Infinite Possibilities

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Standing still is not an option for Prontoport. The Irvine-based company has identified innovation and continual business improvement as the best path to growth, discovers Dominic Ryan from the Glasgow Herald.










Of course, Albert himself best summed up the danger of not seeking new ways of doing things when he said: "If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got." In business terms innovation means the untiring exploration of new strategies, an insatiable hunger for smarter thinking and the restless search to harness new opportunities in expanding marketplaces. Even the smallest change, if fresh and inventive, can vastly improve and sustain an organisation's competitiveness.

David Hatfield, Operations Manager at Prontoport, points out that the organisation, which provides independent engineering support services within the renewable energy and oil and gas sector across the UK, not only embraces continual business improvements but also always strives to innovate its service offering.

"At Prontoport all the management staff are engineers by profession," he points out. "This gives the business a desire to be at the forefront of new technologies and processes and to be part of the initial governmental drive to harness green energy production methods. It is what gave us the impetus to impart our technical capability into the sector and launch Prontoport.

"For example, five years ago we were solely providing skilled technical resources to our customers, including Siemens, DONG Energy, Petrofac and Vestas. Now we have established multiple business units focusing on Condition Based Monitoring, Asset Management, PPE Inspection and Certification and our last unit to be formed was our Training Academy, which caters primarily for existing clients and new entrants into the renewable sector."

Innovative strategies at the multi ISO-accredited Prontoport has led to growth, helping the firm stay ahead of the competition. Three years ago, the Irvine based business turned over £0.5 million.

This has doubled yearon- year since through diversification and an understanding that the business must not remain stagnant, using the old adage 'speculate to accumulate'.

Hatfield says: "The Training Academy, for example, represented a £0.25 million inward investment by the board to further grow the business organically and sustainably. It has not only allowed the business to increase its customer offering but also strengthen the internal operations by facilitating the upskilling and development of its office staff and technical teams. "The other additional business units allow Prontoport to crosspollinate various industries, including conventional power, utilities and oil and gas."

Having a strong focus on updating products and services or changing working processes can help reshape business models and open up new routes to market. Hatfield admits that Prontoport had found itself somewhat pigeon-holed, before adding: "So with the development of enhanced service offerings we had to convey a particular message that we were open and ready for business, regardless of sector.

"Last year we undertook a major brand revamp, with a fresh corporate identity which has seen opportunities and penetration into other engineering sectors." Today it continually seeks out fresh opportunities, not just through operations and maintenance aspects or enhancing individual business units - the development of personnel and staff is a priority, as they are seen as "the future managers of the business".

Hatfield explains that for Prontoport, innovations come about by understanding the marketplace in which it operates and conducting detailed gap analysis to uncover any niche areas to exploit. He says: "Once all the information is extrapolated, the Senior Management Team put a business case forward to discuss the pros, cons and commercial viability of the opportunity and make an informed decision from there.

"With particular reference to the training academy we understood there are approximately 20 major wind farms within a 40-mile radius and a technician base that will continually require re-skilling. So far, we are the only RenewableUK/Global Wind Organisation accredited training provider in the West of Scotland offering the required mandatory training." In all of this, help has been on hand from North Ayrshire Council and Scottish Enterprise (SE) through Regional Selective Assistance.

Hatfield says: "SE have been on this journey with us for a number of years and we have found them to be an invaluable partner, not only in establishing new business units but through other support mechanisms like attending events and exploring international markets. "We find SE attentive to our needs as they understand that the business is and always will be hugely ambitious and this on-hand support has been key to our success."

Top 5 ... ways to innovate through networking

1 New connections

Networking provides you with a resource of brand new connections. It can also open the door to the industry movers and shakers, who can further expand your links.

2 New opportunities

Partnerships, new client leads, business opportunities, asset sales - networking can lead to the most surprising and rewarding opportunities.

3 New business

The most tangible benefit of networking is gaining new business through direct conversations or via subsequent referrals.

4 New advice

Rather than adding peer pressure, networking with similar businesses can mean sharing experiences and motivation. All of this free advice and expertise can be invaluable.

5 New profile

You have to be in it to win it. If your brand is visible at major forums and conferences, then it will boost your chances of being noticed and winning new clients.

Innovation through conversation

Often the companies who learn most are those that continually talk to their industry peers. Prontoport has a proven track record in recognising the need network. It recently had a presence at Windenergy Hamburg, a major industry forum that unites major global onshore and offshore players under one roof in a country that is a leading technology nation and a pioneer in the implementation of renewable energies.

Just last month it was also in attendance at the European Wind Energy Association offshore conference in Copenhagen in Denmark. David Hatfield, Prontoport's Operations Manager, says the firm was excited to be exhibiting at the Copenhagen event, where there was the opportunity to speak to industry friends and make new ones.

Innovation through education

Prontoport has recently invested in a Training Academy centre of excellence with renewable industry-specific training courses, the first of its kind in the West of Scotland. Training is provided by industry experience personnel and Prontoport is the only provider to, not only train to these standards but also provide the engineering support to which the certification is intended.

The Academy offers both renewable industry-specific courses - both new and refresher - and courses for the much wider engineering and construction sectors. These include RUK/GWO Working at Height and Rescue, Fire Awareness, First Aid and Manual Handling. It is also an approved and accredited ECITB training centre offering Working at Height, Confined space awareness (low, med and high risk) and the CCNSG Safety Passport.

All that is required to sign up is a willingness to learn and a good standard of general health. The long-term aims of the training academy, because of its globally recognised accreditation, are to take what Prontoport currently offers, to the European market and beyond.

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