The need to diversify is certainly a topic of conversation among fuel distributors – some have already ventured into third party haulage, whilst for others renewables are adding a new dimension.
When it comes to diversification and keeping one step ahead of the market, Adler & Allan (A&A) is a shining example. Starting out as a London-based coal and coke merchant in 1926, A&A became a fuel distributor over 40 years ago. Aided by a series of strategic acquisitions, the company has spread its wings to encompass a range of associated activities including tank and forecourt services, spill response, mechanical and electrical maintenance, waste management, fuel polishing and testing.
In the midst of developing further new services, Fuel Oil News editor, Jane Hughes spoke to group sales & marketing manager, Alan Scrafton, to learn more. “Fuel polishing, vapour recovery refining, forecourt security products, Sockit filters, oxygen depletion in waterways and spray coat bund lining – these are just some of the most recent services added as a natural progression, and ensure that A&A continues to grow,” Alan explained.
Bolstered by acquisitions and some major contract wins A&A has consolidated its UK-wide presence. Cross selling its new services to existing customers is further aiding the business’ organic growth.
New appointments aid expansion
Heading up the marine sales drive is Glyn Humphries. Formerly with Briggs, Glyn is chairman of the UK Spill Association. “Glyn’s brought a new impetus and vast experience to A&A, particularly in this sector,” said Alan. “Working alongside a larger client base and the Maritime & Coastguard Agency, we also have a busy training schedule running tier 1 and 2 level exercises.” Richard Tindell’s appointment as marine operations manager has bolstered A&A’s capability in the field. Richard has already been on active duty with recent spills and oxygen depletion incidents in lakes around the UK.
Looking after the industrial and tank services section is general manager, Gary Wilson. Ex Veolia,Garyhas particular expertise in managing large scale contracts in refineries and power stations. New projects for this division include a trackside refuelling facility for locomotives carrying cargo at Doncaster, with prefabricated underground storage tanks linked to high speed refuelling pumps, and a petrol refuelling facility for marine craft with above ground tank storage.
The acquisition of E&S Environmental in 2009 brought Nobby and Andrew Clarke into the team together with Dr Philip Nathan who runs A&A’s fuel laboratory. “E&S has invested in the latest equipment to provide the same analysis results as a UKAS-accredited laboratory, which enables us to offer a very competitively priced and fast turnaround service,” Alan reported.
As group safety systems advisor, Tony Gallagher has a customer-facing approach on HSE matters. Good at presenting to customers, he is upgrading policy across the business. “Working with A&A’s forecourt businesses, E&S and AJ Bayliss, Tony is currently arranging customer H&S days; being such a critical part of the business, we’re looking to fine tune this all the time,” explained Alan.
“With SHEQ manager, Carol McCalla spearheading ISO accreditation across the Group, these appointments are enabling us to better fulfill critical contractual obligations.”
A greater geographical spread
A&A’s strength lies in being able to offer customers a significant breadth of capability across a wide geographical area.
A&A now has two bases in Scotland and recently appointed John Gilmour as operations manager working alongside, Amanda Merchant, area manager Scotland.
Earlier this year A&A Scotland were highly commended by all stakeholders following response to an emergency callout when a tanker carrying 20,000 litres of aviation fuel crashed causing a large oil spill. Local residents were evacuated and pollution control was carried out over four months under the watchful eye of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA).
Selected from an initial field of 212 potential contractors, A&A has a 4-year contract as emergency environmental response contractor for Scottish Power – covering the Scottish Lowlands, North Wales and Lancashire. “Having secured a contract with Scottish Power, other new business has followed in Scotland,” said Alan. A&A also has contracts with E.ON and Western Power Distribution and aims to win further energy utilities contracts.
A&A has increased its presence around the country to deal with the growth of contracted business. Most recent new depots include Droitwich, Doncaster and Tunbridge Wells.
Depot manager at the company’s Manchester-based waste division is Peter Lohan. “The north-west is a growth area and with a strong emphasis on sales, Peter has turned this business around; the base now employs 20 staff,” said Alan.
The aforementioned staff are just a handful of A&A’s 320-strong team, which is headed up by managing director, Mark Calvert. Mark, who joined the business 20 years ago, has alongside him commercial director, Henry Simpson, who leads the business development drive and operations director, Dave Whiskerd, both of whom joined in the late 90s. Keith Potts joined the board in 2010 as compliance director to manage the group’s wide scope of SHEQ requirements.
From coal to fuel distribution and a network of specialist services
A&A still distributes fuel primarily from its new national operations centre at Barking (the company moved from Stratford in 2009 to make way for the Olympic redevelopment). A&A offers a 24/7 emergency fuel service, particularly appreciated by the south east’s banking and data centres. Located in eastLondon, A&A knows the area and can react quickly.
Aiming towards a national network of specialist services, consistency of approach across an ever expanding range of services and geographical areas is increasingly vital. “We have a major project underway to integrate internal systems using Goldmine Enterprise. This will process all enquiries, quotes, invoices and sales reports; it’s a big investment that will take us to a higher level operationally,” explained Alan. “It will enable us to be more precise in the way we handle contracts and, for me as a marketeer, it will give access to customer information ensuring better promotion of related services. Excellent communication and customer relationship management is important as the business continues to grow.”
Much of A&A’s growth can be attributed to the exposure it received cleaning up the Buncefield oil terminal following the explosion in December 2005 which led to 20 tanks catching fire. Appointed as principal contractor, A&A managed the uplift and disposal of over 27 million litres of contaminated waste and the safe cleaning of damaged infrastructure for demolition. Working in a very hazardous and tightly monitored environment, the project took 28 months and 80,000 man hours to complete without sustaining a single lost time incident.
With waste permits for oily waste, A&A is very active in fuel tank decommissioning at facilities such as power stations, distilleries and defence sites. Also working with emerging technologies, A&A provides spill prevention services to off and onshore wind farms. “With hydraulic oil needed to power a wind turbine, there is a risk of contamination on land and at sea,” explained Alan. Also offshore, A&A undertakes industrial cleaning on oil rigs.
The vision of A&A’s board, coupled with the appointment of experienced and dynamic managers, has fuelled this UK-wide diversification and expansion. “We’re getting lots of enquiries from overseas and we will go anywhere in the world (the company undertook projects in Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the Falklands and Norway in 2011),” said Alan. Always one step ahead, it’s worth watching this space for A&A’s next move.