In the 1940s at the height of World War II, with a shortage of materials available, substitute components were sought out, often at a cost-saving. Quality was sacrificed for survival, ironically, at all costs. American engineers at General Electric were called upon to address the challenges, crafting the concept of modern-day value engineering.
Today, the system is still employed by those at the project design stage looking to improve efficiency while decreasing operating costs. The problem many companies face when trying to implement the method, is that a hyper-focus on cost-savings invariably leads to a decrease in quality.
With value engineering, one could argue that while designers and engineers are motivated to solve a problem – money no object – value engineers are then called in to scale back the materials and components in an effort to complete the job at the lowest cost. The functionality of the design remains, but what about the quality. In the race for efficiency, are we diluting effectiveness?
Jason English is all about engineering value. As the Chief Ecosystem Officer of CG Tech, an investment holding company with interests across the Middle East, South Africa and Europe, English is also currently the CEO of Al Laith, a CG Tech subsidiary specialising in design, engineering and contracting services in the UAE, Oman and Saudi Arabia. English’s unique leadership methods in management are leading to big contracts and awards. Fostering a purpose-driven approach within the group that nurtures engineering value, as opposed to value engineering.
For Jason English value engineering isn’t a process he necessarily subscribes to, feeling it can be somewhat of a hindrance to innovation. Subscribing instead to the mantra that value is created through imagination, the South African entrepreneur reasons that if you’re focused on cost, you’re ultimately sacrificing imagination and creativity.
“I believe that starting with a smaller budget forces people to be more creative from the get-go. This is why many smaller businesses can outperform their larger corporate competitors. Constraints power ingenuity,” explains English. “But there’s an important caveat; you also need to be willing to give your people the space and time to innovate.”
With over 25 years’ experience in the industry, Al Laith has become a reliable name throughout the Middle East region, providing services to a number of high-profile clients. Since becoming part of CG Tech in 2016, the company’s capacity to engineer value has only been strengthened.
“At CG Tech we believe in disruption through innovation,” says Niall Carroll, Chairman of CG Tech. “Using the latest digital technology to power our portfolio is what drives us.”
For Al Laith, this has meant embracing technology, such as ground-scanning, IoT, digital assets and 3D animations to help advance their rapid construction capabilities. It’s not only about the hard technology but also the softer innovations like online training and cloud collaboration. Their expertise and willingness to take on larger more complex projects has seen them land exciting contracts, as well as repeat customers.
Driving their success is an environment that embraces communication and a failure-tolerant approach to innovation.
“Failure is okay, even encouraged, as long as we learn something from it,” says Jason English.
Whether it’s building Field Hospitals to help deal with the COVID-19 pandemic or landing a crucial contract from the UAE government to build two mega stages for the upcoming Dubai EXPO 2020, Al Laith’s reputation as a capable executor and technology-driven partner proceeds it. In 2021 the company was awarded The Best Supplier of the Year at the Middle East Event Awards, beating out stiff competition within the highly desirable category. The team went on to be nominated as a finalist for the ‘Digital Transformation of the Year’ category by Ventures Connect at the Construction Technology Awards, beating out industry giants SNC Lavalin, Aldar Properties and Eucom for the award.
“We were delighted to receive the award for Supplier of the Year and humbled to be nominated against such industry-leading companies for the ‘Digital Transformation award. At Al Laith we really work under the guise that everyone’s input drives change. After a difficult year for everyone it was great for the team to get the recognition they deserve,” says English.
For Jason English, the psychological safety of the team should always be paramount.
“Ensuring your people feel valued and protected, means they will inherently be more productive and focus on the job at hand. We’ve set our goals and the team is pushing hard to achieve them” notes English, adding, “It’s all about taking care of your ecosystem, instilling a culture where the success of one, equals a success for all of us.”
Protecting your ecosystem and in turn embedding a solid company culture within your organisation, is so important to English that he has decided to pen his thoughts in a book on the subject. Due out later this year, “The Oros Effect” taps into Jason English’s distinct brand of leadership. One that promotes openness and creativity in order to engineer value.
“Basically, my Oros is my ideals and values. The key to success lies in being able to effectively transfer this Oros to every member of my team, and for them to transfer their own Oros to theirs,” says the 43-year-old.
It’s a concept that’s being successfully applied throughout the CG tech portfolio, where owner-operators of the umbrella companies make up the group’s Board of Directors. This unique ecosystem promotes mutual collaboration and development, and a collective sharing of success.
For Al Laith, this has included relying on a fellow CG Tech company, The Virtulab to help power its digital tools and technologies. As the company looks towards upcoming projects like EXPO 2020, Jason English and the rest of the Al Laith team are confident in their abilities to continue innovating and delivering more complex projects into new markets and regions beyond the Middle East.