A specialist windor product developed for a hospital in Liverpool helped Britplas weather the recession. It is now focused on securing long-term growth by creating new products and moving into the Australian and US markets, as project director Colin Duncan explains.
Specialism Commercial glazing contractor
Britplas is a commercial glazing company based in the North-west. Its origins go back to 1992, when it was just me and a van, but it was 2002 when the last of the three present owners came on board, all of whom have strong backgrounds in fenestration.
In its early days, the business supplied a range of fairly standard glazing products to domestic and small commercial projects.
A major turning point came eight years ago when we were approached by Laing O’Rourke to develop a bespoke solution for Rathbone secure mental health hospital in Liverpool.
We came up with the Safevent – a unique product that allows patients and staff in a secure environment to fully open a window in complete safety with no restrictions.
Since then, the Safevent window has won multiple awards and we have installed more than 20,000 of them across the UK in acute and secure projects for NHS trusts and private hospitals.
At the same time, our group turnover has increased from £1.5m in 2006 to £10m in 2013.
“Having a specialist product has definitely helped us to weather the recession but market conditions are still pretty tough”
Managing this kind of growth has presented its own challenges, but we have always recognised the importance of investing in people and several key appointments to the team plus a commitment to ongoing training and development has stood us in good stead.
Last year also saw us make a significant investment in moving to a new 40,000 sq ft factory and office unit, which has increased our manufacturing capacity and given us some breathing space for further expansion.
Having a specialist product has definitely helped us to weather the recession but market conditions are still pretty tough and we are constantly seeking to add value to our offer, both in terms of service levels and client relationships, and also in our new product development.
New products and markets
We are fairly unique in that as well as being a manufacturer, we also run our own installation teams. This allows us to offer an end-to-end service and gives us complete control over quality, as well as differentiating us from many of our competitors.
“We have completed projects in Australia and more recently in Vermont in the US. International growth presents its own set of challenges but we have been encouraged by early feedback”
As project director, I am responsible for heading up the delivery of all projects and I believe that open communication coupled with a hands-on approach undoubtedly helps us to maintain what is an excellent level of repeat business from our clients.
Despite recent success, there’s no room for standing still and we have recently engineered the Rapidvent – a sister product to the Safevent, which we see as having huge potential in the education sector.
As the economy gets back on its feet, we also hope to see an upturn in our more general fenestration and curtain walling work, which remains an important contributor to overall turnover.
Another key growth area for us is international markets, and we have already completed projects in Australia and more recently in Vermont in the US. Obviously, international growth presents its own set of challenges but we have been encouraged by early feedback.
Colin Duncan is project director at Britplas