AEMT - Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades

25 July 2019
Deritend crystallises path towards nationwide Centres of Excellence.
Celebrating their coming of age, MD of Deritend, Richard Hale, and Regional Director, Mike Smith met with the Secretary of the AEMT, Thomas Marks, to discuss the culmination of many years hard work. Their plan for establishing a nationwide network of ‘Centres of Excellence’, crystallises in their new southern facility in Luton.
2019 marks a “coming of age” for Deritend, as they celebrate 121 years of operation. Why 121 years? Well perhaps a quick (simplified!) history will help answer this question:
It was at the turn of the last century, in the midst of the second industrial revolution when electricity, petroleum and steel had already started transforming the industrial landscape; overtaking the benefits steam, coal power and iron had brought beforehand. The year is 1898 and Mr. Henry Shoolbred is brought to a town called Luton to apply his electrical engineering skills to a lavish garden party for a local brewer. The town relied on older technology, but had a thriving manufacturing market, and it was at this point that Mr. Shoolbred saw the potential for electrical work in the city and set up several companies to support the revolution.
When Shoolbred Electrical Company was established in the 1930s as a limited company he had already improved many of the local factories with electric lighting and machinery, including the automobile manufacturer Vauxhall. 
Some years after Shoolbred’s death, his companies merged with a company called Midland Electric Installations (MEI). Meanwhile, a stamping plant called Deritend established itself in a historic area of Birmingham, which later came to the fore in 1958 when it acquired the MEI Group, formed out of Shoolbred’s former companies – and now we see where the name Deritend comes from! 
At the turn of the millennium, Richard Hale, then general manager of the Midlands branch in Wolverhampton, put together a team for the management buyout of Deritend Electro-Mechanical Services. Under this new leadership Deritend went back to being an independent engineering company, directed by keen engineers, who understood the industry. 
The proof is in the pudding; since the buyout the group has grown, acquiring complimentary companies on the way and streamlining their services to work more efficiently. Collectively the company now has over 150 staff with over 3,000 years of experience built up between them. I asked Richard what he feels is behind the success, “We are a people business and our engineers and staff are some of the best in the business. I was once told another key to success is three-fold; to know the people within our customer’s business, to understand their business and processes, and to have the technical expertise to support their business needs. This mantra has put us in good stead!”

Moving into the southern region’s Centre of Excellence

“Today, there is a feeling the company has reached a coming of age,” Richard exclaims. The carefully curated range of services acquired over the years, is now being consolidated under one brand, and crystallised into three centres of excellence servicing the North, the South and the Midlands.
So far, over a one and a half million pounds has been invested in the southern service centre, where I was lucky enough to meet Richard and Mike for a tour: 
The impressive 20,000 square foot facility has been fitted with two 20 tonne cranes, 10 metre high doors, and a 1MW, 800 Amp test bed. The Luton site is located only 4 miles from the old works and sits right on the brand new 11a junction of the M1 motorway. The open plan space has allowed them the freedom to choose the best layout to operate from. To streamline production, several bays were purpose built to include, decontamination, cleaning, painting, curing and burn-out ovens. Easy access to stock went along the front wall, close to the exit. Running from right to left the facility is divided up as follows: mechanical machining shop, unloading area, job cages, rewinding, and finally testing situated close to a second exit door. 
From the steam cleaning bay, wastewater filters through a pipe, which connects to a series of water butts designed to separate oils and greases from the water. “It’s a surprisingly simple, but effective design we found on YouTube!” explains Mike. The filtered oils are then returned to a trusted handler so that they can be re-purposed in the economy, satisfying their ISO 14001 environmental accreditation.
The new home comes after 60 years situated at their old facility. Deritend is well known for the longevity of staff staying with the company, with recent recognition being given to 4 members of staff reaching 50 years of service. Moving was an emotional farewell to a well-known home for the company. 
“Involving the staff at this stage was important” explains Mike. “In order to get all 50 staff invested in the change, we wanted to get them involved from conception. We organised a site visit before construction started so they could see the space for themselves. At which point they were asked for their input, via a ballot box, on how they would like to see the facility laid out.” 
Moving into the facility was no easy task either. Going from the habitual routine in a well-known home, to a new facility can trouble the keenest worker! “We’re a service company, and so keeping our services running as normal while we moved required some strategic planning,” explains Mike. “Firstly, we focused on getting the cranes, ovens, cleaning, painting, shot-blasting bays, and offices installed. Once the infrastructure was in place, we continued working between both sites for 3 months while we moved parts across area by area.” 
“There’s no doubt it caused some disruption,” Richard admits, “but we managed our customers expectations, who understood the move meant a better service in the long run.” 
Many of the routine jobs come from water utilities. With very similar parts, and several jobs in at once, a method was required to keep the jobs separate. Part of their quality control has seen the installation of ‘job cages’ to ensure parts from disassembled machines are enclosed together, reducing the risk of separation and contamination.
It is now the turn of the Midlands to see investment. Having recently acquired the whole two acre industrial estate in West Bromwich, and planning approval for a further 10,000 square foot extension, Deritend intend to promote all its service offerings from their midlands world class service centre.
“Our investment however is not just in bricks and mortar, plant and equipment” Richard explains, “we have a committed strategy in the investment and training of our people and are currently undertaking a recruitment drive for a further 6 apprentices starting in September.”

Working with Water Utilities

Deritend were working with one water utility company in the midlands where 3 pumps supply water to the homes of Wolverhampton. Deritend engineers were in the middle of a planned and scheduled maintenance on one of the pumps. Unexpectedly, the second pump failed, leaving only the third pump left to supply all 40,000 homes with water. With spare parts for the equipment usually taking 8 to 10 weeks from the OEM, a project can take several months to complete, leaving Wolverhampton’s residents and the utility company in a very precarious situation. 
To fix the pump as quickly as possible Deritend were commissioned to take the failed pump to the midlands service centre and work on the machine round the clock. The failed and damaged components were re-engineered, rather than ordering new parts from the OEM, reducing the projects timescale by weeks. After 6 days solid work, the pump was back with the customer supplying water to homes again. What else? They also upgraded the efficiency of the machine, helping the water boards to reduce their carbon emissions.  
Demands from OFWAT have made water companies look more closely at the efficiency and carbon emissions of their machines. This is down to the fact the water is supplied for public consumption, and they want lower prices for their water. For industry, it’s different. “The demand for the same level of service on motors in industry has been slower,” Richard mentions.  “We are, however, starting to see a demand from food and beverage companies.” The recent demands on the industry to reduce their plastic addiction, has also led to scrutiny on the pollution and emissions the sector gives out. 
In reaction to the demands from OFWAT, Deritend developed a fixed asset monitoring system. The system has already helped Deritend’s customers to increase the efficiency of their dynamic pumping systems, reducing CO2 emissions. As demand for water increases, or tariffs change, the system can recommend the most efficient use of pumps 24/7. This serves as a condition monitoring platform, providing a range of data which can later be used to further improve the pumping systems. It won’t be long before similar systems will be common place in most sectors, whether public or privately focused. 

The Industry

I asked Richard what opportunities he sees in the electrical and mechanical engineering trades, “Looking at our industry now, the one area I feel we fall short on is the value we place in our skills. In Deritend, we have over 3000 years of shared experience between our team. We have the skills to keep the ‘wheels of industry turning in an emergency’, such as the Wolverhampton pump failure. In one year, we will have saved our customers countless hours of lost production time. In other sectors, such skills would be charged out at many times the price we find ourselves competing against. We should be promoting the high standards we work to and showcasing the emissions we are helping the industry cut. In time, the UK will start seeing the value we have in our fantastically talented engineers.”
Next year, Deritend will be celebrating 75 years of continued membership, in one form or another, with the AEMT. It’s rare for companies to be around for so long, so they are among a select few! 
The company was founded in the second industrial revolution and has survived the third revolution. Steam power went to electrical power. Electrical power was empowered by microchips and computing power. Now we face the internet of things, artificial intelligence and global markets. We are in a very similar period to that of the 18th century entrepreneur Henry Shoolbred. He pounced on the opportunity to invest in the second industrial revolution, and we should be doing the same with the fourth!


In this story: DERITEND (SOUTHERN)
27 Scott Road, Sundon Park, Luton, LU3 3BF
01582 729301
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