When environmental consultancy SLR acquired leading process safety management company HFL Consulting late last year, the two proved a dream fit.

HFL Consulting’s team would build on SLR’s existing capability, said the latter’s European regional manager, Alan Edwards.

“The thing we like about HFL Consulting and what attracted us initially is their safety management aspect. We are environmental consultants and so this high-level strategic advice HFL Consulting offers was very attractive.

“In addition, they provide not just design and safety compliance on plant, but also focus on training and developing people to improve the management consultancy side of things too.”

HFL Consulting has a tremendous track record in relation to engineering and training services across the process industries, the chemicals, oil and gas, polymer, pharmaceutical, healthcare and waste sectors in particular.

It delivers a comprehensive set of services promoting safety and efficiency in design, operation, maintenance, modification and decommissioning of complex hazardous facilities.

Its team takes the number of staff under Alan’s supervision to 450 and the number of offices in Europe to 22.

SLR itself already has a respected presence in the field of process engineering, mostly in the thermal treatment of waste and biomass energy, so HFL Consulting’s suite of skills are a natural extension to its portfolio.

Alan said: “We have been doing compliance work for a few sectors, including food and drink, but HFL Consulting provides us with access to a much wider range of clients in the commercial, pharmaceutical and oil and gas industries.

“It’s interesting how much overlap there is between the two companies in terms of process services safety, but HFL Consulting does bring that important advisory discipline, as well as improving our coverage in the industrial sector.

“What we were really interested in was the virtual planning they do – we saw synergies, using that platform, in planning and development operations across all sectors.

“What was clear from the outset too was the cultural aspect. They are great people and very easy to get on with. They just look to do a good job and as such, they are a great fit.”

SLR had done little work in the chemical industry until now, certainly far short of what it would have liked. “We have done a lot of work regarding plant quality in the chemical industry, which is a complementary service of course,” he said, “but this provides us with a great entry point into chemicals and pharmaceuticals generally.”

HFL Consulting follows hot on the heels of another acquisition, that of mining advisory business RPA, which has its headquarters in Toronto and an office in London.

Globally, SLR now has 1500 members of staff spread across five continents – Europe, North America, Africa and Asia Pacific. While the European arm currently shoulders the bulk of the business, SLR’s operations are expanding globally by the year.

It began life as an American company called Secor, which opened an office in the UK, near Oxford to be precise, in 1994. In 2000, Secor had four offices but decided it wanted to retrench to the US, so there was a management buy-out, at which point it was rebranded SLR.

Alan said: “Growth was steady until 2007/8, when it was still mostly operating in the UK. However, businesses were then acquired in Canada, Australia and Africa, at which point SLR became a truly international business.

“It has gone from the UK being the source of 80% of its business to 35% today.”

The nature of the business has evolved too. Back in 1994, construction aggregates and waste management were key. Today there is a much wider spread.

“In Europe, around 12% of our turn-over is industrial, about 20% is oil and gas, and the rest is equally split across infrastructure domains such as power, built environment and built resolution,” he said.

“We have a deliberately broad spectrum. Each sector has a different biorhythm and all contribute to our economic performance.”