We talk to Mark Herbert, Joint Managing Director of Mackenzie Glass, about plans to bring Birmingham-based Forward Glass into the Cornwall Group family.

Cornwall Group acquired Birmingham-based Forward Glass in December 2023, and developed a strategy to model the business on Bristol-based Mackenzie Glass, which the company acquired from Pilkington Glass six years to the day previously.

As a result, Mackenzie Glass’s Joint Managing Director Mark Herbert took on the responsibility of aligning products and services, and centralising core functions.

“Forward Glass is an independent, family-owned business, selling single toughened, processed glass and stock to the trade,” Mark says. “It is larger than Mackenzies, with twice as many colleagues, but the product mix is more limited. So, our main overall objective is to increase the range and bring it in line with our Bristol offering, and mirror our ‘supermarket for glass’ model.”

Mark explains that while it has been exciting working with his new colleagues at Forward Glass – pulling back the curtain on a successful regional glass business, and exploring the potential that this new partnership can offer to customers of both businesses – he can also see the efficiencies that Cornwall Group can bring to the Birmingham firm, including fresh investment.

“There are definitely some huge synergies that exist between the companies,” Mark says. “For example, when Mackenzies had a spike in demand in the New Year, we drew on the capacity at Forward Glass without missing a beat. But I think that our number one priority is to get Forward Glass up to the same base level as its new sister companies, and that requires investment.”

Obvious signs of that investment will be adding more lorries to the company’s transportation division, and a new toughener, which will be added to the company’s two existing ovens, and will help process the 2,500m2 of glass that leaves the facility every day. It will also pave the way for the planned expanded product offering, and developing Forward Glass as a supplier of higher value products.

“In a mature market, it is important that we add new products and add more value to our processes,” Mark says. “There is a great deal of expertise at Forward Glass, thanks to the knowledgeable and skilled workforce – many of whom have been with the business for 20+ years – so I am confident that we can create new opportunities that will help us expand our customer base.”

Less obvious investment includes centralising functions such as HR, finance and IT.

“Whether it’s a shiny new machine, or access to constantly updated IT systems, all investment will serve to bring both companies – Forward Glass and Mackenzie Glass – closer together,” Mark says. “We already have a tried and tested model at Mackenzie Glass, and we have a perfect opportunity to help make a good company even better.

“The previous owner, Mark Weston Smith, could have sold Forward Glass to a private equity firm, but instead chose to leave it with a similar-minded family business, which will provide a better outcome for staff, and to protect the legacy he had created.”

Mark says he doesn’t expect to see immediate results from this period of investment and integration, rather a solid foundation for future growth.

“Forward Glass is operating well, but it is very mush geared towards singled toughened glass,” he says. “So, by bringing in equipment such as a CNC, edger, drill, and toughener, we’ll be aligning it more closely with Mackenzies. In fact, we’ll be replacing all three tougheners with two larger ones, which will give us more space for other processing equipment.

“I know these things take time. It has been six years Cornwall Group acquired Pilkington Bristol, and it has taken us that long to get it to where we want it to be. So, we are not expecting immediate results.

“But Cornwall Group always has a rolling 5-to-10-year rolling investment strategy, because we know that it takes time for big ticket items to come online, and that the market will be different in five years’ time. We don’t want to find ourselves in a position where we are having to invest for an immediate requirement – success is about being prepared.

“And all our planned investment at Forward Glass – machinery, people, IT, and transport – will prepare us for the future.”

For more information, please call 01726 66325 email info@cornwallglass.co.uk or log on at www.cornwallglass.co.uk

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