PCE 1983 – 1993 by Carrie and Sandra Smith

The second decade of the company’s existence saw dramatic growth in PCE’s offering to its clients and successful completion of many large and prestigious construction projects.

Growth of the company resulted in the need for a bespoke headquarters with a shift from outdated and cramped offices at Carlyon Road Ind Est, to a state-of-the-art, purpose-built new facility located at Holly Lane Ind Est, Atherstone.

The new offices were a striking contrast to previous, offering an abundance of office space and a modern progressive ambiance. The facilities were state of the art, and also contained a spacious stores area for onsite plant and materials, as well as an in-house garage with a skilled mechanic to cater for the maintenance needs of the company vehicles.

Vince Wetton, PCE’s founder, and key person in the company, rightfully enjoyed the privilege of having the best office space with a well-appointed boardroom table, becoming the centre for crucial meetings and discussions, complete with a filtered coffee machine which saw regular use.

Moving to the new offices was a significant step forward for the company, not only in terms of helping to market its presence within the industry and give clients confidence in its stature, but also in providing a more conducive and efficient environment to support the company's growth and aspirations.

During this decade there was a remarkable initial growth in communication and computer technology, which PCE quickly recognised the benefits of, and forever being forward thinking Vince was proactive in ensuring that such developments were taken on board to the betterment of the company’s operations.

Whilst Telex machines—an electronic communication network widely utilised in offices where operators would input messages into telex terminals, transmitting them through dedicated telephone lines – had been in use for many years such communication was restricted to text.

The Fax machine was developed in the early 1980’s having the ability to transmit and receive generally A4 pages containing text, sketches, drawings, photographs, etc. Fax machines enjoyed their heyday during the 1980’s, being hailed as the fastest office automation and business communication tool of its time.

Its arrival revolutionised the speed at which reports, and other information such as drawings, quotations and contractual information could be exchanged with clients and suppliers. The distinct screech of the fax machine and the sight of administrative staff rushing between in-trays and the fax machine became integral to PCE's office environment.

During the late 1980’s, PCE proudly acquired its first computer, complete with a printer. However, during this period, there was no internet, and the computer served a limited purpose—primarily used for typing letters and generating the text for quotations, orders, etc. Electronic spreadsheets were still a futuristic dream.

At this point in time, mobile phones, and due to their size often referred to as "bricks," became available. Vince, being among the early adopters, invested a staggering £3,000 in today's money to own his first mobile phone. Additionally, he enjoyed the luxury of being able to use it in his car, a feature considered exclusive and prestigious during that time.

Back then, mobile phones were a symbol of status and were mainly accessible to top management due to their exorbitant purchase cost and the then call rate of 50p/minute, equivalent to £3.50/minute now!

Despite the high cost, the early mobile phones represented a significant leap in communication technology, enabling key decision makers such as Vince to be more easily contactable by sites and clients.

The mid 1980’s saw PCE become involved as specialist precast concrete erector for the 1,600 space Reading multi storey carpark. This 30,000m2 car park is of 12 split levels and at the time was recognised as the ‘ultimate innovation in car park design’ integrating the framed structure, load bearing cladding and column-free ramp areas. PCE completed erection of the structure within its tender programme of 20 weeks. The tender commitment resulted in the Main Contractor, John Laing Construction being able to offer the client, British Rail, a six month saving in programme time compared to its competitors.

In 1983 Vince enabled a sister company to PCE called Tecroc Products Ltd which manufactured grouting materials and it grew to become the leading independent high quality UK manufacturer of such products.

Diversification of approach was a key business strategy during this period which saw leaner times within the construction industry and many large precast concrete companies either merging or ceasing to exist and thus a reduction in precast concrete erection opportunities. To maintain business output levels PCE acquired JDT Steel Erection, focussed on steelwork erection. This also enabled PCE to offer a combined structural steelwork and precast concrete erection package.

One such project at the end of decade under consideration was the reconstruction of Leicester City FC’s main stand at their old Filbert Street ground where the Main Contractor was Sir Robert McAlpine who appointed PCE to erect both the structural steelwork frame and precast concrete terracing and associated components. This was the first major football spectator stand redevelopment following the publication of the Taylor Report initiated by the Hillsborough Stadium Disaster, one of the report’s findings being that all-seater capacity should be introduced for the top two divisions in the English league football.

PCE also expanded its services by introducing DDCS Limited, a diamond drilling and cutting service, adding yet another valuable dimension to the company’s capabilities.

To ensure the future growth and deliver continued success into the 1990’s and beyond, Vince was acutely aware of the need to bring in experienced industry professionals during this second decade to bolster the company’s internal capabilities in areas such as contractual and financial dealings, etc. Training and development of the workforce became even more important as the decade progressed with the Construction industry starting to pay serious attention to operating on site with due regard to Health and Safety issues, as well as new processes in business procedures starting to become evident.


Sandra Smith Bio: 1988 - 2016

Sandra joined the small administration team of PCE in 1988 as a receptionist. Over the years, her dedication and talents led her to become the Contracts/Estimating Secretary prior to becoming the Directors PA and finally rising to the position of PA to the Managing Director, becoming Vince’s right-hand woman.

Throughout her career at PCE, Sandra's contributions were significant in helping to shape the company into what it is today. After many years of dedicated service, Sandra retired in 2016, leaving behind a lasting legacy and a profound impact on the company and its people. Sandra is remembered with admiration and gratitude for the invaluable role she played in PCE's journey.


Carrie Smith Bio: 1996 - today

During school holidays, Carrie worked at PCE, where she would collate brochures and marketing material which led her to secure a two-week work experience at the company in 1993, shortly after Carrie officially joined the business as a receptionist. Over the years and following in her mum’s footsteps, Carrie progressed to the roles of Contracts Secretary, Estimating Secretary, PA to the Managing Director (Nickie Brown), and has recently assumed the role of Strategic Development Manager, a testament to her strategic vision and ability to drive positive change within the company.

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