John Holland is one of Australia’s premier infrastructure and construction contractors, and is setting its sights on constructing innovative solutions for clients across the Asia Pacific.

john holland-boss magazineJohn Holland has hit an impressive milestone: the company is celebrating 65 years of operation.

“We’re well known in the Australian marketplace for taking on complex, specialist projects, and have led the industry with creative, complex engineering projects since our inception,” said Brendan Petersen, Executive General Manager of Engineering, Technology, and Innovation at John Holland. “Our 65-year history—which includes iconic work on the Alice Springs to Darwin rail project and new Parliament House—is a testament to this.”

“Looking back on that kind of time is humbling,” David Banger, CIO, shared. “Our history proves that we’re always looking for a unique and improved way to handle our client’s projects.”

Marking this milestone has also given John Holland’s executive leadership an opportunity to plan bigger and better for the future, and cutting-edge technological innovations lie in store for each one of the company’s unique projects.

Technology for the Future of Construction

An overarching theme to John Holland’s improvements for the future is to simplify the technology its employees use on a daily basis. Going mobile and paperless are both priorities to provide a better employee experience as well as provide increased productivity and visibility for clients. These changes show how simple things can have a big impact.

One of the ways the company is succeeding at this is the introduction of its Project Pack Web, a web-based application that has digitised over 50 processes used on a daily basis. Now daily site diary, purchasing, field data entry, safety, and many other processes are available across all desktop and mobile devices, and enable employees to upload notes and images from the field.

Project Pack Web has allowed the company to dramatically decrease the amount of paper used to conduct business, and employees can now access 80 to 90 per cent of relevant information for their job on just one device. And as 80 to 90 per cent of the company’s employees spend the majority of their time on job sites, the technology is revolutionising their work days, inspiring employees to innovate more and more in the way they work.

“We’re looking at how we can use the Internet of Things and the major disruption revolutions in technology to benefit our clients and employees. We put our employees at the center of everything we do, because they are the key to our success. Initially we will continue to leverage new trends in mobile and big data, and can continue to innovate these platforms going forward. Our employees will have the tools they need to be great at their jobs,” Banger said.

John Holland is also creating innovative solutions for its clients. Sundrop Farms, a leader in sustainable farming in Australia’s arid climate, awarded the company a $150m contract to expand its operations at Port Augusta. John Holland has been tasked with designing and constructing a climate-controlled glasshouse facility that will produce tomatoes, no matter the outside climate — driving the company to use next-gen thinking about how these projects can be delivered.

john holland-boss magazineSo what makes this project fascinating? Saltwater and sunlight. The nearby seawater is the source of water for this sustainable farming facility, meaning solutions are required to desalinate the input to produce fresh water for the crops. The project is expected to be fully functional by the end of 2016.

“Seasons for growing fresh crops in this part of the country can be easily interrupted,” said Petersen. “This large state-of-the-art greenhouse facility—the size of 40 football fields—is powered by 26,000 mirrors that generate heat and steam for growing. By integrating several different types of technology, the Sundrop Farms project will deliver one of the most unique sustainable farming solutions in Australia.”

Other trends and projects the leadership team at John Holland are excited about include smart cities, the widespread use of electric vehicles, and virtualisation — specifically the use of videos to socialise knowledge across the organisation. Both men shared that in order for the company to stay ahead of the curve, implementation plans will start sooner than later. The company is looking to build on its relationships with tech leaders and participate in think-tanks to influence the agenda on a broader scale.

“We want to help the industry transform through technology leadership. We can undertake highly technical projects by using leading technologies,” Banger said.

Passionate Employees
john holland-boss magazineThe exemplary work for which John Holland has regularly been recognised—including the NCE/ITA International Tunnelling Contractor of the Year award for work on the Northern Sewerage Project— wouldn’t have been nearly as successful without the dedication of John Holland’s staff.

“A lot of people aspire to work for John Holland,” said Petersen. “People like to be a part of the process of providing solutions to tough problems and following up by completing those projects; this is the basis of employee engagement here.”

“We’re in a unique period of our history at John Holland,” Banger shared. “A person interested in joining our company has a range of options across departments and projects. We’re looking to expand and grow a lot in the next five years, and we’re looking forward to the team we can put together to accomplish these goals.”

What’s Next?
john holland-boss magazineJohn Holland will continue to evolve going into the future. Its acquisition by China Communications Construction Company International Holdings (CCCI), a large international infrastructure and construction company based in Hong Kong, has given the company enormous opportunity to export its expertise, which the company will do by leveraging its heritage and strengths from the past and setting a solid strategic plan for the future.

“The Australian marketplace has its ups and downs, so the secret to successful and sustainable operations in our sector is diversity. Our diverse engineering skills across the infrastructure, building, and rail sectors along with the global reach and resources of our new parent company gives us the diverse platform we need to build the John Holland business both in Australia and other selected countries around the world,” said Petersen.