The UK’s leading provider of lifting and testing solutions reveals why the milestone of 40 years supplying column lifts in the UK is the perfect time to embark on a five-year expansion plan.
2020 is set to be a big year for Totalkare. The UK’s number one supplier of heavy-duty vehicle lifting solutions will be celebrating a big milestone, but that is just one chapter of the story.
40 years on from Somers Handling supplying its first column lifts in the UK, the company is using this milestone moment in its history to press the button on a five-year expansion plan that will see more than £750,000 invested into the business.
“It is the right time to lay the foundations for our next four decades,” explained David Hall, who joined Totalkare 18 months ago, leading a management buy-out of the Halesowen-based firm.
In that short space of time, the likeable Midlander has overseen a 25% increase in sales and the introduction of new testing solutions into the product portfolio for the first time ever.
“The business will always be based on the founding principles of customer care and being experts in our field and we wanted to build on this philosophy by putting a marker in the sand for the next stage of our development.
“We have already started the process of implementing a new ERP system that will give us lots of internal and external efficiency improvements and this will pave the way for our relocation to a new purpose built-site in the Midlands. We are also investing in enhanced service management software to further improve our service capabilities.”
The lifting and testing specialist, who has been involved in the sector for more than 25 years, continued: “This will be a significant investment and we are in the final stages of negotiations on a great location that is close to our current home in Halesowen.
“It’s a necessary move to give us the ability to optimise the workflow on the shop floor and increase our capacity to hold stock of mobile column lifts, brake testers, headlamp testers and other future products.”
Previously known as Somers Handling, Somers Vehicle Lifts and Somers Totalkare, the company is respected throughout the UK for being an industry-leader in the supply, service and maintenance of two and four post lifts, mobile column lifts and forklifter ramp systems.
Many of its clients have benefited from Totalkare column lifts for 40 years and this covers some of the biggest names in the bus and coach, commercial vehicle and heavy haulage sectors.
David, who is joined by Mike Lord, James Radford and Peter Geobey in the new-look leadership team, continued: “There’s a reason our customers have been with us for many years and that stems from the quality of the product and flows through the aftercare experience.
“We really do care, a mentality that you would normally find in a family-run business. This makes a real difference and we have built on this culture by investing in new technology and by strengthening our service offer with additional engineers now operating all over the country supported by product specialists. We are continuing our recruitment drive to grow this team by an additional 20% over the next 12 months.
“It’s a full lifecycle from purchasing the Totalkare product and regular servicing to preventative maintenance, planned refurbishment and swift repairs to ensure we minimise workshop downtime.”
More than just lifts
Sales and Marketing Director James Radford knows more than most about the ‘Totalkare’ appeal having first joined the company back in 1992 as a trainee in sales.
He was part of a new approach back then to ‘grow their own’ staff and has been privy to more than 27 years of life in the lifting industry, developing through a range of different roles and witnessing numerous milestone moments for the business.
When pushed on the key moments, he points to the launch of the first cable free lift in 2009 that added a new flexibility to workshops, the introduction of the hydraulic column lift in 2016 and, last year, a move to offering its first ever non-lifting products.
James went on to add: “Our customers had been asking us for some time about the possibility of supplying them with these products so, after researching the marketplace, we came up with the highest quality mobile and in-ground brake testers and a range of headlamp testers.
“That was the first stage. We then had to replicate our approach with lifting solutions in ensuring we become a respected expert in the testing field and the easiest way of achieving this quickly was recruiting two experts in Graham Simmons and Luke Simmons (not related).”
Sales have outstripped the management’s initial projections and contributed significantly in driving the 25% increase in orders taken during 2019.
Mobile brake testers, a relatively new introduction to the marketplace, have led the way thanks to their flexibility – the galvanised finish meaning they can be used just as effectively outside as inside, giving customers maximum workshop utilisation.
“The garage owner can’t afford the time and cost delays involved in getting customer vehicles in for the brake test and, if there is significant downtime, they will quickly find that the client will go elsewhere – especially if you are undertaking this task with increased regularity,” added James.
“Whilst there is an initial investment to be made, we expect that this outlay could be recouped in the first year and the durability of our brake testers mean they can withstand huge workloads and can be configured to suit specific requirements.
“Mobile options have certainly been the biggest sellers so far as they don’t require additional investment in civils work, most of which would have to be spent at leased premises. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues in 2020 or whether in-ground testers make a fresh resurgence.
“Headlamp aim is the most common failure item at annual tests for both HGVs and PSVs so, again, we have listened to our clients by providing both manual and electronic headlamp testers to accommodate all workshop scenarios.
“We can even configure them to be connected to the MOT testing service when legislation changes in the future.”
It would be easy to think Totalkare’s greatest asset over the last 40 years has been its column lifts and supporting products, but that would be missing the one asset that has been at the heart of the firm since it launched back in the Black Country in 1979 – its people.
Many of its current 50-strong workforce have been with the business for many years and have enjoyed personal development plans, investment in their skills and plenty of opportunities for progression.
Jessica Porter is a perfect example. She started life as an Aftersales Scheduler, moving to Sales Administrator before enjoying promotion to her current position as Internal Sales Manager.
“I love the people here. Although it isn’t a family business, it is like working as part of one big family. I’ve made some of my closest friends through work and really enjoy the way the management team ask you for ideas and challenge you to stamp your own mark on the business.
“My current role involves the invoicing and despatching of lifts, brake testers and ancillary orders, as well as managing all of the major repairs we carry out. Every day is different and, when we’re not supporting our customers, we can be found enjoying lots of team-building work trips, including sledging, bowling and even cocktail making. We’ve done some great fundraising and charity work too – most recently a couple of us spent time volunteering at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, while others have raised lots in support of mental health charities.”
With lots of birthday celebrations planned for 2020, it’s only right to give David Hall the final word on what the year has in store for Totalkare.
“Like I said before, it’s about laying foundations for the next five years, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t set ourselves ambitious targets. 25% growth is expected again over the next twelve months.
“Personally, I’m really keen to push our online training platform more and increase adoption of this technology that can make our workshops safer and help to minimise the number of accidents.
“R&D continues at pace and we are already planning the introduction of another new range of products and increasing the capabilities of our existing ones. We’ve got to stay ahead of the competition, great products with excellent service – that’s the Totalkare way.”