Why you should rethink your laminate glass offering

Mark Herbert
Mark Herbert

How do you service the growing need for laminate glass products without a huge investment in equipment and stock? We talk to joint managing director of Mackenzie Glass, Mark Herbert, to find out.

Laminate glass specification has grown significantly over the last decade, driven in a large part by Secured by Design (SBD), but also by broader opportunities the product offers.

“Since we took over the Bristol site from Pilkington in 2017, the requirement for laminate glass has grown to a point where it is now bread-and-butter, rather than specialist,” says joint managing director of Mackenzie Glass, Mark Herbert. “And with a revised Part Q of the Building Regulations on the horizon, which could see all accessible windows in a home require a laminate layer, then demand is only expected to grow.

“Plus, building designers are using interlayers to achieve other requirements too, such as acoustics and aesthetics.”

Having full laminate cutting ability is resource-intensive and can be restrictive for many companies, Mark argues, especially those without a competent glass supplier behind them.

“When you read the news about glass companies investing in new laminate cutting lines, they are typically the larger business with the space to expand into,” Mark says. “A new £100K laminate cutting line requires space for loading, cutting and breakout, as well as storage space for the different types of laminate glass that now gets specified. You’ve also got to factor in a new waste stream.

“For many companies, they may have to make the choice between the laminate capability, or a new, more efficient, sealed unit line, for example. What you don’t want to do is invest in laminate storage and cutting at the expense of your other profitable work.”

Bristol-based Mackenzie Glass is a specialist glass merchanting company, which cuts glass to order and delivers within 48 hours on stock items.

“When we moved to Bristol, the laminate cutting table was the first piece of equipment we upgraded,” Mark says. “Today, our laminate glass range starts at 4.4mm (which is specified in some sliding sash windows and picture frames), and works up through 6.4mm, 6.8mm, 7.5mm, 8.8mm, 9.5mm, 10.8mm, 11.5mm, 12.8mm, 13.5mm and 16.8mm. The thicker the glass, the thicker the interlayer, and the more secure it is.

“The 11.5mm, for example, will find its way into jewellery shops and service stations, and we can get glass cut and delivered within 24 hours.

“But they also may need to meet other requirements, depending on the specification, and it is another reason why partnering with Mackenzie Glass brings benefits because we can invest in that stock on your behalf – laminates are specified broadly to achieve lower U-values, unusual tints, and improved acoustics in inner city residential developments, so the range of laminate glass is expanding all the time.

“This way, you have the agility to meet a specification without wondering first if you can source the right product, or worrying about being left holding stock you are unlikely to need again. That could drastically reduce the profitability of any project.”

Mackenzie Glass stocks specialist laminate glass, including the only UK-manufactured obscured laminate glass, and has recently invested £100K in a fire saw to handle the increased demand for specialist laminate glass, such as fire glass. The supplier also carries an unusual grey tinted laminate glass in stock after one customer won a project delivering tinted canopies to a large residential project.

“Our customer said yes to a request, and then asked us if we could supply it,” Mark says. “They knew that we seldom say ‘no’, and a few phone calls later and we found the perfect product.

“We continue to invest to maintain our industry leading cut-to-size service for specialist glass, having spent over £1.5 million since 2017. This includes a new Volvo HIAB and a new transit, which will be delivered at the end of Q3.

“At the end of the day we want our customers to compete with the big glass processing companies – the ones with the space to expand into, and the resources to invest in extensive stock.

“In fact, partnering with us brings extra benefits, because you don’t have to tie up all your money in stock, and you can go for projects that you may otherwise avoid because the specification may be something out of the ordinary,” Mark concludes.