Image credit: CDM Smith

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players to Watch Out

Yielding flying success within the sphere of engineering consultancy is never a piece of cake. Having an eye on what the top players in your niche are doing may probably help you to come up with some fascinating ideas!
By Kaley Nguyen | 12 min read
on April 27, 2020
Image credit: CDM Smith

Undoubtedly, the engineering sector is a complex field of expertise, which is concerned with the optimization of complicated processes, systems, or organizations by developing, improving and implementing integrated systems. Taking a closer look, engineering is involved in multiple aspects of human lives, even on the smallest things such as heating our homes to keeping us connected to the internet.

Taking on significance, coupled with the exponential growth of supporting technologies, the engineering industry, especially the field of engineering consultancy, is on the meteoric rise. Should you also be a player within such potential yet competitive business landscape, let's take a look over the list of top engineering consulting firms as follows.

#1. WSP USA

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players To Watch Out - Fig 1
Courtesy: WSP USA

Based in New York, WSP USA, formerly WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, is the U.S. operating company of one of the world's leading engineering and professional services firms -WSP. Their expertise lies at the intersection of the infrastructure and the skylines they have helped to shape from coast to coast.

Since 1885, WSP USA’s teams have made a name for themselves with their creative, comprehensive yet sustainable engineering solutions for worldwide clients – whether to meet the rising demand for power, maintain secure and reliable energy supplies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions or to deliver future energy schemes to help create a thriving living environment.

Equipped with an intimate understanding of local intricacies, world-class talent as well as proactive leadership, WSP USA plans, designs, manages and engineers long-lasting and impactful answers to uniquely complex problems across multiple fields from buildings, transportation, mining, power and energy to oil and gas.

With more than 7,000 people in 100 offices across the U.S, WSP USA finds the local-facing strategy to be one of the crucial keys behind its success. “Our business model is to be local with clients,” CEO Greg Kelly explains. “We hire locally, and strategically locate offices where we can be active and involved in those communities.” This involvement includes contributing more than a half-million dollars nationally in 2018 to support a host of charitable organizations, such as the March of Dimes, the ACE Mentoring Program, the Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity, according to the firm.

When it comes to its long-term growth strategy, the ever-changing transportation market remains a key focus for the firm. “It’s not so much where the ball is now, but where it will be in the future,” explains Jerry Jannetti, a WSP senior vice president. Since there is a shortage of staffing at public-sector transportation agencies, he shares, "they look to us to not only develop a design in accordance with plans and specifications but also provide value-added services, such as finding ways to help contractors meet or improve upon project schedule."

#2. Kimley-Horn

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players To Watch Out - Fig 2
Courtesy: Kimley-Horn

With over 3,000 staff members in more than 80 offices across the U.S., Kimley-Horn is one of the nation’s premier planning and design consulting firms. Founded in 1967, the firm offers full services in a wide range of disciplines, be it aviation, environmental services, ITS, forensic engineering, land development, landscape architecture & planning, land planning, parking, energy, roads and bridges, transit, transportation, water resources, wireless communications or urban redevelopment.

“Creative yet practical solutions, a sense of urgency, and a focus on bottom-line value” – they are exactly what Kimley-Horn works on and also what makes them outstandingly flourishing. “Kimley-Horn asked me to dream. No consultant had ever asked me to do that before. They said, 'Think about how you could handle your job more easily and effectively.' We talked about it for ten or fifteen minutes. ... With that question, Kimley-Horn helped more than this project; they helped all of Orange County's incident response team.” Adel W. Malek, Traffic Management Team Leader California DOT.

Also, people are at the heart of Kimley-Horn’s steady growth over the last several years. “Our growth is almost exclusively organic,” shares Aaron Nathan, the firm’s senior vice president and Texas regional leader. “The vast majority of our project growth comes from existing clients, who make up more than 90% of Kimley-Horn’s business.”

Whereas the potential design market across Texas and surrounding states has further bolstered the firm’s performance, what truly makes Kimley-Horn unique is that its design portfolio is driven by its employees’ interests and specialties. The engineering company allows its “practice builders” to seek out opportunities in new or existing service areas. “So, the markets that we serve are as much a function of where our practice builders take us as they are strategic firm initiatives,” Nathan explains. “There are certain markets that we’re interested in pursuing and targeting, but we need practice builders to lead us into those things.”

With such an impressive growth model, Kimley-Horn invests heavily in training and mentoring young professionals over four or five years, and then they are ready to find new clients and opportunities on their own “How are we able to grow without an acquisition or a merger? It’s because we have invested in people who are now stepping up into practice roles and serving their own clients, both existing and new,” Nathan says.

Furthermore, over the recent years, an increasing number of the college graduates that Kimley-Horn is hiring are women, who are also their focus on recruiting, developing and retaining in the practice. Although the board of company leadership discovered that the retention rate for women was lower compared to that of men, they still make huge efforts to increase such a figure so that “ultimately more women can contribute in the way we know they’re capable of doing and are already doing.” “It’s not a social effort, it’s a business-based reason to develop our practice builders, and more and more so, those practice builders are women,” Nathan explains.

After all, it’s Kimley-Horn’s striking approach of ‘Practice Builders’ that steers success!

#3. Terracon Consultants

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players To Watch Out - Fig 3
Courtesy: Terracon

With headquarters in Olathe, Kansas, Terracon is a 100-percent employee-owned consulting engineering firm that has been evolved into a successful multi-discipline firm specializing in environmental, facilities, geotechnical, and materials services.

Currently with more than 4,500 employees in more than 150 offices nationwide, Terracon has achieved significant expansion through both internal growth and acquisitions. Such remarkable growth is mainly due to dedicated its exceptional employees who are responsive to clients’ needs, deliver quality services as well as take advantage of opportunities in the marketplace.

As a nationally known and respected consulting engineering firm, Terracon provides services on thousands of projects each year. Their long-established culture, effective systems, and stable structure empower Terracon’s teams to excel at both small and large projects. Also, Terracon serves a diverse portfolio of private and public clients. By being responsive, resourceful, reliable as well as successfully combining national resources with specific local area expertise, they consistently overcome obstacles and deliver the results that exceed clients’ expectations.

Additionally, just like the fore-mentioned engineering firms, Terracon has built a positive brand image by actively taking part in numerous community-building events – typically Terracon Foundation. The Terracon Foundation was established as the community investment arm of Terracon with a goal to reach out and become a real part of the lives of company employees and the communities where they live and work. In 2018, it made an award of approximately $104,200 in community and university grants, and scholarships.

“The recent grants awarded by the Terracon Foundation represent a variety of local needs from a diverse group of nonprofit organizations where our employees are actively involved. These range from helping to educate students in STEM careers to building and maintaining trails,” says Matt Wheaton, chair of the Terracon Foundation and manager of the environmental department in Terracon’s Seattle office.

“The grants continue our commitment to helping prepare the next generation for careers in engineering. Each grant was championed by a Terracon employee who is actively involved in the organization or university,”

#4. Jensen Hughes

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players To Watch Out - Fig 4
Courtesy: Jensen Hughes

Based on Baltimore, Maryland, Jensen Hughes establishes itself to be the leader in safety, security and risk-based engineering and consulting services, serving the most complex global projects. Since 1939, Jensen Hughes has been at the leading edge of providing various safety-centric solutions, apparently “advancing the science of safety to drive our industry forward and bring peace of mind to clients — helping them protect lives, property, and reputation."

Claimed to be "a trusted partner in protecting what matters", Jensen Hughes has expanded to operate in more than 100 countries to help meet the growing needs of their clients. Over the years and through additions of specialized, industry-leading firms, Jensen Hughes’s teams have continued to build on their core strengths in code consulting, fire protection engineering and risk analysis to now expand their expertise in areas such as forensics, emergency management, and security to better support the spectrum of clients' priorities from risk mitigation to compliance and resilience.

From airports, nuclear power plants and museums to laboratories, historic buildings, oil refineries and some of the world’s tallest buildings, they have completed tens of thousands of projects and offered comprehensive services.

Actually, their strength lies in the linkage of data and expertise across the life cycle, from failure analysis to modeling, enabling Jensen Hughes to bring forward innovative and compliant solutions that preserve architectural and design vision as well as define the critical variables for risk analysis. This shapes their code, design and commissioning approach, and since they have several team members who are deeply engaged and involved in developing regulations and codes, they are consistently at the forefront of change in setting the standards.

#5. Tetra Tech High Performance Buildings Group

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players To Watch Out - Fig 5
Courtesy: Tetra Tech

Headquartered Pasadena, CA, Tetra Tech is a leading provider of consulting and engineering services. The company has made great supports to their government and commercial clients by providing innovative solutions focused on water, environment, infrastructure, resource management, energy, and international development. With 20,000 associates worldwide, Tetra Tech's capabilities span the entire project life cycle.

Most recently, on March 5th, 2020, Tetra Tech announced to win a $125-million multi-year contract for emergency response and recovery services of the United States Postal Services (USPS). The planning support services that Tetra Tech does offer include risk assessment and hazard mitigation, toxin assessment and abatement, air pollution studies, environmental permitting and compliance, water quality analysis, and engineering design. Besides, they will provide technical support services to respond to the immediate impact of emergencies and disasters across the United States.

“Tetra Tech has supported the USPS in regions around the country for more than 30 years,” said Dan Batrack, Tetra Tech Chairman and CEO. “We are pleased to support the USPS in their emergency response planning and mitigation programs to help make communities more resilient to disasters.”

Their well-earned reputation rests on the technical expertise and dedication of their employees working together across disciplines and time zones to provide smart, sustainable solutions for challenging projects.

Tetra Tech is also well-known with its legacy of Leading with Science® which they have built over the past 50 years. The Leading with Science® campaign highlights their company’s depth of expertise, breadth of innovation, and history of putting science at the forefront of their projects. Tetra Tech also prides themselves on being home to a great number of leading technical experts in every sector and to use that expertise throughout the project life cycle.

Commitment to safety is also ingrained in their culture and at the forefront of every project. By combining the enormous resources of a global, multibillion-dollar company with local, client-focused delivery, Tetra Tech is on the way to approach their vision of being “the premier worldwide consulting and engineering firm”.

#6. Fluor Corporation

Engineering Consulting Firms Top Players To Watch Out - Fig 6
Courtesy: Fluor

With headquarters in Irving, Texas, Fluor Corporation is a global engineering, procurement, fabrication, construction, and maintenance company that aims to transform the world by building prosperity and empowering progress. Founded in 1912, Fluor has partnered with clients in diverse industries around the world to consult, design, construct and maintain their capital projects. 

As one of the world's largest engineering, procurement, construction (EPC), and maintenance companies, Fluor offers an unmatched diversity of experience along with a reach that spans the globe. For more than a century, Fluor has created countless cost-effective yet innovative solutions to address clients' business needs as well as deliver capital efficiency and project certainty.

For such enormous efforts and commitments, Fluor Corporation has received a great number of recognitions and awards - in terms of Industry Leadership, Project Excellence, Human Resources Excellence, Sustainability, Technology Innovation, Knowledge Management Leadership and even Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE).  Most recently, Fluor has been recognized by the Ethisphere® Institute as a World's Most Ethical Company® for 14 consecutive years, 2020-2007.

Obviously, this engineering consulting firm successfully accomplishes its corporate vision of being "the preferred choice in our industry through our commitment to safety, cost-competitive innovation, and execution excellence."

The Bottom Lines

If so many businesses are doomed to failure, why should yours be any different? Should you be planning to start an engineering consultancy or already running engineering consulting firm, you should also give your “child” a good reason to survive and succeed. Besides grasping comprehensive technical knowledge and management skills, getting to know what the top players in your sector are doing is also of great significance to model yourself on and create a viable roadmap to success.

Operating an engineering consultancy is already overwhelmed with several planning and operational activities but keeping your image visible online is also crucial to ignite the profitability of your business. Should you need any help with a dedicated team to get your business exposed to the digital world, don’t hesitate to get an online presence manager.

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