Steve Welch: In Conversation with Rail Professional

Check out the July edition of Rail Professional for an interview with Steve Welch, Commercial Manager at TVS Rail Spares


Here’s the interview in full:

Tell us about your role at TVS Rail Spares.

I joined TVS Supply Chain Solutions (TVS SCS) in early 2023 with the aim of bringing to life a new service that could make a huge difference to the rail industry. My role initially was to develop the offering and to work with the team to bring the vision to life. It took three months of hard work before we were ready to launch TVS Rail Spares into the industry and since then I’ve been responsible for the service, brand and growing the customer base into the thriving business that it is today.

What I wanted to accomplish from the service was very much in line with the fundamentals of what TVS SCS stands for, so we set out a vision statement that said we would offer service, value for money and speed. It’s my job to make sure that we live up to this vision and to bring the rail industry along on the journey with us.

What have been the key milestones that TVS Rail Spares have achieved so far?

It’s been a crazy year for me personally and everything has happened very fast. Our first big milestone was launching at Rail Live in 2023 and since then we’ve grown with a customer base of more than 100 different companies and a continually developing platform. Since then representatives from more than 100 different rail companies have signed up to our online catalogue, including all the Tier 1 Signalling contractors. Whilst I had good contacts in the industry, we still had to build our rail customer base from scratch, and it’s been a testament to how well the team has got the message out that we’ve been so successful in reaching out to the industry.

It’s been a real journey for us so far and bringing our customers along with us is what we’re most excited about. We think of ourselves as an agile, fast-moving company so as we’ve been able to learn more about what our customers want, we’ve been able change accordingly to meet their requirements.

What kind of products do you sell?

We sell infrastructure products for the railway, bringing together a supply chain of more than 400 suppliers, across 10,000 items with more than 3,000 of those on the shelf. Our range covers Signalling, Overhead Line and Telecoms as well as a huge range of rail specific consumables and tools. We call ourselves a One Stop Shop for a reason; we’ve got a huge scope to be able to deliver everything our customers need. However, one of the more rewarding parts of the last twelve months has been the way we’ve been able to grow this range with our customers. We’ve already added around 400 new products in the last year and we’re adding new items on a daily basis as customers request material.

What makes your service different?

It’s our speed that sets us apart from our competitors. We offer free next day delivery on all products ordered before 2pm as standard, our customers can log into our online catalogue and see prices for more than 6,000 different rail infrastructure products immediately. You can buy a key piece of equipment, for example a signalling relay, in less than 2 minutes and receive it the following day. You’ve also got full tracking information for all orders you’ve placed so you can be sure that your order is on its way.

This might seem like basic functionality for the 21st century, but this transparency is something that the rail industry has not always enjoyed. We understand how much it costs to not have key material ready for installation at the right time and our service allows the orange army on track to concentrate on what they’re good at – installing and commissioning our railway. Critically for our customers, we offer all of the above as added value and our pricing is extremely competitive and in line with industry prices. We want to disrupt the market and offer a better service for a better price.

 What have been the biggest challenges for TVS Rail Spares since its launch last year?

The biggest challenge, as with any start-up services launching into a new market, was letting the industry knew who we were and what our capabilities were. I used to joke that we were one of the best kept secrets in the industry, but we’ve definitely shouted from the rooftops about what we can do and are now well known amongst the industry and supply chain.

To get to this point, I’ve gone to a lot of rail industry events in the last twelve months – my colleague’s joke that I turn up at the opening of an envelope – but it’s been really important to be able to talk to as many industry people as possible and spread the word about what TVS Rail Spares can offer. With that objective in mind, we also launched a short promotional video earlier this year designed to get the message out there of the size and scale of our operation. It was great fun having a drone fly around our 260,000 square foot warehouse recording footage and it really captured the imagination of our customer base afterwards.

Where do you see the future for TVS Rail Spares?

The rail market seems to be in a state of flux at the moment, with the cancellation of HS2 and the move into a new Network Rail Control Period (CP7). There’s less money available than in CP6, which means that as an industry we will need to do more with less.

That’s where a service like TVS Rail Spares can help to make a difference. We offer great value for money, as well as the greater efficiency from our fast service, and we see ourselves as the CP7 Partner of Choice for the UK rail industry. We want to be able to help the key contractors get what they need when they need it, so passengers across the country can get a reliable, fast and inclusive railway. In the immediate future, we’re looking to do more work with our customer base and are hoping to offer our Mobile Stock Management software for use by rail depots with material solutions. We think we can improve the material availability for our customers and are currently bidding to win some of this work around the country.

Our long term aims include looking to expand our catalogue into the Rolling Stock marketplace where we think our capabilities can innovate and allow greater availability for engineers and depots. We’d love to be able to work alongside a train builder in the UK to transform their supply chains.

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