management system, and it goes without saying that they are wholeheartedly thanked by management for their participation and assistance. Due to the company’s continued commercial involvement on the Environment Agency Framework (administered by Jacobs) and in accordance with the strong health and safety superintendence at every level, site practices and protocols have robustly been independently audited by a third party at regular intervals. To date we are extremely satisfied with our scored performances (well above average in categorisation) with further improvements likely to follow now we are familiarising ourselves with the degree of enquiry.
We wish all our Clients and the employees of the company a wonderful Christmas and prosperous New Year that has plenty of opportunities and special memories - perhaps even a respite from the dreaded B####t word.
Directors, Management & Personnel