Microgrids, New Projects, O&M, Plant Optimization, Renewables

Burns & McDonnell launches 1898 & Co. strategic consulting brand

One hundred and 21 years ago, Stanford-educated engineers Clinton Burns and Robert McDonnell headed east to Kansas City, Missouri, believing the Midwest and Plains offered the most open opportunity to reach clients needing large-scale power and water services.

The company now known as Burns & McDonnell has grown plenty since then, offering design, engineering and construction services for a wide variety of infrastructure worldwide. And it always focused solely on its founding brand and engineering identity–until now.

Burns & McDonnell this week unveiled 1898 & Co., the company’s first new brand ever. 1898 & Co. will offer holistic services centered around strategic consulting that helps clients navigate the technological disruptions hitting all industries, including power generation. The name is both a tribute to the company’s origins and acknowledgment that this new era is facing some of the same revolutionary pressures as the late 19th century.

Technologies change but disruption is disruption, always and forever.

“There’s a lot of similarities from what happened at the turn of the century and what we’re seeing now,” said Chris Underwood, general manager for 1898 & Co. “The name is meant to capture that.”

Chris Underwood

Lest anyone think this is Burns & McDonnell offering the same people and services under a new name, company leaders pointed that more than 100 new people have been hired in the past 18 months to fully stock the 1898 & Co. roster with strategic thinkers, developers and analysts. The new brand currently has about 250 dedicated staff with plans to continue growth.

Among the services will include cloud-based software as a service, oil and gas industry consulting, management consulting and other business optimization efforts.

The challenges where 1898 leaders see the new brand helping clients include decarbonization, digitalization and cybersecurity, among others. Some of the new hires are experts within those specific sectors such as power, while others are strategic consultants from outside sectors who can offer a wider range of opinion on projects.

“We have the ability to learn from industries that have been through this digital transformation already,” Grant Chapin, senior managing director at 1898 & Co., said. “It’s great to take those learnings and weave them in.”

The advent of 1898 would help Burns & McDonnell offer services for the entire lifecycle of assets. The new group could prove important on the front end of the projects, then hand them off to the parent firm for the engineering, design and construction phases.

Once completed, 1898 could step back in for post-construction strategies.

Most, if not all, infrastructure clients are grappling with how to deploy the next wave of technologies, whether it be artificial intelligence, machine learning or more. Grid modernization also is a key need across the board, company leaders say.

Electrification of industrial processes is also on many client’s radars, Lucas McIntosh, 1898 & Co. managing director, pointed out. And the growth in microgrids incorporating on-site power and renewables is another challenge requiring strategic problem-solving.

Lucas McIntosh

“Everyone has decarbonization goals, and that can take many forms,” McIntosh said. “There’s also microgrid justification and operating parameters. . . The economics don’t always pan out but then there are other drivers” for such projects.

Burns & McDonnell sees 1898 & Co. as a complementary service helping tackle the latest of the technological revolutions which seem to come along every century or so.

(Rod Walton is content director for Power Engineering and POWERGEN International. He can be reached at 918-831-9177 and [email protected]).