Neils Plant – Aiming to Provide a First-Class Service at a Reasonable Price

An experienced plant hire company operating in East Anglia and the Midlands, Neils Plant offers a range of services from plant hire, excavation, groundworks, earthworks to haulage for small and big projects.

They pride themselves on personal and reliable service with experienced drivers on a range of equipment from dump trucks to excavators. As a long-standing Witham customer, we recently visited Neil’s Plant in Stamford and found out there’s a lot more to this business than meets the eye…

From One Backhoe Loader to a Fleet of Machinery

Neil Whatling founded Neils Plant in 1987. His first machine was a 3C backhoe loader which he operated himself. Expansion followed a few years later when he bought his first tracked machine, a second-hand Cat 215, then one of the first Cat 428’s. After being awarded a contract for gravel extraction and delivery to the new A14 construction, the fleet started to grow and has continued to do so with today, the business operating 25 machines.

Neil’s interest in machinery started when he was at school and led to a variety of work experience and qualifications, as Neil explains:

“I have always had a passion for understanding, maintaining, and operating heavy equipment. After leaving school I did a 6-year heavy engineering apprenticeship with Mirrlees Blackstone in Stamford, qualified with a O.N.C. in mechanical engineering, took my HGV class 1 and also worked for several large arable farmers in the Grantham area.”

The company recently celebrated 35 years of trading, and now employ around 22 staff, servicing contracts mainly working in quarries carrying out topsoil/subsoil stripping, mineral extraction and processing including crushing and screening followed by restoration projects. They have also constructed reservoirs, lakes, estate roads and car parks, shed bases and will look at anything that customers require.

The company’s success is perhaps down to their ethos which Neil says is

“To provide a first-class service at a reasonable price and to maintain that reputation.”

Their customers include large blue-chip aggregate companies like Hanson Cement, Breedon, Aggregate Industries, Forestry England, along with several other local smaller quarrying companies, several large estates, nurseries and other local customers.

Operating in Challenging Times

Like many other companies now, Neils Plant are finding the current economic climate challenging, trying to keep up with the rising costs of new equipment and other supplies (for example plant equipment now must use the more expensive white diesel, instead of red diesel) whilst trying to keep customers and staff happy.

They have invested £1.73m this year on seven new pieces of heavy plant equipment and the latest technology as part of their ongoing replacement program. Neil believes that investing in the latest technology and equipment is important so they can operate as efficiently as possible and be more environmentally friendly.

“The environment is important to everybody. We always try to carry out our work as efficiently as possible, which fits in with operating the latest new equipment and technology. We also learn a lot when working with some of the large estates and Forestry England on continued sustainability.”

Not Just Plant Machinery…

Neils interest in machinery extends way beyond plant equipment. He also has a collection of around 12 military vehicles which he started as a hobby in 2006 with the purchase of an Abbot self-propelled gun. He has bought, restored and sold numerous vehicles, including a Chieftain and Russian T55 tank with some having live guns.

“Over the years we have attended many shows around the UK, giving rides to the public and firing our live 25 pounder gun on Remembrance Sundays.”

Neil also gained his private pilot’s license in 1998 and after a few years he got into ariel aerobatics and purchased an ex-military British built Slingsby T67 Firefly in 2006.

“After further aerobatic instruction from an ex-RAF and civilian aerobatic instructor I got my display authorisation in 2007. Flying public displays was very rewarding, tiring and the best ‘forget about work’ tonic you can get. I also purchased a 1948 Pilatus P2 ex-Swiss air force warbird but after just 6 hours of having great fun I had an engine failure near RAF Barkston Heath, making a forced landing in a field, luckily my friend and myself walked away OK.”

Neil’s latest steed is an ex-Italian air force, 1960’s SF260 advanced light attack/trainer. Known as the Ferrari of the skies, the SF260 was built with combat in mind and continues to be popular with military air arms to train fighter pilots.

With just four of them on the UK register, this makes the SF260 a rarer sight than the iconic Spitfire

The Importance of a Trustworthy Supplier

Neils Plant has been buying lubricants and paints from Witham for over 15 years. They use a variety of lubricants, greases, and paints for their machines – all of which are approved by the manufacturers.

When asked why he uses Witham Group as a supplier Neil explained:

“The oils are approved by Caterpillar and Volvo as we supply Witham oils an all our service contracts which saves us money. It’s important for us to have a supplier that can provide quality products at good value, and good delivery and service – all of which Witham provide. Witham’s sales rep, Richard Scarbrough is brilliant. He looks after all our needs and if there are any problems, he is just at the end of the phone.”

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