Balfour Beatty: ‘It gave us licence to get under the skin of our operations’
Innovation is key to long-term business success and companies that fail to
change and adapt put future growth aspirations at risk and perhaps, ultimately,
fall into long-term decline.
International infrastructure group Balfour Beatty began its transformation
programme Build to Last in February last year, anchored by four main goals: to
be lean, expert, trusted and safe.
Chief executive Leo Quinn, who was appointed in January 2015, challenged each
of Balfour Beatty’s business units to develop their own Build to Last programme.
For Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services that meant an agenda to drive change
focused around fleet efficiency innovation.
Such an approach was not a leap into the dark for Balfour Beatty Plant and
Fleet Services as it has a history of constantly introducing new initiatives –
many of them award-winning such as Permit to Drive, which secured the Fleet News
Awards 2015 Safe Fleet of the Year accolade.
However, as fleet director Carl Hanson explains: “The Build to Last programme
gave us licence to get further under the skin of our day-to-day operations and
really drive improvements and efficiencies across the fleet.”
Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services identified four key pillars to form
its own Build to Last initiative: procurement, fuel management, fleet
efficiency and reporting.
In 2015 financial savings totalling 6% of the total fleet costs (including
overheads, fuel, vehicles and technology) were identified across the four
business areas in terms of fleet operations.
Throughout the year, Balfour Beatty Plant and Fleet Services ‘kept score’ and
updated the business monthly on progress.
Savings and improvements have continued in 2016 with the Build to Last
programme further evolving and Hanson explaining: “Change is constant so we
are continually reviewing and adapting the business to meet our customers’
requirements. That means more innovation and greater use of technology to
deliver further significant savings.”
He continues: “The Build to Last transformation programme demonstrates
involvement and buy-in across the organisation from the group chief executive
through to individual drivers working on our operations every day. The results
yielded to date highlight direct, significant cost savings as well as unlocking
many other benefits to the business.”
Fleet News: What did you focus on to achieve savings across the four
Carl Hanson: The principal aims were to obtain reductions in fleet and fuel
spend through vehicle standardisation and effective supply chain management. As
well as operating fuel efficient vehicles, we wanted to deliver fuel savings at
a driver level by changing driver behaviour and maximising deals available
through our fuel card supply partner.
Additionally, targeted ‘deep dives’ at contract/depot level have improved
vehicle utilisation, fuel efficiency and driver behaviour, while sophisticated
dashboard-style reporting enables trend analysis and the ability to monitor
and maintain improvements.
FN: How did you convince business divisions that the new approach was
the right approach?
CH: We had to show operating units how they could be lean and efficient with
the resources they used day to day such as vehicles, fuel and drivers by
managing changes to attitudes and behaviours. We worked with business unit
leaders and took them on a journey of change to gain their approval, enabling
Plant and Fleet Services to support their teams at individual contract/depot
level, delivering lasting efficiency and sustainability. That required unit
business leaders to recognise that by investing the time up front to improve
fleet performance, they would see quick wins and medium to long-term
improvements – and financial savings – across their respective fleet
FN: What specific actions did you take to deliver savings in the four
CH: They were many and varied. In terms of procurement, following the 2014
decision to outsource the supply and management of Balfour Beatty’s car and van
fleet to Lex Autolease [HGV vehicle purchasing and management remained in-house]
we identified further savings by standardising our commercial fleet and
rationalising our supplier base.
We have reduced the fleet mix to nine standard light commercial vehicle types
and 14 specifications and a revised vehicle standard with greater consistency to
improve utilisation, enabling vans to be moved across units to meet individual
contract demands. We moved away from individual operating units having their own
‘favourite’ vans and specifications. In terms of the car choice we review, with
Lex, vehicle price and CO2 emission levels four times a year so as new models
are launched we continually drive down fleet emissions and improve fuel
FN: What action have you taken to reduce fuel costs?
CH: Key to fuel management improvements has been the rollout of 6,500 new
discount diesel fuel cards, along with educational packs to encourage more
effective usage. As part of the programme we recruited a fuel card co-ordinator
to support the targeted fuel spend behaviour improvements across all cards and
introduce the new policy. Previously, there were individuals across different
parts of the business involved in the fuel card process with differing
management approaches. Drivers are supported through a number of communication
channels including a mobile app and fuel station mapping. Monthly reports
highlight improvements and identify lost opportunities for savings to
continually drive further fleet efficiency and greater vehicle utilisation.
FN: And safety?
CH: Our fleet efficiency drive has also complemented our long-established
focus on road safety. We established a project team to review existing data and
conduct strategic ‘deep dives’ into the fleet operations relating to individual
depots and contracts to drive changes where we could identify savings.
One contract example saw the removal of three vehicles, drivers re-assigned
to more suitable vehicles and, due to the use of telematics, a 75% reduction in
speeding instances, an 84% cut in engine idling and a 45% mpg improvements with
spin-off CO2 improvements to help meet Balfour Beatty’s environmental
improvement targets. A further initiative saw a concerted focus on the efficient
use and management of short-term hire vehicles. Additionally, in-house speed
awareness courses were introduced, reducing speeding instances by 54% over a
14-week period in one division as well as improved mpg.
FN: How do you ensure that the momentum created by Build to Last is
CH: Weekly KPI reports are produced so business units can track progress and
see future opportunities for savings and weekly conference calls are hosted to
discuss the outcomes and actions required. On-going reporting following the
initial transformation stage is critical to ensure that improvements and
efficiencies are maintained over time and become the norm. Management
information packs are generated monthly and sent to senior stakeholders in each
business unit. They are designed to grab the attention of senior management and
allow them to identify positive or negative trends in their fleet and act
FN: What are the long-term benefits of Build to Last in addition to
CH: Plant and Fleet Services has forged much stronger relationships with
operational teams, through increased dialogue and a greater appreciation of the
importance that a more efficient fleet can provide. By going the extra mile for
our colleagues we are achieving much deeper mutual and durable relationships
which are built to last.
FN: What does winning a Fleet News Award mean to you personally and
CH: I was very proud to win an industry award for the work we have done. It
is a thank-you to everyone who has been involved in delivering the savings and