As more and more of the younger generation progress through to leadership roles, the ethos of employees has changed from being lucky to have a job to “what can you do for me?”. This is also true of business to business evolution – there is a need to go above and beyond for our clients as well as our employees.

In a world focused on delivering projects on time and on budget, innovation can be seen as a costly gamble by some businesses. However, if the time is right, innovative processes or systems can set you ahead of your competition and deliver true value to your clients. The answers to the following questions can help you determine whether the time is right to innovate:

    • What is ready for innovation in our organisation’s context?
    • When and where will we create space and time for creative thinking around this?

As part of a society with an ever-increasing focus on sustainability, diversity, equality and innovation, it is important to recognise what your corporate brand is, which will be determined by how you work with your clients and treat your employees. At Pensar, we are driven by a culture of innovation and opportunity. None more so is this illustrated in our Water Division, spearheaded by Patrick Newell, where no two projects are the same. Patrick credits Pensar’s culture, fostered by Karl Yunker, as the key to his personal and the division’s success – a culture of asking “why not?”. When Pensar first launched the utilities arm, Patrick was selected to head up the Water side of the new business.

“We couldn’t have done this at a worse time! When we started the utilities arm, we didn’t have water experience that was recognised by the utilities and it was during the GFC and immediately after the millennium drought. All the water money was spent. To make matters worse, we were thought of as civil people,” Patrick said.

Pensar’s culture of encouraging innovation and evolution meant that the utilities arm was able to ‘piggyback’ off the larger civil projects to get the necessary water experience needed for Pensar to be recognised as a credible player in the water utility sector. From this point forward, Pensar emerged as a key industry leader in the utility sector, largely due to our focus on innovation.

Pensar’s approach believes that true innovation is crucial to business success and this cannot be achieved with the wrong culture. Pensar focuses significant time and resources on understanding what our client’s ultimate objectives are. Within the water utility sector, the primary objective is, typically, to increase water quality and service resilience.

The bespoke nature of the design and construction projects in this field allows the team at Pensar to constantly focus on finding the most appropriate solution to meet our client’s needs.

Quite often in the water division, adopting an innovative approach results in Pensar proposing a solution that the client hadn’t necessarily realised was an option. Patrick explained that:

“Because most of the tenders are design and construct, we are able to put a lot of effort into understanding the real outcomes that the client wants. While it is more time consuming because no two projects are the same, it is really satisfying to know that you are making a difference.”

This is what led to Pensar winning the following three key projects:

    • On the Viola Place Project the team adopted a trenchless methodology to upgrade a sewer main and rising pump station. By understanding our client’s need, we tailored a solution that avoided the requirement to work in contaminated soils, reduced environmental impacts and completed the project quicker than traditional trench methods.
    • Our works at Greenbank saw the team suggest an innovative solution where we hoisted floating pontoons into a 35m high elevated reservoir to complete a roof replacement. This solution was more cost effective and reduced the risk of damaging the internal coating of the reservoir.
    • For the Molendinar Backwash System and Electrical Upgrade our team’s experience and drive for innovation led to identifying issues with the preliminary design and reworking the entire upgrade to ensure the plant’s capacity to meet future water needs.

The world is moving to a more technologically savvy future and the construction industry is not immune to this change. Projects are increasingly looking to BIM and sustainability principles, which are prime opportunities for companies to offer innovation. In addition, industry is putting their money where their mouth is and investing in projects like Constructionarium which provides a safe environment for new engineers to develop team working skills, problem solving capabilities and hands on experience building a replica of a larger structure. This innovative development program aims to equip our future leaders with practical knowledge that will ultimately benefit our clients.

Patrick is a big supporter of initiatives like these and is passionate about developing the future leaders of the infrastructure industry. So much so, that his professional team is younger than any other individual Pensar business unit. Patrick values the balance of having the youthful exuberance of his young workforce and their eagerness to innovate with some experienced steady minds to guide this good intent.

“Experience can be invaluable but more often than not, it comes with people being more set in their ways,” Patrick says. “I like to employ fresh inquisitive minds, who are not only keen but they’ve also got some great out of the box ideas.”

To survive and prosper into the future, organisations need to turn their focus to innovative solutions and smarter ways of working.