Chris Champion, Glass News’ Editor, visits aluminium specialists Senior Architectural Systems at Denaby, South Yorkshire, to talk to Managing Director, Mark Wadsworth.
Ed Well, so much for, “would you like a quick look round the factory”. That’s a serious manufacturing unit out there! I had no idea of the size of the company…
Mark Wadsworth By turnover, we’re now the largest privately owned fenestration systems company in the UK. We have 150,000 sq ft here at Denaby plus, of course, a service centre at Livingston in Scotland, and another in Newport, South Wales. We also have the 40,000 sq ft Scarborough glazed unit manufacturing facility.
Ed Supplying fenestration systems and powder coating facilities is fairly normal, but isn’t the adding of glazed units unusual?
Mark Wadsworth It may be slightly novel but it takes away all uncertainty in the supply chain, giving our customers confidence in both quality and delivery. We acquired the business in Scarborough back in 2009 and it has proven to be the right thing to do.
Ed I must say I was amazed at the powder coating facility at Denaby. How did that all start?
Mark Wadsworth We actually started powder coating back in 1993 when we bought the paint factory that was in the same building as our Scottish facility. Again, that was very important as we could then provide customers with ready powder coated aluminium….and all with a no-quibble guarantee. We also took on a larger powder coating facility in Newcastle as well as a warehouse next door to the paint line and then put another Senior warehouse in, just stocking all the materials which could be painted. Our competitors thought we were nuts!
When we moved to Denaby, we took the opportunity to upgrade the powder coating facility by installing a state-of-the-art vertical paint line capable of painting up to 400 aluminium bars per hour, as well as the latest horizontal paint plant technology.
Ed I think that’s the bit that impressed me most, although the rolling of the aluminium with the polyamide thermal break looked to be very efficient…
Mark Wadsworth To be honest we were overtaken by events and we found the polyamide line was overstretched so the investment in the Aluroller, which inserts polyamide strips into our aluminum profiles, was a necessity and it improved both production volume and efficiency. Naturally enough this meant shorter lead times and happy customers!
Ed You’re now up around the £28 to £29 million turnover mark and supplying to both commercial and some domestic, too. You’ve come a long way since 1991. Presumably it hasn’t been all plain sailing?
Mark Wadsworth There are times when hard decisions have to be made for the greater good and the economic downturn hit us like it hit everyone else. However those days are past and we are now back into investment mode. Around £1 million is going into a new factory layout to buy a larger toughening furnace and heat soak oven at Scarborough. Denaby will also benefit from a £500,000 investment
Ed You have just been made up to Managing Director and it’s a really interesting story. From a one year placement student in 1993 to MD in 2014. Tell us about how this came about?
Mark Wadsworth Lennart Jonsson was the founder, back in 1991 with David Senior. Based in Bradford, the aim was to revolutionise the fenestration industry by putting customer service centre stage. Our motto being “Give customers what they want when they want it.” As you say, I joined Senior as a one-year placement student while at Leeds Polytechnic. I was taking a language degree and was supposed to be taking a year out in Nantes in France. Lennart had met my parents in South Wales and suggested he could collect my things at the end of my year to save them a trip. I told him I had lost my placement year and he said I could have a look at an admin job at his company in Bradford. My placement at Senior changed the direction of my life and I ended up getting a BA in Business Information Management and writing my dissertation on the aluminum systems industry.
Lennart then supported me through university and took me under his wing in the company. I have been involved in all aspects of the business, working my way up the ranks.
Ed Lennart has given you a very free rein and allowed you to implement some interesting innovations…
Mark Wadsworth Ah! I presume you are referring to our transport policy?
Ed Yes. That, and the whole energy saving and efficiency programme.
Mark Wadsworth In the case of transport, this represents a huge cost to us. We operate nine 18 tonners, delivering twice a week to our customers but innovating in this area has resulted in an annual saving of a six figure sum. In addition to this, we have economised on company cars, hence an investment in plug-in cars and installing charging points at our depots.
With our new paint line we are looking to slash the 20 tonnes of waste sent to landfill to four tonnes per year. Our new paint line is aiming at 97% recovery of powder which will be very significant.
Then, of course, there’s our installation of a biomass boiler which will consume 110 tons of waste packaging per annum.
Ed You pride yourself on service for your customers, so is stock an issue for you?
Mark Wadsworth We hold six weeks of stock at any time, so that represents around £3 million held in stock.
Ed And product lines?
Mark Wadsworth We actually have 6,000 stock lines. As far as products are concerned we have a busy design studio and are always looking to bring in new, and improve existing, products. Senior is much more than just aluminium systems and that’s why we changed our name to Senior Architectural Systems in 2008. For instance, we have our Hybrid system with aluminium externally and wood internally for that natural look and feel. We have aluminium, Hybrid and fibreglass window systems and the same for doors. There’s curtain walling systems in both aluminium and Hybrid and just aluminium for shopfronts. Our range of roof glazing and secondary glazing is in aluminium, too. In addition to this we have our new all singing and dancing curtain wall and revolutionary high thermal performance Pure window coming out in 2015, along with our brand new SF52 curtain wall system.
Much of our work and development involves thermal efficiency, with aluminium products capable of achieving Passivhaus standards.
Ed Finally, I have to ask about the ‘Swedish Chef’…
Mark Wadsworth It’s a standard joke at Senior! With Lennart’s Swedish heritage, in his absence we would sit a ‘Swedish Chef’ character in his seat in his office, just to remind us of his constant presence even when he was absent. When he took his holidays we were able to show that the company improved its sales in his absence!
Ed Mark, it’s been a great pleasure meeting you and seeing the Denaby facility -and very informative. Many thanks to you all and especially the ‘Swedish Chef’!