Creating Innovative HVAC and BMS Engineering Solutions

Value Added Engineering

In only a few short years, Value Added Engineering Group (VAE) has quickly grown to become one of Australia’s most innovative and customer service focused HVAC and building management systems (BMS) engineering services providers. The company consistently pushes the boundaries of what can be accomplished on complex, often remote, worksites.
VAE has rightly developed a reputation for providing engineered HVAC solutions that work as intended – the first time. The group offers custom design, fabrication, commissioning and warranty for heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems for commercial and industrial applications.

Through the process of modularisation, VAE Group has been able to create consistently high-quality solutions for clients across Australia and beyond. The company designs and manufactures interconnected HVAC systems in-house in its Brisbane workshop before the pretested units are shipped to site.

The company’s core philosophies of innovative delivery and old-fashioned customer service are apparent in each project it completes across a broad range of industries and applications, providing clients true value for money and substantial investment returns.

The experience of the highly skilled people of the company means that VAE Group is able to provide capabilities that span the HVAC and energy services spectrum. The group offers a diverse range of services to markets including commercial building, light industrial, major infrastructure work, as well as complex projects in the mining, oil and gas fields.

In order to meet the needs of each client with efficiency and effectiveness, VAE Group has developed a suite of seven service areas providing services designed to support and serve clients through the entirety of every project. The group’s specialties include automation, construction, asset management, commissioning, mining, oil and gas, engineering and energy services.

Value Added Engineering began operations when Ben Carter, Value Added Engineering’s chief executive officer, purchased a small HVAC service provider named Enertec in 2011. With a desire to grow the company beyond what it had offered up to that point, Ben saw the opportunity to develop Enertec into a major contracting service company in the air conditioning industry.

“I bought the company in 2011 and, at that time, the turnover was about 1 million dollars,” Says Ben. Since that time, Ben has guided the business to a 350 per cent growth rate year on year, developing high quality services and a diverse portfolio of clients across Australasia. “That trend is set to continue into next year and, by the end of next year, we should be turning over 75 million dollars.”

In June of 2012, Ben acquired Value Added Engineering and took the unusual step of renaming Enertec to Value Added Engineering Group to better reflect the goals of the company.

Very early in the development of the company, VAE Group made its primary priority to develop comprehensive health and safety guidelines. These were designed to ensure that each employee can work safely and return home at the end of a hard day’s work. “We did that for a number of reasons,” says Ben. “One was to create a new system for a new company that could be implemented from day one. So we created our own health and safety system, which we got third party accredited through SAI globally.”

Even before the company experienced its most significant growth, Ben wanted to ensure that the appropriate safety procedures were in place for employees. With a lost time injury rate of less than 0.5 (number of lost-time injuries per million hours worked), Value Added Engineering group can boast an average well below industry standard that is a testament to the group’s ongoing commitment to safety in the workplace. Also, by taking work off the construction site and back to the controlled environment of the group’s workshop, many of the safety factors of a construction site can be eliminated or closely controlled or eliminated entirely.

Ben identifies the clear philosophy of the company, with its focus on quality products, customer service and clear differentiation in the industry, as one of the primary drivers of the group’s incredible ongoing growth. “Our philosophy was simple: to give good service and make sure the systems actually work one hundred per cent correctly and as they are intended to.”

In order to meet this goal of providing high quality, dependable solutions for clients, VAE Group continues to invest heavily in mechanical, electrical and energy systems engineering. “That was the strategy we employed. To heavily engineer our jobs, as opposed to being the cheapest price with the cheapest margin. We can still get a competitive price and, by doing that, we have been able to reinvest that money into the business.”

Through the optimisation of existing design, VAE Group has been able to engineer solutions that are optimised for each individual client, often saving material and labour costs that are not needed to produce the systems the clients’ require.

In response to clients’ needs, Value Added Engineering has carefully developed a diverse suite of complementary services and seven businesses have now been introduced under the VAE Group banner.

In construction, the company recognised a lack of expertise in automation across the industry. “We started an automation division and realised that if you didn’t commission the building correctly, then you couldn’t get it to work efficiently,” he explains. “So, the engineering business was transferred to construction to meet this need.”

The automation division designs systems that control a number of functions and services, including lights and lifts. This development then led to the creation of the organisations commissioning business and so on.

In response to the mining boom taking place in 2011, the company developed services aimed at the mining and oil and gas industries. It developed a number of contracts in Papua New Guinea, providing valuable experience working n remote conditions on complex projects.

“We differentiated our offering in PNG by modularising everything,” says Ben. “We took complex air conditioning and mechanical systems and put them into modules that could be connected like a Lego set and fit into standard shipping container.”

The group was able to create the innovative solution by taking all the expertise from the remote site application, where labour is expensive, and bringing it back to the controlled environment of the workshop in Brisbane. The shift provided a natural efficiency gain and allowed the company to compete globally with other groups from China, the Middle East and Korea.

In more recent times, the group has developed both a service and an energy business, providing support for VAE Group’s contracts. “When we service our clients now – once we’ve built the building, put the automation system in, and commissioned it correctly – then the key for the customer is for us to make sure it’s maintained that way,” Ben says of the group’s commitment to providing quality solutions and continuing support for each client.

Part of the ongoing maintenance solution the company has developed for clients’ properties is the innovative Bitpool and Bitpool Bureau software application suites which are designed to monitor, diagnose and report – in real time – the “health” of client properties, promoting efficient operation and significant cost savings. “It allows us to take the data from the building into our new energy bureau, and we can slice and dice a building in a million different ways to make sure it’s always running at its optimal performance.”

To meet the needs of its significant financial growth, the company has also undergone impressive physical growth, expanding from operating the two-person office in early 2011, to employing more than 150 highly skilled people today. “In 2013, we grew to 100 employees and this year we’re sitting at about 130 employees and have combined all of our office into one 2000 square metre building in Brisbane consisting of about 1000 metres of workshop and a 1000 metres of office.”

Value Added Engineering Group is always on the lookout for highly skilled workers and thinks strategically about what each employee bring to the table, both in terms of skills and experience and relationships. “We’re always looking at attracting people that have new relationships to help us find new customers, and that might be in different fields or different geographic locations.” These relationships the group has developed have aided in driving the company’s continued success in the industry, with customers as well as with suppliers and sub-contractors.

Value Added Engineering group is well known throughout the industry for making a point of paying suppliers and subcontractors even before the group itself has been paid, often ten per cent earlier. By doing so, VAE Group has been able to attract the best quality contractors at the best price, providing a significant advantage.

The group has also made a point of managing job sites very tightly in order to maximise efficiency and productivity, providing greater profit for subcontractors and significant savings for clients. “Our philosophy is that we want everybody to win: our customers, our suppliers and ourselves.”

Ben’s “everybody wins” philosophy means that happy customers and happy contractors create greater success for everybody involved in a project. “Most importantly, it comes back to customer service. I call it good old fashioned customer service like people used to do before technology took over, and there are still people out there who are prepared to pay for that but, if they pay for it, you have got give it to them.”

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January 18, 2019, 3:33 AM AEDT