The merger of Scorpion Engineering Construction and D + D Construction in 2015 brought over 85 years’ shared experience in the agricultural buildings construction industry under one roof.
Two years later and the two brands are finally now under one physical roof too, as they moved into their fully self-supporting office situated on the Glynde Estate in East Sussex in November 2017.
With an operational hub now established to service the area, both Scorpion and D + D customers can walk through the doors of the modern converted cattle building (if they haven’t been distracted by the views from the car park) to discuss a broad scope of infrastructure developments with the integrated team.
Building on both Scorpion and D + D’s unique strengths and experience, the new office is not only a commitment to customers in the South East but will also enable clients to access a complete range of construction solutions from basic barns to full turnkey projects.
To create a new environment for the two companies, Glynde was carefully chosen as the ideal location from which to service the ever-growing customer base across Kent, East and West Sussex, Surrey and into Essex.
“The new operations base is part of our strategy to invest in the area,” explained Andre van Heerden, managing director of Scorpion Engineering. “While South East operations had previously been conducted from head office in Marlborough, Wiltshire, our success in the region has meant we needed a more central base to cater for the demand.”
An integrated team
Heading up the office and first to take on the newly created role of regional manager is Kim Fernandes, who joined Scorpion earlier in 2017. As senior project manager for the company’s extensive £3 million turnkey project at the Rathfinny Estate in Alfriston, Kim has spent the previous seven months managing the complex construction of the new winery to the highest of standards for the Sussex sparkling wine producer.
“When Scorpion decided to consolidate with D + D I was appointed regional manager,” said Kim. “The team working down here includes both Scorpion and D + D personnel; we have been able to integrate and are working well together. I will be overseeing all the projects within the area and making sure all customer requirements are met.”
Joining Kim in the new office is Matt Wickham, the son and nephew of the original founders of D + D. Although it is now a trading division of Scorpion, D + D proudly retains the huge customer base it built over the 47 years of trading in the area and Matt remains at the heart of the operation to ensure that customers receive the of quality of customer service the family firm has always offered.
“Although we are now a divisional brand of Scorpion, D + D is very well known in the region and in the industry so it was important that customers continue to see us as D + D. By keeping the brand alive we are still able to service our original customers as D + D but with the added benefits that teaming up with Scorpion can bring,” said Matt.
Pooling of resources
As well as offering the same level of service to both customer bases, the union has enabled the two firms to provide customers with a better market place offering. In the past D + D has been limited to dealing largely with smaller agricultural livestock projects and general storage buildings and Scorpion has generally undertaken bigger projects, such as grain stores and cold stores, but now these are being combined and offered under the combined banner.
“D + D customers still have access to the service they have always received but being under the Scorpion umbrella, with its more cost effective and efficient in-house systems, means they will get better value for money and the opportunity to opt for a more complete service as well,” said Matt. Long gone are the days where the two firms would have been competing for the same work, and the pooling of resources is set to have a profound impact on the progression of D + D.
“D + D have the opportunity of strong growth ahead as they now have a ‘big brother’ behind them and can take on larger projects,” said Andre van Heerden. “On its own D + D didn’t have an inhouse design office, or engineers, but now they have access to five designers, two engineers together with the requisite administration.”
Developed from the understanding of how best to service the agricultural industry in today’s highly regulated environment, with the ever increasing the need for administration, the combination of the two brands, which have been owned by the Stubbings Group since 2008, has also helped D + D overcome some of the difficulties of being a small business in a market place where red tape has become so prevalent.
While D + D are set to gain from this business infrastructure, Scorpion will benefit from the many years’ shared experience working in what can sometimes be a challenging but rewarding industry.
Limiting the amount of downtime is a vital aspect of project management when working within the agricultural sector “It can be difficult managing a building project adjacent to an existing farming operation,” said Kim Fernandes. “We recognise that the farming operation cannot stop for construction but because we have so much experience in the agricultural sector we have the capability of managing sites while the everyday farming operations go on around us.”
Quality brings customers back
Follow up servicing and dedicated after care has ensured that many customers return for smaller long-term maintenance works, such as recladding or new roofing, and with the new permanent office base and integrated team, both brands are in a good position to further develop these post-project relationships with their valued clients.
A combination of providing good support after the project is finished, with a developed understanding of customers’ requirements, a hands-on approach and a drive to complete zero-issue projects has contributed to the high levels of repeat business enjoyed by both brands over the years.
Oliver Good, MD of Scorpion’s parent company, Stubbings Group said: “The farming community takes a long-term view on their investment strategy and if they are willing to invest in their infrastructure we aim to deliver a good service and really high-quality product.”
With around 60% of current business originating from previous customers, the consistently high level of construction quality has also brought back customers who have tried other brands with limited success.
“A few weeks ago, I went to see a customer who has two Scorpion buildings and the third building, the newest, was from another firm,” said Andre van Heerden. “The customer approached us to construct a fourth building for them because although the other firm was cheaper, the building which is now only three years old but looks the same as our buildings which were erected 15 years ago.”
The crucial part in determining the quality and longevity of any building is down to how it has been erected and the materials used for its construction. To retain control over these factors, Core Steel, a steel fabrication workshop in Hereford, was set up under Scorpion ownership to supply steel for both Scorpion and D + D projects.
“The establishment of the Core Steel fabrication unit is an important part of Scorpion’s strategy to provide customers with an extra level of service,” said Oliver Good. “The ability to supply both brands from our own internal fabrication unit is really positive because we can be responsive to the market place, something which is very important when dealing with the agricultural community who sometimes require a quick turn around.”
Retaining control over the materials, servicing customers more efficiently under one roof and ensuring there is limited reliance on third party sub-contractors is the recipe which is setting the Scorpion and D + D brands apart from other competitors who simply provide a construction management service.
With an increasing number of customers looking for a one-stop-shop approach, the ability to keep as much of the process as possible in-house is now enabling the integrated brands to provide full turnkey construction solutions.
Historically Scorpion and D + D were limited to construction of steel frames and cladding. But after Andre van Heerden joined Scorpion with extensive contracting experience, the company now offers complete service for customers who are too busy to source services from several different companies for the planning, groundworks, foundations, or electrics and specialist parts like cold storage.
“Every customer is different. Some want to do half the job themselves and other customers don’t even want to see the building site,” said Matt Wickham. “Having the ability to deliver projects which suit a range of customers’ requirement is what sets us apart and why D + D and Scorpion are better operating together.”
While the two brands have not forgotten that there is still a market for smaller projects, a sector which has formed D + D’s core business over the past 47 years, the full turnkey project solutions will now be offered as standard but clients can then choose if they wish to manage a part of the project themselves.
“This turnkey approach means the whole aspect of the job is under our control and we don’t need to rely on external contractors,” said Kim Fernandes. “With the Rathfinny Estate’s winery project, for instance, everyone is working to our pace, our procedures and our programme time so the whole process is more reliable.”
Bespoke offering for vineyards
As well as developing this complete turnkey project approach for the region’s agricultural sector, now with the country’s growing viticulture sector and the company’s successful development and construction of Rathfinny Estate’s winery, Scorpion is currently developing and rolling out a bespoke offering for vineyards looking to invest in wineries, bottle processing and storage facilities.
“Using the £3 million Rathfinny winery project as our flagship, we are taking the turnkey solutions in the winery industry to the next level,” said Andre van Heerden. “We have various consultants who have worked on the Rathfinny project who will continue to work with us so we can offer technical expertise, construction and funding as one solution. We will be able to advise on what equipment is needed, how to go about obtaining funding and we can then design the building based upon specific requirements.”
This strategy is certainly working, and with its strong brand name and ability to demonstrate a high level of quality construction work at Rathfinny Estate, Scorpion has already received two other strong enquiries from this sector.
Scorpion considers its good relationship with its main subcontractors hugely important. Working closely with Hi-Span, Finn Industrial Roofing, Wedgewood Groundworks and Hawes Building means that Scorpion’s clients benefit from a trusted supply chain. This enables Scorpion to operate on turnkey projects with total confidence. Customers are assured that Scorpion has the very best team to deliver high quality projects.
Farmers keen to invest
Despite looming uncertainties relating to Brexit and agricultural subsidies both Scorpion and D + D have seen that farmers are still keen to invest in construction in the South East.
“Global commodity prices are fluctuating at a far greater level than ever before,” said Oliver Good. “Being able to store grain, for example, and choose your moment to sell is vital to maximise revenues. Good infrastructure, such as modern farm buildings, protect investment and are a vital part of the modern farming business.”
With the number of projects now escalating, the two firms have increased the services on offer, growth is certainly on the cards. According to Andre van Heerden they have “already seen a 40% increase in turnover in the agricultural sector alone” with evidence suggesting this figure “will increase year on year”.
The South East office is currently undertaking five projects in the region, six are also scheduled to commence before Christmas. 2018 is looking better than ever for both companies with turnover expected to double next year.