The Courage to Be Bold


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-By Aleisha Parr

In the aftermath of the recent Global Financial Crisis, contracting businesses have been struggling to keep afloat in the face of time delays on most projects and the outright cancellation of many others. It has been an exercise in endurance, difficult to survive even by those companies who have a strong financial backing. Now, with the recent disasters that Australia has suffered, an extraordinary need persists for skilled labourers and full-capability construction companies to step up and not only answer to the delayed works from the last three years, but also to begin work on new and evolving projects.

AGC, a construction company operating in Western Australia with a strong focus on plant-based industrial activity and oil and gas work, having spent the last decade evolving its service capabilities (from its initial operations as a privately owned insulation and fabrication company to become a fully vertically integrated publicly listed construction and contracting company), has positioned itself to offer a variety of solutions to its clients’ current needs.

A strong player in the construction market – serving such clients as BHP Billitin, Rio Tinto and Woodside – AGC’s success in the industry is mainly due to its focus on vertical integration. The company prides itself on its ability to work with its clients throughout the entire process of a job in order to provide a well-orchestrated and cost effective product solution which meets all requirements.

One of the greatest sources of anxiety for many clients in plant-based industrial construction is ensuring that the components will effectively fit together and be easily and properly installed. Increasingly, plant modularisation is employed, to ensure that the client is able to get exactly what is required, exactly the way it is required to fit and work. AGC specialises in this field, engaging in all stages of the process from the design and fabrication of the modular units, through to the transportation and site assembly – a fine example of AGC’s vertical integration utilised to maximise client satisfaction and productivity.

The area, however, where AGC has seen most gain has been in its recent recruitment efforts, effectively doubling its staff from approximately 1500 to nearly 3000 over the course of last year.

Says AGC’s CEO Laith Amin: “We grew – very aggressively – our staff in 2010 but that was a reflection of an enormous amount of confidence that the board had in the growth capability of the company because we did not have a huge amount of project work last year, but we knew it was coming. And we knew we would be really well positioned to deliver it.”

This remarkable leap of faith has helped the company to acquire some really top talent, including new project managers, senior leaders, a Commercial Director and an Executive General Manager of Operations. “All these top people were available last year,” explains Amin, “but this year and for the next three or four years, it will be much more difficult to get them . . . We built our people capability last year, so it was a bold thing to do but that’s the way the board felt about the opportunity for the company.”

AGC also has plans for its future growth within the industry, and has developed what it hopes to be a very reliable four or five year forward looking visibility of its project environment in order to translate that into predictions regarding required staff and labourers as well as market growth trends or shortages.

Says Amin, “We look at that value chain very carefully and we spot areas where we think there are gaps or where our clients tell us that they have needs or where they perceive shortages to be and we provide a solution to that.”

Using its in-house customer management relationship program, InSight, AGC is able to acquire, develop, track, knowledge share and manage significant and deep client relationships, essential to its development strategy. Through the use of this program, AGC can “know what [a clients’] culture is so we are able to recruit people that are compatible with the culture of our clients. We know what their forward project ambitions are so we’re able to go out and make acquisitions and build our capability so that we can support them.”

In 2009, AGC identified that there would soon be a shortage in the industry of scaffolding capabilities in industrial plant construction throughout West Australia, and therefore that providing scaffolding would represent a key growth opportunity for the company. After acquiring a scaffolding contractor company called Modern Access Services (MAS), AGC soon became WA’s largest scaffolding contractor, providing scaffolding solutions for WA and Southeast Asia.

“Acquisitions are part of the way in which we would provide clients with some comfort when they see that there is a shortage.”

Today, the request is now for more labourers on-site, inspiring AGC to continue to increase its focus on its recruitment and hiring capabilities. With so many projects on the slate for development, it is clear that WA will face a strong demand for qualified labourers to push projects forward and increase productivity. At AGC, a staff of over twenty dedicated recruitment specialists has been responsible for the recent increase in hires over the last year, and continues to source thousands of qualified tradespeople for its on-call database.

“They’re building bigger plants than they ever have in their history and we are building plants that are bigger than we ever have in our history,” explains Amin. “We know that that is complex and we know that we have to be solution driven and it’s the fact that we are focused on the solution and not necessary the contract that makes us different for our clients.”

Home Automation

Call it ‘domotics,’ and you are likely to receive a blank stare, but refer to it as ‘smart home’ or ‘home automation,’ and you will get a nod of acknowledgement. For the past few years, consumers have heard the word ‘smart’ attached to countless products and services, from food and drink to snacks like popcorn and mobile phones, which no one seems to refer to as a ‘cellphone’ anymore. Yet what, exactly, constitutes ‘smart’?

November 21, 2018, 3:46 PM AEDT