R&M Electrical Group was named HSBC Exporter of the Year at the Solent 250 launch dinner. Number 63 on the latest list, it is one of the largest independent electrical distributors in the UK, with increasing international influence.
R&M Electrical Group enjoyed an extremely good year project-wise in 2014. With overseas branches in the Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Iraq and the Middle East, it is ideally placed to capitalise on work opportunities as they develop. As group sales director Andrew Chandler explained: “We won several major contracts last year and are looking ahead for growth in the next three to five years. We have secured the Shah Deniz 2 and SCPX projects, consisting of two offshore platforms, a major terminal extension and new export pipeline with BP. The pipeline runs from Azerbaijan across to the Black Sea, going across the Caucasus Mountains – in total it comprises 691km. Material supply starts this year and we are hoping to pick up more work in Kazakhstan for Chevron. With our established overseas facilities the Caspian region is historically our biggest international market.“
R&M supplies specialist electrical products and services to the oil, gas, petrochemical, industrial, marine, pharmaceutical and Industrial sectors, frequently delivering large-scale projects at home and abroad. Established in 1987, turnover now exceeds £60 million. Supply chain management systems are crucial with operations in different countries involving the sourcing, planning and delivery of electrical bulk and cable packages, and R&M has spent years developing systems to ensure a seamless supply-chain process.
With its headquarters in Southampton and 200 staff working at nine UK sites, it has forged strong relationships with leading global manufacturers, which has, in turn, led to the development of long-term preferred supplier agreements allowing the company to win repeat contracts. The distribution network, specialist project and export divisions, coupled with in-house fixings, cables and assembly divisions allow R&M to provide a solution for all electrical requirements.
Chandler continued: “We are expanding throughout Iraq and the Middle East as well as South East Asia. There’s also huge potential in Africa. It is on everybody’s radar, but there are challenges in setting up a business there, whereas in the Far East and Middle East we have existing joint venture partnerships with our partners from the USA and Australia.
“Iraq is interesting for us, a country where we have a 50:50 joint venture with a local company that has matched our investment pound for pound. We’re in Basra, where it is relatively stable, and projects are starting to drip through. With the second-largest projected oilfield in the world, this is going to be an exceptional long-term prospect.“
Closer to home, businesses may be affected by any altering stance regarding Europe, especially with the General Election and differing views about the EU. Does this concern Chandler? “We do very little business in mainland Europe. We purchase product, but we don’t supply much back into Europe. We have pockets of business in Europe, if a project is a good fit or perhaps due to a past connection.
“The price of oil is our biggest concern at the moment, naturally, because projects will be shelved unless the price rises and as the situation develops with Russia, which hit a post-Soviet high for export in 2014, but is now slipping into recession.“
Right in the centre of the Solent region, R&M has several stocking locations in the south and works closely with ExxonMobil’s Fawley refinery, the largest in the UK and one of the most complex in Europe.
“A maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) electrical contract was awarded in 1993 and has since been retained. We have expanded links with both ExxonMobil and BP overseas. These relationships continue to evolve and have provided us with very good connections and points of reference.
“We hold a supply contract with Carnival UK, and also supply the Royal Caribbean fleet. Southampton’s booming cruise trade has been wonderful for our business as it has grown and we deal with most of the major operators, with planned expansion into South East Asia, because it is the fastest-growing cruise market.“
Chandler joined R&M in 1996 to launch the export and project divisions. His remit has grown with the company, which has taken an unusual route to growth, having not gone along an acquisition line. Instead it has grown organically or carved out global joint venture partnerships.
“We’re independently owned. Some of our joint venture partners were competitors, customers or suppliers, so we started talking about what we could do to help each other build stronger global links. Through these partnerships we have bid for and won major global contracts such as the giant ’Gorgon Project’ in Western Australia against much larger multi-national companies.“
R&M has successfully won a number of joint venture projects with its partners since conception of the idea in 2001 supplying major projects in Algeria, Egypt, Peru, Chile, Azerbaijan, Australia and Abu Dhabi.
“In the UK, we tailor our business to meet exact clients’ requirements. We use a lot of systems to interface with them, including customer-specific portals where they can access lead times, data and documentation. In-house IT gives us flexibility and reassurance on several fronts, such as cybersecurity.“
Chandler spends a lot of time travelling to meet clients, something key to the success of this company, whether they are overseas or like BAE Systems, merely a drive along the M27 to Portsmouth Dockyard. His 2015 resolution is to spend even more time in front of customers.