Meet Stuart Fawcett, UBY’s Sales Director for the UK
We talked to Stuart Fawcett, UBY’s UK Sales Director about what he’s learnt over his 29-year career in monitoring, testing & investigations, why he joined UBY, what motivates him and what he sees in the near future for the industry.
Tell us about your background
I’ve spent the last 29 years in construction monitoring, testing & investigations, having trained as a civil engineer. Much of my early career was in soil testing, both in the laboratory, and on-site. I then moved into geo-environmental ground investigation and consulting, and eventually moved over to construction and asset monitoring. I joined UBY UK, in January of this year, 2023.
Throughout my career, I’ve had the pleasure of working with fantastic people and on some of the biggest projects in the UK. One that will always stick with me is Crossrail, where I was responsible for developing soil testing methods that could establish important physical properties of the tunnel arisings and be compliant with the relevant international and UK maritime regulations. This was vital as the results informed the marine operator on the expected behaviour and stability of each barge of soil that was disposed of at Wallasea Island. The objective being to prevent any Crossrail barge from capsizing, which was a risk with real examples occurring internationally.
The test methods and process had to be quick and reliable – given the quantity of soil that was being produced. We spoke to a number of marine testing experts but there was not an off-the-shelf testing solution that was applicable to the soils produced by the tunnelling process, hence why we had to develop a totally new process. Engineering is about figuring out how to solve the problem. That’s what has always interested me most – learning something new and applying it.
What drew you to UBY?
UBY is driving change in construction monitoring, approaching well-known challenges with new ideas and solutions, which is very exciting.
I was drawn to the idea of an environment where you are talking and working regularly with the co-founders. UBY isn’t a start-up anymore. It’s grown a lot since it got going at the beginning of 2018, but it’s managed to retain a very close connection to our clients, where their feedback is always vital, as well as that inclusive feel where everyone’s ideas are considered, as a result, we are constantly evolving.
We also have a very mixed team in terms of age and background, with engineers, construction specialists, software designers and more – this means there is a depth of experience in construction, but also fresh thinking and approaches drawn from the breadth of expertise on board, which also very much appeals to me.
Tell us about your role as UK Sales Director for UBY
My role is about communication, sharing knowledge and problem-solving – how can we add value? It puts me in mind of a client meeting that I had years ago on a major project. It was an important meeting, so I decided I should wear a suit. I was explaining a very niche technical detail to a team of engineers to assist their understanding of the topic, so that they could make better informed decisions, etc. At some point during the conversation, the project director suddenly took more interest in the conversation and actively engaged with me – up until that point he had assumed I was just trying to ‘sell him something’ with little actual interest in his project – I never wore a suit to a client meeting again, especially one on site!
Anyway, my job is about joining the dots, understanding a client’s needs and their primary concerns and connecting that to our technical solutions, where appropriate. One part of it is keeping up to speed within UBY; our proprietary technology like the AI software embedded in the sensors is always evolving. Of course, I’m looking outwards, connecting with contractors, suppliers and projects to identify where there is a good fit. I like to get on-site as often as possible; you can’t beat it to get a thorough understanding of a project and the challenges that need to be overcome. I’m also frequently speaking to the UBY development team about my conversations with our clients so that UBY’s solutions are optimised to the needs on the ground.
It’s a cliché, but it’s fantastic to be part of a team that can really ‘walk the walk’. This was demonstrated to me when a client that I was talking to was very interested in our smart noise monitoring and digital community engagement software. However, they had a critical compliance requirement relating to cyber security, specifically ensuring that our reporting platform had a Single Sign-On (SSO) function and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). Our technical team were able to adapt the core software to respond to this requirement. We can do that only because we’re the developer, but also because the team has that tech-company ethos, where we’re open to constant optimisation about the feature-set.
What advice would you have for those who need monitoring services?
Engage early. The cost of monitoring is usually a very small percentage of the project’s overall budget, but it can deliver huge value. Working with the pre-construction and tender teams, we can help identify opportunities, proactively prevent issues and reduce risks. Early engagement allows us to advise on a specification or requirements – using our experience means this is a quick process and can help busy clients, who have many other competing demands, may be managing multiple sites and disciplines, and are often not monitoring specialists.
Ideally, I would always be involved at an early stage where I can understand the needs, constraints and programme, and then assess how we can offer the right solution. Construction is a very frank industry – and professional integrity is sacrosanct. Information needs to be reliable and actionable – honest and accurate. I believe this is key. If monitoring – or real-time monitoring – isn’t right for a project, I’m always willing to say we’re not the right partner for you on this one, but I hope you’ll consider us for the next.
What important trends do you see in the industry?
Developments like AlphaZero and ChatGPT mean that AI is on everyone’s radar now, and that’s for a reason. These tools will play more and more of a role in our lives. But it’s important to avoid cleverness for its own sake or to state that everything is all of a sudden ‘AI’. It’s always a good reality-check working with contractors. They are very practical, don’t have time for nonsense and are acutely aware of being efficient: The “So what” question is always in my mind. What benefit does a proposed solution actually provide a client?
Big data is another clear development, but the problem is it’s too big. If there are too many data points and too many platforms, data overwhelm is a real issue and then starts brings in inefficiencies. Because we are a software developer as well as a monitoring company, we have more ability to solve this than many companies, for example being able to very easily provide data direct to a client’s own reporting dashboard via an Application Programming Interface (API). The team at UBY spends a lot of time thinking about how the data is delivered and how to make it actionable, which comes back to us always wanting and encouraging user feedback.