How Suttons Approached The Implementation Of The Boc Cylinder Trunking Contract

The recent BOC cylinder trunking implementation wasn’t straightforward but over the recent years we have had plenty of experience with complexity. Through a multifunctional approach to implementation our team of experts, including colleagues from operations, SSHEQ, fleet engineering, HR, compliance, and business systems, have worked together to make the implementation a success.

Chrisi Lloyd Roberts, Business Improvement Director, led the implementation with the support of our Regional Director, Paul Blakeston.


The project team were involved in drafting the detail of the implementation plan using a bottom up approach and met regularly to discuss implementation status, challenges and risks. The transferring team from the incumbent supplier were also actively engaged in the process and provided valuable insight of the operation.


Going live during COVID restrictions presented challenges and we had to consider and amend our approach to project management, operational and planning familiarisation and most importantly,  engagement with transferring employees.


Project team meetings took place virtually and we had to find creative ways to continue with developing our understanding of the BOC operation. The transition was certainly made more complex by COVID, but we learnt a lot and found new ways of doing things, some of which we will take forward into the future.


Transferring colleagues

At Suttons we have extremely high standards when carrying out TUPE transfers which is a typically a detailed process. We aim to ensure that all individuals are highly involved and treated fairly during what can feel like an uncertain time. A total of 68 individuals were transferred to Suttons and despite the confines of the pandemic, all employees were involved in both individual and collective consultations.


Training transferring colleagues was challenging given the restrictions of the pandemic and we relied heavily on the transferring staff and driver team to deliver training through a train the trainer approach.


New DAF fleet

Through a rigorous process led by Steve Egglestone, Suttons’ Senior Fleet Engineer, 35 BOC specification units were procured from DAF supplied by North West trucks. A further 7 GP/BOC specification have been also been introduced to provide flexible support to the core fleet.  The units have been fitted with Microlise fleet technology and DVS equipment, and the newly procured trucks are being maintained by DAF dealerships whose aftersales infrastructure matches the operational requirements.


Andy Thurston, Driver Trainer on the BOC Cylinder Contract, commented on the new fleet:


“The new fleet has incorporated improved safety features and driver aids which have helped the drivers attain an A grade as a driving group. The new curb side cameras which give a live picture into the cab have really helped drivers get a better understanding of what’s around them removing the near side blind spot.”


A new way of working

In terms of business systems, the two main priorities were to plan jobs on our TMS (transport Management System) and to introduce drivers to the use of Microlise. The in-cab technology has removed paperwork from the process and provided visibility of the contract fleet.


We have had positive feedback from the drivers on the first phase of the Microlise installation Mike Cooper, Business Systems Manager, is now looking to implement phase two over the next few months. This will result in an enhancement to the job import for planning and provide an additional feature which will allow drivers to enter their own trailer numbers directly onto the DriveTab. This will allow drivers to enter quantities on the tablet which will be received automatically into our TMS and in turn feed into a customer arrivals board which will create value for the customer, reduce administration time for our planners and give us access to data for business KPI reporting.


Operations management

A locally based Operations Manager has been assigned to each of the driver regions to provide support and regular engagement. This localised management provides a good framework of engagement and issue resolution for drivers, and results in a standardised approach to compliance and safety management.


Lone working

As there is a large degree of lone working on the BOC cylinder trunking contract we have implemented a Peoplesafe lone worker device. These have been issued to drivers who operate outside of normal business hours at sites that are unmanned. The devices allow individuals to schedule check-ins, operate panic alarms or automatic man-down alarms that escalate through to operations control. The technology enables the operational management to pinpoint the location of the driver, make contact and communicate and arrange for attendance, based on their GPS location.


The approach to safety

We have implemented a contract Safety Plan detailing activity aimed at specific areas of operation relevant to the gas cylinder business. The local Operations Managers will arrange and deliver this training, working with the Contract Manager to ensure the training is consistent across the country. Local driver representatives will participate in bi-monthly safety committee meetings, chaired by the Contract Manager, designed to be a touchstone for continuous development of our safety culture.


One of our key targets for the year is defensive driving training and the contract Driver Trainer, Andy Thurston, has undergone a Smith System ‘Train the Trainer’ course during June to enable delivery of our driver CPC course across the contract.


The Operation & Solution Design

When preparing for the contract go-live operationally, the main objective was to ensure that BOC received the highest levels of safety and service and in order to achieve this we had to understand the full complexity of the operation prior to the transfer.


During the tender process Suttons designed a solution based on a reduced core fleet with a flexible solution to manage the peaks and troughs of business on the gas cylinder trunking contract. This model operated on an 80% core fleet with 20% flexible, driving cost efficiencies for the customer. With drivers strategically located across the country who could transition from GP work to contract work, we are able to manage the demand as activities spike but redeploy resource as that demand decreases.


There is an element of seasonality to the contract and the pandemic has been driving an increase in demand due to the hospitals requiring more gas with a surge in patients. This has made the flexible resource model even more appropriate for the customer.


A note from BOC

Dan North, Contracts Manager at BOC said:


“The key directive from BOC was to achieve a seamless service continuation from day one.  This was carefully considered throughout the implementation process and that objective was met successfully by the team at Suttons.”


Welcome to colleagues that have transferred


We’d like to give a special thank you to the staff team and the driver cohort that have transferred over to Suttons. We are very proud to have you in our business and wish you a long and successful career with us.



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