Bradbury's doors opened to after major move

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 19 Feb 2019

This past month has seen manufacturer Bradbury Group unveil its £8 million new base in Scunthorpe. David Laister took a tour and sat down with managing director Tim Strawson.

It took some vision when a former aerosol filling plant was taken on in early 2017, with former Northern Lincolnshire Business Person of the Year Tim Strawson and team trudging carefully around with head torches at a site that hadn’t been occupied since the turn of the decade.

For 20 years, Canadian giant CCL had mixed and filled cans that occupy bathroom cabinets and bedroom dressing tables there. It had been opened in 1988, with Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Wella served with shampoos, deodorants and hairsprays, and bosses claiming it to be the best in the global portfolio, with industry-leading innovation allowing it to churn out 100,000 cans a shift.

But the intervening years had not been kind to the 135,000 sq ft site.

“It was in such a terrible state, no light, it was pitch black, we needed torches to walk around,” Mr Strawson recalled. “There were no roof lights, there was water all over the floor from failed guttering, and dead pigeons. Wires were hanging from everywhere because thieves had been in and stolen all the copper they could get their hands on. It was in the most awful state.

“We shifted hundreds of tonnes of rubble and steel out, because it was quite built up. It took an awful long while. There was also thousands of metres of ducting in the roof, because an aerosol factory has a high risk of fire, so there was a lot fire suppression and ventilation equipment we had to pull out.”

The production premises on Foxhills Industrial Estate, Scunthorpe.

Once cleared, holes in the walls were punched out to bring in natural light, before re-roofing and re-cladding of the whole building commenced. A double layer of insulation on the outside has been further added to with another layer inside, as modern offices as fresh as the build 31 years ago would have given are now presented.

MORE: Manufacturer's massive £8m expansion unveiled

Beyond the administration and engineering planning, is the vast manufacturing hall, starting with a huge piece of automation, where 15 steel grades can be selected from a towering shelf system, cut, punched and folded before contact with a human hand.

“We have spent nearly £4 million on a building, and £4 million on plant and equipment,” Mr Strawson said. “We have changed the way we produce steel doors, from being a batch producer to a production line and it makes us more efficient, and health and safety is better for staff as we are not lifting doors. It is much more efficient, there is less damage and the products are of a better quality. Before, part of the process was done in one factory, another process in another factory, then they were transported back to another factory. Now it is all under one roof. The factory is perfectly laid out, in a C-shape, so we can deliver the raw materials into the middle, to feed any part of the production line – though that was luck rather than judgement.”

He believes the feel-good factor among the entire workforce that has moved across has improved too. “It is lighter, cleaner and warmer, we have a fantastic canteen which serves hot meals every day. We’re building a 3,000 sq ft gym in a separate building, we’ve bought all the equipment and hopefully it will be up and running by Easter.”

MORE: Unlocking growth: Bradbury Group's new base provides the foundations to flourish

So was this all part of the plan for the one-time grain trader from a Grimsby-area farming family?

“I’m fairly forward thinking, but I never really saw this. I’m quite proud of this, it is quite an achievement this building, and this facility. I hope we have a good year this year. It was very tough moving, trying to build this place and keep the other factory going at the same time. We let a few customers down and we are now in a position to do everything to recover that. I hope, going forward, the customer base will see why we needed to make the move. We now have much better quality to serve to them.

“We had a four or five month contingency, but even then overran by a few months. Last October and November we were performing quite badly, the old factory closed at the end of July, and the new factory wasn’t properly operational until November. We’re through that, we’re now able to deliver a first class service, so hopefully it is onwards and upwards.”

And the client base is quite an indicator too. Thousands of doors are heading from Scunthorpe to the capital, with major projects in Canary Wharf, the Square Mile and King’s Cross. It follows the 2016 acquisition of premium architectural firm Martin Roberts, a Kent-based project management, sales and installation business.

The Middle East has also brought export wins too. “Last year we did a bit of export business, only three or four per cent of turnover, but it compared to zero before. It is mainly in the Middle East, we have done a couple of jobs out there, and we’re hopeful for some more. We’ve also done business in Russia, Malta and Japan.”

It is a focus of the growth, that will not be stifled by Brexit. “Brexit is a problem because its a lack of confidence in business. A lack of confidence means people stop or delay investment decisions. It is the biggest cooler for business, MPs deliberating again. Ultimately if we were to leave the EU with no deal, I don’t think it would be an issue for us. It could be quite good for us. The pound declining means we can export to other countries and cheaper imports become more expensive. I don’t see it as a problem. We may have issues with ports, and components, but we would find a way of dealing with that.”

In contrast it is also looking further afield for sales too.

“Last year we did a bit of export business, only three or four per cent of turnover, but it compared to zero before. It is mainly in the Middle East, we have done a couple of jobs out there, and we’re hopeful for some more. We’ve also done business in Russia, Malta and Japan.

While Bradbury Group has moved its operations lock, stock and barrel, wider elements are staying where they are.

Cross-Guard, the security grille spin-off, is now a separate limited company, with Debbie Guppy the chief executive.

The move allowed it to develop its own team of engineers and develop its own powder coating facility, having been an add-on to the door business.

It now occupies 41,000 sq ft of the Dunlop Way facility vacated, with the remaining four units in the process of being sold.

Elsewhere in Scunthorpe, and when it comes to expanding the workforce, Bradbury has one ready supply. Youth Engineering Scunthorpe is a charity set up by Mr Strawson to equip and engage young adults who are unemployed or from disadvantaged backgrounds with key skills.

“We hope we can expand Youth Engineering over the next couple of years,” he enthused. The Hoylake Road facility supports Bradbury with the manufacture of components for the steel doors. “As we grow we will generate more work for them and more skills for them too, different skills, which would be really good,” Mr Strawson said, with the 12-month programme designed to aid candidates with their own employability. One recent recruit from that pool has just entered Bradbury’s engineering department as an apprentice. “He is doing really well,” he said, as proud of the personal development as of the huge property development now completed.

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