LRQA Limited

ALE - Integrated Management - Case Study


Courtesy of Courtesy of LRQA Limited

ALE is one of the world’s largest providers of lifting and transport services for heavy, indivisible loads. Its services include lifting, transporting, installing, ballasting, jacking and weighing. Formed in 1983 and headquartered at Hixon, Staffordshire, ALE has expanded internationally and now has more than 30 offices worldwide.

An Integrated Approach

Increasing certification

ALE is one of the world’s largest providers of lifting and transport services for heavy, indivisible loads. Its services include lifting, transporting, installing, ballasting, jacking and weighing. Formed in 1983 and headquartered at Hixon, Staffordshire, ALE has expanded internationally and now has more than 30 offices worldwide.

ALE covers sectors including civil, nuclear, renewables, offshore, metals and minerals, shipyards, oil, gas and petrochemicals.

In 1994, ALE first secured ISO 9001 quality management system certification, initially for its site at Hixon. ALE first gained ISO 14001 environmental management system certification in 2008.

ALE has ISO 9001:2008, ISO 14001:2004, or both standards, at the following sites: Hixon (UK); Middlesbrough (UK); Breda (Netherlands); Abu Dhabi (UAE); Somerset West (South Africa); Johor (Malaysia) and Madrid (Spain).

ALE’s branches in Madrid (Spain) and Rayong (Thailand) are due to be assessed in March for ISO 14001 and June 2013 for ISO 9001 respectively. Its branches in Australia, Argentina and Brazil are set to follow next.  

“Certification to these international standards has strengthened our culture of continual improvement,” says John Fitzmaurice, Global Health, Quality, Safety and Environment (HSQE) Manager at ALE. “Among its other benefits, certification has also given us a greater understanding of legal compliance, a more concise and robust register of environmental aspects and impacts, and improved risk management.”

Challenges, ALE brings in LRQAChallenges, ALE brings in LRQA

ALE’s international expansion has brought challenges, as John Fitzmaurice explains: “When I joined ALE in 2007, our management system was paper based, very thick, fragmented and referred to only infrequently.

“At our global sites I quickly saw how HSQE was being implemented inconsistently and sometimes fairly informally, with different systems and processes in play.

“In one particular project carried out under the baking Nigerian sun, we had guys working for us form many of our different offices across the globe but they were wearing various uniforms and producing different paperwork.  I knew then that we had to move to a single, integrated and standardised system.”

ALE brings in LRQA

Although ALE knew where it needed and wanted to go, it was LRQA that helped to clear the way. John Fitzmaurice says: “We chose LRQA due to its international standing and recognition among our global client base. This has turned out well for us: from the start we’ve been pleased with LRQA’s service, which is professional and efficient.” 

LRQA Account Manager Ellen Davison started by designing a tailored service package centred on ALE’s global operations, and multi-site certification to ISO 9001 and ISO 14001. “Ellen has given us, and continues to give, well-balanced guidance and advice,” says John Fitzmaurice. “She also responds quickly, understands her subject and understands the difficulties and bespoke nature of our business.”

LRQA’s service package included the appointment of a co-ordinating assessor responsible for assessing ALE’s UK operations and managing locally based assessors at its overseas sites.

LRQA Co-ordinating Assessor Mike Gelderd is a critical point of contact for the client. His functions include:

  • Ensuring the consistency of LRQA’s assessment programme
  • Implementing LRQA’s global and Business Assurance approaches
  • Producing a consolidated report after surveillance visits to highlight any themes or trends
  • Preparing briefing notes to direct assessors towards selected themes or issues
LRQA Business Assurance

LRQA Business Assurance adds value by giving the client useful advice on targeted improvements and risk management, together with meaningful assessments. “This works well,” says John Fitzmaurice. “We’ve been able to use Mike’s strong knowledge in developing globally applicable management systems. Mike’s advice is always structured, concise and pragmatic.

“More broadly, LRQA’s auditors also apply common sense to situations, which strengthens our relationship and helps us to continually improve the performance of our IMS. In previous business partnerships, I’ve found that auditors can sometimes struggle to apply a standard to different industries. This isn’t the case with LRQA.”

Integrated Management SystemIntegrated Management System

Following advice from LRQA, ALE operates a generic integrated management system (IMS) that can be implemented at any and all of its sites. This can be supplemented if required by local and national systems and certifications. For ALE this is efficient and cost effective. New locations can easily be integrated into the IMS without the need for additional ‘stage 1’ (pre-assessment) visits, since these sites are adopting a tried and tested management system. ALE’s IMS includes a safety management element based on OHSAS 18001, although it is not yet certified to the standard.

In January 2013, ALE put its IMS on the company intranet, making it even more accessible and manageable at all its sites.

The benefits of an IMS include: a single executive summary, highlighting areas for improvements; integrated assessments, avoiding duplication, saving time and reducing costs; and greater optimisation of practices, harmonisation, consistency and organisational balance.

“Our IMS has made us leaner, smarter and stronger in the market,” says John Fitzmaurice. “It’s changed our organisational culture at every level, from our board of directors to our highly skilled operators of plant and equipment. HSQE is now central to everyone’s thinking, which is reinforced by regular management reviews and our scheduled audit and inspection programme.”  

ALE’s IMS has also brought another benefit: friendly competition between its global sites to operate the best-performing system. In the latest round, ALE’s Abu Dhabi office came top.  

ALE’s Berkeley boilers contract

Between January and March 2012, ALE successfully carried out the jacking, skidding and transport of five redundant boilers from the former nuclear power station at Berkeley, Gloucestershire.

Each of the boilers was 22 metres long, 5 metres wide and weighed around 300 tonnes. They were transported four miles through Berkeley town centre to Sharpness Docks, from where they were shipped via Avonmouth to Nyköping, Sweden. During this project ALE worked closely with its customer, Magnox, together with LLW Repository, the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency and recycling specialist Studsvik.

“Magnox was pleased because our commercial, engineering and operations teams were highly experienced and proactive in meeting its needs,” says John Fitzmaurice. “The customer also liked the way we practised what we preached in our meticulously detailed HSQE plans, method statements and risk assessments. Magnox commented how our system always relates to, and is specific to, the task, and that our operators have a base knowledge that is clearly apparent. All in all, Magnox was delighted with how smoothly the operation was managed.”

ALE plans to remove and transport the 10 remaining boilers in spring 2013.

Continual improvement

The ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 standards at the heart of ALE’s IMS are based on a plan-do-review-act cycle of continual improvement. With its constantly forward looking and robust frameworks, systems and processes now in place, ALE’s priorities include:

  • Meeting and exceeding service level requirements – making its customers happy!
  • Improving and standardising levels of competence at its global sites
  • Preventing pollution, injury and ill health
  • Complying with legal and other requirements

John Fitzmaurice says: “I’m lucky to have a readily available managing director who backs most HSQE initiatives that will make us smarter, safer and stronger. I would like to see continuing, steady improvements – constant evolution rather than revolution.”

In its on-going HSQE programme of improvements, ALE is implementing standard schemes of training, a global competency framework, a company-wide appraisal scheme, an annual global training plan and an enterprise resource planning system. Its recent appointments have included a new global training manager, based at Breda, and a new learning and development manager at Hixon.

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