CPA Conference takes on zero carbon and digitalisation

15 October 2021

Supply chain engagement and collaboration to lower emissions and engage with new technologies were key themes at The Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) Conference 2021 last week.

Panel 4 ‘Covid-19 – Learning from its Impact in Driving Digital Change.’ Left to right: Glenn Pearson - Point of Rental Software; Ryan Pike - Trackunit; Glyn Matthews - Sunbelt Rentals; David Emery - Supply Chain Sustainabilty School; and conference convenor Merryn Myatt.

A key theme was the importance of engaging the whole rental supply chain in reducing emissions. 

“The construction industry is currently the least innovative industry in the UK,” said David Emery, a consultant for the Supply Chain Sustainability School, a collaborative organisation enabling a sustainable built environment.

However he said challenges could be overcome through early engagement from OEMs with rental customers, to educate rental companies about equipment and processes and drive demand for low or zero emissions equipment.

Paul Mabey, sales manager for JCB (Europe), agreed that OEMs had a role to play, with innovation at JCB driven equally by the plant hire sector and Tier 1 and Tier 2 contractors; “We tend to work collaboratively with both, rather than viewing product innovation from a strictly supply or demand perspective.”

The conference, titled Net Zero Carbon & Digitalisation: The Challenge of Change for the Plant Sector, took place on Thursday 14 October at the Heart of England Conference Centre in Coventry, UK.

Tom Thackray, programmes director - decarbonisation, for the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said it was critical to “go as far upstream as possible” in the rental supply chain in ensuring sustainable practices.

These should encompass scope 1 (direct emissions from owned or controlled sources), scope 2 (indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company) and scope 3 (indirect emissions in a company’s value chain).

Meanwhile panellists agreed that the rental market tendancy to compete on price was another challenge that could be addressed through leadership.

Fergus Harradence of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, said; “It’s important to place long term high value contracts with suppliers who deliver social value.”

He said frameworks could be implemented to drive change, for example through government procurement.

The conference featured panel discusssions with representatives from OEMs, the rental sector as well as the academic and government spheres.

Topics included ‘Why Net Zero Matters - The Role of the Plant-Hire Sector in Driving Change’; ‘How to Net Zero your Business’; ‘Digitalisation - Transforming the Construction Industry’ and ‘Covid-19 – Learning from its Impact in Driving Digital Change.’

Meanwhile rental companies had a role to play in addressing operational inefficiencies to reduce emissions. Merrill Lynch, director of L Lynch Plant Hire, gave the example of operators idling throughout the day to keep warm.

“With one customer, we looked at the welfare accommodation and we worked out it was too far away. We spoke to the customer who added welfare units on site, and this contributed to a saving of £200,000 for that business.”

On the digitalisation of rental, Josh Wallman, co-founder and director of Capja, a consultancy that helps companies digitalise their operations, said rental companies that hadn’t yet engaged with digitalisation should be encouraged to do so. “You’ve got to start somewhere,” he said. 

However digital skills shortages were “a major challenge.” James O’Meara, General Manager - Livelink at JCB, said, “We need to think about the opportunities to attract new digital talent to the industry.”

Telematics were a good starting point for data collection on machine operation and utilisation, however there was scope to expand the use of data, the panellists agreed. Determining what data would be most useful was an ongoing challege, while lack of standardisation in terms of data and what it measures was another. 

Overall however, the pandemic had not only accelerated digitalisation but proved it could be done successfully, said Glyn Matthews, Digital Transformation Manager, Sunbelt Rentals UK; “The pandemic meant five year digital plans were suddenly contracted into months,” he said. “Covid-19 proved digitalisation works.” 

Panellists at the CPA Conference 2021 were:

Panel 1 – Why Net Zero Matters – The Role of the Plant-hire Sector in Driving Change

Fergus Harradence, Deputy Director, Construction at Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

Tom Thackray, Director of Infrastructure, CBI

David Emery, Consultant, Supply Chain Sustainability School

Dr Carl Desouza, Post-Doctoral Research Associate, Imperial College

Paul Mabey, National Account Sales Manager, JCB

Panel 2 – How to Net Zero Your Business

Chris Matthew, Strategic Manager, Flannery Plant Hire

Merrill Lynch, Director, L Lynch Plant Hire

Steve Bradby, Technical & Engineering Leader, Select Plant Hire

Panel 3 – Digitalisation – Transforming the Construction Industry

Josh Wallman, Co-Founder and Director, Capja

Vanessa Bold, New Hospitals Programme, NHS

Chris Gill, Director, L Lynch Plant Hire

James O’Meara, General Manager - LiveLink, JCB

Steve Bradby, Technical & Engineering Leader, Select Plant Hire

Panel 4 – COVID-19 – Learning from its Impact in Driving Digital Change

Ryan Pike, Market Development Manager, Trackunit

Glenn Pearson, Syrinx 365 and RentItOnline Product Manager, Point of Rental Software

Glyn Matthews, Digital Transformation Manager, Sunbelt Rentals UK

David Emery, Consultant, Supply Chain Sustainability School


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