Building blocks

Mackenzie Glass has committed to do things differently, and Glass Times found that this goes far beyond product.

“It’s got to be about more than price,” Matt Prowse, joint managing director of Mackenzie Glass, said. “Trust me, we’re not taking that much out and operating on some very lean margins, but that’s not what we’re about; we are, and we want to be, about partnership – delivering something more to our customers.”

NSG sold its Pilkington Bristol business to Mackenzie Glass at the end of 2017. Supplying more than one million square metres of flat glass a year with a turnover in excess of £5 million, the deal saw assets and employees transferred to Mackenzie for an undisclosed sum. Mackenzie Glass also assumed a new status as the first Pilkington Regional Partner.

Filing its first full-year accounts in October last year, its turnover has now jumped to more than £6 million, in part through the realignment of its offer. Despite its Regional Partner status, Mackenzie nonetheless remains independent of it, also holding product in stock from Saint Gobain, Guardian, AGC and, most recently, Pyroguard.

The links between the two, however, remain strong, as does Mackenzie Glass’s commitment to add value through its product offer and the service it provides to its customers, including a commitment to support industry up-skilling.

It has already pledged to ensure that its operations include a labour force made up of 20% current or former apprentices. This commitment to training, however, stretches further to support its customers in their efforts to improve the understanding of their workforces.

This included the first of a series of training programmes, delivered in partnership with Pilkington at the tail end of 2019.

“It’s one of the big benefits of the relationship we have with Pilkington,” Matt said.

“We were being asked by our customers for support on training of their employees to improve their understanding of glass manufacture and processing.

“We were able to collate exactly what they wanted and then work with Pilkington to develop a training day, geared specifically to learning and development in those areas that our customers were asking us for support in.”

The one-day training course, delivered by Pilkington’s technical advisory service manager Phil Brown, provided an introduction to float glass manufacture as well as the terms used in manufacturing.

“Everyone needs to start somewhere,” Matt said. “The industry uses a lot of technical language, which can be hard to get your head around if you’re starting out. In our experience, a little time invested in training and development is invaluable.

“Our customers may not always have the resource to deliver direct but we, through our partnership with Pilkington, do.”

The Pilkington Product Knowledge One course included an introduction to insulation and solar control, covering off regulatory drivers; heat loss and product performance, including that of Pilkington Optifloat, K Glass and Optitherm; U-values and emissivity; and solar control, including SunCool.

It also included an introduction to acoustic performance including how sound is measured and how acoustic control glass works.

With attendees drawn from across southern England and as far afield as Jersey, Matt said that the feedback from those attending had been very positive

“The point is if no one is there supporting glass processors in delivering training to their employees, where do they get it?,” he said. “We see an opportunity to support glass processors in building knowledge bases within their businesses.”

Also covering off, safety and security glass, fire-glass and special glass products, the course provided attendees with a foundation understanding for working in the glass processing sector.

Although, as an independent glass merchanting business, Mackenzie supplies glass from other manufacturers, Pilkington continues to claim the lion’s share of its offer, with Pilkington KS (soft coat) a key staple.

Mackenzie also supplies a wide range of value-added products and technologies which represents a defining element of its growth strategy.

This includes fire rated glass including Pilkington Pyrodur and Pyrostop; as well as Optiview which features a special anti-reflective pyrolytic coating that reduces reflection on glass while allowing more visible light to pass through. Suitable for monolithic or laminated application, this makes it ideally suited for retail installation.

“If we can build understanding throughout the glass supply chain we can help our customers to sell our – and their own – products more effectively, winning business through their expertise and understanding of the performance of different products and the value add that they deliver,” Matt said.

The free-to-attend PK1 course held by Mackenzie Glass at the end of last year, will be followed up with a more comprehensive PK2 course either in spring or autumn this year. This is being organised by Mackenzie Glass in response to demand for training support on regulatory requirements.

“The PK2 course is more involved and really aimed at owners and technical experts,” Matt said. “It will include support on wind loadings, something which our customers have specifically asked for.

“There are a lot of responsibilities placed on glass processors: regulation is one; the training and development of the next generation of employees is another. Through our relationship with Pilkington we can offer our customers access to the industry’s leading experts.

“This is something which we believe adds very real value to their relationship with us.”