Brammer signals service focus with Midlands opening04 January 2019

Operating 47 branches around the UK, industrial supply house Brammer, Buck and Hickman (BBH) supplies 500,000 parts a year from a catalogue amounting to 5.5 million items. It has opened the first of three new service centres launching over the next year, in Wolverhampton, which will be followed by Maidstone (Kent) and Cardiff.

The business of industrial repair has been evolving ever since Brammer set up its first service centre in Leeds in 1983. As engineering skills were lost in factories, they have been picked up by the supply chain. Its Leeds site started servicing gearboxes, but then diversified to pumps and blowers. The work expanded to include removal as well as repair, and then reinstalls; along the way, Brammer married parts distributor Buck & Hickman, in 2011. Now its servicing portfolio includes commissioning, alignment, checking belts and even condition monitoring, through a partnership with consultancy Interface CM.

“The issue today is about getting basic plant maintenance done: checking lubrication, chains and belts. We’ll do that. We are moving away from straightforward repair toward asset management and third-party work,” says BBH head of engineering Andrew Batey. That’s why Brammer is adding to its service centre network, which includes Leeds and Udlington (Glasgow). It has been a busy time for the company: BBH was bought by funds managed by US venture capital firm Advent International in 2017, and collected into a pan-European engineering holding company that was renamed Rubix in 2018.

The company has no particular target for the percentage of business that comes from services, according to Nigel Banks, BBH’s value-added service MD, though he adds that opening Cardiff should double revenues. Their purpose is more providing technical backup to the regional branches, whose mobile sales staff need not be expert engineers, just aware of service opportunities as they arise. In addition to service centre staff – Wolverhampton employs seven – there are also five mobile engineers spread across the UK.

While Udlington centre’s special competence is wind turbine bearings, Leeds’ is extruders, Cardiff’s is expected to be hydraulics, Wolverhampton’s is electric motors. Up to 90kW units can be rebuilt; rotors are rewound on a coil-winding machine; there are also coil polishers and a burn off oven. Gearbox repair is another principal activity; average monthly throughput is 45 units.

In charge of quality standards across all five centres is Batey. He explains that he is less interested in individual sites’ processes or paperwork, as he is with making sure that useability criteria are maintained across them all: “It is always easy to scrap something.” He adds that this judgement can depend on the customer’s own cashflow: some lean on old components because they cannot afford to replace them until the next financial period.

This service approach continues in what is perhaps the company’s biggest departure from industrial distribution: the Product Proving Centre, a breezeblock enclosure holding three Haas CNC machine tools used for proving metalcutting methods. Although the BBH catalogue offers a tool range called Cutline, that’s been a relatively small part of its portfolio – until now. Staffed by two applications engineers, the facility allows subcontractors to improve tool life, speed up production or reduce costs without consuming their own production capacity. Cutting trials are free, with the expectation that they will order consumables from Brammer. Like the rest of service centre, the goal is really to develop closer relationships with customers, adds Pearson.

BOX OUT: New range of pumps

Mecaline is a new product range of gearboxes, in round worm, square worm and European-style helical formats, made by Hydro-Mec. The modular units can be fitted with a range of feet plates to replicate the exact dimensions of Bonfiglioli, Varvel or STM gearboxes. Smaller units have plug-in shafts and are based on a coupling with an IEC motor with flange; larger units have a plug-in motor. Fitting to them are a range of aluminium self-cooling motors, power capacity up to 35kW, stocked in multiple gear ratios in Leeds and Wolverhampton.

Will Dalrymple

Related Companies
Brammer Buck & Hickman

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