VWS Westgarth Ltd – Finding Local Talent, Globally

We see how VWS Westgarth Ltd offer bespoke solutions the world over supported by local talent and supply chains.

VWS Westgarth is a subsidiary of Veolia Water Technologies, itself a division of Veolia Environmental, a large French global company and the largest environmental company in the world, handling water, energy, and waste. Within that group, VWS Westgarth excels as an upstream water treatment specialist. With many years’ experience of designing and building water treatment and desalination plants behind them, VWS Westgarth has in-depth knowledge of water treatment processes, supported by Veolia’s specialist R&D and process abilities.

We produce technology for offshore water treatment,” explains Derek McIvor, Head of Operations for the company. “At the moment we’re recruiting which is a bit of a crazy situation during a pandemic, but we’re fortunate to find ourselves as busy as ever. We have over 200 employees spread over four business centres from the head office here in Glasgow, to our office in Gloucester, to another in Rio de Janeiro and our warehouse office in Angola.”

VWS Westgarth began as a company working in membrane desalination technology which went into boats, a business sector they were well-positioned to operate in from their home on the edge of the River Clyde.

“It took off from there. We ended up working on that technology leading into the product line we have today with sulphate removal technology. This has become our main technology,” Derek says. “We supplied our first commercial installation in 1992, and now we’ve supplied to the market approximately 40% of the technology operating globally.”

The company has achieved this market share by going the extra mile to meet their clients’ precise specifications, drawing on decades of expertise.

“We are market leaders. We know how to design and build these plants and how to do so to our client’s exact specifications,” Derek tells us. “We’ve worked for all the major utilisers of our technology and that gives us an edge in terms of understanding what the client wants when designing these packages. There’s very little exact repetition, they are all bespoke in nature to an extent we can understand and help clients optimise and design things to suit their specific needs.”

VWS Westgarth has also consolidated their reputation with market-leading aftercare.

“We have got a strong design and build element, but also offer excellent aftermarket care so we can attend the client’s site and assist clients in the operation of their plant when they invariably require specialist assistance, in turn helping them cut down on operational costs,” says Derek. “We believe that this is what makes Westgarth unique in our offering.”

Thinking Globally, Sourcing Locally

One of the unique elements that VWS Westgarth enjoys as part of the Veolia global business is that the company is able to operate in all territories worldwide, working from its dedicated centres and with local Veolia entities to provide any necessary local content with extensive in-country sourcing.

“The biggest challenge is the fact that these plants are bespoke. Clients expect technology that performs. You have to conform to each individual client’s technology requirements as well as all local regulations,” Derek explains. “We’re a truly global business so we’ve got to comply with rules, regulations and local content challenges around the world. Sometimes local content requirements are up to 60%, meaning we have to fabricate parts and buy key components in local markets while making it as economical as we possibly can to get things done on time.”

Even with the support of the Veolia Group, VWS Westgarth still needs to invest carefully in each of its international markets to ensure the necessary local supply chain exists.

“In Rio de Janeiro, for example, we’ve been operating since 2004, investing in people, developing the office infrastructure, and building up local capability, not just paying lip service to the concept of a local capability,” Derek says. “The office there had at one stage almost 50 people working there. We have managed in the downturn to keep the office going through our service solutions offering, so we have retained and developed large asset operational integrity support over there. We also invested in expatriates going to these locations to work with the local talent, while making ourselves visible in the market. It also lets clients know you’re committed and invested in supporting their businesses in the territory. We developed and manage the supply chain so that we know we can deliver and the people are there to support local requirements.”

Of course, these efforts to encourage talent don’t only take place abroad. Fortunately, VWS Westgarth has an abundance of home-grown talent to take advantage of.

“In Scotland, we’ve got a very low staff turnover with quite a lot of people who have worked within the business since the early 2000s,” Derek says. “We have people who know the industry and know the business. Being in the west of Scotland there are a lot of people in the industry with the relevant experience we can tap into. Our low turnover reflects that people like working for us and they feel valued. Quite often recruitment is through word-of-mouth from people who already work for us picking up skilled people they know who can help us.”

It is their people who help VWS Westgarth realise its collective vision to be the first and natural choice for all its customers, not just because the company offers value, but because it is a trusted and respected partner that offers unique collective competencies. Thanks to its talent sourcing ability in Scotland and around the world the company can continue to provide people that customers wish to work with alongside products and solutions that they choose to use. And VWS Westgarth is going to need all the people they can get, as the demand for their work is only increasing.

“The demand for the technology that we supply doesn’t show any sign of slowing down so we’ve moved from building a lot of these packages in the UK to Dubai, Singapore and now China,” Derek says. “We’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re going to keep evolving.”

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