Case Study: Alternate Access at Drax

ClientDrax Power Limited
DatesStarted in 2011 – 5-year extension awarded in October 2017
ServicesAccess, Insulation, Plant Cleaning, Asbestos Removal, Painting, Cladding
Type of workPlant maintenance (ad hoc, planned, outages) and asset care/enhancement projects


To remain competitive in the energy market, it was necessary for Drax Power to introduce new ways of working and increase efficiency. In 2011, Drax Power engaged with the supply chain to seek a contractor that could help them to reduce their maintenance budget and improve site safety. Altrad were selected based on the improvements which had been realised for other similar customers. Altrad replaced the incumbent service provider in October 2011 and this case study describes the improvements brought to the site since commencement.


The initial focus was to improve productivity and reduce non-productive time (NPT). To do this effectively, and to set realistic improvement targets, it was necessary to establish the current site performance. The key steps were:

• Benchmark existing performance levels to identify gaps and improvement areas.
• Establish the elements of the existing Non-Productive Time and Productivity Factors for mutual mitigation and improvement.

The next step was to identify, agree and implement the improvement actions.


The Many elements of NPT were identified, tracked, reported and jointly mitigated to achieve an improvement and an acceptable NPT%. The results achieved are shown below:

Numerous and positive options of how best to reassign the time/money being saved were considered e.g. reduce headcount delivering cost benefit to the bottom line; re-invest to support on-going drive for service delivery improvement; increase scope of works; improving cleaning standards and frequency etc
Following an extended period of tracking, reporting and mitigation of the key elements of NPT the NPT level has remained at a sustainable level of circa 20% for all disciplines. The emphasis since 2016 has been to track the productivity in line with agreed site norms and to report any NPT which impacts on the achievement of a 1 for 1 for mutual discussion and resolution.


The list below presents the range of access methods being utilised on the power plant which is in stark contrast to the utilisation in October 2011 when the contract started:

Being prepared to challenge the norm and consider cost effective alternative ways of working is an essential requisite of the criteria for “continuous improvement”. Examples of using Rope Access techniques to deliver time and cost savings are shown on the next page.


When faced with an extensive critical path inspection programme – historic custom and practices would see this work carried out over a 14 days schedule. By applying “Outside the Box” thinking an alternative methodology was developed which eliminated the need for conventional access which compressed this to six days enabling the customer to increase plant uptime (192 hours – eight days). This resulted in the increased generation revenues of circa 5m, the saving of traditional cost of scaffolding (circa 53k) and the third party cost of an inspection company.

The alternative methodology employed deployment of 12 Rope Access Technicians working to a 24-hour shift pattern to carry out circa 350 Non-Destructive DT inspections to internal pipe work. This mitigated the necessity for the erection and dismantling of substantial scaffold access and the requirement for a third-party inspection company. It is believed that this undertaking of such intensive and environmentally challenging scope of work is the first of its kind to be completed via the utilisation of Rope Access.


The use of self-deployed alternative forms of access including Razor Decks, Podiums and Mobile Safety Steps where the operator (person carrying out the work at height) selects and utilises one of a range of available pieces of equipment to carry out a particular “Work at Height” task can deliver significant savings against the cost of deploying traditional Tube and Clip access structures.

When Altrad mobilised to the site in 2011 we recognised the benefits these pieces of equipment would bring and introduced a range of them. The savings delivered presented in the table below are only based on a single use per piece of equipment per week – in almost all cases each piece of equipment is used many more times per week.


The consideration and utilisation of MEWP’s (Mobile Elevated Working Platforms) or Scissor Lifts, Cherry Pickers, Gene Booms etc as a cost-effective alternative access methodology is essential to achieve a balanced delivery of working at height structures. Altrad has proposed the use of and hired in a range of MEWPS on many occasions as a more cost-effective alternative to conventional scaffolding. The savings delivered presented in the table below are based on a single use per piece of equipment per hire event – in almost all cases each MEWP is utilised on numerous tasks during the hire event unlike a conventional access structure which remains static at the point of erection.