In the second article of our Meet the Experts series, we introduce Walter Service, our business manager for lifting equipment and tooling rental. With a nearly decade-long journey at Altrad Sparrows, Walter initially joined the company to oversee an external contract managing our lifting equipment. "However, I quickly realised that we could achieve better results in-house," he remarked.
Do you want to explore further details about this pivotal moment and gain more insights from our lifting equipment and tooling rental expert? Dive into the full interview below!
Could you share some information about your educational background, qualifications, and prior professional experience?
My professional experience began almost as soon as I left school following ‘O’ levels. I worked in logistics with a BP-owned subsidiary company that involved me working in the construction yards at Nigg (Cromarty Firth, Scotland) and Graythorpe (north east England) with some of their large equipment. Following this, I dedicated 24 years to PCT Group, where I was fortunate to receive invaluable mentorship that contributed to my professional development. The directors at PCT Group consistently presented challenging opportunities, broadening my knowledge and enhancing my overall professional experiences. As a contractor, I worked for some years as plant and equipment manager with Wood Group, where I had the responsibility to maintain and support their offshore operations.
Can you outline some of the key responsibilities that shaped your daily routine as our business manager for lifting equipment and tooling rental?
The lifting and tooling group is a support service to the company. The team leaders, lifting, tooling rental, and work at height must be supported to enable their service delivery needs. It is important they have a focal point for guidance, sound resources and clear, easily understood processes and procedures to help them, as well as a fundamental view of safety toward each team member. My key responsibilities are to make sure they have that level of guidance and support.
How many years of experience do you have working in your area of expertise?
I have been actively engaged in the utilisation and provision of general lifting and rigging equipment since 1985. During my journey at PCT Group, I played a role in shaping the concept of the rental template for rigging lofts, introducing the first prototypes to clients in 1987. Prior to this innovation, clients were burdened with equipment ownership, grappling with issues such as maintenance, storage, certification, and compliance with legislation—none of which aligned with their core business objectives. The introduction of the rental loft model revolutionised how clients perceived the supply of maintenance support lifting equipment, establishing rigging lofts as a standard industry tool. From our Balgownie workshop in Aberdeen, we annually oversee the management of over 100 lofts for our clients' base.
Over your nearly decade-long journey at Altrad Sparrows, could you tell us about a particularly demanding project you were involved in and the reasons behind its challenging nature?
Upon joining the company in 2014, my initial role was to oversee an external contract managing our lifting equipment. However, I soon recognised the potential for improvement by bringing this function in-house. Establishing the in-house operation posed a considerable challenge. After years of external management, treating it essentially as an additional aspect beyond the company's core scope, persuading management to shift the service in-house and justifying the associated setup costs was no small feat. Still, in the end, they were supportive, and since then, the company has been seeing the benefit of this decision. The regular challenges we now have are the typical peaks and troughs of the offshore business, where a great deal happens at two points in the year, and everyone wants gear at the same time.
What’s one thing you would want people to know about what you do at Altrad Sparrows?
In our lifting equipment workshop, our contribution extends beyond tangible items you can physically hold. Rather, we offer a service. I want people to know and understand we are here to help either directly with equipment or with guidance on the best equipment to use on their job.
Last but not least, how would you sum up your expertise?
I like to think that my time and the experiences I have witnessed in the business have given me knowledge and insight on the best practical way to approach the problems we need to address. In the last forty years, I have been fortunate to become acquainted with almost every type and style of rigging machine or accessory for one reason or another and have learned something from each. These experiences mean I’m lucky enough to know ‘stuff’, and I am happy to pass on any knowledge I have to others so that they can do their tasks well and safely.