Executive Hire News › Archives › March 2015 › Executive Report : Powerful performance
Executive Report : Powerful performance
Alan Guthrie reports on power generation equipment hirer, Generator Power, that is steadily expanding its national network.
Many reasons lie behind the steady rise in demand for electricity. Households contain a greater number of appliances that need to be powered and charged, and as business premises have installed items like air conditioning equipment and cooling systems for IT rooms, as well as manufacturing plant and production facilities, increasing strain is placed on the supply infrastructure. This has created a growing need for temporary power equipment for emergency situations and planned maintenance, as well as for the normal electricity supply requirements for users in construction and other industries. It all adds up to strong demand, and Generator Power, which claims to be the country’s largest independent specialist hirer serving this market, has expanded steadily to meet such requirements.
The company currently has eight depots nationwide, with its head office on an industrial estate in Normanton. It was founded in nearby Leeds in 1997 by MD Steve Cardwell, who had previously held sales and management positions with other power generation hirers.
“I saw an opportunity to start my own business, and it took me two years to raise the necessary finance for an initial fleet of 42 generators, which I calculated was the optimum starting level. Originally, the staff comprised just me and a fitter, but we quickly outgrew the premises and moved to Normanton in 1999. The operation today occupies four large units on the estate, covering 25,000ft2 on a three-acre plot.
“We have grown year-on-year. Our annual turnover to 31 October 2014 was £23.4m, up from £18m the previous year. We have concentrated on maximising efficiency, ensuring we deliver everything a customer needs first-time and charging sensibly for out-of-hours callouts and additional services. Every generator hirer is offering similar machines, but it is our level of service that differentiates us and which customers appreciate.”
One factor helping raise efficiency, he believes, is the fact that the fleet comprises almost exclusively Atlas Copco generators. “When we founded the business, it coincided with the launch of the QAS range and we were amongst Atlas Copco’s first customers for it. We haven’t looked back since. We bought 170 machines of various capacities worth £3.5m last year, including new QAS 60 models of 60kVA, and we were also the first to add the QAC 1250 model in 2012, a very quiet unit with a reliable Cummins engine, and housed in a 20ft container.
“Standardising on one brand means our field engineers are thoroughly familiar with the machines and they invariably have the right component with them if repairs are needed. We like the generators because of their reliability, low levels of noise and emissions, and their compact footprints enable us to load more on a lorry, again increasing our efficiency. The latest machines are also very fuel-efficient, which more customers are looking for.”
The fleet currently stands at more than 1,200 machines, comprising Atlas Copco models from 20kVA to 1250kVA. 10kVA units from BGG (UK) are also offered. For substantial power requirements, the larger models can be linked and synchronised, which is a more manageable arrangement on site and simplifies delivery and installation compared against much larger generators. The fleet also includes bunded fuel tanks, chiefly from Western Global.
In addition, Generator Power fabricates its own specialist products in a central workshop and engineering facility at Normanton. These include secure containerised models, called Powersafes, to prevent fuel theft and vandalism, as well as self-contained sub-stations, known as ‘packaged subs’, incorporating step-up transformers to delivery high-voltage supplies. The transport fleet includes specialist vehicles for making deliveries in hard-to-reach locations and adverse conditions. Amongst these are ‘go anywhere’ Mercedes Unimog units and a number of converted four-wheel drive snow gritting trucks that have been fitted with flatbeds and Hiab cranes by the company itself for emergency callouts in wintry weather.
“We have always targeted a broad range of customers, and this diversity has helped us maintain healthy business levels,” said Steve Cardwell. “Construction accounts for approximately 25% of our client base, which also includes utilities such as power and water companies, manufacturing and industrial premises, telecommunications providers, public service radio networks, hospitals and facilities management companies.”
Generator Power employs 140 staff, half of which are based at the Normanton headquarters. In addition, it has depots at Warrington, Bowburn which serves the north east of England, Kendal, Hitchin, Port Talbot and Shotts, half way between Glasgow and Edinburgh. “We recently extended the yard space at Normanton, reclaiming nearly an acre of waste ground next to our offices. Our ambition for the next two years is to grow business in the south of England,” said Steve Cardwell. “We have opened a facility near Reading to support existing customers working in the region, and we are already looking for larger premises to cope with demand. We might also establish a presence near Birmingham.
“We continue to expand our fleet, having already purchased another tranche of generators ranging from 20kVA to 100kVA from Atlas Copco in the first quarter of 2015, worth approximately £1m, and have another to a similar value scheduled for later in the year. We have a very flat management structure with only four departmental heads, and we are able to make decisions quickly about purchases and future plans. We can seize opportunities as soon as they arise, and we are looking forward to another period of continuing growth.” •