A little over a year since its acquisition of Pilkington Bristol from NSG, independent glass merchant Mackenzie Glass has seen significant progress in its ambitions to invest in and improve its product range and services to its customers. .
The glass sector has been dogged by supply and quality issues, in addition to fiercely competitive pricing – a not obviously fertile landscape for a start-up business. A year in, however, and Mackenzie Glass, has reported growth on the back of major investment in its infrastructure and those it employs.
Global giant, NSG, sold its Pilkington Bristol business to Mackenzie Glass at the end of 2017. Supplying more than one million square metres of flat glass a year with a turnover in excess of £5m, the deal saw assets and employees transferred to Mackenzie for an undisclosed sum, Mackenzie Glass also assuming new status as the first Pilkington Regional Partner.
A year in, and despite wider challenges within the glass sector, Mackenzie is developing a growing head of steam. Matt Prowse, who with joint Managing Director Mark Herbert, head up the glass merchanting business explains.
“The fundamentals of the business were there but we’ve delivered investment on top of that. Our new laminate cutting table, fire saw, CNC, glass wash, new IT system, and additions to our transportation fleet.. What that’s done is to revitalise the fantastic team we have at Mackenzie’s.
“There’s an incredible knowledge here. It always has been but now as individuals and as a collective there’s a real drive and determination to deliver more to the customer and grow”, says Matt.
While a start-up, Mackenzie Glass – and no less its two MDs – has an established pedigree in the glass sector. “People know that Mark and I came from Cornwall Glass. We started out as apprentices, so we have time-served in the industry.
“Although today we operate completely independently of Cornwall Glass, we do bring that understanding of glass processing to glass merchanting. That’s a real plus for our customers because we get what they’re facing on a day-to-day basis because we’ve done it too.”
Security of supply and glass availability was first and foremost among those issues facing glass processors and IGU manufacturers last year – something that with reduced supply of float glass and Brexit, can be expected to impact again in the year ahead.
This is where Mackenzie’s status as a Pilkington Regional Partner has played out to its advantage. “They’ve [Pilkington] been very good. We’ve had a largely uninterrupted supply”, says Matt.
He continues: “The important thing is that as an independent, we’ve had the flexibility to secure supply from elsewhere if Pilkington haven’t been able to meet demand. We can go to Saint Gobain, to AGC, to Guardian. This is a key difference between us and the NSG/Pilkington Bristol business.
“It couldn’t go outside group. We can. It means colleagues don’t have to say ‘no’. The answer is; lets look into that because whatever it is, we will always try and get it for them.”
The new Mackenzie Bristol site supplies more than 300 tonnes of glass each month, the lion’s share of which is supplied for IGU manufacture, with Pilkington KS (soft coat) a key staple. Mackenzie promote value added products and make a conscious effort to have these close at hand for the customer base.
This includes decorative ranges and the acid etched Oriel range; mirror options including OptiMirror; fire and impact rated Pilkington Pyrostop and Pyrodur, which carry Class 1 BS EN 12600 ratings and Pilkington Optiview.
This features a special anti-reflective pyrolytic coating, which reduces reflection on glass while allowing more visible light to pass through. Suitable for monolithic or laminated application, this makes it ideally suited for retail installation.
Mackenzie are also distributors of restoration glass, gold, pink, toughened and antique mirror glass, ceramic heat resistant and satin from 4mm to 15mm.
The increased availability of product through Pilkington but also other float glass manufacturers has been complemented by a heavy-weight programme of investment. This has been aimed at introducing new flexibility and closer alignment with key market drivers, bringing increased flexibility to its offer, as Mark Herbert explains.
“We’ve seen significant increase in demand for laminated product”, says Mark. “It’s an area that delivers significant potential for growth. Investment in a new Boterro cutting table gives us the capacity to meet it.
He continues: “We’ve reviewed every aspect of our product and service offer and will continue to do so, so that we are continually improving our service to our customers.
“The new cutting table, our decision to stock over-sized laminate sheets at 4500mmx3210mm to support our customers in meeting demand for over-sized IGUs – it’s about introducing new flexibility to our offer.”
Delivered in July, with an accompanying loading table, its new Bottero 515LAMe laminated glass cutting table gives Mackenzie Glass the capacity to handle 4.5m X 3.2m laminated sheets. With 90 second heat-up times, compared to the 8-minute heat-up of its pre-existing table, it gives Mackenzie Glass far greater flexibility in the supply of cut-to-size laminates.
Mark continues: “What we do is simplify things. We have a product range and service offer, which simplifies glass supply. It’s a single delivery, single invoice. Our customers don’t have to source product from multiple suppliers because as an independent merchanting business, we can supply them with it from a single source.”
Mackenzie Glass has also recruited. This has included the creation of three new apprenticeships, bringing the company’s workforce to 49. “We have an incredible amount of knowledge within the business and we want to ensure that that’s passed on, which is why we have put new training partnerships in place.
“We have an ambition that 10% of our workforce will be apprentices or former apprentices.”
So, what is Mackenzie Glass senior team’s take away point on the year ahead?
“Security of supply is going to be important, plus product range”, says Matt.
“For us as it’s those value-added products – acid etched; mirror options, Optiview, fire-rated product, which we see as delivering greatest long-term growth – in addition to underpinning their supply with exceptional service and support.”