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Good consultants will take you out of your comfort zone

Trelawney Dampney

….on breathing a sigh of relief when finding a good consultant

Following from my last Opinion piece about some consultants treating waste and recycling projects as breeding grounds and fee-development opportunities, we have been talking over the subject within the office and outside. We have also had some interesting feedback from people breathing a sigh of relief as they realise they are not alone in feeling as if they have been dropped in the middle of a feeding frenzy and their bottom line is the main course. So I have a couple of further thoughts I did not manage to get down last time.

Here at Eco, we have a technical manager whose job it is to sort out the site design, development, planning and permitting, carrying out as much of the work as possible in-house. We bring in external expertise only when necessary and manage it tightly when we do. But, increasingly, we find that when we research a subject and seek a second opinion, we are running ahead of the people we are employing to give us advice.

This has made me realise how much and how quickly our industry is developing. No longer is the sole object of the waste industry to cram as much as possible into a hole in the ground, bury it and wander off to find another hole. Nowadays, we operate more along the lines of the manufacturing industry by recycling and making products from the materials we receive. Note that I said ‘materials’ and not ‘waste’.

Our company has raw materials delivered to it and it is down to us to find an opportunity to use them. Recycling ratios, lean manufacturing and resource efficiency have replaced compaction ratios as the measure of how well most modern waste management sites are run.

Working from a recycling base, solutions that create new products or expand existing markets give companies the edge. But the problem you can get is that, having got the edge, you are out in front. Not only of the industry in general, which is a good thing for your company, but also in front of regulators, which can be irksome, and those consultants you would normally rely on to assist in the development of the project, which is not just irksome but can be an absolute headache.

“Raw materials are delivered and it is down to us to find an opportunity to use them”

This can end up in a case not just of ‘lend me your watch and I’ll tell you the time’ but ‘lend me your watch and teach me how to tell the time and when I’ve thought about it a bit, I’ll have a stab at it’. This can be a pain when, at the same time, the regulator is not really sure whether your watch will tell the time reliably without laying waste to half the county, and so is waiting for your consultant’s report to say everything is okay before you can wind the thing up in the first place. 

At this point, the really good consultants come for a walk with you outside your comfort zone, helping you to find solutions to the problems that neither of you had until you started something new. Finding people who are able to take the holistic view of a complex site and assist you in developing it further is like finding a breath of fresh air.

Quite often these people are not from our industry. But having someone with good manufacturing experience ask you why you are doing something, and then refuse to accept “because we’ve always done it like that” as an answer, is always enlightening, if not a little shocking. However, the results are always interesting.

Trelawney Dampney is managing director of Eco Sustainable Solutions

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