If more specialist contractors were like this one, Britain's construction industry would be the best in the world. Billington impresses clients with its engineering know-how – it won seven awards last year, and its work on the Xscape project at Castleford, Yorkshire, was a lesson on meeting new design challenges. The firm has recently built on its engineering foundations. It has set up electronic data interchange systems to shorten lead times for its works package, and a flexible lotting system to make sure it fits in with the site programme. Add to that the firm's impressive health and safety record – its facility at Yate has gone more than 1000 days without an incident – and the fact that it was the first structural steel specialist in the UK to achieve the ISO 14001 for environmental performance and you begin to see why 90% of its jobs are for repeat clients.
'We loved Billington's submission, in particular its focus on safety, its impressive case study and the commitment of its staff'
2nd - Wilson James
Wilson James has as reputation as one of the smartest firms in the business – confirmed by its coming top in our client questionnaire. It invests no less than 3% of its turnover in training. However, the initiative the firm has taken most pride in over the past year was an occupational health facility for site workers at three schemes in the City and Heathrow airport, which resulted in the detection and treatment of workers with potentially fatal illnesses.
'Some cracking landmark projects, including the impressive logistics consolidation centre at Heathrow airport'
3rd - Hills Electrical & Mechanical
This company must be doing something right: profit has rise more than fivefold in the past year, and turnover has broken the £100m barrier. The question is, what? One answer is the company's adoption of its "First Choice" system for managing its supply chain; the key to this is the appointment of a few large wholesalers who then organise the rest of the chain. This means that Hills deals only with three or four companies, rather than the 30 that it used to.
'Recorded a big boost in profits, and many of us had had good experiences of working with this firm'
4th - Cementation Foundations Skanska
Cementation's year got off to a strong start when it won the largest-ever foundations contract in Britain, at the Channel Tunnel Rail Link's Stratford station. It isn't difficult to explain this success: the firm's investment of £7.2m in new plant is a clue, as is its development of a unique movement joint that gives three dimensions of freedom to concrete walls. However, the achievement that the company is most proud of is the halving of its accident statistics.
5th - Bourne Steel
This specialist that has anticipated many of the trends in the modern industry. It signed its first major partnering agreement six years ago and has since restructured its business around long-term relationships with major contractors Kier, Sir Robert McAlpine and Skanska. And it is perhaps anticipating a future trend by extending ownership of the company to its employees. The result of all this is that profit has risen more than 250% in the past year.
6th - Rock & Alluvium
A combination of high-powered IT investment and close attention to the development of its staff has made Rock & Alluvium, the piling subsidiary of Galliford Try, one of the industry's top performing specialists. The commitment to its staff is evident in the fact that employees stay with the company for an average of more than nine years. These twin priorities underpin a near fivefold growth in operating profit over the past three years.
Building Awards 2003
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Specialist Contractor of the Year