CASE STUDY : Transfield - Infrastructural Strength with Cultural Glue; It May Be the Kiwi Offshoot of an Australia-Based Company but Transfield Services' Trans-Tasman Relationship Is More Partnership Than Paternalism - and the Rapidly Expanding New Zealand Branch Now Stretches All the Way to South America. What's the Company's Recipe for Growth? and What Binds This Disparate Infrastructure Services Company into a Cohesive Whole?

New Zealand Management, March 1, 2008 | Go to article overview

CASE STUDY : Transfield - Infrastructural Strength with Cultural Glue; It May Be the Kiwi Offshoot of an Australia-Based Company but Transfield Services' Trans-Tasman Relationship Is More Partnership Than Paternalism - and the Rapidly Expanding New Zealand Branch Now Stretches All the Way to South America. What's the Company's Recipe for Growth? and What Binds This Disparate Infrastructure Services Company into a Cohesive Whole?


Byline: Vicki Jayne

In Brief

* Transfield Services was established in New Zealand in 1997.

* Growth originally organic. Purchased Areva, 2004. This year, it completed acquisition of McBreen Jenkins Construction and Impact Services; it also agreed to acquire a 50 percent stake in Chilean-based Instrumentacion Y Servicios SA.

* New Zealand clients include Telecom NZ, Meridian Energy, Transpower, Vector, Orion, Auckland City Council, Franklin District Council and Transit New Zealand. Through its joint venture with WorleyParsons, it has integrated engineering and project delivery contracts with Shell Todd Services and NZ Oil Refinery.

We've hardly broached the subject of sustainability when Transfield's New Zealand CEO Graeme Sumner starts waving his arms about vigorously. Movement is required because the meeting room's over-enthusiastic motion sensor has flipped into power-saving mode and turned out the lights.

Seems timely - not unlike the company's arrival in this country as spending on power, roading and telecommunications was at the start of a steady ramp up that hasn't yet slowed. The Australia-based company has been here since 1997 and now, with some 3400 people and a presence in the electricity, petrochemical, roading, telecommunications and water industries, Transfield can boast a major role in the creation and maintenance of this country's infrastructure.

"We see a real strong demand in the power, telecom and roading sectors and no let up in the petrochemical side, so right now we're in a good spot - that gives you a lot of confidence," says Sumner.

Not surprising then that the company is in expansion mode, recently completing the acquisition of one of the Northland and Bay of Plenty regions' biggest roading businesses, McBreen Jenkins Construction. On top of last year's purchase of AC Blackmore and Waikanae-based Kapiti Roadmakers, the move has further extended Transfield's role in roading maintenance, civil construction, traffic management and professional services around the country.

And while it may now run one of New Zealand's largest vehicle fleets, 42-year-old Sumner is unphased by the prospect of going carbon neutral anytime soon.

"We have our own sustainability framework here - we're just waiting to see what the ultimate look of the carbon tax is, but we would aim to be carbon neutral in three years as a local company. We have got one of the country's largest fleets, but that is where we stand on this because it's good business. We think that it is doable, desirable and where we want to be. And people want to be part of a company that takes a stand."

Creating a structure to which people are attracted is no small matter. Finding the talent to sustain its growth is Transfield's number one issue, says Sumner.

"We spend a lot of time on it and have a very good human resources group which handles the strategic side in terms of developing and managing the pipelines."

That means planning ahead to ensure workforce requirements are in place to meet expansion needs. A recent example is the 180 telecommunications technicians Transfield has recruited out of the Philippines over the past few months. A strong relationship with company partners in Manila means some pre-training can take place before they arrive, but a lot of time and effort goes into attracting, training and cultural induction, says Sumner.

"Which also places new demands on some of our clients because they have to think about the way they contract the work and be prepared to commit long-term with either us or our competitors so we can justify the investment - and that whole change has been brought about by skill shortages."

Transfield sees itself as a very people-centric organisation and although its workforce is spread across a range of diverse projects in some 55 different sites around the country, it puts a lot of energy into maintaining its own strong cultural identity. …

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CASE STUDY : Transfield - Infrastructural Strength with Cultural Glue; It May Be the Kiwi Offshoot of an Australia-Based Company but Transfield Services' Trans-Tasman Relationship Is More Partnership Than Paternalism - and the Rapidly Expanding New Zealand Branch Now Stretches All the Way to South America. What's the Company's Recipe for Growth? and What Binds This Disparate Infrastructure Services Company into a Cohesive Whole?
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