When we met Brian Wilkinson at the Bolton base of Security Solutions (Northern) Ltd, he had recently drawn up a quote and costings for a major security project that would involve “shallow blockers” – pillars in the roadway – that are designed to be robust up to 50mph impact.
“We’ve undertaken work for big commercial companies like BAE Systems, the National Grid, MoD, and a lot of Police contracts. We’ve just completed a high security job for a fit-out company and we’ve worked with a lot of construction companies,” he explained. “We’ve installed barriers for car parks and everything ranging from small operations to nuclear submarine bases. We’ve generally concentrated on the UK but we have also supplied systems to oil refineries in Nigeria and we recently tendered for a stadium in Qatar, for the World Cup.”
Brian himself has, in recent years, specialised in ‘hostile vehicle mitigation’ – PAS (Publicly Available Specification – a rating of impact resistance) products that will stop trucks travelling at 30, 40 and 50 mph at the perimeter, before they can impact a building. Its customers range from high-security establishments to sports stadiums and airports. He was in the process of drawing up detailed specifications for a major piece of work for a leading football club’s stadium.
“The Club is having some new turnstiles fitted but they don’t want an “off the shelf” item,” he explained. “They want something they can integrate with their specialist card readers and that will be aesthetically pleasing. The turnstiles will also have to be waterproof as they will be sited outside the shelter of the stadium.” It’s potentially a very big job and Brian has been working with SSC Laser to make sure everything is absolutely right.
“The ends are quite difficult to roll and form so we spent some time going through that, taking out some bends, putting some others in, and working together to improve the design,” he said.
Special demands and bespoke installations are nothing new to Security Solutions. The company has worked on modifications to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, London, that were required before West Ham could move in.
“We provided sets of LPS1175 rated secure access doors, which are the first, anywhere in the world,” he continued. “We manufactured all their turnstiles but the special concept they required was doors that slid into themselves. There was nothing on the market that was right so we made it ourselves – 48 of them, altogether.” While this was a big feather in Security Solutions’ cap and highlighted its expertise and resources, it threw something else into stark relief and set in motion a process of vital improvement.
“We’ve installed barriers for car parks and everything from small operations to nuclear submarine bases.”
“Everything was there, everything was perfect and it was priced right.”
“It makes it so much better, having someone who’s reliable, friendly, helpful and does what he says he’ll do”
“SSC Laser is now a key partner, a really core part of our supply chain.”
“We were doing great jobs but we were not doing things leanly” he said. “We had a close look at the department as a whole and realised things could be much better.” It’s a simple explanation but revealed that Security Solutions’ processes needed to be brought into the 21st Century. The purchasing needed sharpening up to start, there was a lack of communication between teams. Brian, as a senior operations manager, decided to move his office over the production building and bring with him a full IT resource. He isn’t an outsider who’s been dropped in; he has been with Security Solutions for 20 years, as an apprentice, installer, electrical engineer, technical manager, senior designer and now Production Manager. He achieved a quite remarkable turnaround in just three months.
“When I first came over this site I huddled everyone together and told them what I was going to do, and invited them to be a part of it,” said Brian. “Anyone who didn’t want to go forward with the changes were able to leave with no hard feelings. No-one left.” While he was setting up his own office he tackled the working environment as well. He got the place cleaned up, installed a decent kitchen, upgraded the ventilation system, put in new lockers and generally made it a better place to work. He also had a close look at supply issues; something that became apparent was that competitive tendering had not been as fully used as could be desired. That was where SSC Laser came in.
“We had used SSC Laser in the past, for a few bits and pieces, but I’d got the impression that their one-off prices seemed high,” he said. “When I was getting new suppliers in place, I got some prices from them for a project and found they were competitive. We went through a particular project, they priced it and supplied it.” That sounds essentially what you would expect but it hadn’t always been the experience with others.
“We’d found some who seemed cost-effective but the actual delivery was terrible,” he continued. “It arrived really late and there was stuff missing. We didn’t get the right communications, either – I’d ring them and never hear anything back. As much as the pricing was right, the delivery and service was affecting the company.” By contrast, the first delivery from SSC Laser was on time, in full and as promised.
“It was a big order, and it came within a week,” he said. “Everything was there, everything was perfect and it was priced right.” As this was the first big job SSC had done for Security Solutions there was that suspicion that they’d pushed the boat out with it.
“We ordered some more components and I got speaking to Martin Turner at the Hixon site and found that he had a really strong engineering background,” he explained. “He was on my level, straight away. It makes it so much better, having someone who’s reliable, friendly, helpful and does what he says he’ll do – there’s no BS. He’s a pleasure to work with.” SSC now does all of Security Solutions’ flat bed laser and steel cutting, including stainless steel and aluminium.
“He’s honest and will tell me if there’s something SSC can’t do, but they do go beyond. They’ve just helped me with an R&D idea. They’re folding all the sheet steel parts for us, they’ve priced it all up and we are working together very effectively,” Brian declared. As with all R&D projects, a few attempts were required to get it absolutely right. Collaboration cut down the development time and delivered the job-ready article quicker than either would have done on their own. “SSC Laser is now a key partner, a really core part of our supply chain.”