Since Bechtel’s founding in 1898, the company has continued Warren A. Bechtel’s commitment to innovation. In the process Bechtel has not only made history, but also propelled the industry forward.
Innovating for Generations
From the moment he took over the Southern Pacific Railroad gravel pit in 1904, W. A. Bechtel insisted on learning how to operate the company’s latest piece of technology: a huge, clanking Marion steam shovel. Shortly after, Bechtel pioneered the replacement of horse-drawn freight teams with gasoline powered trucks and locomotives with chain drives. The machines were able to gain traction on soft ground, speeding up the process and reducing the project’s schedule.
During the 1930s Steve Bechtel, Sr. continued in his father’s footsteps by combining technological leadership and an innovative organization to drive the company into the pipeline industry’s top tier. Bechtel became the first company to use a sideboom tractor to lay pipe, allowing it to turn the traditional piece-by-piece method into a more continuous process that substantially cut costs.
Into the 1960s while under the leadership of Steve Bechtel, Jr., Bechtel completed Western Europe’s first international crude oil pipeline, the Rotterdam-Rhine. Shortly after in 1967, the organization completed the world’s first long distance iron ore slurry line. Construction required building a 1,200-foot suspension bridge over the nearly inaccessible Savage Rive in Tasmania.
The 1990s were a time of vast market and leadership change. CEO Riley Bechtel encouraged his colleagues to use technology to meet new demands, improve quality and reduce costs. Bechtel was early to apply the use of virtual reality outside of the entertainment industry. Without a brick in place, Bechtel engineers provided a virtual reality tour to the Dubai Civil Aviation Department executives of their new airport. Changes to the not-yet-built facility were made on the spot, saving the customer time and money.
Today, Brendan Bechtel, the company’s fifth generation of family leadership, is spurring innovation through Bechtel Innovate and the Future Fund, a $60 million, three-year investment created in 2016 as an incubator for ideas within Bechtel, specifically focused on finding and funding new, disruptive ideas. The goal of the fund was to put into practice ideas that deliver greater value for our customers and teams through safer, better, faster, and leaner execution. More than 3,000 innovative idea have been submitted, with more than 147 solutions tested and deployed on projects around the globe.
Going forward, we will continue to explore under-developed areas affecting the EPC industry’s productivity by identifying how emerging innovations can be applied or developed to provide the right resources for our customers and our teams.