CPA Conference highlights collaboration
18 October 2021
A clear theme emerging from the CPA Conference 2021 was the need for collaboration between all elements of the supply chain if future challenges are to be met, and that hirers have a key role to play.
The event, held on 14 October at the Heart of England Conference and Events Centre near Coventry, focused on two themes: Net Zero Carbon and Digitalisation, featuring round table discussions between industry professionals.
CPA Policy Manager Chris Cassley emphasised the need to change working practices, but pointed out that plant hirers had already shown they could do so in response to Covid-19. “The pandemic is testament to the industry’s ability to evolve, sometimes overnight, rallying to the cause of creating the national critical care temporary hospitals throughout the country, as well as the coronavirus testing facilities.”
He added, however, that Covid had shown how vulnerable we are to events beyond our control and that this was true with climate change – unless we all took action to deal with rising global temperatures, increasing winter rainfall and decreased summer precipitation, and controlling carbon emissions.
All sectors had to respond and work together to achieve results and to ensure that the Government’s slogan ‘Build back better’ doesn’t just become ‘Greening gradually’.
On the topic of Net Zero, Tom Thackray, the CBI’s Programme Director for Decarbonisation, said that sustainability involved all businesses and every part of the supply chain. Organisations seeking data on which to base plans for reducing Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions (relating respectively to an organisation’s direct and indirect embedded emissions in their own operations, and those of their supply chain) would start a snowball rolling, encouraging others to act, too.
Paul Mabey, National Account Manager with JCB, believed that people should be positive. Many solutions are available already, such as electric machinery, and hirers are now winning contracts because of a commitment to sustainable ways of working.
“However, it is not a standard plant sell,” he said. “Hirers may find themselves talking to representatives from ESG (environment, social and corporate governance) and Health & Safety departments who focus on different areas than traditional construction issues.”
Chris Matthew, Strategy Manager with P Flannery Plant Hire, highlighted the important role that hirers can play. “We are neither manufacturers nor inventors but we can enable customers to use equipment more effectively. For us to achieve net zero, our customers also have to want to do it, so that has to be part of the overall strategy.”
He added that if hirers put measures in place to determine their Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, that knowledge could be a model for others in the supply chain – highlighting the need to work together.
Merrill Lynch, Operations Director at L Lynch Plant Hire, highlighted a road construction study undertaken by Caterpillar into plant fitted with GPS machine control systems for a specific project. “The job was done 46% quicker, 34% less equipment was needed and 37% less fuel consumed,” he said.
During the Conference sessions on Digitalisation, James O’Meara, a JCB General Manager with responsibility for the LiveLink telematics system, described digitalisation as a tool in the toolbox rather than an end itself. Analysing real-life operating practices can help with training and efficiency improvements, and with fewer people in the labour market (plus an ageing workforce) current personnel could acquire more skills for better performance and greater job satisfaction.
Several participants, including David Emery, Digital and Offsite Construction Specialist at the Supply Chain Sustainability School and Glenn Pearson, Product Manager with Point of Rental commented on the greater adoption of teleconferencing using Zoom and Teams during the pandemic. This brought people together, often in different parts of the world, giving a sense of unity.
Glyn Matthews, Digital Transformation Manager at Sunbelt Rentals, said that using telematics to obtain good, reliable data had enabled improvements in efficiency and consistency: “In many cases we can tell people on a site that they have an issue with equipment before they know.” He also commented: “Above all, necessity drives innovation. We have seen this with Covid and we’re now seeing it with climate change, which more than anything will drive digitalisation.”
Closing the Conference, CPA Chairman Kevin Minton said that the Association will be establishing working groups for wider discussions and collaboration on net zero and digitalisation. These are clearly topics that will remain on the agenda in the months and years ahead.
A number of suppliers displayed products (below) relevant to the Conference themes. Amongst them were Genquip Groundhog's GPO500 Eco Fusion Pulse welfare unit incorporating a solar panel, 130Ah battery and a backup generator; JCB's 525-60E electric telehandler; and MHM's SL-9 LED lighting tower, a diesel-free solar-only unit.