Fifteen years ago, MOD awarded a £660 million PFI contract to outsource maintenance and management of construction and field mechanical handling equipment used around the world by Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and Royal Logistics Corps staff.
The scope of that so-called C Vehicle Capability Contract includes truck-mounted loaders, dump trucks, telehandlers and excavators. “These have been used to good effect to build camps in Iraq and Afghanistan and carry out defensive upgrades in Cyprus and Falkland Islands,” says the current consortium owner ALC Vehicles, made up of infrastructure services providers Amey and Babcock International Group. Their partners include TVS Supply Chain Solutions for equipment supply, PDM Training Solutions for education, TMS Support Solutions for technical documentation and Civica for fleet management software.
The consortium provides spare parts, technical documentation, tooling, testing equipment, transport and training, through a ‘train the trainer’ methodology. During the contract duration, the group has reduced the equipment fleet by half to 2,000 machines across 160 types over an eight-year, £110 million replacement and refurbishment programme, with technical support from Exsel Group. Now assets include a variety of specialist equipment from 50t-capacity cranes to concrete mixers to runway repair equipment.
That was not the only private-sector contract let for mechanical handling equipment. In 2012, the MOD tendered for fleet management, repair and maintenance of some 3,100 mechanical handling assets. These include counterbalance trucks and side loaders, container handlers, pedestrian, ride-on and electric pallet trucks, telescopic reach trucks, very narrow aisle trucks, tow vehicles including tracked, agricultural tractors including trailers and ancillaries andvarious other trailers, ancillaries and MHE attachments.
That £87 million Defence Mechanical Handling Equipment (DMHE) contract, across Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and British Army was won by Briggs Defence, a division of the UK distributor of Hyster and Yale forklift trucks made in the USA that employs 600 engineers in the UK and was formerly known as Defence Logistic Support. Unlike the fleet covered by the C-Vehicles contract, which is owned by the MOD, the standard industrial machinery in this contract is owned by Briggs and leased to MOD.
In a 2018 celebration of 20 years of military contracts, Briggs Equipment managing director Peter Jones said: “All of us at Briggs are very proud to deliver the prestigious DMHE contract. It is far from easy to manage, but the support we get on a daily basis from our employees and business partners means we’ve been able to provide a world class service.”
At that event, Briggs employee Stuart Gunn was recognised for his role in the development of the Hyster Tracker telemetry system for use within MOD applications. That system, rolled out to industry in 2015, monitors and reports on the performance and use of forklift trucks and container handling trucks in operation. It monitors the materials handling fleet, controls operator access and helps to verify that the operator pre-shift checklist has been completed before operation. In addition, machines’ hour meter, cost of operation, periodic maintenance, fault codes and impacts can all be tracked, according to Hyster.
Briggs, too, won a £2.6 million contract in 2015 to maintain a relatively small fleet of blast- and shell-protected engineering equipment, including Caterpillar 257 light wheeled tractor, Caterpillar 434 medium-wheeled tractor and Caterpillar 938, plus IVECO Trakker trucks. The scope of the work included repair and maintenance, including spares supply, equipment transport and safety updates.
As all three of these contracts were due to run out in 2020 or 2021, MOD let a tender in 2018, called MITER, that combined all three. “This will support the MOD's requirement to ensure a sustained and consistent service for British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force personnel on deployed operations at home and overseas,” stated a 2020 press release published by the winning consortium.
The seven-year contract is valued at £240 million.
The tender specifies that the combined total fleet amounts to 4,600 pieces of equipment in 300 locations in 14 countries, and would likely remain so. “The primary role of the MITER contractor will be to manage and sustain the combined construction and mechanical handling equipment fleet in the United Kingdom (UK), on deployed operations and overseas environments,” the tender read.
It went on to state that three types of deployments were envisaged: ‘firm base’ - enduring UK forces locations including Germany and Cyprus; ‘deployed benign’ -low-threat and potentially remote and/or environmentally-testing conditions without combat operations; and ‘deployed tactical’ in areas of armed conflict. Military and non-military personnel can be deployed to the first two, but only military personnel for the third.
This is part of the MOD’s ‘Whole Force Approach’ staffing strategy that seeks to use military staff (regular and reserves), MOD civilians and civilian contractors. “We aim to get the most cost-effective balance between the various groups of staff involved in defence activities,” it said.
In August 2020, MOD announced that the preferred supplier of MITER is a joint venture between Amey and Briggs Defence. As a result, around 180 staff and supply chain partners will be transferred into the separate AmeyBriggs business.
Gary Clements, managing director of Briggs Defence, said: “We are delighted that the MOD has recognised the value of the Amey and Briggs Defence proposition, in particular our ability to deliver high levels of service and maintain flexibility in supporting an end-to-end capability. We look forward to maximising our respective expertise and working with top UK equipment manufacturers to provide innovative solutions through a whole force approach that meets the complex needs of our Armed Forces.”
Craig McGilvray, managing director for Secure Infrastructure at Amey, said: “Amey is proud to sit at the heart of the Armed Forces community, using data-driven optimisation to maintain critical infrastructure nationwide. Our joint venture with Briggs Defence has an unrivalled breadth of knowledge and experience that makes us uniquely placed to deliver this contract for the MOD, but critically where the operational and training needs of serving personnel are put first. We look forward to working closely with Defence Equipment and Support (DE&S) to deliver on that commitment and to supporting our Armed Forces.”
Box: REBUILDING FLTs
In September 2020, a Briggs Defence contract to carry out the mid-life refurbishment of 22 Dantruck forklifts won in 2016 came to an end, following delivery of the last unit to RAF Brize Norton. The machines are bespoke, air-transportable 8-tonne forklift and feature a three-stage hydraulic mast and a very low closed height for rapid loading of specialist roller pallets for military cargo. Briggs Defence called them “a vital piece of equipment within the UK’s military logistics operations.” They are also used at RAF bases in the Falkland Islands, Cyprus and Ascension Island.
Now defunct, manufacturer Dantruck originally made the units in 2004. Briggs Defence says: “But our engineers proved to be more than equal to the task, replacing the Detroit power unit and rebuilding transmissions, drive axles and hydraulic systems.” In addition, they also upgraded the alternator and cooling system. The work was carried out in Maidenhead, Berkshire.
It also found a vendor to perform an electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) test on the vehicles, which was needed because of their work in storage and marshalling within fuel and munition dumps. They were classified as Category C (explosives buildings without flammable vapour or explosive dust atmospheres).
The supplier also rewrote the detailed maintenance manual and a safety case, as well as training courses at RAF bases around the UK.