Gwain Paterson, managing director of Thermoseal Group, talks to Glass Times about the awards the business has won over the past 12 months.
Which awards has Thermoseal Group won in the past year?
It is with great honour I can tell you that we will shortly be presented with one of The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise: International Trade 2017. The Queen’s awards winners were publicly announced by the Queen on Friday April 21 2017, and are the UK’s most prestigious business awards to celebrate and encourage business excellence in the UK.
I couldn’t be more delighted to accept such a great compliment to the business and our staff. We can now proudly fly the Queen’s Awards Flag above our sites. It is with thanks to our customers for their continued support that we have achieved such an esteemed accolade so we will be hosting a party for customers and staff when the award is presented so they can be part of the celebrations this summer. I also look forward to attending an event at Buckingham Palace in July.
We were of course also very pleased to win the Component Supplier of the Year award at the glass and glazing industry G-Awards for the second year in a row. It’s great to be recognised in the industry for our continued efforts in bringing the highest quality insulated glass components delivered with a focus on the service that our customers need.
Following this award, our accolades came in thick and fast, including: our prestigious Amazon Growing Business Award – Export Champion of the Year; the Wigan Business Award for Export; and the EEF Future Manufacturing Award for the North West Region for Export.
It was also a great achievement to be shortlisted for various other awards including: the G-Award for Training and Development Initiative of the Year; the Wigan Business Award for Apprenticeship of the Year, the EEF National Future Manufacturing Award for Export; and the Insider International Trade Award for Emerging Exporter.
Why so many awards this year?
When I was first presented with the list of awards we were invited to enter this year, my initial thought was that it was too much. However, when I sat down and looked at what we have achieved as a business, written down against the criteria of the entries on these prestigious award applications, I was proud to put the Thermoseal Group name forward to get some recognition for all the efforts of my colleagues over the past few years.
Since our initial plan to develop the business from primarily UK distribution of imported products to manufacturing spacer bars and injection moulding all of our own fittings, I rarely get time to sit back and look at what a great business we are building and how impressive it is.
We have been focussed on setting up production sites and developing our own bespoke equipment and processes, as well as our innovation centre and laboratory facilities, and then upscaling everything to meet the growing demand. In addition, we have done all this while developing the infrastructure of the business, up-skilling our current staff and taking on a whole production team. We have seen steady growth over the past few years, but particularly in the past year we have really started to make an impact on export markets, some of which where our products are already the leading warm edge option.
So, awards, why not? Our teams have worked relentlessly over the years to bring new highest performing and high quality products to market that are independently tested to prove that they are exactly what we say they are. Our account managers and technical teams have worked closely with our UK and International customers to trial our Thermobar and Thermoflex Warm Edge Spacers and accessories at sealed unit manufacturing sites on a range of equipment. As a result, our spacers are in demand and this demand has pushed us to grow and develop more additions to our range, some of which will be launched this year.
We now manufacture over 50% of the products we supply as opposed to less than 5% in 2008. In terms of export, we ship to over 22 different countries in Europe, USA, South America, Asia, Australia and Oceania. Growth in export has been significant over the past year and is set to continue in the future. Although I’m not generally the kind of person to blow my own trumpet, our awards successes so far prove that our business is impressive in any industry and my colleagues deserve the recognition for their continued efforts and dedication to building Thermoseal Group.
In terms of the general business and export awards, what sort of businesses were you up against?
The Amazon Growing Business Awards was an extremely impressive event hosted at The Brewery in London, and it presented many worthy competitors from a wide range of industries including: toolmakers; healthcare; travel; global payments and many others. It was a great achievement for us to win the award from such an elite selection of successful entrepreneurs.
The EEF Future Manufacturing Awards finalist’s event was also an impressive affair in London and one which particularly stood out for me as there was a predominance of finalists from leading international brands such as: Rolls-Royce; Jaguar Land Rover; Nestle UK and many others. We didn’t win this award, but it was inspiring to hear from the candidates who presented amazing stories of growth and development into the international marketplace. I was extremely impressed with the calibre of apprentices and young people leading the way in engineering and design. It was also refreshing to see many young women receiving the recognition they deserved. A truly inspiring event.
What have been the major obstacles in Thermoseal Group’s growth journey and how were they overcome?
Moving from distributor to a manufacturer was a big challenge for us. It was particularly difficult to buy production lines for many applications because we couldn’t buy an off-the-shelf solution. Therefore, we had to persuade equipment suppliers to buy into our vision and develop new equipment specific to our needs. In some cases we couldn’t find a suitable supplier because they were either too expensive or didn’t exist. In this instance, we had to make the equipment ourselves – we are particularly proud of our engineering department in Birmingham which designed and built much of the equipment used for manufacturing special products.
Another issue we had was sourcing the right raw materials for production. It is for this reason that our manufacturing and procurement departments have spent significant time and effort travelling the world looking for suitable partners that have bought into our vision of warm edge spacer production.
In the early days, our research and development efforts sometimes resulted in a cul-de-sac, but we had been prudent so had the financial strength to try different solutions. Despite these set-backs, management always had the strength to pursue the original vision of being a manufacturer and master of our own destiny.
Once we developed the right products we had to sell the idea to customers that we were now a manufacturer and our products rival those of competitors. For this we sought validation of our products through independent test houses to gain a variety of certifications so that we could sell our products to the UK and worldwide market. Fortunately, Thermoseal Group has a history of supplying high quality components to the industry so accreditation was not difficult.
What can we expect from the business in 2017?
With a growing worldwide demand for warm edge spacers, both to replace less energy efficient aluminium alternatives and also for new markets discovering the advantages of warm edge technology, there is a huge opportunity for growth.
We plan to continue to invest in our production facilities, staff and innovation centre to launch further warm edge products – some specifically to suit export markets. Last year showed continual growth in business from export and the current distributors we are working with are already placing a growing number of orders for our premium spacer bars. With new potential distributors we are currently speaking to and the potential from current leads we are working on, then the forecast is steady growth from export.