A better way

Always searching for a better way of doing things, Zeus Packaging is set to remain focused on innovation and continuous improvement in 2021

With revenues in excess of €200 million and 430 employees across a globally operating network, Zeus Packaging is one of the largest companies of its kind in the UK and Ireland. However, despite the company name, Zeus is about more than just packaging – it is a leading innovator and an expert in providing credible bespoke packaging solutions.

Zeus solved its first problem in 1998. The company was founded by Brian O’Sullivan when he identified significant demand in Ireland for the service-based supply of packaging consumables. What began with pallet wrap and self-adhesive Zeus 184 atape grew into a full industrial packaging offering that now includes transit packaging and ecommerce solutions, as well as standard and bespoke corrugated packaging.

Since 1998, Zeus has further developed its packaging portfolio across the Agricultural, Food Service and Retail sectors. Around ten per cent of the firm’s current turnover is derived from agricultural packaging, where products include hay baling and straw bailing for use in the production of animal forage & bedding. Food service is worth around 50 per cent of Zeus’ turnover and includes the manufacture and distribution of coffee cups, food containers and other consumables for coffee shops, restaurants, retail deli counters and food processing operations around the world. Lastly, Zeus’ retail offering manufactures and distributes compostable paper bags, bags for life, mailing bags and packaging consumables - the latter of which proves increasingly popular since the Covid-19 outbreak - for major retailers, including Morrisons, River Island and ASOS.

Headquartered in Dublin, Zeus boasts locations in the UK, Poland, Germany & Spain, Asia, North America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia. At present, the company retains a strong market share in Ireland where it also manufacturers toilet rolls and paper toweling. Zeus has multiple manufacturing partnerships and technology investments across the globe with capability & capacity in the pallet wrap, food packaging and paper bag sector. The business has recently invested in CAD table capabilities and advanced design software meaning that Zeus can work in collaboration with other manufacturers to offer innovative bespoke services and solutions for its customers with extremely rapid turnaround times.

As of 2021, Zeus has over one million square feet in distribution space to its name and though it predominantly uses its own transport, the company maintains strong links with carriers in various markets. Treating each of its projects with equal care and attention, the firm continues to work on European supply contracts with customers when applicable and assesses potential local distribution channels when this is more relevant.

Zeus’ CEO Keith Ockenden joined the company in 2019. Despite its already established global footprint and the substantial capabilities that accompany that, Keith believes that Zeus is still evolving. There is always room, Keith argues, for improvement.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to work with Zeus. In the year I joined, Zeus made six acquisitions that have now been integrated, supporting economies of scale and strengthening our capabilities in various market sectors. We plan to growth further, not only through acquisition, but also through attrition and market share growth,” Keith explains. “The business is in transition, we have invested in organisational structure and strengthened our internal capabilities in Marketing, HR and Purchasing. More investment in IT, consolidating and integrating our back-office functions will help to drive efficiencies, leverage the economies of scale and improve overall communication and coordination across previously independent businesses.’

“We have recently installed a new board and executive leadership team, which is made up of people who have grown with the business. Part of my responsibility is to coach better communication, a togetherness into the group, encourage standardisation and streamlining in our approach. We plan further acquisition and it is important the integration process unlocks the expected value for our business. Our future strategy will see further growth across Europe, investment in the supply chain, through manufacturing and distribution, developing our BTB and BTC capabilities.”

Keith’s words encapsulate a relentless pursuit of improvement that has always been interwoven into Zeus’ DNA. In order to expand further however, the company will be aiming to build on the key elements that have brought it success for the last two decades. Perhaps the most important of these factors is the commitment and dedication of the company’s staff, whom Keith praises for their ‘energy, drive, ambition and can-do attitude. Our staff just love competing!.

Customer service is another area for which Zeus has become renowned and upon which the company hopes to build in the future. By focusing on industry best practices and sourcing quality products from across the globe, Zeus continues to Zeus 184 badd value for its clients through service that Keith describes as ‘unconditional.

Finally, Zeus has established itself as one of the industry’s most innovative organizations and Keith believes that maintaining this status will be vital to the firm’s future growth. In order for Zeus to continue finding tailored solutions for its customers’ specific and individual needs, innovation will be key.

“We do not wish to be another ‘me too company’. It is about truly understanding the needs of the customer. Packaging is a solution, a component part of their need,” Keith states. “We really enjoy getting to know our clients and understanding how we can improve their processes, productivity, efficiency, and reduce damages, waste and look to see who we can improve their business through the use of innovative environmentally sustainable packaging. We are not driven by how much more pallet wrap we can sell to a customer, but rather, about understanding their real drivers and expectations, then look to innovate credible solutions that meet their needs and deliver more value.”

Over the course of its history, Zeus has developed a number of industry-defining innovations. Recently, these have included an intuitive, retro-fit, 24/7 pallet wrapping monitoring system with the ability to save businesses tens of thousands of euros in inefficient use of pallet wrap material. Compatible with a wide variety of machinery types, the system monitors turntable speeds, load weight, the wrap cycle, as well as the % stretch through the pre-stretcher unit, the amount of wrap being used, before calibrating the information into a bespoke software where it can be presented to an operator in real-time giving the ability to calculate, manage and optimise

“Developed internally by our own engineers, the pallet wrapping monitoring system demonstrates a machine’s actual versus the optimal performance and therefore helps operators to understand the true cost of wrapping a pallet,” Keith says. “It will be launched and rolled out on a wide-scale basis later this year and will deliver huge environmental benefits to the industry alongside massive cost savings. We are already introducing this to one of our major retailers because they recognize the need to drive efficiencies.”

Though it’s been a challenging 12 months for Zeus and its industry colleagues, the company was quick to adapt and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and is now reaping the benefits as a result. Thanks to good communication and the decisiveness of its workforce, the firm remained open and operational throughout the crisis as an essential supplier to the food service and manufacturing sectors.

“Covid-19 has led us to restructure our business around a different way of working,” Keith declares. “I believe that this has resulted in greater productivity, more flexibility in the way our staff work and a lower cost base. The whole sector is now adapting around customer needs. E Commerce & Food Takeaway packaging demand has risen substantially and continues to grow its overall percentage of our total sales on an annual basis.

“The speed at which the business is adapting, and will be prepared to adapt in the future, has been an important milestone for us over the last 12 months.”

Over the coming year, Zeus will remain focused on growth through acquisition and attrition, as well as streamlining and standardizing a number of its internal processes. More investment is expected in ERP and IT systems, and innovative solutions for improvement in the area of sustainability and the environment will be at the very top of the company’s agenda.

“If we look at where we can unlock more value in our business in the future, it will be through innovation & differentiation, refining our business process to the highest standards, continuing to eliminate waste in the supply chain. If we can do that, we will improve customer satisfaction, revenues will continue to grow. As long as we keep our costs and budgets in check, we will make profit and reinvest in the whole process and go around again!” Keith predicts. “Market share growth through attrition won’t be at the expense of margin, it will be because we are reliable, trusted, innovative and focussed on the needs of the customer, we will do exactly what we say we are going to do.”

Zeus Packaging
Products: Packaging solutions

A growing business

A family business that sees the benefits in simple farming, Weaving Machinery provides the machinery and equipment that makes low disturbance farming not only possible, but highly rewarding

Founded in 1983 by husband and wife Edward and Julia Weaving, Weaving Machinery has remained to this day a family run company, now with the involvement of their two children Simon and Sarie. Its primary aim is to offer farmers the best quality machinery at affordable prices. “When my father first established the company, he started out specializing in the buying and selling of second-hand farm machinery,” explains Simon Weaving, who today is Weaving Machinery’s Sales Director. “By that time, my father had built up good relationships with a large network of farmers in the local area, meaning that he knew and understood the type of equipment that they required and where to source it from.Weaving 184 a

“As time went by, he began to dabble in purchasing new kit from countries in Europe, such as Italy, Spain and Austria, before eventually travelling to the United States in 1995, where he learnt more about the process of direct drilling and its benefits. This resulted in the company’s first purchase and import of a no till Krause Drill, and his experience with that piece of machinery helped to spur on his ambition to provide the farming community with innovative and cost-effective machinery for all farming methods that we would manufacture ourselves.”

Continuous investment in modern design and manufacturing methods has brought the business to the point where today Weaving Machinery is responsible for building a range of drills and cultivators, as well as supplying flails, hedge cutters, grassland equipment and electric gates. “We strive to provide a service to all types of farmer, whether they are small or large-scale,” Simon continues. “All of our drills and cultivators have been designed to be as environmentally friendly as possible, which means they require less diesel, less horsepower to operate, and create less soil movement, which helps keep the land in better health.

“Our customers deal with us direct, meaning they don’t need to go through dealerships or other third parties. As well as manufacturing machines ourselves, we deliver them to the farm, set them up, and accommodate any servicing requirements that a customer may need going forward. This is supported by our sizable parts department, where we store a wide range of components, not just for our own machines but those of other manufacturers as well. This complete service offering highlights how, for us, it is not simply about selling a product, but having the capability to back it up once in service. We believe that anyone can sell a single machine, but that it is by providing backup and spare parts, and having strong customer service that secures the second, third and fourth orders from a customer!”

In order to make life even easier for its customers, Weaving Machinery offers a number of financial options, including valuing existing machinery and trading it in against a new purchase, or providing finance on all machines at competitive prices. It also retains a large selection of quality used machinery in stock, which is all tested in its workshop prior to sale.

Weaving Machinery has come to be well known for its personal approach to doing business, something that is boosted by the fact that many of its employees come from farming backgrounds. “Our people have proven themselves to be extremely dedicated and loyal to not only our customers, but the company itself over the years,” Simon reveals. “A number of them have been with us for anywhere between 10 and 30 years now, and we always look for ways to repay their loyalty. We believe in our people and they in turn believe in us, and that helps enormously as we look to push the company forward into the next stage of its journey.”

In recent times, the company’s manufacturing facilities have expanded to the point where they cover over 60,000-square feet of space in order to meet growing production demands for its farm machinery throughout the UK and Europe. “From our facilities, we carry out all of our own R&D work, and all of our design activities, which we conduct through CAD 3D modelling. While we do outsource our steel fabrication, cutting and bending, we conduct all of our own fabrication from welding, assembly, painting, and finally stress testing in-house,” Simon details. “As far as our people are concerned, we have always endeavoured to ensure that they have the very best kit available for them to do their job, whether that means manufacturing tools, spanners, tractors for demonstrating or lorries for delivering machines.”

Reflecting back on 2020, Simon reveals how Weaving Machinery navigated what was the most challenging year in recent memory for many. “For starters, we were fortunate in that manufacturing was able to continue throughout the whole Weaving 184 bof last year in order for us to deliver a vital service to farmers,” he says. “Clearly, we had to take a number of precautions in order to make life safer for our people, and this extended to ensuring that those farmers we delivered machinery to understood that employee safety was to be made of paramount importance when carrying out their work. Meanwhile, with 99 per cent of our parts being sourced from within the UK, we were also able to operate without suffering from any hold ups in delivery and with the ongoing support of what is a very loyal supply chain.”

Such has been the success of Weaving Machinery in recent years that it also marked 2020 by being included within the influential London Stock Exchange Group’s ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain 2020’ report. “Such recognition really comes down to a combination of the efforts of our people and the service they provide, our customers and their belief in the ‘Made in the UK’ mark of quality, and the innovation that we apply to our machines in order to meet today’s farming demands,” Simon states.

In order to further the momentum that the company has built up and leverage it through 2021, an immediate area of focus for Weaving Machinery is to meet the many orders that it already has in its books for the coming months. “From there, it is about making ourselves slicker, smarter and more efficient as an operation,” Simon adds. “We spent 2020 updating the vast majority of our in-house manufacturing equipment, and we will now be watching to see how the environment around us – what with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – evolves before pressing the green light on further expansion plans. These include opening new offices, a new stores department and a new showroom, which should be realized in the next 18 months.

“Looking further ahead, we want to see Weaving Machinery being recognized more widely as a great British brand – up there with the very best – whilst making sure that our customers, both old and new, know that we will remain there for them always through thick and thin. Farming continues to undergo dramatic changes at present, and we are changing too to accommodate that, all while providing the level of service and product quality that Weaving Machinery is known for.”

Weaving Machinery
Services: Agricultural machinery, equipment and services

Technology & ingenuity

R&S Machining, Inc specializes in 4 & 5 axis machining, creating high precision, extremely complex parts for aerospace and defense applications Today located in a very highly equipped, 260,000 square foot office/manufacturing facility in St Louis, Missouri, R&S Machining, Inc. was founded in 1992 by two business professionals with many years of experience in the machining industry. Taking their expertise and building upon it, over the next 23 years the founders have built a manufacturing environment targeted around the precision manufacture of aerospace components. As an aerospace supplier, R&S RS 184 aMachining, Inc enjoys a great partnership with many significant manufacturers, with Boeing being a fine example of the blue-chip organizations with which it works.

Featuring a group of highly skilled men and women who are committed to maintaining only the very highest of quality standards, the staff at the business include well-trained machine operators who control a wide array of equipment. They continually monitor the products are conforming to the client’s requirements, with customer satisfaction the ultimate goal of the entire team.

Describing itself as a specialist in 4 & 5 axis machining, as you would expect R&S Machining, Inc prides itself on utilizing the best machining centers from globally recognized suppliers, with names such as Okuma, Hermle, Fadal, Makino and Haas. Furthermore, its shop floor also features lathes from manufacturers including Miyano, Okuma and Citizen, EDM Wire from AGIE and EDM RAM from Leblond Makino and AGIE, grinding tools from Okamoto and Toyoda and inspection machines from Hexagon and Leica.

This who’s who of the manufacturing machining world are supported by internationally recognized engineering software solutions such as Mastercam, Verisurf, Catia, NX Siemens, Vericut and PC-DMIS.

This extensive list of equipment and technology allows R&S Machining, Inc to constantly meet and exceed customer requirements, and the variety of machines enables the organization to make the same part in many different ways. It also means the business can be versatile in the array of materials that it can work with, with its experience ranging from plastics and aluminum, to hard metals.

These areas all combine with its flexibility and willingness to think out of the box, and set R&S Machining, Inc apart from the competition. Not only does the company offer multiple approaches to customers on how they can complete a project, but its extensive machine tool set-up means that it can cover individual areas or processes, or combine them, eliminating costly setups and increasing capacity.

Having described the operations of R&S Machining, Inc in broad terms, it is worth examining the businesses machining capabilities in more depth, as it is these which truly are the foundation of its sterling reputation. Starting with Milling, where R&S Machining, Inc describes its offering as having ‘all the bases covered!’ For less complicated parts, 3 axis machines are very efficient. The 40 & 50 taper, high torque machines give the rigidity and power required for cutting various hard metals. The 4-axis vertical and horizontal machining centers then add in a level of efficiency through the continuous operation of more complex parts. For the most difficult or complex par ts, the 5 axis machines allow the company to machine very challenging requirements without risky setups or relocating parts. Again, this helps to increase capacity and handle the complexity of parts to ensure that the unique customer requirements are fulfilled. To take it one step further, some of these machines are equipped with turning capability. This capability increases the quality of those complex parts, where turning and milling features must be held to each other.

This brings us to Turning, where R&S Machining, Inc has extensive capability. From 2-axis big bore to multi-axis/multi-spindle live tooling machines, its CNC Lathes are automated with loaders and unloaders, allowing for 24/7 production with little operator interaction.

On the Production side, R&S Machining, Inc has added automation and cutting edge technology. Its Horizontal Machines are equipped with a Flexible Manufacturing System or FMS, an automation solution that will monitor programs, tools, and schedules, making sure the machine has everything it needs to make the part. The machines probing ability is a large part of this monitoring process. Through this, many areas can be inspected, and if something changes, the machines are equipped to make adjustments to keep production in motion without sacrificing quality. This enables the business to predict is productivity. Currently operating with 34 pallets, R&S Machining, Inc is able to run lights out production of 34 identical or different parts.RS 184 b

Moving onto the Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) and Grinding capabilities – these add a preciseness for particularly unique parts and gives customers access to R&S Machining, Inc as a one stop location for all their needs.

It is clear that any component created by R&S Machining, Inc is going to be a highly precise, and extremely high quality part, and this latter point is sustained in a number of ways. The business operates a variety of inspection equipment, and this allows it self- audit by comparing inspection processes to ensure it has the correct one in place before starting production. This can be done via a conventional check, or through a higher tech approach using Romer arms, CMMs or lasers.

Hexagon Metrology CMMs are at the heart of the inspection department. Their accuracy surpasses all others in the industry, and this means that parts are checked to the highest standard. Furthermore, the re-engineering of an old part is simplified with its scanning capability. It also aids in identifying problem areas in the manufacturing process.

These extremely high levels of excellence are what clients expect from a company certified to ISO 9001 and AS9100 Rev. D. In addition, R&S Machining, Inc’s accreditation by NadCAP and its use of MBD/DPD ensure that its customers’ engineering will not be compromised, and by maintaining these quality certifications, R&S Machining, Inc is able to continuously improve its own operations.

The areas of expertise that we have already covered go a long way to highlight the various technologies and processes in place at R&S Machining, Inc, but there are two more strings to its bow. The business also offers a Kitting service, where a family of parts will remain conveniently located within one box. This eliminates shipment delays due to products coming in from various sources and streamlines the shipping and receiving process. Clients benefit from single point of contact, which allows them better management of their supply chain.

Finally, R&S Machining, Inc is also able to perform sub-assemblies, in a unique service provided to its customers. This helps eliminate any concerns or increases in lead-time due to non-conforming products from multiple vendors. Again, this helps streamline the management of a customer’s vendor supply chain, as well as demonstrates how R&S Machining, Inc is always prepared to go the extra mile in order to anticipate and fulfil the needs of its customer base. There has been a dramatic growth curve for R&S Machining, Inc since the company was founded, but the management team have no intention of slowing down in 2021. There are bold investment plans on the agenda going forward, designed to further expand its manufacturing centers in St Louis, including upgrades to current locations and additional new equipment. These plans also require the recruitment of as many as 60 new staff, with the younger generation very much one of the driving forces behind the plans to implement as much technology as possible. New sites are also on the horizon, with facilities in Texas and Seattle also a future ambition.

Thanks to the spirit of hard work and determination instilled into the business’ DNA by its founders, R&S Machining, Inc forecasts growth of $40m over the next five years. It looks set to achieving its goals, through its strategy of quality, flexibility and the constant drive to exceed the customers’ expectations time and time again.

R&S Machining, Inc
Products: Aerospace components manufacturer

Brightening up the market

The only manufacturer of roof windows in the UK and Ireland, Keylite Roof Windows is looking to continue its journey of profitable growth in 2021

Increasingly viewed as an ideal solution to bring natural light and ventilation into a property, demand for roof windows is growing; and as the only manufacturer of roof windows from the UK and Ireland, Keylite is growing with it.

Founded in 2001 as part of the wider Keystone Group, Keylite was an established part of the marketplace by the mid-2000s and has been achieving large volumes of sales for over 15 years. Initially based in Cookstown, Northern Ireland, the company now manufactures its products in Poland, before shipping the items to a 40,000 square foot distribution center in Burton-Upon-TrentKeylite 184 a

“Most of our competitors are based in Eastern Europe or Scandinavia, and although we manufacture in Poland for a number of good reasons, our R&D, marketing, and leadership team is based in the UK, so we feel we are very close to the market and it helps us to be successful,” explains Keylite’s Managing Director, Jim Blanthorne. “We have grown quickly over the last few years and we have got a really strong, ambitious and customer-focused team with a real can-do attitude. It’s 20 years now since we started and we have just got better and better every year.”

Named as one of the London Stock Exchange’s Companies to Inspire Britain in 2020 Keylite’s fastest selling product is a center-pivot roof window, though the firm also manufactures a range of range of blinds, timber loft ladders, flashings, electric operation kits and accessories. Always looking for ways to improve its offering, Keylite collects various data on its products and continuously reinvests in research and development projects.

“The ambition is to make a product that is really easy to install, performs fantastically well and is ultimately as good as it can possibly be,” Jim says. “We’ve got nine patents granted for Keylite already and several more pending. In terms of new product launches for 2021, we have a solar window coming out

“Our roof windows are either manually or electrically operable, and in the past, electrical meant running a power supply to the window, which isn’t always convenient. The solar roof window includes its own solar panel that will charge a battery and the battery will be used to operate the window, either from remote control or using our new Keylite Connect app. We have been extensively testing the solar window with the BRE Group in London to ensure the solar performance makes for a really high quality, high reliability product, so we are excited about its release.”

Like all Keylite products, the new solar window will be manufactured in Zambrów, northeastern Poland, where the company employs a team of several hundred people to make its goods. The Zambrów facility receives continuous investment and in 2020, was the subject of a capital expenditure program to reduce costs and increase capacity, quality, reliability and safety through the extensive automation of processes.

“As part of the latest investment, we have been able to automate individual work centers in the Timber Machining Department, enabling us to join up process steps to help reduce delays and reduce our working capital,” Jim reveals. “For example, during the first stage of the timber process when we bring in raw material, we now have a planer connected to a defect scanner that photos each piece of timber, sends a signal showing any defects to an optimizing saw and then the optimizing saw removes the defects. It means we can optimize the length of the input timber to the length of the windows and maximize the quality yield you can get from that natural product. We now have similar processes across the factory.”

As we move into a brand-new year, the investment isn’t likely to stop for Keylite and the firm has a range of projects lined up that have already received CapEx approval. Automation will remain a focus, but so will a systematic elimination of activity that does not add value.

“Since I joined the business four years ago, the task has been to grow profitably. That comes through sales and expansion, but also through reducing costs, and the best way of doing that is to streamline processes, cut down waste and things like that,” Jim comments. “At Keylite, we are big on the Five S’s of Lean and that is helping to transform the company for the better.”

The progress Keylite has made across the business throughout the last 12 months has been all the more extraordinary considering the nature of 2020 and the seemingly endless problems created by Covid-19. Towards the beginning of the pandemic, in April 2020, sales stopped abruptly for Keylite as uncertainty reigned for the company’s main customers – builders’ merchants. While many firms were forced to close, Keylite remained open as an essential business, operating with a skeleton crew ‘just to keep the lights on’.

“It was actually a really interesting time because it was a chance for a lot of senior people to get really close to the detail of the business again and we learnt an awful lot,” Jim reports. “There was a lot of praise from the market for our Keylite 184 bcustomer service and under difficult circumstances we maintained our usual levels of quality. Our Trustpilot ratings improved during the period and the people we kept in the business really stepped up to the plate.”

Since April 2020, Keylite has experienced a V-shaped recovery in its sales, and levels of demand are now moving above that of 2019. As the firm continues to facilitate the phased return to work of its internal and external teams, Jim is pleased to be able to welcome back the heartbeat of the business.

“People are really key to our success at Keylite,” he asserts. “It starts with recruitment and onboarding, but our objective is to always promote from within where we can. I looked at our leadership team this morning and over half of the people have been promoted to their current positions from within.”

A strong believer in investing in its people, Keylite implements a training program called Keylite Academy. Internally devised and bristling with dedicated content developed by each of the company’s Department Managers, Keylite Academy not only offers a structured approach to staff training, but also helps new employees feel like well-informed, formally initiated members of the organization.

“We very much foster a high performing culture here,” Jim adds. “We are target driven and every role has quite a clear definition. We reward and recognize high performance and people know that if they work hard then there is opportunity to grow and develop within the business.

“Over the last few years we have coined the phrase ‘One Keylite’ as we try to bring all three sites closer together, whilst still empowering the individual. We take on a lot of apprentices and sponsor young, hungry staff members on university courses. That approach, and the belief we show in our people, has brought us a lot of success and we have had employees nominated for Apprentice of the Year, as well as one person that was the Builders Merchants Federation Young Achiever of the Year.”

Driven by the quality of its people and the unity of its workforce, Keylite is looking to achieve more profitable growth in 2021. After proving its robustness and resilience during the Coronavirus pandemic, the company will continue to reinvest and Jim is looking forward to the opportunities ahead.

“The UK continues to have a shortage of quality housing and roof windows fit well with people’s lifestyle ambitions. Be it a room in a roof or a kitchen extension, bright, open, well-ventilated spaces full of daylight are what people want from modern living,” Jim declares. “The next steps for us are to work on safety excellence, quality excellence and sustainability. The latter is a little bit newer to us, but we’ve got timber supplier accreditation from the FSC and we are now looking deeper into waste management and energy management. All in all, it is about gathering all those strong underpinnings for the business that ensure Keylite is fit for future growth.”

Keylite Roof Windows
Products: Roof windows, blinds, loft ladders and accessories

In a league of its own

A subsidiary of world-renowned innovator Kaiser AG, Kaiser Premier is an established provider of hydro-excavators and is the US leader in recycler technology

Founded in May 2017, Kaiser Premier was formed when company President Dan Weber partnered with the CEO of Kaiser AG, Markus Kaiser, to purchase US firm Premier Oilfield Equipment. The transaction was beneficial for both parties. For Kaiser AG, the investment gave the Lichtenstein-based company a local presence in the US marketplace. For Kaiser Premier, the partnership provides support from an internationally renowned parent company with over a century’s Kaiser 184 aexperience in the manufacture of excavators and sewer cleaning vehicles.

Located in Fort Morgan, Colorado, Kaiser Premier manufactures state-of-the-art recycling sewer cleaners and hydro-excavating equipment to serve a variety of markets, including the municipal utility, gas and oil, industrial and construction sectors. Proven to be effective construction and infrastructure support tools that help increase productivity and perform in the most demanding applications, Kaiser Premier products benefit from proprietary technology recognized in Europe and modified for use in the United States.

At present, Kaiser Premier’s product portfolio contains several truck mounted hydro-excavators known as the CV Series. The company also manufactures the popular and versatile AquaStar recycler, as well as offering trailer-mounted hydro-excavators. With the power and knowledge of Kaiser AG behind it, Kaiser Premier continues to introduce some of the industry’s newest, most cutting-edge equipment year on year.

“Our technology is probably the most advanced on the market,” declares Dan Weber. “It is that technological advantage, as well as superior customer service, that separates us from our competitors.

“On the customer front, we like to look at ourselves as being in the emergency business. When our customers’ equipment is not functioning properly, it is essential that we get them up and running as quickly as possible. It’s a part of our culture,” he states. “On the technology side of things, our equipment runs in a wide variety of difficult applications and the reliability we provide is extremely important to our clients. Additionally, we are always adjusting and improving our products to suit customer requirements, which means each of our product lines offers its own key differentiators.”

The philosophy of continuous product improvement that Dan alludes to has recently yielded major updates to the firm’s CV Series of hydro excavators. Among the improvements are a redesigned rear door and increased dumping height to expand debris offloading capabilities and facilitate more efficient unloading. Kaiser Premier’s trailer-mounted excavator, the TerraVac Xpose800 Hydro Excavation Trailer, is a new product that operates with a unique rear door locking mechanism that guarantees pressure offload capabilities without any leaking. The company has also introduced air and water into its hydro excavators, allowing customers to excavate using only air, only water, or a combination of both.

When it comes to the sewer cleaning arm of the organization, the key differentiator is more unified; everything is built around recycling. “Recycling in this industry is an emerging technology in the US, but it is a technology that has been used for some time in Europe through Kaiser AG. A traditional sewer cleaner might jet fresh water at a volume of up to 130 gallons a minute, so not only are you wasting water, but within 30 mins, you have to stop, break down, go to a hydrant, come back, and re-run. With recyclers, you continually use the water in the sewer, or the water you brought with you, and you never have to stop until the job is completed. Your efficiencies in cleaning can be up to 100 per cent greater, and there are significant fresh water savings, which is a very positive result for the environment.

“Additionally, we are able to run the recyclers with less horsepower than is normally needed to run truck-mounted sewer cleaners, but with the same output as our competition. As a result,” Dan continues, “you have fuel savings over typical sewer equipment. We also have liquid ring vacuum pumps, which have been developed and manufactured internally, and that are uniquely suited to recycling sewer waters. This proprietary technology differentiates us from all other manufacturers in the US, Europe, or anywhere else in the world. It allows you to clean some of the most difficult applications, like pipes full of grease and roots, without clogging up the system. Operators can continue to function all day long without having to stop to take care of clogging or maintenance issues.”

As a company that helps enable hydro excavation – a less environmentally intrusive practice than traditional, mechanical excavating – and offers sewer cleaners capable of doubling production whilst saving up to 15,000 gallons of fresh water a day, Kaiser Premier is innately in the business of sustainability. With more and more companies looking to make cost-savings, as well as environmentally positive choices, Kaiser Premier is seeing increasing demand for its services.Kaiser 184 b

“Underground infrastructure in the US is quite old in many places and so significant funding is going towards correcting that at the moment,” Dan reveals. “With the technology we can bring to the table, we can help businesses make these projects more efficient and save millions of gallons of fresh water in the process. There is interest in our products throughout the country, but it is heightened in areas where water conservation is a big issue, like on the West Coast, throughout Colorado and in the South.”

To support the growing demand, Kaiser Premier operates a 100,000-square foot, fully integrated manufacturing facility capable of fabrication, engineering, and assembly, including paint. Along with increasing the complexity of its manufacturing processes, Kaiser Premier has recently introduced SAP enterprise software into the firm, which is already providing Dan and his team with better control over accurate reporting, inventory and cost. A centralized tool crib has also improved efficiency on the manufacturing line, ensuring the correct materials are available for timely product assembly. Such a well-equipped, modern site has been greatly beneficial to the business in dealing with the challenges of 2020.

“Covid-19 has obviously made this a difficult year and we have had to learn how to shift our business approach, both in how we call on our clients and how we manage our personnel internally,” Dan reports. “We have successfully implemented all the precautionary steps in line with governmental guidelines to help minimize the impact of the virus on our operations, but Covid-19 has still impacted our markets, specifically the gas and oil sectors, and this has forced us to relook at our manufacturing priorities.

“As a company, we made a decision to aggressively invest in product development over the last six or seven months and what we really did was speed up the product development cycle by converting some of our manufacturing capabilities to product development. We are now launching some of those products as a result.

“Most importantly, we have stood by our employees throughout, including supporting medical coverage for those that might have been laid off for a period of time. We have now been able to rebound and continue to employ most of our workforce. Thankfully, we are beginning to see an increase in demand, particularly in the municipal and utility markets.”

Having made it through the most difficult stretch of 2020, Kaiser Premier is now looking to increase its market reach and penetration by introducing its customers to new advanced technologies. According to Dan, a more diverse offering, a wider client base, and further growth in sales are the core objectives for the business over the next five years.

“That’s the overall goal in a nutshell,” he asserts, “and doing it all in a culture that supports teamwork, diversity, and creativity. We intend to add more product models to service other markets in the US and we will continue to leverage the technological expertise that our parent company brings to the table. Together with Kaiser AG, Kaiser Premier will always produce and adapt technology that, in one form or another, supports the unique needs of the US market.”

Kaiser Premier
Products: Hydro-excavators and recycling sewer cleaners

The best treatment for wood

Providing a variety of treated wood products, wood treatment chemicals and carbon compounds, Koppers is a global business looking to expand through investment and recruitment in 2021

Koppers strives to be recognized as the world’s leading provider of wood protection and preservation technologies, through high-quality treated wood products, wood treatment chemicals, and carbon compounds. Koppers is a global business Koppers 184 awith plans to expand in 2021 through organic and strategic growth initiatives.

While the company is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Koppers truly has a global reach. Serving multiple markets, including the rail, chemical, residential, utility, agriculture, steel, rubber and construction sectors, Koppers has more than 2100 employees worldwide and operates across North America, South America, Australasia and Europe.

Publicly traded since 2006, Koppers is divided into four business units: Railroad Products and Services manufactures railroad crossties and rail joints, and offers bridge repair services and the recovery and recycling of railroad crossties.

Utility and Industrial Products is the second-largest wood utility pole manufacturer in the North American market, supplying quality poles and cross-arms to utilities in the region.

Carbon Materials and Chemicals, with facilities in the US, Denmark and Australia, distills coal tar into a variety of products, including creosote for treatment of railroad crossties, carbon pitch for use in aluminum smelting, and other chemicals for use in a variety of industries including the construction sectors.

Performance Chemicals develops wood preservative systems and technologies used to pressure-treat lumber for repair and remodeling, residential construction, and commercial buildings. Products treated with its well-known, market-leading, patented wood preserving products can be found at home improvement stores across the US. It also produces wood preservatives used in utility poles, heavy duty marine and agricultural use.

Jim Sullivan, Koppers’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, believes that the company’s diversified offering is one of the main things that sets the business apart from its competition.

“A significant inflection point for this company came in 2014, when we successfully transformed a business built on producing carbon pitch for the aluminum industry into an enterprise centered on the preservation and enhancement of wood,” he begins. “It was a strategic decision based on how markets and macroeconomic conditions have shifted, and it has paid off.

“Customers want to know their supply chain is secure and that is why they turn to Koppers,” Jim continues. “Somewhere between 18 million and 23 million railroad ties get replaced in North America every year and the issue of maintenance is of vital importance to both large and small railroads. Our position as a reliable supplier, therefore, is critically important. We have partnerships that go back decades because customers trust us.”

In order to support its broad and varied offering, Koppers runs numerous manufacturing plants and operational sites across the world, including 19 wood treatment plants, three carbon materials and chemicals plants and eight performance Koppers 184 bchemicals facilities such as the plant in Hubbell, Michigan, where copper carbonate is manufactured for use in wood treatment.

In mid-2020, Koppers announced that one of its railroad tie treatment facilities, located in North Little Rock, Arkansas, would undergo a $40 million modernization in 2021. Not only will the investment help fund new equipment and upgraded processes, but it will also result in hiring additional employees.

“The renovation at the North Little Rock facility came about after we secured a ten-year contract with a Class I railroad for more volume, but to do so, we had to commit to major upgrades of the facility,” Jim explains. “The work is well under way and we expect to complete the final phase by the end of 2021. The site will include all-new treatment cylinders, all-new material handling equipment and updated environmental controls.

“We have also just acquired land near our Rock Hill facility in South Carolina, which is one of our Performance Chemicals plants,” Jim adds. “We will be expanding the site in the future as we implement plans that give us more manufacturing capacity. We are looking for continuous improvement across the board.”

Though the latest equipment and technology will no doubt play a key role in helping the company achieve future success, Koppers believes that the most important part of the organization is its people. Consequently, the company regards safety as its number one priority and is united behind “Zero Harm,” an operational philosophy and set of specific behaviors focused on reducing incidents and creating a culture of safety excellence across the business.

“If you can achieve excellence in safety, you can achieve excellence in everything else,” Jim asserts. “We care for each other and we look out for one another – that is one aspect that sets us apart. Not long ago, we came up with a statement of purpose that we think sums it up nicely: ‘Protecting What Matters and Preserving The Future.’ What matters to us is our people, the environment and the communities that surround us; if we protect those, we will have a strong future.”

Koppers’ culture of care has been exemplified over the last 12 months as the company and its employees have battled against the Covid-19 pandemic. In March 2020, as many companies began making job cuts, Koppers pursued a strategy of careful but aggressive cost containment, so as to keep its facilities in operation and all of its employees working. As facilities needed to close temporarily due to certain stay-at-home orders overseas, or to handle Covid infections and cleaning protocols, or when specific individuals needed to remain in quarantine or be treated for the virus, Koppers continued to pay all its employees. In addition, the company provided a bonus to its worldwide team at the end of 2020 in recognition of the many sacrifices and extra efforts required to persevere during the pandemic.

“We care greatly for our people. As an essential business during this pandemic, we have done everything we can to keep them safe,” Jim declares. “In a wider sense, I am really proud of the way the company reacted to the Covid crisis. We didn’t panic; we put our frontline people first, we didn’t cut jobs, and when things started to turn around - when demand for residential lumber went through the roof, for example - we were able to institute a merit increase. We worked together and hung in there really well.”

Koppers’ strong performance throughout the pandemic means that the organization is well positioned to focus on growth opportunities for the future. Although this growth will primarily be driven by the aforementioned investment in production, Koppers will also be looking for innovation from within. Koppers Global Technology Center, an applied research facility in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and its research laboratory and pilot plant in Griffin, Georgia, work every day to drive new enhancements and offerings. Additionally, employees are also encouraged to share their ideas – both big and small – through a virtual innovation portal called iShare. The program has yielded numerous practical solutions that have improved safety and efficiency throughout Koppers. Corporate Social Responsibility remains another important focus for the business too. Koppers significantly advanced the company’s Sustainability strategy in 2019 and 2020 by establishing new governance structures; fostering organizational alignment; assessing and prioritizing initiatives and opportunities, risks and impacts; and working to establish new benchmarks and forward-looking goals. In January 2020, the company announced the election of Leslie Hyde as Kopper s first Chief Sustainability Officer. In 2021, Koppers hopes to further develop its sustainability practices in line with its five-year strategy.

“We have a very robust five-year plan and we trust where that will take us,” Jim states. “First, we will get the work at the North Little Rock facility completed, then we may look at expanding some other facilities as well as getting cost reduction projects underway.

“In the coming years, we will be looking at two things in particular: Stronger growth and greater efficiency. We are mindful of the appropriate areas in which we can organically grow our business because of who we are and what we do, and we have already identified multiple new projects. In three to five years’ time, we expect to see top line growth, and at the same time, increased efficiency. We hope to be a business driving more to the bottom line, while continuing to take care of our people.”

Products: Treated wood products, wood treatment chemicals and carbon compounds


A breath of fresh air

With a long-standing mission to rid homes of the damaging effects of poor indoor air, condensation and mould, EnviroVent is today a leading – and rapidly growing – manufacturer and supplier of ventilation systems

Based in Harrogate, North Yorkshire and employing over 200 people, for over 30 years EnviroVent Ltd (EnviroVent) has been helping households across the country and beyond to solve damp, condensation and mould issues through the Envirovent 184 aapplication of its award-winning ventilation products. Said products, which EnviroVent designs, manufactures, installs, commissions and maintains, create year-round healthy and fresh indoor environments, and with more than one million satisfied customers to date, it is easy to see why the company considers itself an expert when it comes to advising on indoor air quality and condensation within the home.

“What sets EnviroVent apart within our field is the fact that have a true understanding as to why ventilation is so important to people and for their homes,” explains the company’s Managing Director, Andy Makin. “We also understand the impact that condensation, damp and mould can have on indoor air quality, and the knock on effects these conditions can have on not only the inhabitants of a property, but also the property itself – with added consequences in how the fabric of a building will be impacted by not dealing with such issues.

“EnviroVent is one of the only companies of its kind to have a considerable, nationwide network of ventilation specialist engineers who can deliver its services directly to its customers’ homes. Our business made its name – and continues to thrive – within the social and public housing sectors, and we have forged strong, long-standing relationships with a large number of housing associations, local authorities and housing providers in what is typically a tough, demanding industry to succeed in. The reputation for quality and service that we have built here has in turn led the company into the private sector, where we now work alongside several major housing developers and private organizations. Over the past decade, we have also added a B2C business model that allows us to work directly with individual homeowners and private landlords.”

EnviroVent is known predominantly for two key product ranges. The first is its series of Positive Input Ventilation (PIV) products, which is a system that works on positive pressure circulating, diluting and displacing stale air and introducing fresh filtered air in order to eliminate condensation and/or mould issues.

The second is its Filterless fan range, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to remove condensation and deliver high performance in controlling humidity levels in kitchens, bathrooms and utility rooms, using the lowest levels of energy consumption. Meanwhile, its other product offering includes mechanical ventilation with heat recovery MVHR) and mechanical extract ventilation (MEV) systems.

As of December 2020, EnviroVent operates out of two sites located on Hornbeam Business Park in Harrogate. “One of these sites acts as our distribution center, while our other – main – site is where we manufacture the products that fall into what we call our Lifetime Range, which encompasses our PIV and Filterless fan ranges, as well as our heat recovery systems,” Andy states.

While the aforementioned sites have certainly served the business well over the years, EnviroVent is excited to now be embarking on plans to relocate its operations to a larger single facility that will be found at the new Burley Business Park, also in Harrogate. The new building will initially comprise of almost 17,000-square feet of office space, 13,000-square feet for product assembly, and over 30,000-square feet of storage space. The company will also possess further expansion capability, which would ultimately take the building up to 70,000-square feet.

“Although we have succeeded in making our two existing sites work in harmony together, there are clearly a number of benefits to having our entire operation under one roof in the future, not least of all the improvement in efficiencies that we expect to see across the board. The new site will also help to facilitate our own expansion plans moving forward, which was a major driver behind our desire to relocate,” Andy adds. “Builders will begin work on site around March 2021, and if all goes to plan, we should be in a position to move into the facility during the first quarter of 2022!”

The expansion plans that Andy speaks of come as a result of the company’s continued growth in recent years, which he attributes to several factors. “One of the major reasons for our growth is the fact that, while as a country the UK has all manner of different building regulations in place, ventilation regulations were only really introduced on a mass scale in the 1990s. This means that today we still have somewhere in the region of 28 million homes in the UK – both in the public and private sector – a vast majority of which currently fall outside of the requirements of the building regulations. This has created a huge, built-in market for which we can serve our customers with our products and systems,” he details.Envirovent 184 b “There is also the fact that in the last several years – and indeed this year in light of the Covid-19 pandemic – there has been a much stronger focus on and awareness of the need for better indoor air quality, which is helping to drive public awareness, and as a consequence sales.”

Speaking of the pandemic and the way the business has had to respond to the challenges it has posed in 2020, Andy tells us that EnviroVent made the decision very early on that changes would be necessary in order for it to maintain its manufacturing activities, even during the first few months of lockdowns and other restrictions. “While we did furlough a number of our employees during the first wave of the pandemic, we managed to maintain our manufacturing output, albeit initially at reduced levels,” he says. “The reason for doing so was that we knew that once restrictions started to be lifted and some sense of normality resumed there would we believed, be pent up demand for the supply of products such as ours, and this indeed turned out to be the case. Ultimately, our decisions at the onset of the pandemic meant that we were in a good position to respond to increased levels of interest, especially in the summer months.”

That leads us onto what 2021 and beyond has in store for EnviroVent, and Andy is certain that the next several years will mark a very interesting time for the sector as a whole. “By the latter stages of 2021, the UK’s building regulations will have been further updated and revised, which will hopefully have a positive impact on the ventilation industry,” he points out. “We anticipate that any changes will drive an even greater focus on indoor air quality, and that will help to influence areas of our own business such as product development. In addition to this, we will continue to have an eye on what the Government announces in the way of public spending for the public housing sector, as well as on developments within the new build market, which will no doubt be led by consumer confidence in 2021.

“For our part, we continue to hold a strong share of the market and as the requirement for our products shows no sign of diminishing our optimism for the future remain high. Indeed, moving forward with our decision to expand our footprint via a new manufacturing facility shows that we see EnviroVent as being here for the long-term, and we feel confident in our ability to grow the business over the next decade and beyond!”

EnviroVent Ltd
Products: Ventilation systems for the home

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