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Interview: Investing in instrumentation

approved for pr

Dywidag Systems International has announced a deal to buy out instrumentation and monitoring specialist Datum. GE spoke to the leaders of both businesses to find out more.

Demand for instrumentation and monitoring on civil engineering projects has grown significantly over the last 20 years and the potential for further growth is underlined by the latest acquisition in the market. Geotechnical supplier Dywidag Systems International’s buy out of Datum firmly moves the former into the monitoring market and positions the latter for the next stage of growth. 

Dywidag Systems International global services president Sanjay Razdan describes Datum as the complete fit for his business. “We have recently set up a global services business following the recent acquisition of robotics business Alpin Technik but we wanted to add infrastructure health monitoring to the business,” he says.

The result was a deal to bring Datum into Dywidag’s business that will see all 100 staff transfer over and Datum CEO Rory O’Rourke take on the role of global services vice president for business development with Dywidag.

Datum was set up by O’Rourke almost two decades ago with a focus on manual and environmental monitoring. O’Rourke describes the business, based in the north west, as a one man band when he started but says he collaborated with other businesses in the market.

rory sanjay approved pr photo sept 18

rory sanjay approved pr photo sept 18

Rory O’Rourke (left) joins Dywidag Systems International global services president Sanjay Razdan as global services vice president for business development

Today it had a turnover of £11.8M for the last full financial year and works all over the UK, Ireland and the US.

“The business serves three main markets – mining, rail and construction – and has four business areas that cover monitoring, systems, survey and its data dissemination platform,” says O’Rourke.

O’Rourke says he has been approach by a number investors over the years but felt that the time was now right in order to take Datum to the next level and meet the demand of major infrastructure projects.

Dywidag started its discussions in April and the deal was concluded on 1 October. All of the company’s staff have also moved over and O’Rourke says that the business started a major recruitment drive a few months ago to meet the demands of the new business opportunities the deal presents.

“I know this business well and we have grown organically over the last 20 years to get where we are today,” he says. “But with Network Rail’s CP6 and major projects like HS2, we needed more capital investment to ensure we can meet the demands of such projects.”

Dywidag’s was not the only offer on the table, O’Rourke says it was one of six potential deals.

Razdan said that Dywidag spent some time searching for the right monitoring partner but that Datum was the best fit.

“Our aim under the new global services business is to offer clients safety, savings and sustainability,” says Razdan.

“Infrastructure is aging but it is more cost effective to maintain existing structures that to replace them, infrastructure health monitoring will allow them to do that.

“Dywidag wants to offer clients cloud-based solutions for condition-based monitoring that is based on real time rather than periodic inspection.

“Datum is already doing that and can be scaled up and grow to match our business and bring value to customers,” says Razdan.

Dywidag has high ambitions for Datum and has set a target of doubling turnover within three years and trebling the workforce in that period too.

Being part Dywidag will open up opportunities for Datum to expand into Europe and gain market share in the US and UK.

“HS2 alone has £120M of instrumentation and monitoring contracts,” says O’Rourke. “The potential is huge.

“Having the backing of a business like Dywidag will make Datum a more attractive partner to the joint ventures delivering the main civils work.”

Datum’s largest project to date was Crossrail where it delivered £5.6M of work over a number of different contracts. Network Rail is also a major client.

While the Dywidag deal will deliver growth opportunities in new markets and with new clients, there will also be benefits for existing customers too.

“Having Dywidag as a global parent will advance everything we do,” says O’Rourke. “It will add engineering experience as well as financial support to develop our research.”

Datum’s focus over the next six to 12 months is to secure a footing with HS2 work and to reinforce its existing position within the mining and rail sectors.

But O’Rourke says that the main area of business expansion will be focused on the company’s data platform. “Technology moves very quickly and the Dywidag investment will allow us to move faster,” he says. “The way we deliver monitoring data changes regularly and quickly to match the needs of customers.

“We have an in-house team of six that deliver these solutions but we are looking to expand this capability. Without the investment it would be difficult to continue maintaining what we do but the change will allow more development.”

Razdan says that Dywidag is a good fit for Datum too as it has 160 years of experience of working in the geotechnical sector so both businesses know how to bring value for the market.

“There are good synergies between the businesses and good application knowledge in both too,” he says. “The combination is good for customers.

“Adding monitoring competencies to the robotic inspection capabilities will add value.”

Razdan says that Dywidag believes that the market is moving toward smart cities and the internet of things and wants to be part of the change.

“It is just at the start and we are trying to ensure we are in the market at the beginning,” he says. “The US is ahead of Europe at the moment but Europe is following. It is going to be a real growth area.”

Razdan says that Dywidag’s global services division is expected to represent 25% to 30% of the global turnover.

Razdan describes the deal with Datum as exciting in terms of delivering on that growth aim.

“With Datum it is not just the technology that is the right fit, it is the culture too,” he says. “The Dywidag bar is a brand name like Scotch tape, so the culture of a business is important to us.

“We have been looking at potential acquisitions to bring the monitoring sector within our business for over 12 months and Datum was the right one.”



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