As supply chain disruptions threaten to shelve some projects completely, more owners are using professional services firms to help reconfigure limited staff resources and keep schedules moving forward. In a construction market where materials shortages and cost volatility are quickly becoming the norm, firms find the most precious resource is time.
With speed to market a top priority for many project teams, professional services firms must be ready whenever owners say go, says Ron Stupi, senior vice president and COO of North American building and infrastructure for Bureau Veritas, the French power, utility and environmental services firm.
“We must be prepared to execute once budgets, contractors and materials are in place,” he says. Pulling project components together under tight time frames requires flexibility on all sides—or everyone will be forced to hurry up and wait, Stupi emphasizes. On a recent project with a 40% cost increase, he says the owner’s flexibility on choice of vendors and materials helped skirt supply delays and get schedules back on track.
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“They had made commitments to financial markets and clients, but could not deliver. Our challenge was to find alternate suppliers for materials and contractors, and shift the building methods to meet their schedule,” he says. “The supply chain had many more components and moving parts to manage, creating tremendous complexity.”
This year, revenue for 2022 Top 100 Professional Services Firms increased across the board, with total revenue up by 6.9%, domestic rising 7.2% and international revenue increasing 6.2%. Domestic revenue is still 3.4% lower than pre-pandemic levels, but firms report that owners are slowly seeking more support to manage workloads.
As owners become more risk averse in an increasingly risky construction market, companies say managing supply chain complexity will become key.
“In the short term, our industry will have to deal with a significant shortage of labor, the unmet demand for materials, and of course, inflation,” says George L. Pla, founder and CEO of Cordoba Corp., a Los Angeles-based full-service engineering firm specializing in infrastructure.
In the long term, “the main challenge is to adjust to the transition from a pandemic-era to a post-pandemic-era economy,” he says. Things won’t fully return to normal, but to “a drastically different new normal,” says Pla, and owners will need to work with professional services firms to quickly adjust.
|Rank 2022||Firm||2021 Design Revenue in $Mil.||CM/PM-For-Fee Revenue||Total Revenue|
|1||Jacobs, Dallas, Texas||$10,691.3||$3,401.3||$14,092.6|
|2||AECOM, Dallas, Texas||$7,913.2||$1,278.8||$9,192.0|
|3||Bechtel, Reston, Va.||$772.0||$3,339.0||$4,111.0|
|4||Parsons Corp., Centreville, Va.||$1,259.5||$2,421.0||$3,680.4|
|5||Fluor, Irving, Texas||$3,519.6||$-||$3,519.6|
|6||Tetra Tech Inc., Pasadena, Calif.||$3,296.0||$-||$3,296.0|
|7||WSP USA, New York, N.Y.||$2,342.2||$709.9||$3,052.1|
|8||HDR, Omaha, Neb.||$2,477.1||$324.8||$2,802.0|
|9||CBRE, Dallas, Texas||$16.0||$2,508.1||$2,524.1|
|10||Wood, Houston, Texas||$2,349.8||$-||$2,349.8|
|11||Burns & McDonnell, Kansas City, Mo.||$2,126.4||$183.4||$2,309.8|
|12||JLL, Chicago, Ill.||$-||$2,070.3||$2,070.3|
|13||Stantec Inc., Irvine, Calif.||$1,774.0||$140.5||$1,914.5|
|14||Arcadis N. America/Callison RTKL, Highlands Ranch, Colo.||$1,361.1||$363.8||$1,724.9|
|15||Kimley-Horn, Raleigh, N.C.||$1,507.7||$-||$1,507.7|
|16||HNTB Cos., Kansas City, Mo.||$1,479.1||$-||$1,479.1|
|17||Worley, Houston, Texas||$1,397.5||$80.1||$1,477.7|
|18||Gensler, Los Angeles, Calif.||$1,369.2||$-||$1,369.2|
|19||SNC-Lavalin Inc., Tampa, Fla.||$951.1||$394.6||$1,345.6|
|20||Black & Veatch, Overland Park, Kan.||$1,226.7||$115.0||$1,341.6|
Managing Roles and Revenues
Looking ahead, Top 100 execs see opportunities for professional services firms to increase market share, especially in the areas of design and construction.
Of this year’s Top 100 firms, 91 firms had higher revenue this year than last year’s equivalently ranked firms. Median revenue increased 7.45%, to $46.85 million, from $43.6 million reported last year.
With increasing role distinctions placed on construction management (CM) versus program management (PM), CM revenue numbers are now parceled out to examine short- and long-term trends (see chart, p. 57). Total CM revenue is $7.72 billion.
Total PM revenue increased 5.73% to $16.23 billion this year, from $15.35 billion last year. Domestic revenue rose 2.94%, to $11.53 billion, and international revenue increased 13.01%, to $4.69 billion, from $4.15 billion last year.
For many firms, partnerships with subcontractors and suppliers have been crucial to growing their capabilities and remaining competitive under current market conditions.
On top of what IPI owner and President Kevin Ball calls a “rigorous subcontractor pre-qualification process,” he says that “the current market has encouraged us to focus more intently on our relationships with engineers, suppliers and contractors.”
The firm brings partners in earlier for value engineering as well as to optimize schedule and materials availability.
“Today, our conversations with clients focus more on project planning and delivery options to deliver the best results in the current environment of labor and supply chain shortages,” says Ball.
Capacity and financial strength are more important than ever when selecting subcontracting partners, firms say. Partners need tangible resources to navigate supply chain issues, and firms need to be flexible to attract top talent.
“Owners with projects requiring large teams cannot staff up quickly enough, especially given the tight labor market we’re experiencing,” explains Scott Weaver, chief people officer of Cumming. “Where clients were once looking for one to two full-time employees, we are being asked to provide four or more.”
Weaver says that he sees the trend continuing over the next three years. “Until owners have worked through their backlog of projects, they are putting increased pressure on the market and demand for top talent,” he adds.
|Rank 2022||Firm||2021 Contracting Revenue in $Mil.||Design Revenue in $Mil.||CM/PM-For-Fee Revenue in $Mil.||Total Revenue in $Mil.|
|2||AECOM, Dallas, Texas||$6,270.1||$7,913.2||$1,278.8||$15,462.1|
|3||The Turner Corp., New York, N.Y.||$14,283.1||$-||$162.9||$14,445.9|
|4||Jacobs, Dallas, Texas||$-||$10,691.3||$3,401.3||$14,092.6|
|5||Fluor, Irving, Texas||$8,810.2||$3,519.6||$-||$12,329.8|
|6||Kiewit Corp., Omaha, Neb.||$10,679.3||$996.0||$-||$11,675.3|
|7||STO Building Group Inc., New York, N.Y.||$9,510.0||$-||$-||$9,510.0|
|8||The Whiting-Turner Construction Co., Baltimore, Md.||$8,353.5||$-||$12.3||$8,365.9|
|9||DPR Construction, Redwood City, Calif.||$7,491.7||$-||$-||$7,491.7|
|10||Skanska USA, New York, N.Y.||$6,371.8||$-||$162.3||$6,534.1|
|11||Clark Group, Bethesda, Md.||$6,295.4||$-||$-||$6,295.4|
|12||Gilbane Building Co., Providence, R.I.||$6,074.8||$-||$125.2||$6,200.0|
|13||PCL Construction, Denver, Colo.||$6,046.3||$-||$-||$6,046.3|
|14||Tutor Perini Corp., Sylmar, Calif.||$5,938.7||$-||$-||$5,938.7|
|15||Hensel Phelps, Greeley, Colo.||$5,510.0||$-||$-||$5,510.0|
|16||The Walsh Group, Chicago, Ill.||$5,272.7||$-||$-||$5,272.7|
|17||Clayco, Chicago, Ill.||$4,984.0||$-||$-||$4,984.0|
|18||JE Dunn Construction Group, Kansas City, Mo.||$4,917.9||$-||$-||$4,917.9|
|19||Holder Construction, Atlanta, Ga.||$4,906.0||$-||$-||$4,906.0|
|20||Mortenson, Minneapolis, Minn.||$4,830.8||$-||$7.1||$4,837.8|
Alfred Mackey, PFES senior vice president of operations and strategy, believes that 2022 will be a redux of 2021 “regarding access to capital and managing materials constraints.”
“Our [strategy] since 2012 has been to establish strong and dynamic partnerships across industries,” he says. “Due to the influence the coronavirus had on the global marketplace, we have continued to mature our procurement strategies and build progressive relationships relationally as well as have production slots within international manufacturers.”
Not a part of the 2021 redux is the $1.2-trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which has become an X factor in the industry’s competition over limited resources.
Firms anticipate that public agencies will need more third-party professional services firms to help them manage the workload. But even firms that don’t complete work tied to infrastructure spending are preparing for a surge of activity across markets.
IPI is not currently in the public infrastructure market, “but we do expect that activity to put additional pressure on industry supply chains and labor availability, both at the management and craft levels,” says Ball.
Anser Advisory CEO Bryan Carruthers expects growth in third-party agency CM and PM to continue as owners of capital projects and programs are faced with staffing issues and will need to turn to consultants to assist across the program lifecycle.
“We’ve seen strength across sectors within the Southern California market where infrastructure projects have been in the works even prior to federal funding due to [the] 2028 Olympics,” he points out. “We have also seen strong demand for services within aviation nationally after a slight slowdown due to COVID-19 and across other transportation sectors.”
The infrastructure funding law “will undoubtedly lead to a greater volume of federal and state programs and projects to pursue,” says Bryan Ritch, marketing director at PMA Consultants LLC. But “timing and location of funding could prove challenging for strategic planning,” he says.
“We are communicating with current infrastructure clients and researching other needs to prepare for increased work,” Ritch continues.
Staffing the programs and projects is another challenge for professional services firms,” he says. In his opinion, the “spending bills are extensive in their scope” but “vague on understanding the federal, state and local funding distribution process and channels.”
At Hill International, the company is being asked to increasingly take on an advisory role for agencies in its core transportation business sectors of roads, rail, bridges and aviation.
“We are talking to them about how they can mature their organizations and prepare for the [infrastructure law] money,” says CEO Raouf Ghali.
Agreeing with the assessments of many other Top 100 firm executives, he says he also believes that supply chain delays are here to stay—at least “for a little while longer.”
To avoid industry-wide bottlenecks, professional services firms will need to be equally pragmatic when it comes to phasing for program management and construction management projects. Says Ghali: “The sheer amount of funds that may be coming down in such a short time is not something that has been seen for quite a few decades.”
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