Power Players

DPME.com profiles the top names in the region's power distro market.
Interviews, Content management
Phil Burns.
Phil Burns.
Gordon Cooper.
Gordon Cooper.
Paul Bates.
Paul Bates.


Behind all the glitz and glamour of a live event lies an intricate system of wires, cabling, generators and distro boxes. Although they are arguably the driving force behind any gig, power distro providers rarely receive a share of the spotlight. Sound and Stage spoke to three of the leading suppliers of power products to the local event industry to discuss the issues that apply to this integral sector of the live events market.

NAME: Phil Burns
POSITION: Managing director
COMPANY: Aggreko Middle East

Can you provide an overview of your company’s main commercial interests in the Middle East?

Aggreko has been involved with many large-scale projects both in the region and internationally. In November 2008, the company provided temporary power for the grand opening of the much-anticipated Atlantis Hotel in Dubai and more recently Aggreko provided 18 MW of power to the Bahrain Grand Prix in April 2009.

Many of our contracts have been ongoing for a number of years; for example, we have been the temporary power provider for the Dubai Rugby 7s for the past nine years. In addition, we have close relationships with many events companies in the MENA region and supply power and chilling to trade shows and exhibitions such as the Dubai International Boat Show.

In which MENA countries do you maintain a business presence?

Since the opening of the first Aggreko regional office in Sharjah in 1991, Aggreko Middle East has opened ten locations in six different countries within the region.

The Aggreko Middle East HQ is in Jebel Ali, Dubai where we service, repair and refurbish our generators and coordinate logistics for all of our projects. We also have local depots throughout the region, including Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Jeddah, Dammam, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.

Aggreko has worked with companies in virtually every MENA country on both short-term and long-term projects. Some of the prestigious developments Aggreko has provided power for include the Palm Jumeirah development in Dubai, Dubai Festival City, Dubai Metro and the Qatar Pearl.

How important is good quality power distribution at a live event? What are the key indicators of quality?

At a live event, it is absolutely essential to have a high quality power supply.

Without it, lights can be ineffective and sound can be distorted; whether it is for the Olympic Games, a festival or a meeting, ensuring reliable supply of power is essential, as the reputation of the event and the organising company could be significantly impacted.

Getting the best service possible means ensuring you are getting a bespoke package tailored to your exact power requirements, as well as on-site installation and maintenance. Event managers also need to ensure that the people operating the generators are qualified, knowledgeable and familiar with the equipment on-site. Having these essential elements in place guarantees that the generators are reliable, run at optimum capacity and reduce costs by ensuring excessive fuel is not used.

Aggreko continuously strives to improve both quality and service. For example, we have managed to increase the quality of our products by providing lower noise emissions in order to avoid any possible disruption which loud generators could potentially cause. These ‘hush-power’ generators are quiet enough to be used on film sets.

What are the major challenges facing the power distribution industry?

The summer months always present challenges to the MENA region. In the Middle East, utilities are put under tremendous strain.

It is common for there to be prolonged periods of peak power demand from residential, commercial and industrial sectors, making it difficult for existing power capacity to cope and often resulting in power cuts and load shedding to homes, retail outlets and offices. It can also lead to factory shutdowns and a general decrease in power supply.

What qualifications/training/certifications do you demand from your staff?

Training is a priority for Aggreko and we have dedicated HR staff who are committed to ensuring our employees have the knowledge and expertise to deal with the complexity of the machinery and the environment in which they are working.

Our event managers are trained engineers, holding degrees in electrical engineering. Once they join Aggreko, they are given in-depth training on the equipment through our ‘Aggreko Authorised Personnel’ programme (APP). Through this program they can gain qualifications such as site operations, project management and high-voltage technical training. Many of our staff, initially hired locally to work on one project, have since completed our training programme and become full-time employees.

What does your company do to address the safety concerns associated with power distribution?

Safety, both on-site and at our facilities, is our primary concern. Our personnel often have to operate in remote and difficult environments and processes have to be in place in order to ensure there is as little risk as possible to people and the environment. The events industry is, in some ways, even more of a challenge as large events involve thousands of people, some of whom do not always pay attention to warning signs.

For example, at the Ryder Cup, Aggreko had to provide 12 MW of reliable power – enough to power a small town.

We had to contend with a number of issues, particularly ensuring the safety of the players and 40,000 spectators.

As a company, we take QHSE very seriously and all necessary safety equipment is mandatory, hard hats and glasses, gloves and any other necessary protective clothing. As well as a clearly mapped pavement around the facility to ensure that no one is in danger of falling over equipment or being hurt by moving machinery and other hazards.

Safety notices are located throughout the facility to ensure staff are aware of the safety precautions they should be taking. All employees are given comprehensive QHSE inductions in addition to refresher courses throughout their time with the company.

NAME: Gordon Cooper
POSITION: Director
COMPANY: SES Entertainment Services Ltd

Can you provide an overview of your company’s main commercial interests in the Middle East?

SES has had a presence in the Middle East for more than a decade. Due to our success at the PALME Exhibition, quality products, competitive pricing and a good understanding of our customer’s needs, we have steadily increased our presence in the region and are now supplying to most of the major names in the industry.

In which countries do you maintain a commercial presence?

SES operates from the UK. With the growing use of the internet, we have been able to keep in touch with our customers in the MENA region, but are considering opening an office in Dubai or finding a suitable trading partner who is able to maintain and increase our business in the region.

How important is good quality power distribution at a live event?

Power distribution always seems to be one of the last things considered for events, despite it being the most crucial. The build time for bespoke solutions always seems to be limited, but our experience in the industry has allowed us to adapt our business to cater for this.

Power distro is key, and cannot be allowed to fail during a live performance, so SES only uses approved and well-known suppliers for its switchgear and components.

It would be very easy to install cheaper components but this would be to the detriment of our product quality, and so we would not consider it. Whilst we may not be the cheapest manufacturer, our products are built to last, and we will not lower our standards just to get a sale.

Can you provide an overview of your main product lines? Also, what differentiates them from rival technologies in the market?

SES manufactures its products using top quality materials. We select our raw materials carefully and ensure they are from proven sources. All our rack units are manufactured using Zintec steel which is powder coated to ensure longevity. Our HDPE took some time to develop and is now specially made for us. We needed it to fit varied criteria to ensure it is appropriate for different industries and countries.

What are the major challenges facing the power distribution industry at present?

Like most industries, the biggest threat we face comes from cheaper, poor quality products. It is very easy to make a similar product with cheap components which to the end-user may look a bargain. Reputations take a long time to build and can be ruined by one faulty product on a big event. SES has strived to improve its products since its inception, and is constantly looking to improve on quality and design.

What qualifications/training/certifications do you demand from your staff?

We have a rigid training policy and only employee staff at several levels of technical ability. We do employ technicians at entry level, but a part of their contract stipulates that they must take and complete a college course to bring them up to a qualified level. We take training very seriously, and insist that our team is the best it can be.

What does your company do to address the safety concerns associated with power distribution?

We stringently ensure that our products meet all international standards and are constructed only by qualified and specialised technicians.

Also, we only use premium brand components. These are the key issues that must be considered when manufacturing components that are destined for use at live events.

Nothing on stage will run without electricity, so failure is not an option.

NAME: Paul Bates
COMPANY: Rubber Box

Can you provide an overview of your company’s main commercial interests in the Middle East?

We have supplied a number of companies with power distribution equipment in the MENA region during the last few years but it became apparent that there were still quite a lot of people out there who were unaware of our products. That’s when we decided to exhibit at PALME 09 in April this year.

In which MENA countries do you maintain a commercial presence?

We operate solely from our base in the North of England. We do have a global presence via the internet and if you make an enquiry through our website from anywhere in the world you will receive a quote within 24 hours for a box that would work in whichever country you needed it to. If you can do that from the comfort of your home or office why go anywhere else? We offer a complete design and build service to all our customers and we achieve this from one base.

How important is good quality power distribution at a live event?

The main priority is ensuring all the required equipment can be easily and quickly set up on-site. On breakdown it may be about how much abuse it can take as it’s thrown in the back of a truck at three in the morning. But when the event is up and running it’s got to work and it’s got to keep working.

Reliability is the key. It’s easy for an event manager to buy equipment based solely on price but if they want reliability and peace of mind they should go to a company that has built its reputation on supplying the biggest names in the business with high quality gear. Remember that quality is cheaper, long-term.

Can you provide an overview of your main product lines? Also, what differentiates them from rival technologies in the market?

For a company that manufactures bespoke boxes it’s difficult to outline ‘usual’ products. What makes us stand out against our competitors is our ‘on the shelf’ range of products. These are a wide variety of boxes with varying configurations which are pre-built and kept in stock, some in large numbers, to be ready for dispatch at short notice. No other power distribution manufacturer offers this.

What do you believe are some of the major challenges facing the power distribution industry at present?

They’re the same issues we’ve always faced to be honest, relating to health and safety and quality control.

Manufacturing boxes to adhere to the relevant safety standards and doing so at an affordable price seems to be the key this year for the entertainment sector.

What qualifications/training/certifications do you demand from your staff?

We only employ staff with relevant technical qualifications, particularly when it comes to those involved in the manufacturing process.

They must also be fully conversant with the latest IEE wiring regulations.

We also run a ‘day release’ programme in conjunction with local colleges for apprentices who are then provided access to our in-house training facilities. These initiatives, together with extensive and continuing on-the-job training for our regular staff, ensures that all our products are built to the highest standards and are fully compliant with the latest safety regulations.

What does your company do to address the safety concerns associated with power distribution?

Rubber Box has always built boxes with safety and quality in mind and therefore is highly regarded as one of the best manufacturers of power distribution equipment in the world. We use only the best components and have a quality control policy that is second to none. Our staff are regularly updated about changes to industry OHS regulations and are encouraged to seek out new ways to improve standards on a regular basis themselves.

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