About Chris: An avid golfer that is as competitive at work as he is on the course, Chris Renshaw is Business Operations Manager at Bratts Ladders after starting out as their delivery driver. He is a qualified Ladder instructor and a member of the Ladder Association Council
Bratts has been making ladders since 1895, supplying the Railways since 1938 and the Electricity industry since 1953. They are a British Standards licenced UK manufacturer, producing non-conductive Timber and Glassfibre ladders, stepladders, platforms and specialist access equipment for industrial use. They supply every major UK electricity, rail, telecom, gas, chemical, oil, aviation and construction company and similar industries worldwide.
What is your role within Bratts Ladders?
Over the time I have spent here, I have taken over a few roles. My main day to day is the dealing of any sales related queries. A lot of Bratts requests are of a combination of standard off the shelf access equipment and those of a more bespoke nature. This then requires site visits, discussing with the client the best way to tackle their access issues.
Bratts also offer Ladder Association credited ladders courses, to which I am our Lead Trainer.
How did you start at Bratts Ladders and when did you join?
A long time ago, 2003 as a Delivery driver – and I’m still considered one of the newbies here. We are a small company and we had one 7.5 tonne lorry. A friend of a friend said they needed a driver, and so here I am.
How long has your company been in business?
Since 1895. Founded by Alfred John Bratt, the Great Grandfather of our current Managing Director, Stephen Bratt. A long running family business that we are so proud of, its written on our shirts.
Tell us about Bratts Ladders.
Bratts has had a long history in the manufacturing of Timber ladders. Utility companies, telecommunications and of course widely in the rail sector. Around the mid-1990s we then started to develop our Glass Fibre range. This allowed us to compete with other sector markets, but at the same time, offer a more diverse range for our long-standing existing customers.
What types of products and services do you offer?
We specialise in non-conductive access equipment, ranging from ladders, stepladders and other bespoke requirements. Increasingly, customers are needing case specific access. A simple ladder or step just does not always work. We use our experience and knowledge to help overcome any such ‘obstacles’.
Training has seen a massive importance in day-to-day workings. Due to our long history, experience and knowledge gained, it puts us in an advantageous position to offer the training courses we do, a user course to give learners all the knowledge needed to use equipment properly and an inspectors course to qualify a learner to competently inspect the equipment, ensuring it is safe to use.
Some companies prefer to keep their access equipment inspections independent from themselves, we are only too happy to attend and carry out the inspections on their behalf.
How have the products and services you offer developed over the years?
Our product still to this day is industry driven. We started with a pointer ladder for the window cleaner. Then local business’ wanted ladders and stepladders. Electricity companies recognised the need for non-conductive. The rail industry saw the same need. Coal boards understood that underground they needed spark free equipment. And then, Health and Safety.
What are some major projects you’re currently working on?
HS2 has contracted a company to construct the concrete sections of the tunnels. An issue that this company experienced is the transport of these components. They have devised an award nominated solution to this but required safe access to the machine. They invited us to help, if we could, and that is exactly what we did. An access ladder on a rail that allows them to achieve the perfect access point.
Network Rail required access to a satellite machine by its maintenance engineers. We have created a platform system for them to have ease of ingress/egress, and to have sure, safe and secure standing areas while carrying out their tasks.
Alstom have asked us to work a prototype for them to allow many of their engineers to continue work on the construction of their projects, offering them a sturdy platform at a height of approximately 350mm with a handrail to increase their own personal stability.
We are now receiving more requests to assist engineers to go down into an excavation. We are currently working on an Excavation ladder to do exactly that.
How do you work with the supply chain within this sector?
Bratts are foremost an approved verified supplier to many of the rail companies. That said, some companies use more facility companies like Cromwell Tools, Arco etc… We still work in partnership with them also.
With the coming launch of Great British Railways, how do you anticipate your place within the supply chain changing?
For us we feel it will not. We see our role continuing in the same manner.
How have you seen the industry change over the years?
Health and Safety. We have seen with the much-needed demand for a better, safer environment to work in, the greater push to have ‘the best piece of kit’ for the job. The most suitable, the most practicable and still, the most user friendly.
What are your views on collaborative working?
It is what we have always done. Our whole product is a partnership with someone. It’s not always good to have just one individual saying how things are to be done. Many ideas, many thoughts, much feedback allow us to hopefully get it right.
How do you make your business a good place to work?
Smile. At some stage we will all wind each other up. My mum always said to me: ‘If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry!’ I try to live by that every day. And tolerance. We all do things in a unique way. Understanding that and accepting that means we can all move in our own comfortable way, but still striving forward to the same goal.
At some point, every company will face the question of how to continue maximising earnings from their current business practice whilst also investing enough in innovation so they can turn a profit in the future. How can a company achieve the necessary creativity to innovate without compromising their existing business?
Our long-term business plan has been perfected for over a century. We understood early not to ‘reinvent the ladder’! Our commitment to ISO9001:2015 enables us to work and communicate closely with our customer base to innovate and drive new products.
Want to know more about Bratts Ladders?
Tel: 0115 986 6851 or 07836 710824