ILF Consulting Engineers celebrates 50 years of existence and activity in 2017. With a proven track record of more than 6,000 completed projects in over 150 countries, ILF ranks among the world’s leading engineering firms in the areas of its core expertise: Oil & Gas; Energy & Climate Protection; Water & Environment; Transport & Structures. On the occasion of the jubilee we met the Group Management Board (GMB) members who revealed the highlights of their activity, current issues and future prospects.
A jubilee usually offers many thought-provoking and interesting lessons. What are the ILF Group activity highlights and key figures so far?
Klaus Lässer, Chief Executive Officer: We are extremely pleased to celebrate this year our 50th anniversary; as a company, over the course of time we have developed in a sound and proper way. We are happy with what we have achieved. As you can imagine, 50 years ago my father started this company as one-person company and now we have reached 2,000 headcounts with a good global footprint. Despite the current harsh political and economic situations, in many parts of the world, we have a good global footprint in 30 countries, and we are also active in different business areas. This helps us mitigate risk and still develop the company in a good and proper way. We owe this success to our employees, who have done a tremendous job over the last years in developing the company, in exercising good projects, and at the end of the day also to our clients who continuously entrusted us with new projects. We try our very best to come up with their expectations.
As we know, organic growth is a top focus for CEOs across all industries, including the Oil & Gas sector, but cost reduction is just as important. How do you manage to reconcile the two challenges?
Klaus Lässer: Regarding growth, maybe we are a bit different than many of our competitors in a sense that we do not seek growth per se; we do not have growth targets in ‘x’ years. That is maybe also because the company is still family owned, there are no shareholders whom we have to prove certain track records, a growth history per se. What we want to achieve is to reach critical size in all different locations where we are present. There we want to be able to handle several projects simultaneously.
In terms of costs, we again do not at all believe in terms of this sort of ‘hire and fire mentality’. What we really try is to seek a constant sustainable development of the company so we are ready and prepared even to dive through certain period with less economic growth. We want to keep competence on board because we want to be well prepared, once the economy picks up again.
What do you consider the biggest threats to developing your business and ‘dangerous territories’? What actions do you plan in order to address these threats?
Klaus Lässer: There are challenging political situations in several parts of the world where we are operational. Hence, we carefully observe the political situation as well as the security situation in these areas. Moreover, we also monitor if there are potential business partners or projects under some embargos. In case of changes we have to take the necessary measures to adapt to the new surroundings. And of course, we need to remain flexible to adapt to such changes. So far, we did ok in the past and we shall continue our utmost to do that also in the years to come.
What are the most important areas of growth for ILF in the coming years?
Klaus Lässer: As we are speaking, our entire industry is changing in the sense of digitization, new services emerging, other services changing. We are strongly pursuing innovative ideas in order to offer a better quality for our clients. As an example, integrated design tools are a strong theme that will be even stronger in the future. This sort of ideas we want to pursue as much as we can. In addition, we are of course constantly observing new business areas, where we can also develop our company.
Do you intend to increase your presence and expand the activities in Romania and/or in the European Region in the future?
Andreas Ramharter, Executive Vice President, Regional Group Director: Of course, this is a target for us. We will remain present in the oil and gas business in Romania but besides that ILF group is also offering services in many other business areas.
We are structured in four main business areas (Oil & Gas; Energy & Climate Protection; Water & Environment; Transport & Structures – editors’ note), we are operating in the infrastructure business, we have strong footprint in the motor business and we are also dealing with the energy and renewable energy business areas. All these sectors are of interest to us and we want to expand in all these areas in Romania. So, we have strategic consideration how we can contribute more in the future in the infrastructure business, how we can conquer the energy business in Romania and of course we also want to expand our footprint in entire Europe.
As low oil prices take their toll on both industry profits and spending projections, most companies are turning to technology and innovation to reduce costs and increase capital efficiency, while aiming to meet increased future energy demand in a low carbon environment. What are your short-term/medium-term targets and projections?
Andreas Ramharter: Our portfolio is well known in Romania, as I have already explained we are mainly focusing on services for the oil and gas industry, but besides that we are also present in other areas where we can offer interesting services to the market. The oil and gas business is generating some 40-50% of the group’s turnover so other business areas are quite important for us.