It is natural that, when one looks at projects and product innovation on the railways, one tends to think of the big ones. Huge projects with multi-million pound budgets, innovations which make large differences to the way people work, or travel, or which save vast amounts of money.

However, like any business, engineering normally progresses in small steps. It also survives on the simple things. Even the largest and most intricate machine runs on small components, many of them quite mundane. They aren’t exotic, but without them the railways would grind to a halt.

Keeping it in stock

That’s where stockists and distributors come in. It is their investment in stock which allows parts to be delivered quickly to depots and work sites which keeps the railways running.

One good example of this is Lockwell Electrical Distributors. With branches all over England and Wales, from Frome to Gateshead, and with over £4 million of stock held around the country, the company is well placed to help out when needed.

Lockwell specialises in major brands. So they don’t just supply widgets, but sophisticated equipment as well. A look at the list of brands they handle reads as a who’s who of the electrical supply industry. Many of them have featured in this magazine before – Adaptaflex, Cooper Bussmann, Flexicon, Hellerman Tyton, Mita, Nexans, Rittal, Schneider Electric, Sick, Siemens, Unistrut and Weidmuller. The Rail Engineer has written about them all, and Lockwell supplies them all.

Stock can be despatched for same day delivery from a local branch, or for next day delivery nationwide. If that still isn’t quick enough, it can be collected from one of their 20 trade counters.

Crucial knowledge training

Product knowledge is important, both to distributor staff so they can advise the customer on what he actually wants, but also to the user and installer so that the correct item is specified and ordered the first time around.

Also, there are very few disciplines that are subject to greater and more ongoing change than the electrical engineering industry.

Implementation of European Standards, integration of new legislation and huge advancements in control technology mean that companies need to continually review and revise their ability to respond to these changes. One essential issue in this is the education and training of key staff in the latest standards required by the industry. This suggests a requirement for greater flexibility within the workforce with a leaning toward multi-tasking.

In response to this, Lockwell has established a dedicated, fully equipped technical and training centre in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire.