This year has seen Alpheus enter its’ 20th year of managing one of Europe’s largest pharmaceutical penicillin processing plants in Scotland, as well as winning the ‘Best Anaerobic Digestion (AD)/Biogas Support’ category at the ADBA ‘AD & Biogas Industry Awards’ for our Operations and Management (O&M) work at Glenmorangie distillery in Tain, Scotland – a contract we only began in January. In addition, this year we’re celebrating achieving a 100% retention level with client contracts over the past 5 years.
And it’s our commitment to achieving operational excellence that is, we believe, driving our success.
So, what does it take to achieve operational excellence? Is it a mindset or a process, or even both? With the successes of this year in mind, we thought this was a good time to reflect on what we’ve learnt over the last 29 years - from working with some of the world’s best known brands across multiple sectors - about how to deliver operational excellence.
We’ve identified five areas that we think are essential elements for overall delivery of operational excellence, which create a whole that is greater than the sum of each individual part.
- Retain – as well as attract - great people
Excellent operational support is delivered primarily by our on-site teams – they’re the day-to-day custodians of our clients’ assets, and their ownership ultimately delivers success. So, once we’ve hired great people, we make sure we put them first. This means prioritising our employee needs and empowering them to make decisions, because to deliver operational excellence you need happy, motivated, engaged staff.
We offer our people training as well as personal and professional development opportunities so they can continue to learn and also progress, if they wish to. (I started out as a Mechanical Engineer with the company!) We’re proud of the number of long-serving employees that we have, with many – including me - approaching 20 years of service. We believe people stay because they like our company culture and feel they are treated well, but also because they enjoy their work. For our clients, this all means they get highly motivated, engaged and experienced staff working on their site, willing to go the extra mile, working plant assets smarter and harder to deliver maximum value.
In addition, we provide accessible management support; are strongly committed to H&S, to ensure we keep people safe; and have policies and initiatives in place to support individuals’ health and well-being.
Finally, getting the TUPE process right has also proved important for staff engagement. Putting in place dedicated HR support to TUPE over existing staff, (even when it’s not a contractual requirement), helps new site teams feel part of the Alpheus family, in turn helping us utilize their local knowledge and deliver a smoother transition for our client.
- Continually seek to innovate and recommend solutions
Outsourcing to an industry specialist gives our clients the freedom to focus on their core business, and delivering operational excellence also comes from us developing the best solutions for our clients.
We develop bespoke solutions for clients across different sectors - including Brewing, F&B, Pharma and Manufacturing - creating value for them through optimizing their assets, increasing efficiency, reducing costs and delivering continuous improvement.
Innovation is becoming a necessary component for any organization focused on delivering operational excellence. Our technical, project-based Innovation Groups (IGs) help drive optimization, innovation and collaboration, to creatively develop impactful ideas and deliver for clients at a more strategic level, where we’re operating as more than just a contractor. They draw on the knowledge, skills, specialisms and experience of a wide network of people from across Alpheus and our sister company Celtic Anglian Water, and – when appropriate - our Group company Anglian Water (one of the UK’s largest water companies). They can also involve clients, as an extension of our partnership approach.
For example, an IG was formed to help access some out-of-the-box thinking for our Glenmorangie client when dealing with the unforeseen challenge of how to hibernate an AD plant during a prolonged business shutdown.
- Build strong relationships with clients and regularly communicate
Strong client relationships are an essential part of delivering operational excellence. Relationships require time and effort to maintain, but the quality of what you create - and how you go about building them - really makes a difference. And although they’re critically important for customer retention, they should not be the driver of efforts in this area.
We’ve found that open, regular, two-way communication is critically important for building solid, long-lasting relationships with our clients, including through thorough regular communication and reporting. The reporting and communication processes we have developed for Glenmorangie, for example, has given the site clear information (for the first time) on how the plant is really performing, leading to continuous improvements in discharge levels and chemical usage, in turn reducing operational costs and improving environmental performance.
Building trust is critically important too. We build it by listening to our clients (and responding positively and quickly), and delivering what we promise from day one, to make tangible improvements for our client. At Cranfield University, our team's extraordinary efforts in managing the Sewage Treatment Works plant during extreme weather conditions is always greatly appreciated.
A shared focus with our client on innovation has also led to us developing a close relationship with their School of Water, Energy and Environment. Our team often conducts educational tours for students and staff as part of our service and we collaborate with the University’s pilot-plant hall research facility, which explores new technologies in areas such as grey-water recycling, clean water and wastewater treatment. This has led to site improvements and enhanced testing regimes, resulting in a Win-Win for ourselves as well as our client!
- Work in partnership to help deliver clients’ priorities
Delivering operational excellence also comes from adding value for our clients, particularly when it comes to achieving zero carbon and protecting the environment.
Our clients have always trusted us to keep on top of compliance, to fully protect the environment - and their brand reputation. (We hold a discharge permit for some of our sites and are always willing to discuss options to take other discharge permits). But many of them, (in both the public and private sector), have looked to us to go beyond just compliance. Through a commitment to achieving operational excellence, we’ve found ways to support delivery of their strategic sustainability and carbon neutrality goals and priorities.
For example, in the pharmaceutical and chemical industries, wastewaters can be complex in nature and require a degree of specialist treatment and management, especially when discharging to the environment. A partnership approach in this sector is vital, as treatment and management of these wastes requires a solid understanding of the upstream processes. Allowing treatment at source for more complex wastes, for example, will ultimately make savings to the overall treatment costs. So, we employ a team of highly qualified and experienced process and environmental scientists to meet this specialist need.
Where required by our clients, our in-house analytical scientists pro-actively monitor data daily from all the plants we operate so that we can identify and act on unusual trends that might indicate compliance could be compromised. We provide our clients with a detailed compliance management system – something that only comes with an experienced, specialist company.
- The right Tools and Processes help too!
As you would expect with any industry-leading organization, we also use Tools and Processes to help deliver operational excellence, drive cost efficiencies and optimize resources such as energy consumption, chemical and water use. These include Lean, Six-Sigma, TPS (Toyota Production System) and ToC (Theory of Constraints), all well-known for their ability to help deliver operational excellence. These are deployed through our highly qualified, expert teams.
In addition, we use digital data capture and smart reporting tools to meet environmental obligations. We also enhance and optimize plant performance through a commitment to best practice in quality, energy and environmental management.
Finally, we also focus on process safety. While functional safety is more widely understood, process safety is highly complex and requires extensive training and experience to understand – often only found through a specialist external partner, such as Alpheus. We ensure compliance with both functional and process safety, working with clients to help take their H&S strategy to the next level to deliver greater protection and reduced risk longer-term.
Through a commitment to delivering operational excellence across all sectors, we aim to drive results that create value for our customer.
Alpheus has been developing bespoke solutions for the private and public sector for nearly 30 years, always working with our clients to fully understand their needs and priorities. While the market has changed drastically over the last 5 years, we’ve stuck true to our roots.
To experience Alpheus’s operational excellence for yourself, get in touch today and find out how we can help you! Find out why we’re different and why some of the world’s best-known brands choose time and time again to work with us.
Contact Jonathan Mann via: firstname.lastname@example.org or call him on: 07964 207338.