Blog

14th October 2020

In this blog we want to talk a little about the maintenance side of the business, what was once known as Evolution Biogas (clearly you will know all about this as you will have read the previous blog!).

We in Marches have always aimed to be customer focused and believe in speaking to our customers with regular review meetings. From listening to their honest feedback it was clear that the maintenance contracts were not delivering the flexibility that our customers wanted. One of the beauties of the AD world is the diversity we see in the plants we look after; everyone is different. From their size, feedstock variety and how they deal with the biogas, they all have differing needs. And the same can be true of the owners, some are one-man bands needing a variety of services from biological health, permit/regulator support and routine maintenance and some are part of larger organisations that just need more nuanced help here and there. So, working with a one size fits all contract is not what people want. As a result, Mark then tasked the team to speak to each customer and really find out what they want (rather than what we think they need – so easy to say and so difficult to actually do!).

On the back of this work Marches are now offering bespoke agreements to anyone with a requirement for operational support. So if you know of a plant that would require some light touch assistance to one that needs more regular help feel free to get in touch and Mark and the team can really get to the bottom of what is required and offer something that hits the spot and ensures you only pay for what you want and require. What’s more if this changes over time we can ensure that what we offer changes in line.

Just another step on the journey to becoming a truly customer focused organisation….

1st October 2020

 

In this blog I want to talk a little about the company structure.  As the astute observer to Marches Biogas will know the company has two major areas; new projects that Keith looks after and Marks area of 3rd party plant support known as ‘Evolution Biogas’. This side of the business was set up to help operate and maintain existing plants, many of which Marches built, helping out with a variety of services. Therefore, the two companies of Marches Biogas Ltd (Trading as Principal Biogas) and the wholly owned subsidiary of Evolution Biogas Ltd were born. These were companies that each filed accounts and all the associated paraphernalia that goes with managing limited companies.

In theory this was to make the business simpler and offer a clear delineation of people, spares and associated costs to make the running the business simpler. In some ways it did what it what was intended with teams working for each of the two companies and accounts produced annually.

Nevertheless, running two companies, however you look at it, does involve additional costs from the straight forward costs of running an extra company to allocation of costs and invoices. And if Mark’s team did a job for Keith’s team or vice versa it all had to be allocated, meaning management and the finance department burning relatively unproductive hours.

But what was worse was that confusion was created with our customers, we found that customers wanted to get Marches Biogas to provide plant maintenance work and yet they were being invoiced from Evolution Biogas. It just made life more complicated and let’s face it, no one wants that!

So we have merged and Mark’s team is now working hand in hand with Keith’s all under the banner of Marches Biogas – as a friendly Meerkat  frequently says on the TV adverts – Simples…. 

17th September 2020

The beauty of having a diverse team is people are always coming up with new ideas. Some sound great at first listening and then common sense tells you that actually they are not really going to work – and some, well, they just get better the more you think about them.

Marches have always offered face to face training (although with Covid it tends now to be via Teams and Zoom), in fact we have just carried out an online course for ADBA.  It was very well received, especially the virtual plant tour at the end using drone footage, with 35 delegates ranging from students, regulators such as the EA, major AD stakeholders such as the NFU and overseas people.  

So recently when Lucy came up with the idea of an online E learning based training scheme at a management meeting, there was a prolonged silence, (well it’s not something we normally do!) and then out came a series of supportive comments and then Lucy was tasked to come up with some ideas….

So that was a little time ago and Lucy did indeed come back with a fully developed and thought out training course that could take a total anaerobic digestion novice and impart the key features of the technology in just a couple of hours study. What’s more we have just launched it, so if you are interested please have a look and see what you think. On top of this Lucy has others in development which will cover all sorts of topics, so watch the website to see when they will be coming out, there will be something for all levels, from beginners wanting a better understanding to those looking to investigate topics in great detail. And with the experience of Marches behind it you will know that it’s all correct and up to date.

In some companies’ management meetings can be somewhat tedious affairs, but here they are much more fun, knowing it won’t be long before we are challenged with thinking about another great idea…

2nd September 2020

So in February the Covid-19 storm hit the UK, which meant lots of changes in the way we all go about our daily lives. The worry about the symptoms of catching this new disease from the East, what it would mean to our personal and work lives and how they would be irrevocably changed.

So now we are all 6 months into the journey, we think it’s worth stepping back and looking at the new normal; what changes we thought might happen and what differences are now in place for us, the Marches Biogas family and the wider world at large.

When it all hit home that lockdown was going to be a reality, we all expected to be baking and learning foreign languages and playing instruments. The big question was that now we could only do an hours’ worth of exercise a day would all this extra baking mean we are able to balance the waist line impact of the new regime.

However, like any problem, we worked systematically through the issues and now have risk assessments and method statements that address the Covid-19 risk. If you had said in January that we would have needed a completely new section in our documentation, I think Sarah, our HQSE manager would have been a little bit hurt; however new sections we have. The whole team are aware that anyone can catch this most transmittable of diseases, but to pass it on would be a trauma, not only to the individuals concerned but to the effectiveness of the team in general.

So, as we have discussed before, Teams meetings, home working, masks, hand washing and all the other risk mitigation issues remain very firmly in force and look to be so into the long term.

But it has not been all doom and gloom, like a number of organisations we have found working from home to be positive as a means of balancing out the work life balance and concentrating on our productivity rather than just hours at work. We are very conscious that we live in a beautiful part of the world, but it is a little remote, so as we expand could we have a team made up of people in a central office, perhaps we can recruit on the basis of home working and so get a larger cohort of applicants – all questions to be considered for the future! This is just one example of how this Covid-19 challenge is positively asking us to think again about how we go forwards.

So retrospectively we come back to the issue of looking back on Covid; clearly, it’s been a challenge, but one we are up to, however, certainly in my case the hour of exercise was clearly not enough….

19th August 2020

In this blog we want to talk a little about the changes in support that the AD industry has received over the last decade (so apologies if this is a little dry!). Prior to 2008 the AD industry was supported via Renewable Obligation certificates, which through a complicated mechanism offered a good level of support to AD with feedstock dictating the differing levels of support.

Then in 2008 the UK government, through Ofgem put in two new measures to support renewable energy which included AD. This support was for the electricity produced from onsite CHP’s and was known as the Feed in Tarif (FiT) and the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) where methane could be put into the national gas grid, or where heat could be utilised. When these supports were launched, they were generous enough, with fixed supports for 20 years which allowed the industry the certainty it needed to expand. And expand it did, growing from a handful of non-sewage works plants to what it is today at around 650 plants commercial plants with Marches very much at the center of this building over 30 of these.

That’s the good news; the bad news is that over time Ofgem has scaled back this support, in a process known as degression, making the financial justification for new plants more challenging. That is not to say that the development of new plants in the UK has stopped, some developers are still working on RHI plants before the scheme eventually closes and also where the heat and electricity produced replaces a more expensive supply. And indeed, we are now seeing schemes being justified on their additional environmental benefit as opposed to a purely financial one which is great and we are sure everybody supports.

So, Keith, Mark and the rest of the team are still very interested in new projects and if anyone has something of interest please send us a message and we will talk you through how we see it. One of the beauties about having so much experience around the place is we will have seen the majority of issues you may be facing, with means of overcoming even the most seemingly intractable problem, so don’t worry we will probably have literally seen it before!

This expansion of plants has created a remarkable industry, what is amazing is the low number of projects that did not eventually work successfully. So even if you are looking at one of these ‘problem plants’ we will have suggestions to help the situation.

5th August 2020

   

The second edition; that tricky second album….

So for this edition of the blog we want to talk about how Marches operates. Recently there have been big changes in the way the company is managed, and although in other companies this type of change could mean unpleasantness and stress, in Marches Biogas this has not been the case.

Russell Mulliner started Marches Biogas in 2009 and has led the company (and it’s not without justification to say the Anaerobic Digestion industry as well).  However recently he has decided that he would like to step back from the day to day management and to concentrate on what he really loves, that of the engineering challenges of Marches customers. Just to change management structure was not the limit of his ambition, but to change the whole shareholding of the company as well.

So, since February of this year, the changes came into action and now Keith Knight and Mark Pugh are managing the business, who to be fair had been making the majority of the day to day decisions for some time anyway.  For those of you who don’t know, the pair have worked together for many years in a number of engineering contracting business’s and Keith was instrumental in getting Mark to join the business in 2019. This has allowed Russell to do what he enjoys, going to sites and sorting out what to some would be insurmountable conundrums; in theory he is working less hours but you would never know it!

But these are not the limit of changes we were referring to when Russell started the handover process; he was adamant that everyone who works for Marches would have an ownership in the company and so that’s what has happened. Everyone who worked for the company when the changes came into effect is now a shareholder.

So now the changes have been in place for just over six months and clearly the Covid situation has been a challenge but the new management structure has not, just another one of Russell’s great ideas……

22nd July 2020

This is a new blog to talk about life (and of course anaerobic digestion!) in and around Marches Biogas. We want to talk about all the interesting and exciting things that are going on in the company and its community.

Of course, the elephant in the room is Covid-19; we have not been immune to its effects, and although things have certainly been interesting, the spirit and in-built positivity has meant that we are now optimistic about the way ahead and looking forwards to servicing our customers’ needs.

Before the new ‘normal’ we had a face to face meeting on Monday morning in the main office, with everyone gathered round to hear the latest news and plans for the week, fuelled on the strongest coffee known to man (or at least Tom!). Now we have moved to people working primarily from home or going straight to site and we too have moved to the world of, ‘Teams and Zoom’ meetings. Still the same frank exchange of ideas and underlining ‘bon homie’ but at a clear social distance. We have also started undertaking virtual meetings with clients to maintain client contact.

So we hope you all like the idea of this new blog, we have lots of ideas of things to cover, from explaining new energy supports for AD, to looking at our plans for new services (which we are really excited about) and tales of the jobs and characters that makes Marches Biogas the dynamic company we know it to be.