PCL Constructors Inc.
Hot Market. PCL fabricates pipe rack for industrial process plants.
“There is a general blurring between domestic and international projects,” says Rob Smith, president of energy, chemicals and industrial systems at Englewood, Colo.-based CH2M Hill. Citing New York Times columnist Thomas L. Friedman’s best-selling book The World is Flat, which points to the flat playing field that is evolving across expanding global industrial markets, Smith says, “The world markets are getting flatter, and it is blurring distinctions” between what is considered global or local.
One example is a chemical plant project in Singapore this year in which CH2M Hill assembled a multi-national team of de signers and engineers, with team members representing disparate regions and cultures from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. “On that project, we had people involved from six continents,” Smith says.
These days, a large-scale manufacturing project typically looks something like this: A client in North America eyes burgeoning demand in a European market; it then assembles a team of designers and engineers from several continents to build the project. The team then delivers the project using labor from Malaysia, Singapore or Taiwan, procuring steel from the U.S., Japan or Russia, and cement from China. Shuffle the players around a bit, and the formula depicts the method used on nearly every large-scale industrial process or manufacturing project taking place in the world today.
The global dynamic is changing the way contractors do business as they groom multi-lingual workforces and form relationships across international and cultural borders. “The world has gotten to be such a small place,” says Tim Gelbar, president of the industrial Americas group at London-based AMEC. “Small market fluctuations happen in other parts of the world and everyone, everywhere has to react. Everyone has to look at their formulas differently. It’s really changed dramatically.”
Those changes are rippling through several sectors. In cement production, “we are following our clients to numerous places,” says Gelbar, who notes that AMEC is providing various engineering services on several cement plant projects in the $150-million to $400-million range in South America, West Africa and New Zealand. “The cement industry has changed,” he notes. “Ten years ago, it was regional suppliers; now it is dominated by large centralized suppliers.”
Demand for wood pulp products in raging markets in China, India and Russia ripples across continents to South America, where AMEC is involved with front-end engineering on several projects, including a $750-million pulp plant, which Gelbar does not divulge the location or owner of, but notes, “The main driver for that market is coming from developing regions such as in China.”
Rising energy costs are also spurring a spate of projects as manufacturers strategize on how to cope with climbing production costs. Demand for cellulosic feedstocks for ethanol produced is gaining momentum, says Smith. “We are doing several projects along those lines for clients who want ethanol from materials other than corn, which impacts food supplies,” he says. “Many clients are making strategic realignments to use biofuels as a feedstock” in lieu of petroleum. Fertilizer producers are among those reacting to oil costs. “It used to be that fertilizer plants were built...or contractors and designers that construct the plants and factories that make everything from cars to candy bars, the ever-expanding globalization of manufacturing and industrial process sectors is shaping new markets and spurring new ways of building projects. In markets where nearly every project has an international component to it whether it be clients, labor from abroad, or globally procured materials—contractors are adopting global approaches.