For our first Industry Interview of 2016 we look at the challenges and opportunities faced in the year ahead by different industry sectors.
We would like to thank Tom Gollan, Director of Construction at Doosan Babcock, Mark Goldsmith, General Manager at Pfaudler Balfour and Escape’s own Operations Director, Adrian Brady for sharing their thoughts on what lies ahead this year.
Tom Gollan, Director of Construction, Doosan Babcock
I have been in the oil and energy industry since 1978 and have seen barrel prices vary widely from above $130 to below $10. We survived then and we will survive now. The measure of us is our creative response to hard times, not our emotional reaction. After many years at BP and a few places in between, I’m now at Doosan Babcock and proud to be a part of that team. I’ve known some of the people here for 20 years and that’s key – good relationships and a vision for the future.
“The measure of us is our creative response to hard times, not our emotional reaction.”
We operate over nuclear, thermal, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, oil & gas and process industries. It’s good to have this spread of risk. As coal declines, nuclear is picking up. Oil dips, yet assets need maintained. Governments dabble with subsidies and grants for biomass and carbon capture, yet business goes on.
The bottom line is, we need energy – whether in the UK or in Africa. The main challenge for us as humans is to collaborate meaningfully. At a project level with customers, the supply chain, and subcontractors, and at a national level with Government. On an international basis, in country content has never been more important and we need to make that work through collaboration.
The balance sheet is fundamental, but a functional business model only creates a profitable company. Doosan Babcock strives to be prosperous, create partnerships, and work for a sustainable future – for all of us.
Mark Goldsmith, General Manager, Pfaudler Balfour
The current slowdown in the Chinese economy coupled with the recent record low in oil prices with the strength of the pound against the euro thrown in for good measure are challenges that we all face in 2016.
At Pfaudler, we are a global business with locations all around the world. Our product is corrosion resistant components, solutions and systems for the Pharmaceutical and Fine Chemical Industry.
We have seen and continue to see potential in the pharmaceutical sector, which has been absent for almost 10 years, with the UK, Ireland and Singapore, in part, leading the way with this revival which we expect this to continue in 2016
Fine Chemicals are less buoyant with a number of projects currently on hold as customers wait for business conditions to be more favourable.
The current weakening of the Euro is the first sign of improvement in general business conditions for some time. When the Euro was at its peak in 2016, our competitive position was substantially eroded as our main competitors are all in the Euro Zone. It is hoped that the recent trend continues as many businesses, like Pfaudler, export significant amounts to those Euro based countries.
“We really are back to what is key in the current market, and that is confidence.”
China, historically, has been a very important market for us and five years ago, would have been 50% of our Levens’ site production. However, in 2013 we saw that market drop away and it has been practically non-existent for the last 2 years. So, the current stock market situation in China has not impacted directly on our business, but we really are back to what is key in the current market, and that is confidence. Once we see confidence return, orders will follow soon after.
Stability in the global economy is what will bring confidence back and this looks like being led by the U.S. region which has held strong over the last two years for our product and shows every indication of remaining so.
Adrian Brady, Operations Director, Escape Recruitment
Current macro and micro economic factors and how the former impacts the latter are well documented. Like many of our client organisations, Escape has not been sheltered from the political and economic Tsunami that has impacted our Manufacturing, and Oil &Gas sectors.
As a service organisation we often have
the dubious honour of feeling the ripples of an economic slowdown early. With recruitment, being one of the first areas to come under cost cutting scrutiny and this is certainly the case with our multi-national clients who can fall victim to see very rapid and alarming shrinkage in their order books.
In our Engineering recruitment business the impact is quite simple, we go from a candidate
poor, vacancy rich environment to…well, the opposite. Often, for clients and candidates with whom we have worked for many years we are a very important first port of call as the turmoil of change may be approaching or has already engulfed them and so our role develops at times, to that of counsellor and guide.
At Escape we benefit from having a varied portfolio of clients and interestingly what we saw in the recession of 2008 onwards was that there is often still a need to hire. Over recent years, organisations have aimed to be both effective and also very lean. To that end many companies function and operate with very little slack and so continued operational developments and effectiveness often means looking to bring experience and knowledge into the business which can lead to recruitment opportunity.
“What underpins our on-going success is the same as that which underpins the success of our clients and candidates; skills and attitude.”
Ultimately, whilst challenging, experiencing a downturn does focus our attention on the nature and shape of our business. As we look to find opportunities for our candidates, we strive to develop more knowledge of, and relationships in, our existing market sectors, as well as to supplement those relationships with migration into new areas. What underpins our on-going success is the same as that which underpins the success of our clients and candidates; skills and attitude.
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