From coal-fired power stations to versatile, sustainable solutions, Powertherm embraces innovation and inclusivity

With a commendable track record as leading innovators and experts in insulation, Powertherm Contract Services Ltd (Powertherm) has established itself as an industry frontrunner renowned for its commitment to delivering top-notch quality. Emerging from its roots within coal-fired power stations in the UK, Powertherm has transformed into a versatile service provider offering a wide range of specialist solutions that synergistically add value to one another. Paul Ashton, Managing Director, unravels the company’s evolution.

“Founded in 1989, we were initially established as an insulation contracting business known as Powertherm Contracts Insulation Ltd, primarily operating within the coal fired power generation industry. Currently, Powertherm provides a suite of services that support our work in both major construction and maintenance projects such as scaffold access, electrical trace heating, industrial coatings, and refractory lining. These services can be offered either separately or as part of a package, and offering this degree of adaptability can bring numerous advantages to our clients.

“Currently, business is thriving, and I see this continuing well into the future. The ongoing energy security issues, combined with the UK government’s commitment to achieve net-zero by 2050, have created unprecedented prospects for our sector and, when you consider aspects such as energy security, carbon reduction, and energy efficiency, insulation emerges as a crucial element. While this is advantageous for our business, it also comes with the added benefit that we are making a meaningful and positive environmental impact,” he begins.

Commitment to sustainability
The company’s comprehensive range of services and commitment to delivering exceptional value to clients, enable it to stay ahead of the competition. Paul candidly discusses the distinctive factors that make Powertherm stand out from the crowd. “Obviously, there are other companies that provide multi-discipline services like ours. However, they tend to be multinational companies which are much larger in scale, while we operate in a very different band. Thus, our competitive edge is specialist insulation services. Moreover, our smaller size enables us to offer a much more personal level of service,” he explains.

As part of Powertherm’s commitment to becoming more sustainable, the company has recently joined the European Industrial Insulation (EiiF) Foundation. Paul elaborates on why this is an important step for the company. “We have decided to expand our focus to gain insights into the insulation market in different parts of the world, examining their approaches and identifying valuable lessons to enhance our practices. As part of that, we have sent one of our engineers abroad to undertake Thermal Insulation Performance Check (TIPCHECK) training. This strategic step aligns with our net zero target by enabling our engineer to conduct comprehensive assessments on-site, evaluating the plant, equipment, and piping. The primary focus will be to understand the effectiveness of existing installation systems, identify potential cost-saving opportunities, and quantify the impact on carbon footprint reduction. By joining the EiiF we gain the opportunity to conduct TIPCHECKs and advocate for their adoption within the UK market. While these checks are already popular in Europe and other regions, they have yet to be fully recognized in the UK,” he enlightens.

Operational efficiency
Powertherm’s dedication to sustainability also fuels further advancements as the company has just invested £750,000 in state-of-the-art machinery to optimize workforce productivity. “In recent years, Powertherm has made significant investments in CNC machines, with plans to purchase more. These machines have greatly enhanced the efficiency of our sheet metal cladding facility. When I was an apprentice at Powertherm, fabricating the metal cladding involved an intensive manual process of pattern development. However, today we have automated machines that can be programmed to produce these components effortlessly. Although the process still involves some manual labor to assemble the components, the introduction of CNC machines has brought about substantial cost reductions, improved overall quality, and significantly enhanced the efficiency of our business operations,” he affirms.

Investing in people
Paul emphasizes that a major challenge currently faced by the industry is the shortage of qualified and trained individuals. However, Powertherm has its own solution to this problem. “Enhancing the availability of skilled personnel in roles such as managers, site supervisors and operatives is a key area of improvement for our business. One of the main KPIs for our HR team is to improve our apprenticeship ratio. As a result, we have made significant investments in recruiting and training apprentices and trainees to join our business. Currently, our apprentice-to-employee ratio stands at one to six.

“This is a very exciting enterprise and I believe that with the way we are managed now, we are giving our trainees and apprentices the opportunity to grow. When the company was first created 34 years ago, it was more hierarchical, but now we strive to make it a family-like environment where everyone can get their opinions across. Today, we recognize the value and significance of the perspectives and insights from our frontline employees. Their first-hand experience and expertise are just as valuable as the ideas and input from our managers. I would say then that we have evolved and grown significantly in terms of our management style,” he concludes.

Inclusive culture
Powertherm has embarked on an extraordinary journey, transitioning from its origins in coal-fired power stations to now proudly providing a diverse array of services to the new nuclear and renewable energy sectors. Throughout this transformative growth, the company has cultivated a remarkable culture of inclusivity, embracing open communication and collaboration, and empowering its workforce at every level. By valuing the voices and ideas of all employees, Powertherm has created a healthy work environment where innovation flourishes. Moreover, the company’s commitment to sustainability stands as a testament to its resolute determination to do better, as it constantly works towards achieving its environmental goals.