How Cornerstone overcame complex IT installation for Redcar Bulk Terminal

Michael Igo and Chris Bibby from Cornerstone Business Solutions with Shaun Casey from Redcar Bulk Terminal. Picture by Tom Banks
Tees Business Digital Media Pack

Redcar Bulk Terminal was part of Teesside’s steelmaking fabric.

But the deep-water port’s recent history has been one of uncertainty and change. And when the firm saw its ownership switched from British Steel to SSI, it meant a fullscale transfer of its IT system.

RBT’s management team needed dedicated IT experts to help them resolve what was sure to be a complicated procedure. Step forward IT specialists Cornerstone Business Solutions.

Cornerstone director Chris Bibby says the job of transferring RBT’s complete IT system from British Steel to their own was “the most challenging job we’ve ever undertaken”.

The fact that that RBT general manager Shaun Casey is smiling today tells you all you need to know about Cornerstone’s success in stepping up to the plate.

“I can’t praise Cornerstone enough,” said Shaun.

“Extracting ourselves from British Steel’s IT system following the buyout was a daunting job and, as a non-IT person, I couldn’t possibly have foreseen the challenges we faced but, no matter what the problem, Chris and his team have come up with the answers every time.

“It’s definitely not been stress-free, it’s been a challenging time to get us connected but we can now see light at the end of the tunnel.

“It would have been a real achievement at the best of times but to do all this amid Covid and all that brings has been impressive.”

Situated on the south bank of the River Tees at Lackenby, RBT was previously a joint venture between SSI and British Steel. The complicated IT switch became necessary when SSI exercised its right to buy up the other half from British Steel in a £11.3m deal earlier this year.

Employing 86 people, the 320-acre terminal was originally commissioned in the 1970s for the import of raw materials required by the Redcar Steelworks.

The demise of the steelworks saw RBT diversify into handling other bulk cargoes including coal, petroleum coke, granulated slag and aggregates, while key exports include metallurgical coke and furnaceready scrap.

Reflecting on the contract, Chris Bibby said it had been six months of detailed planning, preparation and research followed by several intensive weeks carrying out the technical switch.

Only after getting a full understanding of the existing system was Cornerstone able to start work installing the IT network, telephone system and photocopiers.

“Without doubt it’s been the most challenging project we’ve ever undertaken,” said Chris.

“It was six months before we had the confidence to start safely implementing the work but it was essential we did all the legwork to ensure we fully understood the existing system and connectivity.

“We couldn’t just turn up one morning and start installing a new IT network. Without allocating hours and days of time of planning in advance, it would have been impossible to safely onboard them.

“We had to liaise with numerous other tech people who looked after issues such as the cabling, servers and telephony.

“British Steel are rightly securityconscious so have been very nervous of anyone touching their network, so there have been some fairly complicated security implications too.”

Chris is full of praise for Cornerstone’s IT project and training manager Mike Igo, who has acted as chief engineer throughout the project.

“It’s Mike who has put in the hours, getting to understand the existing network before we started basically installing a new system from scratch.

“The sheer complexity of the project combined with the size of the site mean there’s little doubt it’s been the most legwork we’ve done before ‘breaking soil’.

“But we are delighted that a company ingrained in Teesside’s steelmaking history has put its faith in us and we’re looking forward to providing a first-class support service the RBT for many years to come.”