Talking ‘Make it better’ with James Bullock


A little over a year ago, ConSpare launched it’s ‘Make it better’ philosophy, a simple structured approach to improving concrete batch plant performance. We grabbed 10 minutes with James Bullock, Managing Director, to get his thoughts on Make it better and what’s coming up for the business…

How was 2018 for both yourself and the business?

2018 was a big year in the history of ConSpare. Not only did it mark our milestone 40th anniversary year but we also launched our new Make it better proposition to the industry. We realise just how much difference this new approach can make to improve the overall concrete production process, so it’s something myself and the team at ConSpare are really proud of.


How did you come up with Make it better?

As we approached our 40th year, we decided to take the opportunity to step back and reassess whether there was a better way to help the industry. I attended the Business Growth Programme at Cranfield University and that helped give me a completely new perspective.

We listen to the industry. The feedback we get suggests that many concrete batch plants aren’t performing to their full potential. Solving thousands of problems over the years has given us the ideal platform to understand what issues the industry faces and more importantly, how to solve them. Our products are best in class and they play a big part, but using our know-how is what makes the biggest difference.

On the surface, a concrete batch plant is complex, but we took a fresh look and identified that it boils down to a simple process with 5 key stages. Once we started seeing it from this new angle, that was our light bulb moment, how to improve the process became much more obvious. Make it better was born.

How can Make it better help the industry?

Make it better is based around analysing the production process as a whole and understanding where the biggest bottle-necks are. Solving one bottle-neck in isolation usually doesn’t make much impact to the overall efficiency of the plant, the next bottle-neck, either upstream or downstream in the process, simply becomes the new constraint.

The key to unlocking optimum plant performance is recognising that all 5 stages are closely inter-related. As we are expert in all of them and understand what impact they have on each other, it allows us to focus on solving multiple bottle-necks so we can remove all the weakest links in the chain. This change from product led, to process led thinking makes a huge impact and is critical in driving better overall operational efficiency.

A perfect example of Make it better in action was a recent project at Mansfield Brick. By assessing the process, spotting the opportunities for improvement, and creating a program of plant upgrades, we made a significant contribution to the business’s overall improvement. Many of the upgrades were simple, low cost measures, so it didn’t cost the earth either. [Find out more here…]

Who is Make it better aimed at?

We recognise that different people face different challenges, so we work with everyone across the management team, from business owners to maintenance engineers, to deliver improvements to meet all of their various needs. Whether the focus is on safety, quality, productivity, staff retention through creating a better work environment, sustainability or ultimately improving the bottom line, Make it better contributes across the board.

What does the future hold for ConSpare?

Our new approach works for an individual plant, but it’s benefits really scale-up across multiple sites. Our analysis techniques give great visibility to focus investment decisions and roll out best practice to bring better standardisation. We still work on individual problems on individual plants, but we are increasingly working with national management teams looking at the big picture.

We’ve recently been appointed Concrete Technology Partner by one of our key customers and we’re working with them to roll-out the make it better approach across all of their varied production facilities. We share the same vision and working together in partnership has already made a big difference. That’s a clear demonstration of the fact we don’t simply sell spare parts. Our traditional spare parts business will always be at the heart of what we do, providing essential breakdown support, but we have moved beyond that now and offer a lot more. We are well placed to respond to the industry’s changing needs going forward.

How else has the business changed?

Once the benefits of Make it better plant upgrades feed through, the industry told us that they wanted us to help keep their plants running at optimal level. We have invested heavily in creating a new on-site services team with 6 specialist engineers supporting our kit out in the field, helping clients get the most out of their investment over the long term. This reduces firefighting, allowing time and space for clients to start putting proactive preventative maintenance measures in place. A real virtuous circle, so we can keep making it even better!

40 years in, I feel like we’re just getting started!

To find out more about how we can help you make it better, get in touch today.

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