Colour Sound Experiment, an equipment hire specialist for live events, found they were often forced to replace damaged cables due to an inability to test and mend them in-house. This was costing the business money and adding up to a large volume of waste.
Colour Sound were awarded a grant of £15,000 from the Mayor of London’s Green New Deal fund and advisory support from the ERDF funded Business Transformation programme to invest in and pilot new equipment that would increase cable repair within the business.
The business has successfully demonstrated the commercial and environmental benefits of investing in repair equipment, with the potential to save 3,710Kg of cable waste per year, generate revenue from new client services, and create a new full time role and increase the business’s skillset.
What was the challenge?
Colour Sound Experiment is an established equipment hire specialist that provides production services for live events, broadcast, and arts and culture. They were awarded the Best Lighting and Rigging Company in the 2021 Greater London Enterprise Awards, and have supplied for some of the largest trials for returning to in-person events post-COVID, including Sefton Park and Download Festival.
As an equipment hire business they were already circular at their core, renting out lighting and video equipment and removing the need for other companies to purchase and dispose of their own equipment for one-off or short-run shows.
However, they saw an opportunity to reduce waste within their own operations: all of their 10,000 lighting fixtures and 2km of LED screens need 1 or 2 cables of varying lengths and, with a lot of their events being outside and subject to rough conditions, they would frequently come back damaged. Without an efficient way to identify faults and repair them, the company was discarding and replacing about a third of their cables each year at a cost of £75,000.
Haydn Cruickshank, Managing Director, Colour Sound Experiment
We can’t thank ReLondon enough for their support on this. Not just financially, but connecting us to a community of other like-minded companies, all sharing new ideas and best practice. It’s been really inspiring.
What was the response?
For the business, the solution was clear. A straightforward, upfront investment in a PAT4 testing system would speed up their fault finding and repair, replacing the existing manual inspection process. Where once it was more efficient and cheaper to buy new cables, the machine would make it economically viable to keep existing cables in use.
We were pleased to offer Colour Sound Experiment a circular pilot grant of £15,000, thanks to the Mayor of London’s Green New Deal fund, to cover the upfront cost of the equipment.
Not only would this save the company money and insulate them from the rising costs of the copper required for the manufacture of new cables, it could potentially unlock new services for clients and revenue streams for the business. Environmentally, huge amounts of cable waste (metals and rubber) would be diverted from landfill, and fewer new cables would be bought, saving on new materials and the emissions involved in both their shipping and manufacturing.
With advisory support from the ERDF-funded business transformation team, they put the machine through it’s paces, measuring the number of repairs, time taken and financial cost before and after procuring the equipment to fully understand the business case. They also explored the potential for future services, carrying out market testing with their clients.
What were the outcomes?
By the end of the pilot phase, it was clear that the PAT4 machine had increased the efficiency of the fault-finding and repair process. With the machine, a cable fault could more easily be pinpointed to be repaired, or the small, damaged section removed, leaving two lengths of cable to be re-terminated and used again. As a result, the business saw an increase of 44.4% in the length of cable recycled and estimate they will avoid sending 3,710kg of waste to landfill per year.
The business has also benefitted commercially, having saved money on the purchase of new cables. Staff productivity and wellbeing has increased thanks to one machine being able to process a variety of cables quickly and all in one place, and a new full time role has been created to run it, increasing the skillset within the business.
In addition to the clear benefits to internal operations, the business was able to gauge client interest in new services including cable-only hire and cable repairs. Having determined that there is demand amongst clients, the next step will be to position the offering in a relatively new, undefined market.
Lessons learned and next steps
Colour Sound Experiment is a real life example of how businesses can benefit from the economic opportunities presented by the circular economy, as outlined in ReLondon’s report ‘The Circular Economy at Work’. They have been able to reduce costs, increase revenue, create jobs and improve skills within the business.
By closely examining their internal operations, Colour Sound Experiment reframed a problem into a business opportunity. What was seemingly a peripheral material turned out to represent a large source of waste that was costing the business money. But by understanding their starting position (who does what, how long it takes and at what cost), and using this insight to invest in technology and skills (i.e. repair), they were able to unlock long-term benefits for both business growth and environmental impact.
Implementing a repair model (‘using stuff again’) within the business has also opened the door to another circular model – renting, not buying. Central to a rental model is the ability to maintain products for as long as possible so they can be used to their full potential. The new repair process can now work hand in hand with a potential new cable-only rental service.
Finally, the business has stayed attentive to the needs of their customer. They had previously turned down regular enquiries for cable-only rentals but used this pilot as to understand their customers and trends in the market to explore potential new opportunities, further supporting the business case for investing in new technology.
The company is now evaluating the viability of offering cable-only hires, and opening their cable testing and repair facilities as a service to other businesses, so that they too can minimise their own cable wastage.
ReLondon’s business transformation team continues to help small-and-medium sized businesses in London adopt the circular economy through our advisory support, grant schemes, and matchmaking services. Find out more about our fully funded business support programme at our website.