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Specialist Contractor of the Year: Winner

Winner: Van Elle

Van Elle was named the winner of the Specialist Contractor of the Year category after wowing the judges with an impressive presentation.

The judges described the geotechnical services firm as the “stand-out company in its field” and an “outstanding player in what is a niche market”.

They were especially impressed with the firm’s global reach – particularly Van Elle’s commitment to working in incredibly difficult conditions, citing the firm’s eight-month project in the Falkland Islands as a prime example.

On top of this, the company’s business plan was highlighted as being “remarkably forward-looking”, the judging pointing to Van Elle’s 12-year planning cycle and strong financial base as particularly admirable.

The firm has also turned a profit every year since its foundation 31 years ago – a fact not lost on the judging panel.

In the year to April 2014, the group saw an operating profit of £3.1m. But for the year to April 2015, Van Elle recorded a £9m operating profit, with year-to-date turnover up by 55 per cent.

“Van Elle’s business is a model for the entire construction industry”

Judges’ comment

The firm’s £15m capital expenditure on a new factory, new offices and manufacturing facilities, as well as a wind farm and solar farm on company land, were cited as evidence of a commitment to growth.

Van Elle’s efforts to employ local staff and direct employment also stood out – the business employs its entire staff directly and does not use agency workerss.

The firm also has 12 apprentices on its books at present.

On health and safety, the company has only had one reportable accident in the last year and recorded extensive near miss reporting – 1,101 hazard reports were filed in 2014.

In addition, Van Elle ensures each member of staff does two site audits a month – including the directors.

The judges also singled out the company’s innovative Smartbase technology, used on Network Rail projects.

The signal and gantry base installations, which can be installed in 15 minutes, are manufactured off site and have a sustainable design to minimise the usage of steel and concrete.

According to Van Elle, this technology could save Network Rail millions of pounds.

Overall, Van Elle was described by the judges as a “model for all construction businesses” and was the unanimous choice to be named Specialist Contractor of the Year.

Highly Commended: NG Bailey

NG Bailey came close to winning the top prize, with the judges agreeing the company deserved to be recognised as a highly commended entry.

The panel felt NG Bailey was strong on training and apprenticeships, and praised the “family attitude” the firm retained, which they described as a rare characteristic for a large company.

They were very impressed with the company’s innovative offsite delivery and commended its vision of being the “best, not the biggest” – something that particularly stood out for such a diverse business.

Awards such as Network Rail’s Supplier of the Year for 2013/14 were noted as considerable achievements by the company.


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