Bouygues Energies & Services is a global leader in energy, digital and industrial transformation.
Specialising in the design and build of cleanrooms, data centres, and industrial facilities through innovative design, automation and digitisation the company offers clients solutions that can perform complex processes and meet performance demands while increasing productivity, efficiency, and profit margins.
We spoke to Ahsan Zafar, Senior Process Engineer to ask about their innovation ambitions in the city-region, UK and beyond.
Ahsan, what does your role entail as Senior Process Engineer?
As a senior process engineer, I am involved in multiple projects in different industries, i.e., life sciences, pharmaceuticals, and industrial, through the different stages of the project lifecycle. We engage with our clients either very early at the feasibility / basic engineering stage or at a detailed design stage. At the early development stage, we assist with master planning site operations, processes, and procedures. From a detailed design stage, I work with a multi-disciplinary engineering design team to detail and optimise a complete process design.
Working in the process discipline, we are also responsible for bringing together other engineering disciplines, i.e., controls, EC&I, mechanical, and architectural, to ensure that the process requirements are not compromised.
You set up your operations in Manchester over fourteen years ago – how has your workforce and the scale of your work here changed in that time?
Bouygues Energies & Services has a long-standing history of over 50 years. As the business grew, the company relocated from Glossop (a town in a High Peak) to Manchester. Being based in a big city offers us better opportunities for development and growth. Collaboration, networking, and innovation are not only the buzzwords here in Manchester. The city is a brilliant example to showcase this happening, and we are lucky to get access to and participate in these conversations, platforms, and so on. Also, the city allows us to draw into the largest pool of talented professionals, from students willing to learn to the senior level. And we cannot forget the geographical location, engineering heritage and infrastructure of the city.
What are the key sectors you operate in and how does the location of your Manchester HQ help you to stay connected to them?
As a business, we operate in industry sectors covering a wide range of markets from Pharmaceutical, Lifesciences, and Biotechnology to Aerospace, Semiconductor, and Data centre around the UK.
Manchester, with its strong industrial heritage, continues to lead the way when it comes to business development and growth. The city is home to some of the leading industry companies, corporates, SMEs, and start-ups, alongside academia and other institutions.
Manchester's geographical location is ideal for the business. Having HQ in Manchester allows us to be close to our customers and partners in the Northwest region. Its central location and infrastructure provide network links – motorway, airport, train – to rapidly access any UK region. Besides its geographical location, Greater Manchester offers a perfect environment to network and collaborate with the companies operating in our business areas and beyond as well as allowing us to be reactive to our clients and the markets needs.
Being central has allowed us to develop a strong network of subcontractors and vendors who we work with to deliver high spec design and build projects. Having this strong network over the past 10+ years allows Bouygues Energies & Services Contracting to be efficient and deliver fast-tracked projects.
How do you collaborate with other stakeholders in the city-region to advance your innovation capabilities?
The Manchester ecosystem - businesses, from start-ups to corporates, academia, science institutions, and other stakeholders, strive to level up the innovation for a more sustainable future from all sectors. From sustainability and industry 4.0 to people and skills, several forums and networks coexist across the Manchester region, and we are involved and collaborate.
As an example, we are a member of the Manchester Advanced Manufacturing Forum. The forum provides all members a platform to share and drive the best practices around Talents, Digitalisation, ESG, Innovation, and R&D.
Likewise, we joined the Northwest Manchester Business Alliance and participate in the discussions around People (for female business leaders and potential future leaders) and Skills, Rising starts, and Diversity drives (promote form minority communities).
In addition, to reinforce engineering capabilities, we are working closely with universities – the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University – where we advocate the importance of STEM to young generations and offer work experience.
Being involved in all the above forums has really propelled our ability to innovate as we have access to the best technology and people in the region.
The transition to Smart Energy is a key priority for Bouygues Energies & Services, could you explain for those that aren't experts, how it will revolutionise sustainability?
Smart energy is the using technologies to increase energy efficiency alongside investigating alternative energy sources for multiple applications. With the change in geo-socio-politics, it is now as important as ever to make our and our clients' energy more efficient, cost-effective, and sustainable. The fuel lifecycle is seeing increasing costs from sourcing raw materials to taxes at the point of use. We collaborate with our clients to improve their processes and systems to be more efficient by using new technologies, i.e., stand-by mode, using variable frequency drives, and looking at alternative sustainable fuel sources such as hydrogen fuel cells. With the momentum, we hope to influence change within the wider society.
We’ve recently published a report that explores Greater Manchester’s capabilities in robotics and autonomous systems - how does innovation in this area help your work in renewables?
Robotics and automation are a critical part of what Bouygues Energies & Services does and is driven by Industry 4.0, innovation and digitalisation. Partly a result of regulatory changes following covid and pre-covid efficiency increases, we have been working in this market to find the latest robotics and autonomous systems to make our clients manufacturing and operational spaces as efficient and safe as possible. We have worked on large end of line autonomous packaging systems and robots as well as autonomous machinery in high-tech high valve pharmaceutical plants. We are noticing the shift of the market more and more towards robotics and autonomous systems and are investing heavily to find the correct solutions for our varied client markets.
What are the key milestones you hope to achieve in the near future?
What is a common myth about Smart Energy that you would like to dispel?
Smart energy is a converging trend that will accelerate the adoption of energy management solutions. Within the markets we are involved, we experience a different level of knowledge and understanding of the benefits of smart energy. So, it varies from industry to industry. We strongly believe that accepting and transitioning towards smarter operations will lead to energy efficiency increases, cost savings, and more sustainable working practices which will benefit the market in the long term.
Finally, what do you love most about living and working in Greater Manchester?
Living and working in Manchester allows me to learn from the wealth of engineering knowledge and history available, whether it be in my personal or professional life. Manchester was the world's first industrial city. From its towering mills, bustling warehouses, and crowded streets came new ways to live, work and think that transformed lives in Manchester and across the world.
Manchester is also a great ambassador for being a multi-cultural / multi-faith vibrant city with the best sports, food, and entertainment that really helps in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
Being in this environment constantly challenges me to learn, develop and grow to reinvest in the region.