Growth plan

With turnover up 20% in its first full-year of trading, Mackenzie Glass’s expanded product and service offer is, according to joint managing directorMark Herbert, laying the foundations for long-term growth.

Tankers take time to turn. Yet, this is exactly what Mackenzie Glass has done in the space of less than a year’s full-trading.

Reporting our end of year results for 2018/19 –our first full-year of trading –we’ve seen growth in turnover in excess of 20%, accompanied by a return to profit.

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 £5million, the deal saw assets and employees transferred to Mackenzie for an undisclosed sum. We also assumed a new status as the first Pilkington Regional Partner.

Turnover has now jumped to more than £6million, which shows that we’re moving forward in the right direction. I genuinely thought we were going to turn a profit in the first six months, that we were in charge but then our investment costs knocked us back.

This was a more realistic time-frame. The expansion of our product and service offer and those areas of investment have kicked in and are now driving the business forward.

Since we are Pilkington’s first Regional Partner, our offering is weighted towards its ranges. However, we remain independent of it, and hold product in stock from Saint Gobain Glass, Guardian, AGC and Pyroguard.

Matt Prowse, my co-managing director, has done a lot of work to bring on new business but we’ve also been able to expand our product offer in a way that the previously Pilkington-run merchanting business couldn’t – and that’s really helped us.

We promote Pilkington fiercely and Pilkington product is core to our business. The addition of new product offers to this core range gives us the flexibility to supply whatever our customers want, while benefitting from very high levels of support from within our own supply chain. This has meant stock levels remained unaffected throughout the recent glass shortages.

We were aware that people were being let down on supply but we never were, which meant that we were able to offer highly reliable supply to our customers.

That really helped us and we increased business simply because we had access to products that other companies didn’t.

In the last 12months we have also expanded our range and levels of stock holding, including 4,500m x 3,210mmm oversized 10.8mm laminate glass. Offered in addition to standard stock sheets of 3.2m x 2.5m in 4.4mm to 14.8mm laminates, this was added in response to demand from commercial suppliers.

Laminates have delivered a lot of growth over the last 12months. There’s been a general increase in demand but specifically for product on a bigger scale. We’ve also seen a big uplift in demand for acoustic laminates; we’ve seen demand, for example, for Pilkington Optiphon increase by more than 15% in the last year.

We’ve also seen a big increase in demand for cut-to-size laminate, and we have invested in our capacity to meet it.This includes the purchase of a second Boterro laminate cutting table –the new 515LAMe –which can handle super-sized 4.5m x 3.2m laminated sheets.

Running across two-shifts 24hours a day, and able to heat laminate glass to splitting temperature in just 90 seconds (compared to a standard eight minutes), it has allowed Mackenzie Glass to cut lead times on cut-to-size laminates to as little as threedays.

The other big area for us has been in fire glass. We committed to a new partnership with Pyroguard in July last year, which means that we can offer a second market-leading fire-glass range in addition to Pyrodur and Pyrostock from Pilkington.

They big advantage that Pryroguard delivers is UV stability on 7mm and 11mm thicknesses, which means that they’re suitable for use in interior or exterior applications, making them particularly easy to work with and popular with IGU manufacturers.

Looking year-on-year, its contributed to an up-lift in fire-glass sales of in excess of 20%.

Our strategy has also delivered growth in sales of mirrored products, including antique and Italian mirror, and tinted products; Mackenzie offers a full range including pink, bronze, grey and gold, and 4mm-15mm satin glass is also kept in stock.

We want to promote Pilkington’s value-added products, so we’re stocking MirroVew, MirroPane, in addition to other products like Optiview. It’s not necessarily that a single product has been exclusively responsible for delivering the growth that we’ve seen.

It’s been a combination, but the thread that connects it all is a focus on added-value products.

Trading conditions had in general deteriorated at the mid-point of the year as large commercial projects were delayed while developers held out for clarity on Brexit. However, for the most part, Mackenzie has been insulated from this commercial slow down because our customers were focused primarily on the domestic market.

We do supply one or two commercial specialists and what we’re hearing from them is that things are tougher but for the majority of our customers, while things have been perhaps a little flatter, Brexit hasn’t really impacted on them. So far, anyway.

What we do need is clarity on Brexit. I really don’t feel like this can go on for ever and hopefully a decision either way will bring clarity and release latent demand.

Whatever happens, I believe that the changes that we have put into effect within Mackenzie Glass are now taking root and we’re at a point where the investment that we have made in product and stock holding, equipment and infrastructure – but most importantly people and our culture – is taking off.