PCL Construction – Unique Construction Solutions

PCL Construction is one of the largest independent general contracting companies in Canada. In this article, Business Development Director Robert Cuthbertson-Black talks about the company’s history and its plans for expansion in the future.

When it comes to PCL Construction, Business Development Director Robert Cuthbertson-Black has a clear idea of how he sees the company “We are an employee-owned, very diverse construction service. Our projects cover almost every aspect from our built environment, from very small interior refurbishments to billion-dollar commercial or infrastructure projects.”

As an $8 billion company with over 4000 employees, this is not hyperbole. Cuthbertson-Black has a crucial role as part of this organisation. “My responsibilities range from research and developing in our marketplace, developing and maintaining client and partner relationships as well as developing proposals that meet our client’s needs.”

Process improvement

PCL’s projects in recent years have included mining projects in Canada, the Rogers Place stadium in Alberta as well as the YYC Calgary International Airway Runway Development. PCL Construction occupies an interesting space- while it is a company that has lasted over 115 years and yet Cuthbertson-Black is passionate when he talks about the organisation’s dedication to process improvement, such as using drone technology “We work almost exclusively in digital models using BIM, including construction planning, finding Internet of Things applications to connect to our sites and our workforce in ways that reduce labour and increase efficiency.”

One example of this is using technology to showcase projects to potential clients without having to travel out for a face-to-face meeting or an on-site visit “I love being able to use my talent to show their proposed building in real-time over a virtual meeting across two continents. Being paperless is wonderful!”

In recent times, this ability to improve processes and increase the efficiency of the organisation has been tested with the onset of COVID-19 and the inevitable disruption that has brought for companies across the world in recent years “Supply chain reliability and costs are the greatest concern, the pace of changes creates a lot more risk. We countered this by putting in new work practices, hygiene protocols and by bringing everyone on board with vaccinations and controls to reduce exposure and illness. It’s been effective and has minimised the impact on our business.”

The right attitude

When it comes to people working for his company, Cuthbertson-Black has a strong belief in what he expects from people who work for PCL Construction and why the right mix is important for his group of employees “It’s about personality and attitude. Those are inherent to the person, whose skills and knowledge can be developed over time with opportunity and membership. It is a challenge to address difficult personalities and disruptive attitudes, as these can be disruptive to the team.”

This ethos also extends to how the company approaches supporting community projects “As an employee-owned company, we have a range of community projects that we support. We want to make our communities better, like being a leading contributor to United Way. Locally we support organisations that focus on diversity, equality, and inclusion, such as Women in Construction and Pride Winnipeg.”

One of the major community projects that PCL Construction is involved in is the campaign to end homelessness “Whether we donate our time and resources to Habitat for Humanity or building shelters for homeless people, we support several organisations that are on the frontline for helping people that need it.”

A better client experience

Cuthbertson-Black is keen to stress that PCL Construction is looking at more ways to work with clients, adjusting the process to suit them as much as possible “We offer alternate delivery models that include partnerships, financing, progressive development and program management.”

As the company begins to grow, Cuthbertson-Black also feels that their methods of close collaboration with their clients will grow to suit them as well “PCL will continue to grow into new territories and sectors as we learn what our clients need from us. We expect the construction industry to move further into the digital world and we hope to be leading that.”

One thing Cuthbertson-Black is wary of is how some people view projects and warns potential clients to be wary of approaching projects purely in terms of cost “Like many consumer items, there is a difference between the top and bottom of the market and the difference is in terms of schedule, overall quality and client experience.” A common misconception is that value for money equates to the lowest cost, something that can often prove disastrous if people attempt to cut costs and corners. This is something that PCL Construction does not believe in and wishes to counter as much as possible.

Cuthbertson-Black goes on to illustrate why it is better to collaborate with a higher-end partner that considers quality as well as cost “If your business runs in a time-sensitive world, a late project can be catastrophic. A higher cost can bring you a better-trained team, more experience, processes that run smoother, less risk and overall offer you a better working experience.” For Cuthbertson-Black, this goes back to their ethos in terms of being an employee-owned company, with a stake in wanting to provide the best possible service “Consider value for money in engaging a builder and the experience can be significant. In our company, our ‘run to the fire’ culture really does matter.”

In short, there seems to be a positive ethos driving the work behind Cuthbertson-Black and PCL Construction- what they are offering is not only the desire to work hard on construction projects and the wish to continue to grow and develop but also there seems to be the desire to show that they are a company that cares about its impact in terms of its culture, diversity and the legacy it leaves behind.

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