In this Q&A session, Premier Autoclaves’ group sales manager, Scott Dyson discusses the company’s services for autoclaves and how its team’s strength and experience has overcome the business challenges created by the ongoing pandemic.
Formed out of a need in the industry for a specialist in autoclave service and support, Premier Autoclaves remains the only company to focus purely on customers’ existing autoclaves and ovens. With services encompassing autoclave upgrades, service agreements, calibration, temperature uniformity surveys, rapid response breakdown support, operator training, autoclave relocation and insurance inspection, Premier is currently in the midst of its busiest ever period.
Q) Firstly, what is your company’s ethos?
To help every autoclave user increase productivity, assure quality and reduce costs with our best in class solutions. I’d suggest that sums us up pretty well. I could talk through our team’s self-imposed standards and what I think sets us apart, but I’d like to think our customer growth - more than doubling in the past five years and circa 98% retention - hopefully speaks for itself.
Q) What kinds of demands and challenges are placed on you by your customers and how do you help find the right solution?
Our customers range primarily from aerospace OEMs to tier 2 automotive and motorsport businesses. As you’d expect, demands vary significantly and solutions are tailored accordingly, though I’d suggest every project is similarly customer-centric in how we approached it, with increasing productivity and reducing costs for our customers at the core. We are the autoclave experts and our customers are the experts in their field looking to us for guidance, therefore through focusing on early discussions project specification can be established quickly and precisely.
Q) Please provide some news on your latest company appointment?
With Premier’s continued growth, we were delighted to welcome Craig Sharman to the Service and Upgrade Engineers team in January. With Craig’s enthusiasm and extensive experience, we’re excited to have him on board.
Q) Can you provide any typical examples where your products have particularly risen above those of similar competitor offerings?
I think there are some great options in the market depending on customer requirements: traceability, quality, experience, locality of support and obviously cost are all considerations. We focus on what we do rather than others, with customer feedback suggesting that knowledgeable engineers and breakdown reaction time - 98% resolved within 48 hours - would be differentiators.
Q) Price, quality and on-time delivery are all givens, but what else do you see as important to serving your customers these days?
Understanding the market and a customer’s specific needs within it. Rather than Premier shoe-horning standardised solutions into a tender or unnecessarily upselling, cultivating an understanding of what will most benefit the customer then supplying it is a fairly simple and positive approach. Listening is key with a foundation built on sound industry knowledge. This approach fosters long-term relationships and organically develops reputation.
Q) Is there a particular area of your business that has been hit by the pandemic?
We had a four-month period whereby most customers had either closed the doors or had vastly reduced capacity. We could not access many sites and only attended (adhering to strict Covid-19 protocol) those requiring compliance works or breakdown response. Like most, this impacted all areas of our business with minimal work ‘out the door’. A challenging few months to say the least.
As you’d expect, inefficiency has made the pandemic more brutal for a lot of businesses. This inefficiency relates to production processes, equipment and people. However, a more common and positive response to the pandemic has been customers proactively seeking out improvements in their businesses. The quieter periods of lockdown provided the rare opportunity to take a step back, assess and where necessary make positive change. We’ve seen a lot of that.
Q) What particular aspect has helped your company get through the pandemic?
Despite the downturn, we kept a skeleton staff available and did not let a single customer down, as well as completing a large package of works through the harshest stage of lockdown. I think this helped fortify our position as the autoclave upgrade and support specialists.
Our strong team was at the heart of this with customer feedback from Marshall ADG never more relevant: “there is a strong desire at every level within Premier to do the very best for their customer.” The team’s efforts have enabled us to bounce back into what is now the busiest period Premier have ever seen.
Q) Are there any positives in general to come out of all this?
I genuinely see a lot of good coming from what is a challenging period on several levels, though clearly this has affected everybody differently. For example, different ways of working can provide improved work-life balance and be just as effective. Many have had the rare opportunity to assess efficiencies and successfully streamline and improve their processes. On a more general level, priorities have been reassessed. Managers focusing more on staff welfare, businesses on the environment, individuals considering their health and families more. This can only be positive, plus, the dog has enjoyed the uptick in daily miles!
Q) What kind of industry landscape will we be faced with when everything gets back to normal?
In the short-term, I don’t foresee significant change to be honest, aside from a little more home working for those who can, and revised H&S protocol on the shopfloor. There is an eagerness to ‘crack on’. That said, the drive for a greener future has perhaps been accelerated by the opportunity for reflection through lockdown, and a bit more time for introspection can only be good for invention and development by individuals within our exciting industry.
Q) Have you been using any video conferencing methods between yourself and customers to maintain contact?
Yes, like most I’m now fairly adept with Zoom and Teams calls. It’s now very much part of the working week and is of real value. In a sales role there will always be a need for meetings and surveys on site, however the efficiency gains that have come from online meetings rather than hours travelling has been significant.
Q) Finally, where to next for your company?
We’re currently in the midst of the busiest ever period with five autoclave upgrades between February and April. It’s an exciting position and testament to the team, and whilst we’re ambitious to continue growing and supporting more composites businesses, we’re not looking to take on the world. Instead we recognise that it’s our focus over the years that has enabled us to support our customers so effectively. Therefore, emphasis is on the ethos I mentioned at the beginning: Premier is here to increase productivity, assure quality and reduce costs. If we continue to do that, the business growth takes care of itself.