Like the decades that preceded it, 2003-2013 saw dramatic change and personnel development at PCE. At the beginning of this period, PCE continued to be the leading precast concrete erection specialist within the UK, enjoying continued strong relationships with the precast concrete manufactures of the UK and Southern Ireland. The company was developing a reputation for reliability and quality with many of the clients who employed the precast concrete manufacturing market to deliver design and build solutions for them. During the early part of this decade, PCE was busy delivering many major multi-story residential, commercial, car park, and custodial projects. Amongst many exciting projects, being appointed to deliver the installation of all the precast concrete at the new Wembley Stadium Project, probably the largest construction project in Europe at the time, was a particular standout. It was testament to the reputation for high quality that PCE had built.
However, PCE's founder, Vince Wetton, grew increasingly frustrated with the treatment PCE received from the manufacturing businesses that employed them and concerned with the decline in precast concrete manufacturers offering their clients Design and Build (D&B) solutions. These manufacturers seemed disinterested in the challenges posed during construction and often made short-sighted decisions that benefited only their manufacturing processes, without considering the full picture both with respect to their clients and the required specialist contractors such as PCE. Vince's frustration led to the innovation of a new business model for PCE – one that would allow PCE to have a significant influence on project delivery at every phase. This model aimed to ensure that decisions were made in the best interests of the overall project outcome. It also empowered PCE to take control of its destiny by managing, coordinating, and overseeing the design, manufacture, and construction phases.
The concept of a new (D&B) model was born, and Vince set about building a team and skillset within the business by recruiting experienced personnel from the manufacturing industry who would complement the existing employees with their many years of construction expertise amassed over the previous decades.
In the first few years of this decade Vince bought into the company Simon Harold, Garry Langston and George Tootell from CV Buchan and Graeme Firth from Freysinett, all highly experienced industry personnel who would provide PCE with the additional Design, Project Management and Commercial skills the company required.
The first major D&B project, Spencer Dock in Dublin commenced in 2005. In typical Vince style, rather than cutting the companies D&B teeth on a ‘small scale’ project, he went straight into what was Ireland’s largest new build residential project at the time, and one of Ireland’s largest ever precast concrete projects. This project saw PCE lead a new ‘joint venture’ business, Total Structures, which was a partnership with an Irish precast concrete manufacturing business and a structural engineering practice. This experience in Dublin cemented in Vince’s mind that this new D&B model was the future for PCE.
In 2006, PCE secured its first major D&B project in England, Countryside Properties Hall Street Development in St.Helens. This was the first of several large-scale, multi-story residential projects we delivered for Countryside, and saw the creation of PCE’s D&B team in offices at Warrington, led by Garry Langston (Preconstruction Director), Graeme Firth (Commercial Director) and the late George Tootell (Design Director).
Another major change was in 2008 when Vince decided that with a new already successful business model, the company needed a new era of management. Vince appointed Nickie Brown, who had joined the company initially as a labourer only 12 years previously, as Manging Director with the brief of continuing the PCE legacy and solidifying PCE as a great D&B business. Shortly after Graeme Firth (Commercial Director) and Chris McReynolds (Projects Director) also became Board Directors, thus the initial new senior management team was born. Both Garry Langston and Simon Harold also became Board Directors before the end of this ten-year period.
The Warrington office closed in late 2008, which coincided with PCE moving to its new home in Tamworth, uniting the Construction and D&B teams.
In the years between 2006 and 2012, the business continued to operate as both a construction only and D&B business. PCE retained its reputation as the leading precast concrete erection specialist contractor, working on landmark projects such as the Hilton Hotel in Liverpool, the Athletes Village at Stratford for the 2012 Olympics, major multi-story car parks such as Ocean Village in Southampton and St.Pauls in Sheffield, the Gerrards Cross Tunnel Project, the St.Peters Square redevelopment in Manchester, and the Imperial War Museum in London, to name a few.
At the same time, the D&B arm of the business delivered over 500 apartments for Countryside Properties across the North West of England. We developed a police custody suite system for the Home Office, which went on to be deployed across numerous projects, including the first precast concrete custody suite in England. We stepped into the custodial market delivering several smaller prison extensions which led to us securing one of the largest ‘new build’ prison projects ever constructed in the UK at HMP Featherstone, in Wolverhampton. We developed multi-story car park solutions which led to the invention of the concrete-reducing long span ‘GT’ flooring system, first deployed at the Edgbaston Morrisons Car Park.
PCE’s approach to retaining a foot in both the construction only and the D&B camps was critical during the second half of this decade. This approach allowed the businesses D&B capability and reputation to grow, whilst simultaneously refining our construction expertise and developing our relationships with both clients and supply chain partners. Relationships that were cultivated in this period are still proving fruitful today. Clients such as Kier and Galliford Try remaining as ‘key clients’, and partners such as Techrete and Creagh remain as ‘key partners’.
By the time we got to 2013, the business was fundamentally transitioning away from being the PCE of old to the PCE of new. One of the catalysts for this was delivering the Phoenix Special School Project for Bouygues in 2011. This hybrid approach to delivering a Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) solution for a city centre project on an incredibly challenging site showcased our capabilities. By the time we reached 2013, our flexible hybrid approach was officially born with the Bath Spa Student Accommodation Project and the Volkswagen Dealership Project in Brentford.
PCE was becoming recognised as a leading D&B contractor, rather than a leading construction only specialist. A new cohort of clients and collaborators recognised the value of a delivery partner with a flexible approach to product selection, who retained the construction expertise and skills to manage and deliver complex, DfMA solutions. PCE offered an alternative approach to traditional forms of construction, and the advantages were clear to see.
This decade provided us with the foundations and building blocks for the PCE of today. The ingredients were always there; great people committed to excellence and always striving to innovate and improve.
Simon Harold Bio:
Simon Harold has extensive work experience in the construction industry, specifically in the field of offsite engineered hybrid structures and facades made predominantly of concrete. Simon started working at PCE Limited in 2005 as an Operations Manager and later became a Business Development Director in 2012, in which he is till today. In this role, he is responsible for sales, marketing, and solutions development.
Garry Langston Bio:
Garry has worked in the precast concrete industry for 30 years. Working in a broad spectrum of roles Garry trained in all aspects of design, manufacture and construction in the precast industry. Garry is an experienced leader of teams, bringing a passion for offsite construction and a drive to succeed to all his projects. Garry has led the offsite delivery teams on many large-scale projects.