First regional partner

Mackenzie Glass acquired Pilkington Bristol from NSG on December 1, 2017. Glass Times editor Nathan Bushell met the managing directors of both firms, and Cornwall Glass and Glazing, to discuss the route to partnership.

The acquisition of Pilkington Bristol by Mackenzie Glass at the end of last year wasn’t a straightforward deal for either party, especially since the merchanting business wasn’t up for sale.

However, as both companies progressed through talks, it became clear that there were benefits to be had, even creating a possible model for future relationships.

Mark Mitchell, chairman of Cornwall Glass, said the company would consider similar relationships with other businesses across the UK.

“We need to make sure the Bristol site works, but we are an acquisitive company, and we always promote synergies within the group,” he said.

Mackenzie Glass is owned by Cornwall Glass and Glazing but, for the purposes of the relationship with Pilkington UK, the parent company has stayed (and will continue to stay) firmly in the background.

To illustrate this point, Mackenzie Glass’s joint managing director Matt Prowse – who is a born and bred Cornwall Glass employee – no longer sits on the board, and runs the business as a separate entity.

In addition to the purchase of stock and the 37,000ft2 purpose-built site on the southern side of the city, the deal included the transfer of 46 members of staff.

“Mackenzie Glass is independently operated and its own profit and loss centre,” Matt said. “There are clearly shared links between Mackenzie Glass and Cornwall Glass in that Mark Herbert and myself were both directors at Cornwall Glass but we see this as a real asset to our customers going forward. We share the same experiences and we know what’s important in float glass supply.”

Although an independent glass merchanting business, Mackenzie Glass is also Pilkington’s first regional partner. This gives it a similar status to Pilkington’s own glass merchanting businesses, with access to its full product range and rapid delivery service.

“Pilkington has a great reputation – its products are widely specified and it also has retail brand recognition,” Mark Herbert said.

“It’s at the forefront of glass innovation, with a really exciting range of added value products including Pyrostop, Optiview, OptiMirror, its Activ Range – these are all products which add process, value and opportunities to add margin, throughout the supply chain.

“If, however, one of our customers has a requirement that we can’t meet through Pilkington’s product range, we are free to, and will, supply product from other leading manufacturers.

“That’s something which is significantly different to the way the business was run previously, and which we believe will be a highly beneficial change to those customers who were buying glass from Pilkington Bristol before and who will continue to do so going forward.”

The new Mackenzie Bristol site supplies more than 300 tonnes of glass each month, the lion’s share of which is supplied for IGU manufacture, with Pilkington KS (soft coat) a key staple.

Value-added products and technologies are what Mackenzie Glass sees as delivering greatest growth potential going forward.

“We aren’t making wholesale changes but clearly our service offer is going to be different from before,” Matt said.

Does this relationship signal a new path for Pilkington UK?

“We have no intention to exit our merchanting obligations,” Matt Buckley, managing director of Pilkington UK, said. “However, we would always keep our options open, and in this instance it made sense.

“From a customer’s point of view, the market is changing all the time. They are looking at different routes to market and new applications. Pilkington’s unit of currency is lorries of glass, whereas a merchanting division can deal with customers with different and varied needs.”