Win-win opportunity as Optimus expands into Highlands
Optimus, the Aberdeen-based oil and gas engineering consultancy business, is poised for further expansion with the launch of an office in Inverness.
The firm is in the process of securing city centre premises that can accommodate two dozen people, with the potential to expand to accommodate a team of 50 in the coming years. It plans to open the office this summer with a core team of engineers and support staff, rising to 20 by spring 2013.
George Cunningham, recently-appointed operations director for the Inverness office, believes the move will benefit the local area as well as his new employer.
“Our aim is to build a viable and sustainable engineering consultancy business in Inverness serving the oil and gas, renewable, nuclear and utility industries, working with companies in the Highlands, as well as our existing north Sea and international business,” said George.
“Working with our head office in Aberdeen and other offices in Thailand and Bulgaria, we’re confident that we’ll bring wealth and high quality jobs to the Highlands. There is a large body of skilled and experienced engineers residing in the Highland region, who travel to where the work is on a weekly basis – Aberdeen, London, Stavanger and across the world. There’s also a pool of recently-qualified young engineers looking for opportunities to enter the energy business, develop skills and gain experience with a forward-looking company near their Highland home.
“Our satellite office in Inverness will enable us to expand our team of highly-motivated engineers; we get the resources and they get to go home to their families each night: it’s very much a win-win opportunity.”
The new Highlands office will undertake consultancy and project work, with recruitment in the mechanical, electrical, instrument, process, environmental and safety engineering, and structural fields.
It will function as an extension of the Aberdeen office, but will aim to support the buoyant Highlands and Islands industry in the medium-term as the office becomes more established.
George, who has joined Optimus from Wood group engineering, where he was engineering solutions manager, has lived in the Highland capital for more than 30 years and jumped at the chance to generate wealth in the area by doing work locally, rather than losing it to elsewhere in the UK.
“I was approached by Optimus’ directors –Ian Bell, Alasdair Reid and Karl green –who explained their expansion plans for the company, building on the sound foundation of acommon-sense approach to engineering, underpinned by a commitment to quality, delivery and commercial professionalism for clients,” he told executive.
“Equally important to me was the work attitude and level of commitment to see the company develop at a structured and deliberate pace. There is an energy and positive ethos about the company that is evident in the engineers and other people who work here, which appealed to my own instinct.
“The fact that Optimus was looking to open an office in Inverness as part of its expansion was a very happy coincidence, indeed.”
Strength to Strength
Optimus provides a wide range of engineering consultancy, including process, facilities and safety engineering, and project execution. Over the last two years, it has broadened its technical skills base to include experience that can be applied outside the oil and gas sector.
Karl, managing director of Optimus Projects, said: “the establishment of an office outside Aberdeen allows us to offer these skills more competitively to other industry sectors.
“All of our offices – including sites in Bangkok in Thailand and Varna in Bulgaria –operate off the same systems, so having an office in Inverness, remote from aberdeen, won’t be any challenge.”
The opening of the new office comes at a busy time for Optimus, which employs more than 70 people. In January, it moved into larger headquarters, Osborne House on Aberdeen’s Carden Place, from two previous Granite City sites to ensure that its expanding team could be accommodated.
In February, it revealed that it had a record-breaking year in 2011. Profits more than doubled and turnover leapt more than 80 per cent. The company notched up pre-tax profits of £900,000 in the year to December 31, 2011, on turnover of £10.5 million. In 2010, pre-tax profits were £435,000 on turnover of £5.7 million.
The company has also recently been awarded ISO 9001 certification and directors Ian and Alasdair have been short listed in the Scotland entrepreneur of the Year 2012 awards.
During 2011, Optimus worked for clients in Egypt, France, Equatorial Guinea, Thailand and Nigeria, as well as all sectors of the North Sea. It now has its sights set on further expansion –both here and internationally.
Ian, who established the consultancy in 1999, said: “Our hope and expectation is that the Inverness office quickly gets integrated into the Optimus family and that we build on our current market share within the global oil and gas business –specifically on the UK Continental Shelf, but also overseas. “Our office in Thailand is beginning to bear fruit and we see expansion there during 2012 and it really establishing itself in 2013. We’re also making tentative steps towards establishing an office in Beijing and exploring opportunities in Brazil and North Africa.”
Meet George Cunningham
George has a wide breadth of engineering and project management experience spanning more than three decades that has taken him to Canada, Spain, Norway, Australia, Russia and Kazakhstan.
He entered the oil and gas industry in 1980 as a production engineer with mcDermott at Ardersier. In 1989, he joined Mobil North Sea as piping engineer, then engineering manager working on the Beryl alpha and Bravo platforms and at St Fergus during the “dash for gas” era.
In the mid-90s, he opened an engineering company with six people in Inverness.
In 2004, George accepted an approach by Wood group engineering to be implementation manager in Aberdeen, working on the North West Hutton decommissioning project for BP.
George then worked in Moscow and Kazakhstan on the Tengiz to Novorossisk pipeline for 18 months. He returned to Aberdeen in 2007, ultimately taking the position of engineering solutions manager with Wood group. He joined Optimus in June of this year.