AEMT - Association of Electrical and Mechanical Trades

28 May 2020
Stephen Morrison, newly appointed MD of Quartzelec Limited, responds to some questions for the AEMT Journal
Earlier this year, AEMT Member, Quartzelec, promoted Stephen Morrison of the Rugby based HQ team to Managing Director for Quartzelec Ltd. The role was previously held by Daniel Laval who continues as Chairman of the Quartzelec Group of Companies.

Originally joining the business in 2013 as Business Unit Manager for Quartzelec's Hamilton Operations, then later as Regional Director, Stephen brought with him a wealth of experience of the building services contracting industry having held senior positions with national M&E organisations. 

In 2019 Stephen was promoted to MD of the Contracting Services operations of Quartzelec, before taking the helm of the total UK business in February of this year. Stephen now has day-to-day management responsibility for developing both the UK Rotating Machines and the Contracting Services business. As well as his role as Chairman of the Group, Daniel will retain responsibility for the international Rotating Machines businesses.

“Quartzelec are focused on implementing effective succession planning across all areas of the business, ensuring we are ideally placed to continue to build both our UK and expanding international operations,” stated Daniel. “Stephen has done an excellent job in developing our Contracting Services offering into a significant UK business that operates efficiently and continues to win significant and prestigious contracts. He will now apply his expertise to continue to progress the Rotating Machines business; allowing me to focus on strategic international development.”

Stephen added: “Daniel has entrusted to me a great team and a strong, viable and well-respected business. We will continue to build an enviable reputation as a competent and dependable provider of independent engineering solutions; one that is responsive to customer needs and delivers real value to our growing customer base. The continued development of our people - our greatest asset - and their welfare, remains high on our agenda, as this positive focus impacts on everything we do.”

Stephen answered some questions for the AEMT Journal earlier this year:

What are your key plans for taking the business forward? We continue to look for growth in our key market sectors; Marine, Renewables, Utilities and Rail are developing well for us alongside our continued established presence within the Power Generation, Oil & Gas and Metals & Mining sectors. Also, through leveraging our client relationships we can offer full access to our extensive product and service capabilities.  Outside our traditional UK centric customer base, the Middle East and Asia businesses are experiencing real growth and we have ambitious plans to increase our profile in both North and South America.  We will also focus on continuing improvements in efficiency and productivity through a collaborative environment within our business units and with our customers.

How have you moved from being a 50m to a 74m turnover company over the past five years? The two key prime drivers in Quartzelec’s expansion have been organic growth, and management led strategic decisions to invest in new areas and markets particularly in the expansion and upgrading of our overseas operations both in terms of infrastructure and in key recruitment. Whilst we seek growth, we are not driven by turnover. We are more focused on long term relationships with our customer base within profitable markets and developing and delivering a team of people that can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and safe operation of their businesses.

I firmly believe that thanks to strong leadership, our dedicated and knowledgeable workforce of over 600 and a positive, ‘can do’ attitude all combined with unparalleled customer service and use of innovation – has enabled us to achieve a £74 million turnover, sustain UK and international growth and build a well-deserved reputation as a cost effective, independent provider of electrical engineering services. 

Another strong contributory factor is our celebrated and somewhat complex heritage which has enabled a unique expertise. Part of our long-term strategy has been to empower our people to operate independently, enabling them to always consider, prioritise and thereby meet the regional needs of our customers. We continue to extend our enviable reputation as a competent and dependable solutions and services provider, that’s responsive to customer needs and delivers real value to our global customer base. 
 
Do you see any key opportunities / obstacles for the sector? Any business is only as good as the people who work for it. As with a lot of different industries there is a lack of skilled and experienced resource available. Internally we look to develop and support our own, as we continue to train and develop our people; implement succession planning, recruit where possible and nurture apprentice intake - which are our lifeblood and future. Whilst areas of UK manufacturing and certain areas of traditional engineering have declined over the years, there are also new, exciting emerging markets that can benefit from the skills, experience, manpower and resources that we can strategically deploy as we look to target worldwide for business opportunities.

Having opened the doors to your Rugby-based rotating machines workshop in 2013, what changes have taken place there since? Having a purpose-built facility allowed us to expand our previous capability, be more efficient, offer varying services, and directly support the growing and changing needs of our customer base. Since 2013 we have invested at the Rugby site specifically a further £2.5 million across a range of technologies, systems and facilities. This includes new manufacturing equipment for Quartzcoil – the Micamation taping machines and the Vincent semi-automatic Roebel Line and Loop Winder. A new coil forming machine was also installed and our presses converted from steam to electric. 

Within the rotating machines service business; new lathes have been purchased, an outside storage area installed and a mezzanine floor added to bring additional office space closer to the workshop. Investment is currently ongoing in upgrading the kitchen and canteen areas with a more modern and fresh feel and electric car charging points have all been installed. 

Of course, this is not the extent of the investment - across the Quartzelec Group, other business units have also seen significant investment including the addition of a £450k laser cutting machine at our TS Metals business and our increasingly busy Middle East workshop has recently undergone a full test bed upgrade.

Which areas of the business have seen the biggest growth? We have seen significant growth across our business units both in the UK and globally. 

Several of the operations that have contributed significantly to the business and are key to our continued growth and expansion are Condition monitoring (critical for any operation that want to better understand and closely monitor the performance and reliability of the electrical systems it has deployed.)  There are also a number of  other specialist products such as Terminal Boxes, that have undergone significant development so that they meet the changing industry for safer, more robust and more reliable solutions that can be specified and delivered to rigorous technical specifications and be used in some of the harshest and most challenging industrial environments.  Specifically though, we have strong autonomous business units continually honing their relationships with their regional markets. Close customer relationships are key to our success – one which we exploit whenever possible allowing us to access company wide, market development opportunities more effectively.

Similarly, what areas have contracted over this period? We have been extremely fortunate and have wisely implemented sound strategic management which has helped ensure that we have not seen much in the way of contraction. We have been more selective in work type we have pursued and delivered and have been more critical and focused on customer selection. We have a strong focus on tender selection and bid strategy, commercial and business risk to ensure we have a sustainable business. It is not business at any cost, but identifying where the demand is and where we can add real and sustained long term customer value, and how best to maximise how we deploy the people and resources at our disposal.

What significant landmarks have there been for the Rotating Business?
Since Quartzelec’s inception in 2007 following an MBO, the achievements made have been immense.

 

2008

Quartzcoil was created following the acquisition of independent coil manufacturer Clarich.

TS Metals

the Welding and fabrication specialists were acquired by the Quartzelec group.

Middle East

Quartzelec continues to invest in supporting a global presence, establishing facilities in the U.A.E.

2011

Quartzteq GmbH created; a strategic decision to collate the full Quartztelec product range within a separate organisation – Quartzteq GmbH.

2012

Maser Quartzelec Service established after a joint venture with MASER in Malaysia is formalised, extending our presence in the ASEAN region.

2013

New Rugby Flagship Facility Opens following a significant investment

2017

10 Years independence; 10 years of OEM independence and 100 Years of Heritage achieved and celebrated.

Focus on product development - Terminal Boxes ATEX approvals upgraded and Rosenberry Hub a split version was developed in response to a client’s on-site issue. Condition monitoring development has been continuous throughout since 2011, with the most recent launch of PDA II.

Working with our partners overseas with training programmes – the most recent being for Mecanalisis in Buenos Aires, delivering the course ‘Electrical Testing and Diagnostics in Generator Testing for Electrical Power Plant Engineers’. An activity we are looking to ramp up.

Continuing our dominance in the field of turbo-alternator repairs - Europe is opening up to us as we position ourselves as a real alternative to the OEM. Most recent being the re-wedge of a 202MVA 2-pole generator, WY21 stator at a power station in Greece. Our Middle East facility is currently full.

Preserving Our Heritage – as machines supplied by our legacy companies in the 80’s and 90’s near end-of-life, we are increasingly being asked to support. Early this year a Unipak2 DC800U2240T, 11kV, 5.6MW Induction Motor from a UK Oil Refinery which had been in storage for 10 years was to be overhauled and returned to service. We have also recently completed a $685,000 project for a petro-chemical facility in the USA; fabricating a ‘duplicate’ machine of other OEM manufacture.

DC Technology – we are the technical authority in DC machines and although considered a declining technology, the heavy metals and mining industry still embrace these machines.  We have just completed a rewind on a 6600kW, 950V finishing motor for a steelworks company in the UK, originally built by our heritage company GEC in 1985. Perhaps one of our major achievements in this field was for a French aluminium manufacturer. The 7m long, 4m dia, 68 tonne armature was one of the first projects completed in our new facility which opened in 2013 and remains one of the largest we carried out here. 

Marine/Naval – throughout our Group, the work and projects involved have increased as we move from 2nd tier to 1st tier supplier. Our TS Metals recently invited to participate at the UKNEST ‘Engineering Excellence’ event on-board HMS Prince of Wales.

New Units – specifically our facility in Bury St Edmunds, which is strategically focused on supporting water framework agreements, counting Anglian Water as Gold Supplier.

How is the increasing electrification of our infrastructure (transport, energy, etc) impacting the business?   Our group has seen significant opportunities in core sectors including Rail, Electrical infrastructure upgrade for Smart Metering, Electric Vehicle charging etc. We are also a strategic partner to a growing number of customers involved in the renewable energy market e.g. large Hydro, Solar etc. With wind turbines becoming ever bigger and having a key role to play in UK and international power generation we are seeing more opportunity for refurbishment and repair of generators as example. Conversely the desire to extend the life of much of the equipment in the more ‘traditional’ energy creation sectors also means we are being asked to extend the useful life of certain pieces of equipment to ensure continuity of supply until this new forms of energy provision reach performance requirements and have been rolled out to meet demand. 

How is the business, having come from an electrical heritage, adapting to mechanical engineering projects?  Quartzelec employs skilled engineers across a variety of engineering disciplines and we will continue to provide a workforce that can cost effectively meet and service the changing needs of our customers. Within the field of rotating machine services, we are clearly identified as Electro-mechanical specialists and we again leverage/exploit such experience and knowledge as well as the relationships with our clients to extend our offering working with fans, compressors, pumps, turbines, transformers – all of which have a natural fit within our business.

How is the introduction / uptake of Condition Monitoring technologies changing the business, particularly predictive maintenance over reactive repair?  Businesses that opt for ‘predictive maintenance’ over ‘reactive maintenance’, will find that by adopting  modern condition monitoring technologies they will be better placed to make the necessary strategic operational decisions that affect both profitability and production output for the better. Condition monitoring development was always a priority for the Group, not with-standing the fact our engineering team could access historical records of machine data to provide necessary comparable information. 

Back in 2011, Quartzelec started to invest in the development of our LIFEVIEW® condition monitoring system; multiple sensor types and on-line and off-line analysers. The flexible, modular system would provide the necessary confidence in being able to continue operating without the need for a shutdown (or at least a reduced maintenance period). We have seen huge growth in this field as clients look to get a better handle of how to monitor their critical assets. The offshore oil and gas industry for example, where production is key and resource limited – the development of our LIFEVIEW® PDA II (ATEX version for hazardous areas) was specifically in response to this industry sector’s demanding requirements. 

Our motto – that LIFEVIEW® should be a key component in reducing total cost ownership over the lifetime of a machine and an integral element of any structured maintenance and repair strategy.

Similarly Motion Amplification ™ a recent investment in RDI technologies camera and software allows a real and visual approach to machine and system vibration,  where early action to minimize or even eradicate issues can be planned for, which can have a significant impact on improving the longevity and performance of a machine. This is particularly important when the machine is being deployed in environments where safety and performance are vital.

Taking the maintenance regime further and through Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) generally considered the optimal approach to maintenance, Quartzelec supports with minor spares sourcing and increasingly due to the stringent requirements of operators insurance, all critical drive systems which need to have suitable replacement components and major spares available – in some cases this can mean actual spare machines. This is a key area of growth for us, particularly due to our unique skills set and OEM heritage. We are very easily able to reverse engineer/re-design from original OEM drawings to fabricate identical replacement machine – whether that be ‘plug and play’ for our heritage machines or ‘Drop-in’ machines that are electrically similar and mechanically interchangeable.

Sustainability is the current watch word. How is this impacting your business in terms of solar power, Electric Vehicles, Globalisation?  Quartzelec is making every effort internally to improve sustainability which we believe starts with the implementation of ISO14001 across the Group – raising standards, ensuring continuous improvement and getting it right first time. The Group’s policy statement has been amended and communicated accordingly with the objective to ‘protect and conserve the environment, prevent pollution and reduce where possible, any negative environmental effects. 
 
The Company will work to continually improve its environmental performance and we will involve customers, partners, clients, suppliers and subcontractors in the implementation, and reviewing of our objectives and targets’. For 2020 the Group Targets and Objectives include; reducing fuel consumption by 5% and continuing on our journey towards eliminating single use plastic. A formal project team is pushing forwards with our #ProjectTurtle initiative aiming to eradicate single-use plastics across the business, working closely with all of our suppliers. For example, we have worked with our PPE supplier to completely remove plastic packaging – from hard hats to polo shirts.  

We have taken this one step further and introduced ‘Sustainability Action Squads’ – who can look to make changes at a more local level.  Our fleet of commercial vehicles has been upgraded, replacing with electric/hybrid vehicles where appropriate and installing EV charging points at our facilities to support. We are proactively looking to play our part and are mindful of the environmental impact our operations can have on the planet. Quartzelec has also taken the decision to ensure that all of our/100% of electricity used in the UK will be from a Renewable Energy Source which meets the stringent quality criteria of the GHG (greenhouse gas) Protocol (2015) for reporting zero carbon emissions and Quartzelec is proud to therefore state that our electricity supply is certified zero carbon emission.

What do you see as the greatest challenges over the next few years? As with any business we are somewhat at the mercy of the customer requirement and the economy. We have to provide the products and services our customers and markets demand, be agile enough to adapt to changing needs, and have the right people in the right role in the right location at the right time. As I stated earlier our people will determine our future, we have to identify, train and develop our talent, this will be the key to our ongoing success.

With a growing International operation and oversees facilities and customers how will Brexit feature? Brexit has been with us for some time now, we have yet to see any real impact. That said we continue to monitor the economy and with our diverse offering and varying market led initiatives we look forward to the opportunity to continue to operate around Europe and the wider world to be a sustainable business.
 
What plans do you have for investment in technology - Particularly in response to rises in digitalisation / the circular economy? Over recent years we have heavily invested in IT infrastructure and continue to do so on an ongoing basis. We have very recently renewed most IT equipment; upgrading software systems such as Microsoft Office 365 which allows a more collaborative approach across our businesses; introducing new disaster recovery infrastructure and more secure multi-factor authentication – safeguarding ourselves against the increased threat of cyber terrorism; new hardware including tablets for sitework - to reduce our need for paper form filling etc., providing full access for our employees to documentation required remotely - all supporting a drive towards an increase in efficiency. Visitor sign-in and inductions are soon to be fully automated. Additionally, we have invested in trackers for all of our commercial vehicles which help us to not only control speeding and vehicle movements but software that can monitor the hours spent driving so safeguarding our employees’ health and wellbeing.

Our R&D in LIFEVIEW® the Condition Monitoring System from Quartzteq, a Quartzelec company continues as a primary focus. As we look to further expand capabilities in both on and offline measurements, we see multiple opportunities for condition-based maintenance programmes, which LIFEVIEW will become a key part of. Adopting new technologies early on including wireless technologies, will ensure we continue to develop this range of products for the most arduous and remote locations as we push further with solutions for cloud based permanent access and enhanced access to our engineering teams.


With the changing business landscape how important are apprenticeships to your business / to the wider industry sector / and what are the impacts on recruitment / staff retention? 
We currently have just under 50 apprentices training within our business but have been typically recruiting around 20 young people on a year by year basis. We have a wealth lot of history unique to our business with a and highly experienced team of people. Our approach is to continue to recruit and pass on this unparalleled experience to the new, up and coming people to absolutely ensure we do not lose these unique and irreplaceable skills. We have a significant annual budget allocated to training and our Learning and Development team has been expanded to facilitate and provide training opportunities to all employees. Training is actively encouraged at all levels throughout the organization.  We pride ourselves on the fact that we regularly see employees celebrate 10, 20, 30, 40, and even 50 years working with us having commenced their career in one of our heritage companies, with the last 10 years being under the Quartzelec banner.  We strive to promote from within and we look forward to the day when our apprentices of today become our leaders of tomorrow. 
 
With the continuing ‘decline’ in heavy engineering what are the new markets for the business? Whilst there has undoubtedly been a decline there is still a lot of opportunity within industry sectors around the world. Our International sales team are focused on markets such as Europe, the Americas, Middle East and Asia. We have seen opportunities from Australia to Argentina, from Azerbaijan to Aberdeen, there is still a lot to go at! We are of course not immune to changing markets; we have implemented market development and diversification strategies over recent years including North America with significant opportunities for laser laminations and the re-design/reverse engineer and manufacture of direct replacement machines either of our own OEM legacy or of other manufacture; our LIFEVIEW® condition monitoring suite of products has seen particular success in the Middle East; AVR/Excitation control system upgrades ensuring against potential failure of obsolete equipment has seen a great deal of international interest; traction motor upgrades and support for over rail/underground network to name but a few.

Do you have any other comments? I am honoured and proud to be given the opportunity to lead this business, with my recent appointment as Managing Director, in the next stage of its evolution. My philosophy however is very similar to that of our Chairman, we lead our business through our people, we give them the autonomy and support to meet their local customer needs, with the customer at the forefront of everything we do.

 

 

 

 

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In this story: Quartzelec Ltd (Rugby)
Castle Mound Way, Central Park, Rugby, CV23 0WB, England
01788 512512
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News: Stephen Morrison, newly appointed MD of Quartzelec Limited, responds to some questions for the AEMT Journal