RailCare, a rolling stock service provider, is breathing new life into its train business and has won over 153 contracts in little over three years. Ed Machin reports.
Formed in February 2007, RailCare is a private limited company and has four generations of one family working within the business. This is a fact of which RailCare is particularly proud as it enables decisions and communication between RailCare and its customer to be more personable and faster. This, the company says, can be vital when in the process of contract negotiations or when the customer’s project is being managed.
RailCare operates sites at both Wolverton in Milton Keynes and Springburn in Glasgow, a factor the company considers to be a great unique selling point due to its wide geographical availability.
Traditionally RailCare was known for coded repair work of rail vehicles including vehicle refurbishment. Today it also has expertise in incident repair, spares and logistics and component overhaul. This allows the company to offer customers a total rolling stock solution.
RailCare works with its associated companies RDS (Rail Door Solutions), Albatros and TXM Recruit in order to provide an optimum client service. These partnerships allow RailCare to source material quickly for its facilities and, if needed, recruit the correct capabilities and skill levels required for a customer project.
Robert Baxter, RailCare’s managing director says: “We are immensely proud of what we have achieved over the last few years and it is down to having a great team of people who are equipped with the correct skill sets. We operate as one business with our two sites at both Wolverton and Springburn and communicate on a regular basis so that everyone is on the same page and understands the needs of our customers.”
Jamie Borgeat, RailCare commercial director, says: “We have a good level of skill base at both our Wolverton and Springburn facilities which enables us to be a successful rolling stock service provider to our customer base. We are supporting and encouraging our apprentices on a daily basis as they form the future of the rail industry.
A service business
In charge of Service, Spares & Logistics, Bob Knowlson was charged with developing a long-term sustainable business on the back of the vehicles that RailCare refurbishes, moving from primarily project-based work to a seamless model of longevity. “Our job going forward is managing the supply chains, not just to sell parts,” Mr Knowlson confirms.
Working closely with the rail industry’s rolling stock companies (ROSCOs), train operating companies (TOCs) and OEMs, RailCare also has the capacity to overhaul a considerable amount of products internally. This is in addition overhauling and/or supplying the components direct to lineside in the customer’s depot. The company can conduct full overhauls including NDT testing, repairing, cleaning, shotblasting, modifying and testing as well as specific work on a range of train components including but not limited to: gearboxes, valves, pressure vessels (including door actuators and brake modules), compressors, couplers, power packs, and soft trim-including seat covers. RailCare also has the design and engineering capability to modify and fabricate parts.
RailCare Incident Repair operates as a separate business in order to provide the dedication service required for train repairs. The work conducted by the group is not treated on an ad-hoc basis but each project has a dedicated and skilled workforce.
Colin Gray heads Service, Incident Repairs and has over 40 years experience in the rail industry. “We have a team who I believe are the best in the business and, to me, that generates success,” he says.
With an average annual revenue of £3.5-£4.5m, the group has worked with all of the train operating companies, which is a source of great pride at the company. “The fact that we have a 94% hit rate for bid contracts means we are not doing things too badly either,” says Mr Gray.
Gray highlights a particular challenge for those working in incident repair as being the fact that each vehicle is, broadly speaking, different, “Considering that within the UK there are over 50 classes of vehicle, in reality you have to be an expert at everything,” he says. “The fact that we are successful means the guys are continually honing their skills; it is very much a self-perpetuating cycle.” “From an objective viewpoint, however, we deliver what we promise,” he says. “It’s no more complex than that. If I say to a customer that there is going to be a 16 week timescale, then it will be 16 weeks or less. This is also due to a good working relationship with our suppliers which is demonstrated by the fact that RailCare has had a 97% on time delivery rate for the 153 contracts this part of the business has undertaken since its inception. Customers are given the confidence to know that their vehicles will be back in service when we say they will be.”
Supporting all aspects of the RailCare business, the company undertakes detailed design with vehicle life extension, enhancements and renovation and integration for all of its projects. This includes electrical integration of new on board train systems, specification and integration of new components and thorough corrosion assessments.
RailCare have a dedicated project management team. The team is involved from the negotiation stage of a contract through to managing the project and right through to the completion of the customer project. This ensures that the same people are involved from start to finish and so can provide input throughout the operation and know what specifications have to be met.
Train to gain with apprenticeship schemes
RailCare dedicates a sector-leading 5% of its total staff number to trainees. “RailCare has 23 apprentices in total: 17 at Wolverton and 6 at our Springburn facility,” says David Hilliard, RailCare’s training and development manager. Approaching his 40th year in the rail industry, and rising from the ranks of apprentice himself, he is well versed to understand the benefit of skill retention. “The youngsters we take on are predominately craft-based trainees, with a selection of business administration and IT staff,” says Mr Hilliad.
Life skills are also very important for RailCare apprentices. Mr Hilliard explains: “Given that we look to develop people into rounded individuals who can play a key role in taking RailCare forward, we expose our apprentices to outside activities wherever possible. Whether this be presenting in front of one hundred directors at South East regional meetings (SEDA), or talking about their training experiences at Wolverton, one thing is for sure and that is that RailCare apprentices become equipped with many valuable skills.” RailCare Group CEO Laurence Seward and commercial director Jamie Borgeat both began their careers as trainees. “Quite simply, if you demonstrate an aptitude there will be opportunities, and you will be supported all the way,” says Mr Hilliard.
Like many in the rail sector, RailCare recognised that an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system was critical in ensuring the growth strategy it had set.
RailCare, having reviewed the ERP market, approached Cincom – one of the vendors with domain expertise in complex manufacturing environments they are RailCare’s long-time ERP provider. The choice of Cincom was made in order to leverage the company’s lean capabilities for RailCare’s future requirements. Following a meeting between RailCare’s Robert Baxter and Darryl Gillett, Cincom’s director of professional services, a partnership was established between the companies.
This recognised that the provision of key management information was a significant factor in RailCare’s past success, and would continue to play a key role in the future.
New areas have been explored to support a new e-commerce enterprise and for the processes of bid management within the overall tender-toorder process. The system will be driven both wider and deeper and the RailCare/ Cincom partnership will continue supporting RailCare’s objectives.
In summary RailCare strives to maintain and exceed customer needs and wants in order to be the preferred rolling stock service provider. This is demonstrated through the company’s product portfolio. It includes incident repair; coded repairs of rail vehicles including refresh and refurbishment; and service, comprised of spares and logistics, and component overhaul. In addition, due to the companies location, its facilities at both Wolverton and Springburn are able to easily accommodate the UK franchises and both sites are looking forward to continuing the good work of the last five years.