Major UK Supermarket


Major UK supermarket chain


UK nationwide, Northern Ireland

Customer Requirement

Standby power for stores and distribution centres


Equipment supply

Power Need

This firm has consistently set the pace on Britain's supermarket scene, and established a clear lead as one of the nation's biggest retailer. The UK retail market is fiercely competitive, the fight for market share unrelenting, with success and failures widely reported in the media.

Within this environment customer loyalty is hard won and never taken for granted, and so every aspect of successful retail operation is geared for consistency of service and product availability.

Their operations are carefully planned in every detail, and wherever possible risks anticipated and eliminated.

Clearly the availability of a consistent electricity supply is vital—a mains power-cut brings the potential for operational difficulties. And beyond failures in the primary supply, there is particular vulnerability in rural locations where power is delivered by overhead lines.

Potential problems relating to power failure include:

Shoppers plunged into darkness, checkout systems inoperative.
At distribution centres, the loss of temperature and systems presents an obvious risk. And with perhaps millions of pounds worth of frozen foods located on one site - uninsurable for damage resulting from power loss—the economics are clear.


In line with a strategy geared to minimising risk, this supermarket chain has an active programme installing standby power systems in all critical locations— stores and distribution networks. In a rationalisation leading up to the new millennium, the project was put out to tender.

The decision was made to standardise on Caterpillar standby diesel generating sets. The deal was won by Finning's Aldershot dealer Standby Power Systems (SPS).Initially 50 generators were supplied to provide contingency cover to eliminate any potential problems associated with Y2K—although in the event not required for that purpose. Since then, the programme has been rolled out to ensure facilities are power protected, and Caterpillar generators are installed in most new builds and store refurbishments.

These retail outlets use standby diesel generator sets in the range 110 – 350kVA, primarily fitted into close-fit sound-attenuated enclosures. These are located outside the store or in plant rooms. Where space is particularly tight, a roof may be utilised.

The aim is to provide adequate power to keep the store's lighting operating to comply with Health and Safety considerations, maintain computer systems—and keep the all-important checkouts running.

Chilled and frozen stock is clearly at risk in the event of a prolonged power cut, so SPS undertake to have a trailer-mounted 1500kVA Caterpillar generator on site within four hours to provide electricity. Generators installed in distribution centres are in the range 1000 – 2000kVA.


The criteria for this project throughout has been for well-supported, dependable systems. The result was an ongoing contract with SPS, with Caterpillar as the specified manufacturer of generators. The impressive resource and capability of the UK's Caterpillar dealer Finning, who supplied the generators, helped clinch the deal. Caterpillar products are supported with, training, technical expertise, parts and service.

The firm also insist on having 24 hour callout cover, and a preventative maintenance package. This consists of two visits a year, where the generator is subject to a live site test. Also—because generators are specified at 50% higher than the anticipated capacity to provide a margin for future heavier store demands—a 100% load bank test is performed, which exercises a generator to its full extent. Says SPS director Peter Jesse: "We have worked with our client for 22 years, and do our utmost to meet and exceed their expectations. Most certainly a major consideration in their choice of equipment was the strong reputation that Caterpillar have won.

"This point is illustrated by the fact that we service around 60 different makes and types of generator that our client has had installed in its stores over the years. Keeping these operational can be a challenge - one manufacturer recently went out of business, and we are now unable to supply parts for a generator just eight years old.

He continues: "Contrast this with Finning, who - with Caterpillar - long term spares availability, together with a 24 hour service on parts. For them, support is a total commitment.

"Without doubt Caterpillar is the strongest name in the business, and Finning has provided a highly competitive package". The last word comes from the retailer: "Standby power provision is an important strand of our operational strategy. The Caterpillar systems installed and maintained by Standby Power Systems and backed by Finning deliver the security we require."