Since its creation in 1996 Leicestershire-based road planing specialist Power Plane Ltd has consistently invested in the latest equipment and machinery in order to provide customers with the best possible service. This approach was again recently underlined with the company taking delivery of a new Scania 580 6×4 V8 Topline tractor unit and a Nooteboom 5 axle step frame low-loader trailer.
“We began, as most milling companies do, with one machine focusing on standard milling and we now have 14,” explains Ian Chattington, Managing Director. “Due to improvements in technology we moved away from standard milling, although it’s still at the core of the company, and into other areas such as specialist airfield work. We also now do fine milling application, which is a finished product and used extensively on concrete carriageways to texture and realign an uneven surface.
“We’ve also used the bigger machines in surface mining originally from a contract in the Falkland Islands when we came across some very hard concrete and a standard milling machine bounced off. 50 tonnes just wouldn’t go through it. We overcame that by changing the spacing and the cutting tools as well as the speed of the drum. That led us to explore what else we could do alongside it so we’ve actually been in quarries and conducted a few trials, predominately in limestone.
With 35 directly employed onsite staff supported six employees within the office, coupled with its strong plant portfolio, Power Plane has been able to take on a wide range of work in various locations, “We operate all over the UK and have been out to Gibraltar and even to the Falkland Islands so we’re prepared to go wherever the work is,” adds Mr Chattington. “Closer to home, we’ve completed a world first on the M25 for Connect Plus, which was a fine milling application using diamond-tipped cutting tools. These have been used elsewhere but never for fine milling and certainly not on concrete because they normally fail. It has been so successful we’re going back to carry out the next stretch encompassing Junction 7 to 8 of the M25.
“We’ve also just completed the third centre reserve works. We started with Amey on the M5 at Junction 4 to 5 and then we moved to Carillion on M5 Junction 5. In addition we’ve just completed for Bam Morgan Sindall a BMJV on the M1 Junctions 16 to 18, which involved taking the centre concrete reserve out with the VRS sockets.”
“The ongoing progress we’re making as a business has stemmed from using the latest technology and trying to do something different instead of just the standard run of the mill work. These machines have moved on technology-wise in huge leaps and bounds so that the levelling is much more accurate.”
Ian Chattington, Managing Director
The strong growth that Power Plane has enjoyed can be attributed to the investment the company has continued to make, as Mr Chattington outlines: “The ongoing progress we’re making as a business has stemmed from using the latest technology and trying to do something different instead of just the standard run of the mill work. These machines have moved on technology-wise in huge leaps and bounds so that the levelling is much more accurate. They can average and realign the surface and drum technology means you can have a very fine surface. All the new machines have three drum speeds so you can slow it down and are all linked to the office through the GPS and engine management systems so we can see what speed they’re cutting, where they are, what they’re doing and whether there’s any problems as they are immediately flagged up on the computer.”
Due its continual investment the company has been able to build strong relationships with the manufacturers including Wirtgen, as well as Scania, which supplies all the anciliary HGVs and Mercedes, which provide all the vans.
In addition to its investment in its plant, Power Plane’s staff development via training has also been key. It is currently at 95 per cent NVQs and 100 per cent CSCS cards. It was the first to undertake a specialist in-house training scheme (SITS) through the CITB last year. This has just been completed and helped six people break into the industry and gain NVQs. “We typically send half a dozen of our employees over to Germany a year to keep abreast of any new technologies and stay up-to-date with the machines. This is what we’ve been doing for the past three or four years. Close ties with the CITB to back-up the training that we’re given. We’re the only planing contractor with the national highways sector scheme 13 and it’s now just about getting everyone else up to that level because at the moment we’re not enjoying any recognition of that. It’s alright being first but it doesn’t always pay unfortunately.”
To further underpin its investment in staff and its plant, Power Plane has also sourced third party assistance where possible. “We have just joined Britpave because of the finishing work that we’ve been doing on the fine milling on concrete, which meant that we wanted to join an association to see how we could forward that application within the industry. We joined the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) originally to get fine milling as a treatment recognised and this was very successful thanks to the efforts of Howard Robinson, the Chair of RSTA.”
Power Plane’s main aim now is to continue its push to be a Tier 2 supplier to the main contractor in order to fully demonstrate its capabilities. “We are completely focused on innovation to come up with different ways of doing the job to save money,” concludes Mr Chattington. “With our experience, coupled with the investment we continue to make in our plant and our staff, this is a battle we’re winning, although it remains an ongoing objective.”