Rotating equipment repair: exceeding expectations by minimising downtime
Having grown from a man with his toolbox to a multi-million pound business; today Rotamec provides 24/7 cover, 365 days a year, for the repair and supply of rotating mechanical equipment across many industries. With a service base in southwest England, south Wales and the Midlands, the company also supports users of motors, gearboxes, pumps and generators and all associated MRO products across the UK & Ireland. The defining factor in growing the business has been a consistent focus on getting customers back up–and–running as quickly as possible. Simon Brooks, founder and Managing Director of Rotamec, explains what it takes to run a maintenance and repair operation – and what customers should really expect.
“By the late ‘90s I could see an opportunity. I was working at a maintenance and repair company for rotating industrial equipment in Somerset, managing service provision as well as providing on-site support myself. After an apprenticeship based around CNC machining, I’d moved on to managing machine shop production and continued to build my experience in the repair and maintenance of industrial electro-mechanical equipment. With my experience in maintenance and repair, I knew I could deliver on service and give customers the fast response times they required.
Operations like food & beverage manufacturers were running 24/7, 365 days a year and they needed a service level that could deliver round–the–clock support. Then, as now, the electric motor was fundamental and breakdown of a motor, gearbox or pump meant downtime and a loss of productivity that was extremely costly. It could also mean product scrappage, missed targets and reputational damage.
24/7, 365 days a year service was provided by the large MRO organisations, but their loyalty rested only with large accounts, like the water treatment companies. There was a high proportion of small and medium-sized companies, as well as blue chip food & beverage manufacturers and dairies with multi-million–pound turnovers, that wanted the kind of support given to the utility companies. It was a niche in the market which I thought could be filled and there would be no shortage of demand”
Starting Rotamec in 2000 for the repair and maintenance of rotating mechanical equipment,predominantly surrounding the Somerset and Bristol area, included acquisition of a local rewinds company with three employees. The objective of providing a 24/7 response, 365 days a year, took a great deal of work to achieve.
100+ working hours per week were a usual occurrence, including sometimes working for 42 hours non-stop. I was the only team member covering breakdowns, which meant a work-life balance heavily tilted towards the former. The result of these efforts was worth it. Achieving an industry-leading response rate that helped grow our reputation and enabled Rotamec to start scaling up and spread the service to customers in a wider geographical reach.
In 2008, expansion included taking on a site in Exeter, the vacated premises of a previous motor repair business. By offering service levels they hadn’t previously been able to benefit from, we were able to retain many of the accounts. Growing with new team members who had strong experience in MRO supply, we were also able to expand in the supply of motors, gearboxes, pumps and generators.
For the customer, this provided the benefit of a one-stop-shop for maintenance and replacement. This approach provided operations with faster and more efficient service, as well as a more cost-effective outcome. While motor repair formed the core of our work, central as it still remains to any production operation, it also gave the opportunity to expand our offer by providing and servicing connected equipment. Today, this ranges from inverters and automation control through to PPE and engineering consumables. This means that our clients can leave the full repair to us, confident that it will be delivered all in one service.
Maintaining standards while expanding the service
The next geographical step was a move into south Wales and the acquisition of Pontypool Rewinds in 2019. Taking on further staff, we almost tripled monthly turnover at the site from outset. As Rotamec’s business grew, it was key that the service level was maintained. Vital to this was the full involvement of everyone in the team across all aspects of the business. Achieving 24/7 service undeniably requires a level of commitment and sufficient breadth of staff. You need to be big enough as a business to achieve it but retain the flexibility to service all sizes and types of operations.
A crucial aspect in meeting consistently high standards across every site was achieved by replicating the same model each time. This took continual focus, reinforced with a compliance process, managed well to ensure that standards have been retained across the board. Proving to new customers that the committed level of service will be met is an important step. After we’ve proven that we can collect a motor at three o’clock in the morning and then repair and reinstall it, perhaps during the first shift of the day, the customer learns that they can rely on our partnership.
In 2019 we also reinforced our management team to further improve our service, including the integration of a non-executive chairman and a new sales director in Paul Pearce. With Paul’s significant experience in identifying and resolving customer needs across all aspects of rotating mechanical equipment, we’ve been able to strengthen our structure and as a result, our service to customers nationwide.
That same year we also took on Summers & Pains in Bristol, a facilities management business that has enabled Rotamec to further expand into a broader sector. Meanwhile, CovElec in Leicester was taken on in July this year (2021). CovElec already has great strength in its repair and supply capability and combines this with the ability to service the wealth of industrial operations across the Midlands.
As we’ve increased our capability, our brand awareness has also grown and we’ve been invited to support some the larger organisations. This has required approvals such as ISO 9001:2015 Advanced Certification and Safe Contractor Accreditation. These approvals have fed back into Rotamec’s culture of exceeding expectations and have enabled us to improve the service for all customers.
Meeting the challenges of the future
Since starting 20 years ago, one of the most significant changes in the industry has been the increased importance of minimising carbon footprint and optimising energy efficiency. This requires knowledge and expertise around international efficiency (IE) standards. Working with industry organisations like the AEMT, as well as manufacturers, ensures that as technologies develop for the better, we can continue to provide the highest level of service; from servo motors and drives to permanent magnet technology.
As an example of how we’re helping meet the challenges of the future, we’re harnessing the global benefits of efficient electric motor technology and its proliferation into the automotive world. Currently, we’re working with a university on regenerative braking systems as part of a developmental project.
Our ethos: exceeding expectations
With our ethos of exceeding expectations by getting a customer’s plant back up and running as quickly as possible, Rotamec will continue to support round-the-clock production in the challenges of tomorrow.
For example, in the quest for improved efficiency many manufacturers are now holding less stock or spare parts. This trend is also spreading from the large multi-national companies to the smaller plants. As a result, we have a wide stock range of equipment that factories can rely on in the event of a breakdown. To further support our customers into the future, we’re also expanding our stock range and we now offer a full range of engineering consumables. As part of our membership of IADA, the UK’s largest group of independent distributors and stockists of all MRO products and associated services, as well as the Troy group, this gives us considerable buying power, enabling us to provide a full product and consumable range at highly competitive rates.
The electric motor, and peripheral rotating equipment, will remain central to industrial production for the future. The culmination of the increasing demands on this equipment means that fast repair, maintenance and replacement will be evermore important to operations that cannot allow extended downtime. Rotamec’s journey going forward is to acquire and grow organically across the UK & Ireland. For users of rotating equipment and associated MRO components, our commitment will continue, ensuring that our customers are serviced as quickly as possible to optimise their productivity.