Independently minded start up

A little over a year since its acquisition of Pilkington Bristol from NSG, independent glass merchant Mackenzie Glass has reported significant year-on-year growth.

The glass sector has been dogged by supply and quality issues, in addition to fiercely competitive pricing – not a typical fertile landscape for a start-up business. A year in, however, and Mackenzie Glass has reported growth on the back of major investment in its infrastructure and those it employs.

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, and Mackenzie Glass also assumed a new status as the first Pilkington Regional Partner.

A year in, and despite wider challenges within the glass sector, Mackenzie is developing a growing head of steam, according to Matt Prowse who, with joint managing director Mark Herbert, heads up the glass merchanting business explains.

“The fundamentals of the business were there but we’ve delivered investment on top of that,” Matt said. “Our new laminate cutting table, fire saw, CNC, glass wash, new IT system and additions to our transport fleet have revitalised the fantastic team we have.

“Although today we operate completely independently of Cornwall Glass, we do bring that understanding of glass processing to glass merchanting,” he said. “That’s a real plus for our customers because we get what they’re facing on a day-to-day basis because we’ve done it too.”

Security of supply and glass availability was first and foremost among those issues facing glass processors and IGU manufacturers in the last year – something that with reduced supply of float glass and Brexit, can be expected to affect them in the year ahead.

This is where Mackenzie’s status as a Pilkington Regional Partner has played out to its advantage, Matt said.

“Pilkington has been very good,” Matt said. “We’ve had a largely uninterrupted supply.”

“The important thing is that as an independent, we’ve had the flexibility to secure supply from elsewhere if Pilkington hasn’t been able to meet demand. We can go to Saint Gobain, to AGC, to Guardian. This is a key difference between us and the NSG/Pilkington Bristol business.”

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. Its value-added products and technologies, however, that Mackenzie Glass has placed greatest focus on since its acquisition.

This includes: decorative ranges and the acid etched Oriel range; mirror options including OptiMirror; fire and impact rated Pilkington Pyrostop and Pyrodur, which carry Class 1 BS EN 12600 ratings; and Pilkington Optiview, which features a special anti-reflective pyrolytic coating that reduces reflection on glass while allowing more visible light to pass through.

Mackenzie is also a distributor of restoration glass, gold, pink toughened and antique mirror glass, ceramic heat resistant and satin from 4mm to 15mm.

Mark Herbert explained that the recent programme of investment has been aimed at introducing new flexibility and closer alignment with key market drivers.

“We’ve seen significant increase in demand for laminated product,” Mark said. “It’s an area that delivers significant potential for growth.”

Delivered in July, with an accompanying loading table, a new Bottero 515LAMe laminated glass cutting table gives Mackenzie Glass the capacity to handle 4.5m x 3.2m laminated sheets. With 90-second heat-up times, compared to the eight-minute heat-up of its pre-existing table, it gives Mackenzie Glass far greater flexibility in the supply of cut-to-size laminates.”

Mackenzie Glass has also recruited, including the creation of three new apprenticeships, bringing the company’s workforce to 49.

“We have an incredible amount of knowledge within the business and we want to ensure that that’s passed on, which is why we have put new training partnerships in place,” Mark said. “We have an ambition that 10% of our workforce will be apprentices or former apprentices.”

So, what is Mackenzie Glass senior team’s take away point on the year ahead?

“Security of supply is going to be important, plus product range,” Matt said.