A ‘one stop’ approach to equipment procurement coupled with a commitment to innovation and engineering support has strengthened the partnership between Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) and Briggs Equipment. Importantly, it is enabling the energy giant to make vital operational savings while also adhering to health and safety best practice during the roll out of its ten-year fleet replacement programme.
One of the UK’s largest businesses involved in the generation, transmission, distribution and supply of electricity and gas, SSE also provides other energy-related services such as electrical contracting to business and household customers. Its electricity networks transmit and distribute electricity to around 3.7 million businesses, offices and homes through some 130,000km of overhead lines and underground cables.
Building an effective partnership
Briggs first worked with SSE in 2012, advising on potential safety issues with mini diggers. Although the proposed solution was not implemented, it was extremely well received and merited consideration at the highest level within the business. In the first quarter of 2015, when SSE was looking to implement its fleet replacement programme, this previous experience was a key driver behind the appointment of Briggs as its preferred supplier partner.
Darren Pooley, National Engineering Services Manager at Briggs Equipment, says: “SSE appreciated our flexible approach and, aware of our robust financial basis and the scope of our engineering services offer, it was more than happy to seek our input on replacing its fleet.
“Working with equipment manufacturers to arrive at specifications that satisfy SSE’s demanding safety needs, we procure all the required machines, taking charge of everything from invoicing and delivery to warranties and user familiarisation sessions.”
SSE’s rolling fleet replacement programme covers around 1,100 machines, from trailers, chippers and mini-diggers to excavators, oil bowsers and cable drum trailers, and is concerned predominantly with like-for-like replacement across diverse high specification equipment. To promote safety, Briggs ensured that the diggers were fitted with lift limiters, so there is no danger of them getting tangled in overhead power lines. Other enhancements include extra bright, long-lasting LED lights and safety handles that reduce the likelihood of anyone getting their hands trapped.
From 2015 SSE will replace around 100 machines a year, depending on peaks and troughs in the business, the age of the equipment, specific business requirements and plant condition and usage. Some equipment will only be used occasionally, while other machines are an essential requirement to ensure that SSE can respond to emergencies.
SSE purchases its plant and equipment outright and, prior to partnering with Briggs, Fleet Engineering Manager Martin Chiddle found himself dealing with up to 150 different companies to satisfy SSE’s safety demands.
He says: “Our work covers such a wide range of applications that it takes a great deal of time and effort to develop an understanding with suppliers. By partnering with Briggs, a specialist with all the right contacts, we’ve been able to introduce more flexibility into the procurement process while also achieving a best fit solution for our needs.
“Through one point of contact we enjoy access to multiple expert partners and everything is completed on time and with excellent attention to detail, co-ordinated through our Briggs account manager. Acting as a ‘one stop’ resource, Briggs saves us man hours and money by managing the entire equipment procurement process.”
Adding value through innovation
Early on in the relationship Briggs was able to demonstrate how its ability to innovate could help SSE meet its health and safety objectives.
Previously, SSE had transported plant items on strapped trailers, involving its operatives in extensive manual handling. Securing the straps and lashing rings can be difficult, especially on dark winter afternoons and in muddy conditions, with an increased likelihood of machines becoming unstable once loaded that can result in incidents during towing.
Working with specialist manufacturer Brian James Trailers, Briggs was able to develop a new transport solution for tracked plant. SSE was already employing the strapless digadoc trailer to move its mini digger fleet, so it was a case of modifying the design for the safe transport of chippers, dumpers and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs).
Featuring special patented cowls and front end retention devices, the digadoc trailer facilitates safe and quick loading of tracked equipment: operatives simply drive the digger up the ramp onto the trailer, secure it via tracks and a pin arm and then hook up the tailgates. This design is much safer than strapped trailers as it eliminates the potential for human error, which can arise when working with traditional ratchet straps.
In a similar vein, Briggs worked with SSE to identify a more powerful Timberwolf wood chipper to facilitate extensive rural clearing programmes. Again, the strapless digadoc trailer was modified so that these machines would fit and could be loaded and transported securely. Briggs took full responsibility for the handover and familiarisation of the new trailers, working with Timberwolf at various SSE sites to demonstrate to operatives how to load and unload equipment safely.
Martin Chiddle added: “Health and safety is at the very heart of our business and Briggs’ ability to work with the team at Brian James Trailers to develop a trailer design that would satisfy our needs for the safe transport of mini diggers and tracked plant items is invaluable. The modified digadoc trailer has proved to be of huge benefit, since we simply don’t have the in-house resources to dedicate to this kind of development work.”
Using technology to improve fleet management
One of the main issues SSE had identified during its fleet review was a lack of understanding within its depots regarding the capabilities of different types of equipment.
Briggs was able to mitigate the costs associated with inaccurate specifications by developing a bespoke solution for plant sourcing using its market-leading asset management tool BE Portal. By making sure that information relating to all of the machines procured for SSE can be accessed using this system, Briggs created what is effectively an online plant catalogue with images, detailed specifications and information on applications. This new resource standardises the purchasing process and, since specifications can be amended as required, SSE depots are finding it easier to source the correct machine for the job in hand.
In addition, 24/7 access to reliable data provided by BE Portal is simplifying equipment performance reviews for SSE’s engineering managers and empowering them to take decisions that will enhance fleet management. Through the system they can download job sheets, check service schedules and review costs, KPIs, response times and breakdowns on 1100 machines across 35 locations at any given time.
Indeed, BE Portal has played a significant role in enabling SSE to determine its equipment replacement strategy, as Martin Chiddle explains. “The value of BE Portal is tremendous. It’s become a vital business tool because it enables us to get a clear picture of how our fleet is performing. With access to up to date, reliable information we can see at a glance where we can make improvements to boost operational efficiency and implement cost savings.
“Thanks to BE Portal we can identify and acquire the right machine for the job. The system certainly saves us a great deal of time but, most importantly, it enables us to achieve the very best solution.”
More recently, SSE has called on Briggs for engineering support to ensure coverage in areas where its own engineering team might be stretched by the distances involved. With a team of 600 skilled engineers, supported by a network of regional depots, Briggs operates the UK’s largest mobile engineering workforce. Thanks to the scope of this engineering services offering and the standards Briggs maintains, SSE can be confident of providing a consistently professional level of service.
Through its partnership with SSE Briggs is standardising the procurement process and providing broad engineering coverage, both geographically and across a diverse range of equipment, while also promoting innovations that are impacting positively on health and safety compliance. Thanks to faster equipment loading/unloading, reduced downtime due to an improved service response and the achievement of the right solution first time, Briggs is helping SSE to generate key efficiencies and reduce operational costs. As a consequence, the energy giant can focus on its core competence – the cost-effective supply of energy to homes and businesses throughout