An interview with Renewable Parts Ltd CEO James Barry which first appeared in The Herald BusinessHQ section 1st July 2019.
THE move towards a sustainable society that is currently being spearheaded by Scotland and the UK now demands not just green energy but a greener after-market.
Many of the wind turbines that dot the land and seascapes and now help renewables account for half of the country’s electricity are reaching a certain age, and need more maintenance, or upgraded or replaced.
Renewable Parts is servicing turbines with parts but also remanufacturing existing components and decommissioning those at the end of their lifespan.
The company, operating since 2011, has a turnover of close to £5 million and this is expected to increase 50 per cent within the next year.
Around two dozen staff are being added to at the rate of one every other month and numbers are on course to double in about 24 months.
As well as an operations base in Renfrew there is a manufacturing hub in Lochgilphead which will be moving to a new facility there by 2021.
James Barry, 46, says the firm is “in the right place at the right time with the right ideas”.
He said: “I joined in 2015, my background is aerospace so obviously quite different, but in some ways very similar too, in so far as you buy a product and you operate it for 25 years and there’s an after-market and a life-cycle through there.
“We have, in that time, recruited very strongly.
“The business has developed a lot of capabilities around inventory itself, it’s been working on software, data analytics. Refurbishment capability has been a very high priority and we’ve opened another business that focuses entirely on that, in Lochgilphead.
“It’s really about the whole idea of circular economy, and how in the wind industry we need to apply much more of that type of approach.
"Products get worn, they get used, they become unserviceable but they are very viable to return back to service with some work, and that’s really what this is all about, is how do we reduce landfill, carbon footprint, and actually produce a greener after-market - not just a green energy source - but a greener after-market."
Mr Barry continued: "We’ve been working very hard at that. The business has won many awards in the last eighteen months around that - including Most Outstanding Business at the 21st annual Glasgow Business Awards - and it’s very satisfying now that the big businesses are starting to pick that up.
“We’re working with pretty much all the utility companies now, SSE, ScottishPower, E.ON, EDF.
“Alongside that, we are doing a number of other things like looking at decommissioning capability.
“Turbines come to the end of their life after 25 years, you have to responsibly decommission and we are certainly very conscious that that is an emerging requirement in the industry."
Mr Barry says: “The other area that we are looking at very closely is the area of remanufacture, and manufacturing. Remanufacture essentially is taking an existing part, and improving its design.
“We are interested in both of those areas. We’re doing that in conjunction with the University of Strathclyde, who are our innovation partner.”
The model is scalable, Mr Barry says.
“It’s really starting to move at some pace. We’re starting to expand our reach beyond the UK and Ireland, into South America.
“We have done some business in India, South Korea, we’re starting to talk to a couple of customers in Japan, and then through continental Europe.
“There’s a lot of dialogue and a lot of data exchange occurring, where we can support their businesses where they are not, perhaps, deploying their resources. There’s quite a nice fit that we think we can make with them.
“Really, I think the key message here is that the industry has obviously embraced wind technology very strongly.
"The fleet has continued to build, both on-shore and of course particularly off-shore, but British industry has not designed and manufactured these parts.
“This, unfortunately, has been done by Danish and German and Spanish, American businesses.
It is not always viable for companies based abroad to repair, upgrade or remanufacture products in place hundreds or thousands of miles away, Mr Barry said.
“I don’t think they view us as a threat. The true reality of very large businesses, Siemens Gamesa, Vestas, even they, with all their resources, have to make some hard choices about where they put their engineering people.
“Invariably, they are deployed on developing new technology for new wind turbines offshore, or fixing some of the most tricky problems they may have in their fleet.
“Managing cost out, and managing the older fleet, and when I say older fleet I’m talking about turbines which may be eight, 10 years and older, it’s really not the priority for them.
“Therefore we’re not really treading on their toes, and I think what we’re actually doing is agitating and making people sit up and think harder about, well, we can’t opt out of this.”
He said: "Whilst we've adopted the technology, the after-market and the design and manufacture capability has been lacking.
"Really what we've been saying is, well, now the product is installed, on the ground in the UK, we need to create local infrastructures that support and look after the turbines.
"They're big, and they're heavy parts, and you don't want to be transporting them great distances.
"So really what we argue is that these should be managed locally and I've certainly argued for a long time now that Glasgow is probably as good a place as any in the UK to be, because so many of these assets are nearby.
"Then you've got this nice meeting of utility companies based here, you've got the fleets, the actual turbine fleets nearby, you've got the University of Strathclyde which certainly in my mind is fast becoming the MIT of the UK.
"It's very applied, it's very into renewables, showing a lot of ambition and capability.
"And then of course, I guess to top it all, you've got a government that's very pro-wind and the policies are typically very supportive.
"There is money available, although of course, always with money it's a challenge to access it, but we're obviously working hard at that."
He said: "We've been pretty successful with Scotland. Highlands & Islands Enterprise are very supportive of our business. We're now working very closely with the Scottish Institute of Remanufacture, again they're taking close watch of what we're doing and trying to become engaged.
“The University of Strathclyde has been very engaged, very hands-on, obviously have an enormous amount of expertise and talent in their university, and we’ve been working with departments like the AFRC, the Advanced Forming Research Centre."
He continued: “This is not in any way unique to Scotland or the UK, I mean, this is universal. Really, for us, this is about first-mover advantage, it's pioneering.
“We want to be the first. We want to be making the most ground and being the go-to people for this if that's what you want to do. I think that's certainly the reputation we're gaining in the UK, and Ireland for that matter.
“My view on this is quite simple. If we can do a good job here, and deliver on promises, then we will be able to move quite swiftly on to other markets. It's obviously easier to command a market you're in, rather than try and over-reach elsewhere.
“Obviously underpinning all this is skills and jobs. This is about the local economy.
"What's been quite interesting in talking to SSE is how focused they are in investing and working with local business and local economy, so we've been engaged with them on a decommissioning project in Kintyre which will be one of the first. They're very keen to have us on board.
“I think, in all of this, there is very much a local economy, skills and jobs here, intent, which is obviously very pleasing to hear given how many turbines there are.”
He said: “What I would say is, all the ingredients are there, and what we all know is, based upon latest policies out of both Holyrood and Westminster, green or renewables energy is going to only exponentially increase.
"The need for capability to support it through its life is very present, and therefore we feel we’re in the right place at the right time with the right ideas.
“We’re shouting very loudly about that, and I think it’s being heard. We’re very pleased.”
Q What countries have you most enjoyed traveling to, for business or leisure, and why?
A From a business standpoint I enjoyed Hong Kong/China for it’s blend of intensity, deal making but cultural diversity. You had to adapt quickly and learn new norms and approaches to business. More recently working with the Danish, has been highly rewarding. Their approach to business is direct and straightforward, built on trust and what you do rather than hefty contracts and legalistic jargon. Leisure-wise Vietnam was hard to beat with its food, history and wonderful people.
Q When you were a child, what was your ideal job? Why did it appeal?
A I wanted to be an astronaut – that blend of adventure, exploration and engineering know-how; the technological edge.
Q What was your biggest break in business?
A Winning the Cathay Pacific A350 Trent XWB deal with Rolls-Royce, but more recently, of course, making the transition to true entrepreneurism where Angus MacDonald and Ewan Anderson invited me onboard to Renewable Parts.
Q What was your worst moment in business?
A My worst moment by far was restructuring my business unit and being forced to lose headcount. Nothing comes close to telling someone they no longer have a job.
Q Who do you most admire and why?
A Nelson Mandela is the person I most admire, a person who had the courage to speak up without fear and, despite it all, never lost his humility and compassion.
Q What book are you reading and what music are you listening to? What was the last film you saw?
A I’ve just finished Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance and picked up Christopher Hitchens’ Actually. Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars and Sharon Van Etten’s Remind Me Tomorrow are vying for equal time on my turntable at the moment. BlacKkKlansman was the last film I saw – it was a very moving experience.
Article originally posted by The Herald 01/07/2019
With over 20 years experience in wind turbine maintenance and parts supply, we have the technical expertise to help you reduce costs whilst maximising availability levels.
Renewable Parts Ltd,
Westways Business Park
Renewable Parts Ltd,Old Ambulance Station,School Brae, Lochgilphead,Argyll, ScotlandPA31 8LE