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RCI January 2018

Meeting the changes and demands of the sector RAVATHERM UK acquired the POLYFOAM XPS business in January 2017. Now, twelve months on, Stuart Bell, MD of the insulation manufacturer, speaks to RCI about the transition and predictions INSULATION This time twelve months ago, the extruded polystyrene manufacturing plant in Hartlepool, Teesside, underwent some monumental changes. The plant, which was first established more than 30 years ago, was formerly part of the POLYFOAM XPS business of Knauf Insulation. After being acquired by RAVATHERM UK, the company is now part of the global Ravago Group with its corporate headquarters located in Luxembourg. “I have worked at the Hartlepool plant for 17 years and seen many changes over this time. This has by far been the biggest transformation for us – but for the better,” said Stuart. “A lot of questions arise when a company acquisition is announced – concerns about staff, manufacturing procedures and working practices – but the transition couldn’t have been smoother. There’s been a lot of positive changes not only in our business, but developments in the sector too, and it will be interesting to see what lies ahead in the next 12 months.” Key industry issues The insulation market experienced some ups and downs in 2017. One major issue is the industry shortage of PIR insulation. Stuart explained: “This has had a knock-on effect on many markets and has hindered some building projects. Caused by insufficient supply of Methylene Diphenyl Diisocyanate (MDI), the main constituent of PIR, severe production delays has resulted in a market-wide shortage and extended lead times, as well as price increases. Because of this, specifiers and developers have been forced to seek viable alternatives. “Something we’re keen to communicate in 2018 is ensuring people know the key benefits of XPS insulation and how this can be utilised in projects where PIR cannot be sourced. It’s important for specifiers to liaise with reputable insulation manufacturers with a knowledgeable technical team to ensure the key differences of an alternative material against the original specification can be explained.” Stuart also explained how construction output is expected to change in 2018. Data released at the end of 2017 by IHS Markit / CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index, revealed a rebound in building projects, with business activity rising to its highest rate since mid-2017. “Despite some positive increases, commercial construction, for example, was revealed as the weakest performing area, with some firms reporting that Brexit-related uncertainty and the subdued economic outlook had held back spending among clients,” said Stuart. “It will be interesting to see how the industry evolves in 2018, with the political and economic uncertainty that will come with Brexit. I think this is a theme we are going to see more of in 2018, as business confidence for the year-ahead in the construction industry as a whole remains uncertain. “Another prominent issue which many sectors continue to face is the skills shortage,” added Stuart.It’s well reported that in the next few years, the construction industry will need to recruit more than 200,000 skilled workers to meet scheduled output. Take the north east, for example, where RAVATHERM UK is based there will be an additional 3,500 job roles in construction to fill according to Go Construct. Yet as Brexit comes into play and the lack of awareness of the importance of training to help reach the workforce of tomorrow impacts, we may struggle to meet this target.” Achievements in 2017 The insulation market experienced changes in 2017 but Stuart explained RAVATHERM UK as a business has made positive strides since the acquisition. Stuart continued: “The takeover back in January 2017 had very little impact on our customers and the core management team and all employees have remained. In fact, we’ve had the resource to recruit more including a new customer service team, technical and specification manager and additional business development managers (BDM) for the north region and south east. Following the transition, we’ve refreshed our branding and developed a new website, but the XPS products manufactured at Hartlepool remain unchanged. “We’ve also worked extremely hard to achieve some key accreditations for our business,” said Stuart. In 2017 alone, RAVATHERM UK was awarded a BES 6001: Responsible Sourcing of Construction Products certification, three International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) certificates, a British Standard Occupational Health and Safety Assessment Specification (OHSAS) accreditation and a British Board of Agrément (BBA) certificate for its inverted roof system and floor board insulation. Stuart said: “These certificates are not only a great achievement for RAVATHERM UK, but a necessity in our eyes as it further cements our unwavering commitment to our customers and the environmental impact on our industry. “Achieving the BBA Certificate was a particularly proud moment for us as our XPS insulation solutions passed a series of comprehensive and independent assessments set by the BBA, including laboratory tests, on-site evaluations and quality management inspections. “To achieve this following the acquisition is a real mark of quality and reliability of a product used in the construction industry, providing reassurance that it is fit for purpose. It also showcases our continuous commitment to providing fully tested and accredited solutions to the marketplace, and ensures POLYFOAM XPS not only meets but exceeds our customers’ expectations.” A bright future ahead “A definite focus for RAVATHERM UK is continued growth,” Stuart added. “My role as MD is to take the company further than it’s ever been before. The takeover has allowed us to invest in our business with the full backing from the Ravago Group, develop our partnerships and enhance our presence in the marketplace. “Looking ahead, RAVATHERM UK is in a good position to meet the changes and demands of the ever-evolving insulation sector. The business has gone from strength to strength in the last twelve months alone, and we’re looking forward to this continuing for many years to come.” www.ravatherm.com for the year ahead The Ravatherm UK manufacturing plant in Hartlepool, Teeside JANUARY 042 2018 RCIMAG.COM


RCI January 2018
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