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Executive Hire News › Archives › September 2019 › Market Report: Power Generation : Empowered to grow

Market Report: Power Generation : Empowered to grow

Alan Guthrie visits John F Hunt Power which continues to grow its operation through a policy of constant fleet renewal and a management style focused on service.

The steady growth and confident outlook of John F Hunt Power, which specialises in providing temporary power equipment throughout the UK, is testament to the strength of this market and its positive future prospects.

Earlier this year, the business opened a new depot in Livingston, roughly halfway between Edinburgh and Glasgow. This brought its total to five locations and, according to its MD Sales, David Hunt, there is a policy of continuous investment in the fleet to refresh and increase it. “We are constantly expanding. Customers like what we do and how we do it, and as we win more business we have to grow to keep pace. This year, we will have spent approximately £7m on new equipment by the end of December, the majority being more generators from our main suppliers BGG UK (Bruno machines) and Morris Site Machinery (Denyo), as well as additional lighting towers from the same two companies. This figure also includes approximately £750,000 on items as we expand our operation, from forklifts to delivery trucks.”

Specialist focus

John F Hunt Power dates back to 1998 when it was formed as a division of John F Hunt, with its head office in Grays, Essex. Today the John F Hunt Group comprises 19 specialist construction related companies and divisions focusing on Demolition, Regeneration, Nuclear Decommissioning and Asbestos Management, with the supply of heavy plant, tools and lifting equipment at locations throughout the UK.

Initially, John F Hunt Power focused on providing equipment for its parent company’s contracts, but in 2005 it was incorporated as a limited company as a separate business. In the same year, Richard Denbury (now retired) and Kevin Davies joined from the former LCH Generators hire business and expansion plans were put in place. As Kevin Davies, who is now MD Operations, explained, “In 2005 approximately 80% of John F Hunt Power’s business was with the parent group and its divisions; today that represents probably only 1%. Our five depots now give us genuine national coverage.”

Operating initially from one depot in Grays, John F Hunt Power added Oldbury near Birmingham in 2005 (moving to a larger site in Halesowen in 2015), Birtley near Newcastle in 2008 (similarly re-locating to a bigger facility this year), and Bristol in 2017. “We opened in Livingston after an initial pilot project at a temporary site nearby, offering a modest number of machines that rapidly went out on hire,” said David Hunt, who is the cousin of Group Chairman John Hall. “That showed us the potential. Previously we had served customers north of the border from Birtley. The prospects are very exciting and we believe there is scope for a second Scottish depot in the future.

“As a specialist power generation business, our personnel are dedicated to that particular market - they do not get involved with tool hire, plant hire, lifting gear or other areas that have their own Group operations. Our activity is narrow but deep, and customers deal with people who specialise in this equipment: an engineer who visits a site to service or repair a generator will not have been working on, say, a digger or dumper earlier in the day. Customers appreciate that, because reliable power is crucial for so many site operations.”

Ongoing investment in machinery

The ongoing investment in machinery reflects the operation’s growth and also helps to keep the fleet fresh. “We have one of the most modern fleets in the UK now,” said David Hunt. “Some other hirers cannot match that level of investment and we believe they may compromise other elements of service or engineering resources which plays into our hands. Customers have an appetite to do more business with us because they appreciate our service.

“We are able to attract and retain great staff. We made a number of promotions to add another level of management to the business and have taken on new personnel, with more recruitment in the pipeline. We offer people a good package and our staff turnover is very low. We are a family business with family values. We empower people to be the best they can be without setting aggressive targets and, equally, they know the standards they have to meet. In fact, our people help to set those standards and make us even better, which is another reflection of our brand’s strength.

“We will have reached a total of 2,000 generators in the fleet by the end of this year. We have been adding typically over 100 units annually in recent times, as well as disposing of machines after three to four years. Our range extends from 20kVA to 1,260kVA, and sets above 100kVA can be synchronised. We take Denyo ultra-quiet machines which have noise levels of as low as 55dB at 7m. Larger sets above 100kVA are from Bruno, again including super-silent models and their ultra-quiet sets branded Fusteq. All our lighting towers now have LED lamps and we no longer offer metal halide units.”

Sustainable growth

John F Hunt Power serves a growing range of customers across a wide variety of markets, including housebuilders, general construction contractors, events, utilities, pumping, telecoms, health and marine, amongst others. “That shows the underlying strength of the economy,” said David Hunt. “One contractor I spoke to said that they have installed 12 tower cranes across London recently so, Brexit or no Brexit, there is sustainable growth ahead. Two of our depots are also at either end of the current HS2 project and we are already supplying contractors working there via other Group businesses.

“We sell on service rather than price. The challenge is in maintaining our standards and the strong one-to-one relationships we have with customers, offering consistent support from the hire desks, sales team and technical team which sets us apart from other suppliers. This enables us to continuously grow the client base. It comes down to the quality of our people and our management ethos.”

The business has invested significantly in generators with Stage IIIa engines to enable customers to have continuity of supply, and it is budgeting to spend another £7m to £8m on additional sets next spring. Plans are also in place to offer Stage V machines to meet the new European emissions standards.

Ready for Stage V

“We will add these as soon as possible,” said Kevin Davies. “We have a commitment to have them available for our customers and we are talking to several manufacturers. John F Hunt Power will take delivery of the first Stage V generators sold by some of these suppliers, and so we will be ready. Given our steady replacement policy, it is likely that around 80% of our fleet could be Stage V machines within five years.

“We are also rolling out a new RFM (remote fleet management) system on all of our generators, having trialled it successfully for six months. It measures parameters like loadings, fuel consumption, location and issues alerts, and customers can monitor machines via an online portal. All our external fuel tanks will also be fitted with telemetry for accurate measurement and control.”

At a time when the number of electrical devices in operation keeps growing and adding to the demand for power, and with power stations being taken out of service, the need for John F Hunt Power’s services can only grow. •

www.johnfhunt.co.uk/power
     
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