A natural fit

How does a company like Cwmtillery Glass get to a point where it is making 3,000 units a day without having a dedicated salesman on the road? Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell went to find out.

There was a moment of realisation on Cwmtillery Glass owner Paul Hayward’s face when he told Glass Times that his company near Ebbw Vale in South Wales had been in business for 20 years this year.

It has certainly come a long way in that time, having started life in 1996 in a small unit in the village of Cwmtillery, not far from Ebbw Vale in South Wales, with just a washing machine and a cutting table – everything else was completed by hand.

Paul, however, had built up a loyal customer base while working for Defender Glass and Amtillery Glass, both of which had ceased operating.

“There were five of us in total, selling DGUs to local joiners and window fabricators,” Paul said. “I’ve always made units – it’s good to stick to what you know, rather than expanding into new areas. Why make more work for yourself?”

As a result of this straightforward philosophy, Cwmtillery Glass has outgrown several premises, before settling on its current location just outside Ebbw Vale. Today, the glass company employs 136 people in a 55,000ft2 factory, which has the space to double in size if required.

As it stands, the space is perfect. In one area, three loaders feed glass to three cutting tables. The glass is then arrissed and washed before toughening. From here, three lines make units.

Cwmtillery Glass uses predominantly softcoated glass and warm edge  spacer to make its window units and conservatory roof glass. It’s a combination of ingredients that has encouraged customers to remain loyal to the company.

While the units’ design has been refined over the years to meet the requirements of customers, one area of production that Paul has really strived to get right is the machinery.

Apart from the Cool Temper oven, and the horizontal washing machine, nearly all the rest of the machinery has been supplied by Bystronic Glass – a supplier that he is happy to return to time and time again.

“The B’Speed line I had installed earlier this year was the best thing I’ve ever done for the company,” he said, acknowledging that he has another one on order to replace an older line.

“The process is now so quick that we are having to wait for the glass to come off the cutting tables before we can continue.”

The knock-on this has had has been profound: Paul has added two workers to the production line, but has then removed a regular afternoon shift (reinstating it if required). This not only cuts costs considerably, it also gives the company a useful amount of flexibility.

“We usually see orders slacken during the summer months – as many companies do,” Paul said.

“In typical fashion, we ended having a record month – averaging out at 2,900 units a day throughout August. There was no way we could have done it if we didn’t have that B’Speed line. That and the 12-hour shifts some of the lads put in,” Paul laughed.

With this in mind, Paul said he would be happy to plateau out at 3,000 units a day, but reduce the number of shifts. This would easily justify the investment in the new machine.

Paul originally chose Bystronic as a lead supplier when the company supplied a sealing robot, which then led to a cutting table, which led to more cutting tables, loaders and IGU lines.

“Engineering support is an important consideration for companies like ours,” Paul said. “We need to know that we can be up and running quickly if something doesn’t work the way we want it to work.”

Steve Powell, Bystronic’s managing director, understands this and explains this is why the company is taking on a 14th engineer, alongside a chief engineer to oversee all machinery installation and field service work.

“We have also invested in our online ordering system, so that customers can pick up spare parts quickly and easily,” Steve said.

Having suppliers that match Cwmtillery Glass’s own work ethic has helped it to grow from a small village operation to one that stretches beyond throughout UK.