Health & safety issues, vehicle weight restrictions and simple ease-of-use these are all factors that have to be taken into account when assessing the best racking and storage solution for a particular vehicle or need. This is particularly true for vans used within the utilities industry where a diverse range of tasks and works are undertaken on a daily basis.
Here are just two examples of how the racking and storage specialists can help companies in the sector to work smarter:QI Van Systems
QI Van Systems of Telford has secured a valuable contract to supply Scottish Water with a series of customised conversions for operational support vehicles. The contract covers eight operational groups and a variety of vehicles from small panel vans, up to a 4.6 tonne truck equipped for water jetting.
Currently QI Van Systems is processing 50 vehicles a month and around 220 different types have been delivered since production started in October 2006.
Scottish Water relies on a wide range of specialist vehicles, which are essential to
maintain its network infrastructure and the delivery of customer services. A major vehicle upgrade programme has been launched as part of a multi-million pound investment by
Scottish Water to meet the strategic requirements set out in its 2006 Delivery Plan.
Formed in 2004, Scottish Water is an amalgamation of the three former water
authorities. The merger has resulted in the creation of a new unitary organisation capable of meeting the targets for service and development, set by the Scottish Executive and UK Water Industry Commission.
“Following the merger we have combined three fleet departments, all of which did
things slightly differently albeit achieving the same objectives,” explains, fleet co-ordinator, Dave Mosley. “This latest investment has provided the opportunity to standardise our procedures and equipment. Most important it allowed us to take a fresh look at the design process for vehicle specifications and their procurement.
“An important step forward has been to establish User Groups. The groups are
specific to a role or function, and this enables the user to have their input into the design of the vehicle provided to support that activity. This didn't always happen before. Under former administrations, vehicles were often procured at short notice, as funding was released and often under circumstances which prevented any real detailed analysis of the operational requirements.
“Consequently there were often mismatches and compromises between user requirements and the vehicles that were provided,” says Dave.
“As an employer Scottish Water recognises that it has a duty to provide its personnel with the right tools for the job. Health and safety has to be taken into account and we wanted to do things in a way that ensured everybody had an opportunity to have some input into the finished design.”
This new approach also required the expertise of equipment manufacturers and van conversion specialists. The decision to work with QI Van Systems followed recommendations from other UK water authorities. After some initial projects, the full programme was outlined and advertised and let under the normal competitive tender process.
Scottish Water's fleet department has implemented a formal procedure for the development of every category of works vehicle. The need for a replacement vehicle is identified according to preset criteria for determining condition, residual value and operational life, normally five years or 100K miles.
Working in conjunction with QI Van Systems, the fleet team then engages with the users to review the purpose of the vehicle and produce a generic specification for the vehicle fit, according to the tools, materials and equipment carried.
Eight specific operational groups have been defined. These cover electrical & mechanical fitters, customer service, network service operators, the jetter units, miscellaneous treatments, health & safety, labs and sampling and network maintenance. Each of these is a standalone group allocated a vehicle specification dedicated to that operational function. Specifications are generic to all makes of vehicles under five categories; small panel van; medium size van; large van/pick up; and 4x4 all-terrain vehicles.
Dave continues: “Specifications are developed by the user groups and the process leads to the production of a prototype vehicle for final appraisal and sign-off. We bring together all the participants from each area and they will tell us what they want. We undertake a cost analysis and then turn those ideas into a design brief for QI Van Systems.
“In some cases, such as for Network Maintenance vehicles which support the laying of new pipelines, the cost of conversion may be as much as the cost of the vehicle. This specification includes pneumatic power and it was necessary to take into account the payload of the vehicle and its towing capacity and all the legislation involved.
“Development in this case involved around 14 meetings, covering a six month period, turning ideas into designs. We then involve our health & safety engineers to ensure nothing has been overlooked in the final specification.
“The prototype gives everyone an opportunity to view and agree the vehicle is suitable before we sign off the specification. This information is then held on a central database for future reference when reordering vehicles.
“QI Van Systems has set up a website enabling the database to be accessed online, as necessary by personnel from Scottish Water. Links have also been provided that will enable the tracking of vehicle conversion orders. Although not specified as part of the tender document, the on-line database will provide back-up for a rolling programme in future. The concept, which was developed originally for another UK water authority, was typical of the improvements we have made by tapping the experience of QI Van Systems.”
Dave concludes, saying: “We have established a good working relationship with QI Van Systems. It is very much a partnership as we would expect. We are a demanding organisation and our programme has raised many issues in terms of customisation. QI has stepped up to meet that challenge.”
For further information please visit: www.qivansystems.co.ukThule
Thule, the world's largest manufacturer of car roof rack systems has responded to trade industry demands for safe, high quality roof carrier systems and launched a specifically designed Professional Range.
Designed to help trades people work with peace of mind, all products in the Thule Professional range have been developed to meet the transportation needs of demanding professional users.
Peter Barker, UK general manager at Thule said: “The professionals who we spoke with during the development process asked for accessories which would enable them to transport their work tools with their health and safety in mind. The aim of the Thule Professional Range is to offer safe and robust transport solutions for trade industries, as well as looking good on the vehicle.”
Falls and injuries from work vehicles costs British businesses £37 billion pounds a year, according to the Health and Safety Executive; and more worrying still, figures released show 90 per cent of falls occur when workers are working on, or loading and unloading their vehicles.
The Health and Safety Executive launched a campaign in autumn 2007 to reduce the numbers of injuries caused by accidents from vehicles across all industries. The 'Falls from Vehicles' campaign aimed to raise risk awareness and offer advice on how to safely load and unload trade vehicles.
In trades such as construction, incorrectly handling and lifting heavy equipment onto a work vehicle can cause serious back injury and muscle strain. The Health and Safety Executive's campaign highlighted how work related injuries can cause huge financial loss to an individual. The Ladder Tilt is just one of Thule Professional Range's systems launched in response to demand for high quality trade vehicle transport systems.
The Ladder Tilt features a unique extender function, which means users no longer have to reach on top of the vehicle to secure a ladder. The extender is designed to work with the user, tilting down to a reachable height; making it quick, easy and safe to load and unload ladders. Not only will the Ladder Tilt save the user's back, but it can help to prevent damage to the vehicle's paintwork from loading and unloading.
The Ladder Tilt is made using heavy-duty aluminium and has undergone rigorous testing for maximum safety. As with all Thule products, all systems in the Professional Range come with a five-year warranty.
For further information please visit: www.thuleprofessional.co.uk