Overcoming obstacles to growth

Glass Times met Andrew Taylor, managing director of Specialist Glass, to find out more about the investment into infrastructure and machinery, and the impact this will have on the company and its customers.

Operating from its Huddersfield base, Specialist Glass is a structural glass manufacturer specialising in annealed, laminated and toughened bends, as well as manufacturing and supplying all types of flat glass.

The company has gone through a large-scale investment programme over the last 12 months, with a combined investment of £5 million into a new factory and machinery.

“The last 12 months have been a time of immense change for us here at Specialist Glass,” managing director Andrew Taylor said. “After 16 years in our original building, we had well and truly outgrown it and needed new premises which would allow us to further grow the business into its next phase.

“After making this decision, it seemed like fate when the site next door became available and plans were soon underway to demolish the existing premises to make way for our brand new extension: a purpose-built 40,000ft2 glass processing factory.”

During the planning process for this next phase in our development, it made sense to undertake a review of the machinery as this was considered an obstacle to future growth.

“Prior to moving into our new premises, we had one NorthGlass furnace that was working at full capacity,” Andrew said. “Not only did this mean that we had no room for expansion, but it also meant we had no back-up plan should we experience any issues with the furnace.”

Andrew explained there is not one piece of machinery that is capable of doing every specialism in glass bending, and the old furnace left the company short on tight radius capabilities and large scale bends, among other things.

“The large-scale gap in our product range was a particular issue as it meant that we weren’t able to compete with supplying the glazing for shopping centres and other such commercial projects, and this was a key growth area that we wanted to move into,” Andrew said.

“While we had bought our original furnace direct from NorthGlass in China, we knew that this purchase would involve a lot more factors and so, after deciding that the route forward was an additional two new furnaces, we made contact with Lambert GT to assist us with the specification and purchase.”

The two new furnaces would not only increase the company’s production capacity but also allow it to compete in every sector of the market: oversized, undersized, run flat, curved.

“We’re proud to be the only company in the market to be able to offer all of these products and services,” Andrew said.

Working closely with the team at Lambert GT, Specialist Glass specified two new NorthGlass tempering furnaces producing both flat and tempered glass. Lambert GT dealt with NorthGlass on the company’s behalf and took care of many of the details that would have diverted Specialist’s attention from its business.

“They made the whole process very easy and we’re 100% glad that we made the decision to deal through them,” Andrew said. “Aside from brokering the deal, the Lambert team are on hand to assist with any issues we have going forward, as well as carrying out ongoing maintenance of the furnaces.”

In addition to the original furnace, Specialist Glass now has a gapless full convection flat and bend tempering furnace and a horizontal radiation twin bend tempering furnace.

“The capabilities that these machines have brought to our business are incredible and we’re already seeing the benefits of our investment,” Andrew said. “Just last week, we manufactured some bends at 3.3m x 3.1m – prior to the installation of our new machinery, there wouldn’t have been any capability in the UK market to produce this specification of glazing and the contract would have gone to manufacturers in other European countries, often Spain.

“What we have done here at Specialist Glass over the last 12 months has been no mean feat. Building a completely new premises and investing in such high specification and high cost machinery to install within it took a great deal of vision, but our new position as the only glass manufacturer in the whole of the UK with our capabilities, and the rewards it is already bringing to us and our loyal customers, has confirmed that we were right to make the vision a reality.”