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‘Plane’ sailing for PFM Awards Account Director winner

06 February 2020

Adam Davies explains the addictive nature of working at the world’s busiest airport to deliver exemplary fire safety procedures.

When comparing fast-paced working environments, it is unlikely that many of these will match or exceed the size and scale of the Heathrow Airport estate, which operates on a 24-hour basis and has been identified as one of the busiest airports in the World.

PFM Awards Account Director of the Year 2019 winner Adam Davies has obviously enjoyed his time working at the airport, which has seen him rise through the ranks of Trinity Fire & Security Services, which became part of Premier Technical Services Group (PTSG) in January last year.

While the busy nature of the site is easy to understand – particularly through appreciation of statistics including the arrival of an aeroplane every 45 seconds – it is also not difficult to see how this can quickly turn into a high-pressured situation in a very short time.

“We handle the fire detection system and alarm systems around the airport, including terminals and the main control tower building,” Mr Davies explains. "If the alarm goes off there is potential of a building evacuation.

“This involves the Fire Brigade checking the building, with no one allowed back until they give the OK, so you can imagine that any false alarm can quickly become very costly to the airport. The Fire Brigade is very quick to respond, which is really helpful, but it’s essential for us to keep everything in good working order.”

Preventative maintenance has been established as a main area of focus to ensure that all aspects and components of the fire detection and alarm systems remain 100% operational, including the ability to adapt to the changing nature of the site.

This includes issues arising from more people on site when flights are delayed for any reason, to the recent climate change protests, etc.

“It can be high pressure work but that’s made easier when everyone pulls together and helps out where necessary. For example, we’ve been involved with directing passengers and this shows the overall focus on the customer that’s very much part of the Heathrow culture,” Mr Davies continues.

“We feel like an extension of the Heathrow team and that allows us to be 100% honest with each other and ensure that we’re all working in the same direction.”

He further states that managing on-site safety includes the running of an operation that works smoothly in all areas and is quick to respond whenever needed.

“You have to aim to be the best in all areas and there should be no embarrassment about that, but there’s no need to be brash about it or develop a huge ego, either. We just need to make sure the work is completed and everything is done correctly and to the highest standard,” he says.

His positive attitude proved to be one of a number of attributes that impressed the PFM Awards Account Director of the Year 2019 judges, resulting in Mr Davies being identified as the clear winner of the category amongst three other highly competent finalists.

This can be seen to have benefited his company’s long-term contract with Heathrow Airport and avoiding any aspect of complacency emerging through the adoption of long-term planning beyond the scope of the existing agreement.

“Our contract is up for renewal in 2021, with a two-year option, but we’re always looking well in advance of that. We have quarterly meetings with the Heathrow senior management team and, in addition to ensuring that performance levels are continuing, also discuss options for innovation and potential to change and improve any processes,” he says.

“Investment in people is essential and the company has the confidence to take on young staff and train and develop them to become very good engineers and that’s another benefit of long-term thinking.”

Mr Davies and his colleagues have established a close relationship with Heathrow Airport and its other service providers, resulting in a collaborative focus on support for the Heathrow 2.0 sustainability plan.

Its aims include the reduction of emissions and water usage around the airport’s estate, along with the creation of 10,000 apprenticeship places by the airport and its suppliers by 2030.

The topic of training and development of staff is one that Mr Davies is very much aware of, particularly relating to PTSG’s services: “It’s essential to have the right people with the right skills and there’s a lack of specialist fire engineers with the ability to understand complex systems, so investment in training is essential.

“There are 42 Trinity staff on site and 32 of these are engineers; 14 of these have started as apprentices or trainees and been trained by us. That shows how the company aims to look after its people and it’s been rewarding to see a few former colleagues return to the business after leaving to try other jobs.”

He further stresses the importance of having the correct attitude by everyone involved, particularly when businesses expand.

“In 2015 we went from 15 employees to 50 and it was a challenge to keep the culture, team spirit and family feel of the business. You have to listen to every person and aim to support them while keeping the customer’s needs at the forefront,” he says.

“There are two companies on site providing fire alarm services, so we have some healthy competition, and we always want our people to be enthused to do a really good job. There’s also a high cost involved when false alarms occur and it’s essential that everyone has confidence in the system.

“One of the challenges in this is to be aware when things change that may affect the fire detection system, including new build and upgrades around the airport, which could mean that kitchens install different technology or change their layout, meaning we may have to relocate sensors to avoid false alarms.”

Following the purchase of Trinity by PTSG – which now employs more than 1,200 people in the UK working on 180,000 sites – last year, Mr Davies says that this has not made any significant difference to day-to-day business but has brought the added benefit of interacting with other group members from various niche disciplines.

“It’s been managed very well and we know we can call on anyone from within the group when support is required,” he says.

One of the comments from the PFM Awards Account Director of the Year judges included their thoughts on Mr Davies’ potential to continue to progress in the future and he confirms his ambition to further his career:

“I’d very much like to continue to grow and move up the ladder to join the senior management top table. Heathrow feels a little like my first baby and I’d love to continue working here, so we’ll just have to wait and see,” says Mr Davies.

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