Space to spare

As it marks it 25th anniversary in 2020, Dixie Cullen Interests Inc continues to go from strength-to-strength, accommodating its customers and their individual storage requirements

As of November 2020, Houston, Texas-based storage and warehousing provider Dixie Cullen will be celebrating its 25th year in business. Specializing in machinery, steel and other industrial material – with its heavy overhead lift capacity helping to simplify the handling process – Dixie Cullen provides a variety of services to suit its customer’s needs. These services include standard inside storage, climate controlled storage, Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) storage, DC aand outside storage. Meanwhile, export packing and containerizing, and transloading are just some examples of the value-added services that the company offers.

“We are a family business, offering industrial storage for items that I sometimes like to refer to as the ‘big and uglies’, by which I mean things that nobody else wants to or can handle,” explains Dixie Cullen’s President, Catherine James. “Our unique ability to store and handle such goods sees us work with companies from all around the world, from freight forwarders and manufacturers, to engineering and construction companies working on active projects. The size of our operation and facilities means that we can safely store the type of items that manufacturers do not have room to keep on their own working floors, or that would otherwise take up unnecessary space on construction sites.

“Our specialized climate controlled storage allows for critical equipment to be suitably maintained as per an individual customers’ requirements, and we also work in close cooperation with said customers in order for them to gain round-the-clock access to their items in order to carry out any checks, preventative maintenance and so forth. This allows them to ensure that their equipment remains functioning and under warranty, regardless of whether it is being put into operation six, 12 or even 24 months from now.”

Dixie Cullen is in a unique position to offer a well-rounded service package, which can be tailored to specific requirements. “I personally come from a machinery moving background, dealing with things like plant relocations and expansions,” Catherine states. “My experience in the field meant that I could see a need accumulating for a niche warehousing market, and it was my goal to establish one of the premier machinery storage warehouses in the United States. From there, things expanded rapidly and that was because we listened to our customers and gave them what they wanted, building our services around them.”

The company’s main facility, which is also home to its FTZ storage, measures approximately 300,000-square feet. Within it, 42,000-square feet is dedicated to climate controlled storage, and the whole unit is serviced by overhead cranes. This allows for the handling of transloads, export packing and containerizing of equipment. This facility handles pieces up to 50,000 pounds in weight. Next door to this sits another, 200,000-square foot facility, which is referred to as the ‘heavy lift building’. Here the company possesses an additional 40,000-square feet of climate controlled storage, as well as 200-ton overhead lift capacity which enables it to handle the heavy weights. Additionally, Dixie Cullen has a facility located on Port Houston properly with 60,000-square feet of inside storage space, as well as a total of 16 acres of outside storage space.

Customer service has always been what Catherine and the rest of the Dixie Cullen family of staff have considered to be the company’s biggest strength. “Helping our customers to achieve what they want to has always been our primary goal,” Catherine says. Clearly that has worked out for the business, as she also reveals that for the first 23 years of its existence it did not even have a dedicated sales team. There was no need to, as almost all of its contracts came about through referrals! “Once businesses find out what it is that we can offer them and the services we have available they soon realize how they can utilize Dixie Cullen to free up their own space on the ground and improve the efficiency of their work.”DC b

The scope of the type of work handled by the company is wide, and has led to it handling items that Catherine admits she never dreamt it would in its infancy. “Among some of the more unique items that we currently store you will find – for instance – equipment and spare parts for a local indoor skydiving activity center called iFly,” she details. “We are also presently storing large glass panels for an engineering company that is working on a museum build project, which in itself requires specific handling, packaging and storage needs and that not just anyone can provide.

“While each project comes with its own nuances, what they share in common is that each involves us accommodating the individual requirements of the customer in question. We identify those niche types of project and pinpoint how we can be of support. At present, for example, we are bidding on a contract that will involve 400 containers of machinery being shipped into the area for a plant that is going to be constructed. Those containers will all have different items within them, each of which will need to be shipped to the location of the plant when needed. Not only do we have the overhead crane and heavy duty lift capacity to handle said containers, but we also have the required storage space available and then facilities to enable the customer to have complete inventory control. This would allow us to work with them to coordinate what needs to be retrieved from storage and when, to get it loaded onto trucks, and get it out onto the job site quickly, safely and efficiently.”

Like any other business, for Dixie Cullen, 2020 has brought with it its own challenges, however by being classed as a vital business it has remained operational throughout the year in spite of Covid-19 and the effects of the global pandemic. “In terms of sales, 2019 was our best year and as we enter the last month of 2020 we are on target to equal those numbers,” Catherine says. “Our people have remained very versatile throughout the last 12 months, and they are being rewarded now with more projects starting to move forward, with equipment coming in on a regular basis.”

A word about Dixie Cullen’s employees then, and the vital role they play in the company’s success. “We simply could not have achieved all that we have done in the last 25 years without our teams,” Catherine declares. “Some of our employees have been with me since day one, and we have a number of families working under the same roof to this day, which I think says a lot about the type of working environment we have created here. We do all that we possibly can to take care of our people, and they respond by knowing when to go that extra mile for our customers. Given the nature of our work, our schedule is always subject to change so at any one time they can face a scenario where they have, say over 20 trucks from one customer arrive to site in short order. I know, however, that our people will always give us that extra bit of effort needed to get the job at hand done so that our customer doesn’t experience any unnecessary delays. I even remember one occasion where we had a customer that ended up with 200 containers on a single ship that needed offloading. We mobilized to have those moved in just four days, getting each container unloaded and returned to port. That is the way we work to accommodate our customers!”

Going into 2021, the signs are there that Dixie Cullen will be experiencing a tremendous amount of activity in the first quarter of the year and beyond. “We anticipate a great deal of equipment coming in not only through the Port of Houston but domestically too, in the coming months, which will need to be staged and put into storage,” Catherine adds. “We also have a number of customers looking at bringing their goods into the FTZ as they are working on the basis of some of their projects being delayed for a while, and they would rather that it be stored in the country in which it will eventually be installed in rather than sitting abroad.

“Looking further ahead, we have a multi-year growth plan in place. I believe we will remain in growth mode for some years to come, and we have people within the business who we are preparing for movement up the ladder, including those that we want to teach about how to run our operation. At Dixie Cullen, we have learned how to be flexible and to adjust to whatever life or our customers throw at us, and I believe this stands us in good stead to achieve a lot more!”

Dixie Cullen
Services: Storage, warehousing and associated services

Always advancing

A leading developer of solutions for the oil, gas, subsea and marine sectors, Advanced Insulation continues to experience increasing demand for its innovative insulation, passive fire protection and buoyancy products

Fast-moving and adaptable, Advanced Insulation is a company that solves problems. Benefitting from significant expertise in engineering, material science and chemistry, the company has been designing, manufacturing and supplying a range of niche products to the oil, gas, marine and subsea sectors since 2007. Today, in 2020, Advanced Insulation is a globally-renowned fire protection and coatings business, though its modern offering also includes a AI awide variety of insulation and buoyancy solutions used in answer to difficult industry problems the world over.

“Advanced Insulation is a fairly unique business because we do the material formulation, the manufacture and the application,” explains the company’s Managing Director, Andrew Bennion. “Not only are we one of the top two providers of subsea insulation worldwide, but we also have a range of specialist fire protection products, so we do a lot of fire protected deck insulation for vessels in harsh environments like the Arctic Circle. We are currently working on fire protection and deck structure insulation for Arctic LNG 2.”

A truly global business, Advanced Insulation has manufacturing units in the UAE, Korea, Kazakhstan, Brazil, Louisiana, and the UK - where it has three sites, including its headquarters in Gloucester. Earlier in 2020, the firm acquired the Bardot Group, meaning a site in France is the latest to be added to the company’s portfolio.

Alongside its manufacturing units, Advanced Insulation is supported by a collection of subsidiaries in places as varied as Norway, Canada and Angola. These sites provide the company with a local presence, meaning that Advanced Insulation can always remain in direct contact with its customers, no matter where they are based.

“We don’t tend to take on run-of-the-mill projects,” Andrew declares, “and thanks to our global network of sites, we can service clients almost anywhere in the world. Among our work in recent years is the Wheatstone project in Australia, where we developed a fire protective noise attenuation product to greatly reduce sound levels from their compressor rooms, which they had effectively put under the accommodation.

“We also worked on the Fort Hills Project in Canada, where we installed fire protection solutions in response to issues with the weather and temperature. The unit they were trying to fire protect had a very long fire duration and a small allowable temperature increase, so we designed a whole series of flexible fire protection jackets to meet that requirement. In the end, we produced around 60,000 items for that project.”

Driven by a culture of continuous improvement, Advanced Insulation is always looking to acquire complementary businesses or improve its existing sites. 2020, for example, has seen the business invest £8 million in expanding its buoyancy capabilities with the construction of a brand-new unit in Gloucester, due to come online in January 2021.

“Prior to this latest investment, we were manufacturing buoyancy products from our 40,000-square foot Plymouth unit, which also makes marine products, such as surface buoys and fenders,” Andrew reveals. “That facility was really strapped for capacity and yard space because the buoyancy units are quite large, so we took the decision to move buoyancy out of there and relocate to a purpose-built, 65,000-square foot buoyancy-dedicated site, which will contain around £2 million worth of bespoke equipment. It has allowed us to grow the marine business at the existing site, whilst tripling the capacity for our buoyancy products.”AI b

Even for a winner of five Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, 2020 has been a challenging year and one that has required Advanced Insulation to remain flexible and resilient. Though the company rapidly implemented in-house Covid-19 protocols back in March, and has been able to remain operational throughout both lockdown periods, the global nature of the business has forced Advanced Insulation to find creative methods of completing work around the world.

“We sent people to complete application work in the United States and they had to quarantine in Jamaica for two weeks before flying directly on to the US from there,” Andrew recalls. “We’ve had to do some problem solving, and work very closely with our customers to enable us to manage that process, but throughout the whole year we have carried on working. Whether a project was in Nigeria, Indonesia, Malaysia, Angola, Brazil, or the US, we found a way to get it done.”

Despite the delays, postponements and extra costs brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic, Advanced Insulation has still managed to hit its profit target for the year and recorded better overall results than 2019. When it comes to the key factors behind this success, Andrew is quick to praise the company’s workforce.

“The people have been fantastic,” he states. “We have tried to communicate with them as much as we can and I think with no exceptions, everybody has understood what we have tried to do, maintaining the viability of the business and making sure we service our customers in the right way. Our staff have truly gone above and beyond over the course of this year. They have done a sterling job.”

As we approach the end of 2020, Advanced Insulation is now turning its attentions to the New Year, where the company is confident that it can achieve more growth. Oil and gas projects will remain at the center of the firm’s work in 2021, but Andrew is also hopeful that Advanced Insulation can begin reaping the rewards of its newly diversified offering.

“We suffered with the drop in oil prices early in 2020 and so have been finding ways to diversify all year, both within the oil and energy sector and outside of it,” Andrew says. “Next year, we think we will see more revenue away from deep water services, like in LNG for example, but also in areas like the automotive industry and the mass transit sector.”

One of the diversifications that Advanced Insulation will be concentrating on in 2021 is fire protection in lithium-ion batteries for the automotive market. As part of its new site in Gloucester, the firm has invested £500,000 into a new testing facility for lithium-ion batteries and battery packs. After recent changes in Chinese legislation requiring more protection for passengers from lithium-ion battery malfunctions, Advanced Insulation’s focus on the mitigation of thermal propagation in lithium-ion battery packs could prove lucrative in the years ahead.

“We are on a growth path and we think our diversification work will put us on a stronger footing should we encounter any unforeseen circumstances or a cycle like that which we experienced in 2014,” Andrew asserts. “Fundamentally, we believe that there will be oil and gas projects for a long time going forward and though it is rapidly growing, the renewable sector has still got a long way to go before it forces the consumption of oil into decline. Consequently, whilst we try to position ourselves in the renewable space - we’ve clearly got a lot to offer for the safety of hydrogen applications for example - we still think there is going to be a lot of oil and gas projects to deliver in the medium term.”

Advanced Insulation
Products: Insulation, passive fire protection and buoyancy

Unmatched in the aftermarket

Known industry-wide for its laser-like focus on superior quality and exceptional service, Klarius Products Ltd is the largest manufacturer of aftermarket emissions control components in the UK

A leader in its field, Klarius Products Ltd offers a vast range of more than 11,000 premium aftermarket emissions control components for the automotive industry. Catering to everything from SUVs to sports cars, classics to light commercial vehicles, the firm provides products designed to match or exceed the application performance of the equivalent original equipment (OE) part.

Next morning delivery is available on the majority of the exhausts, catalytic converters, diesel particulate filters, mountings and accessories. This excellent service level has made Klarius a reliable supplier-of-choice for many KP adistributors and re-sellers across the UK. Company CEO Mark Brickhill suggests that, “more than anything, the firm’s dedication to quality and service have been vital to the company’s success.”

The approach to quality at Klarius begins with the firm’s R&D department, which develops new parts and rigorously tests them on real world vehicles. The result is products that perform exactly as they are required to when released to market, with a two-year warranty and Klarius’ ‘Fit First Time’ guarantee standard across the company’s entire range.

“Our commitment to quality is evident in the way that we choose to approve and certify all our exhaust systems with the UK Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA),” Mark reveals. “Now, that is not a legal requirement, but we continue to do it anyway to have the high standards of our products independently confirmed. In order to achieve certification, the part has to be fitted onto a vehicle of correct marque, model and production year and inspected by the VCA for things like emissions and noise versus the standards on the car as new. We keep that attention to detail and quest for quality running through the entire organisation, from design, to manufacturing, to everything else we do as a group.”

Though excellent service is a value to which all businesses aspire, it is often easier said than done. Benefitting from staff with decades of experience, Klarius has its service down to an art; this is especially true in the way it helps customers manage their stock.

“We offer more than 4,500 exhausts and over 11,000 products in total, but we advise autofactor branches to stock no more than 350 parts, or 850 if a customer has a regional distribution center or hub and spoke operation,” Mark says. “At Klarius, we hold the vast majority of our product range centrally, at our distribution center, where we take orders up until 5.30pm each day. If a motorist’s exhaust breaks down, they want it fixed as quickly as possible at a garage of their choice. We offer next day delivery on all our orders to meet this demand. There is no one else in the automotive market that can come close to that speed. It means that we help our customers take working capital off their shelves, leaving them with a slimmer, more efficient inventory. We will provide anything else they need.”

Always striving for progress, Klarius developed over 350 new parts in 2019 and despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the firm has still developed more than 200 parts in 2020. To support this manufacturing effort, Klarius relies upon a fully integrated site with complete design, testing, development and manufacturing capabilities. According to Mark, the facility offers ‘a massive advantage’ to the firm.

“No one else in our industry has a site like ours in the UK,” he declares. “We have the largest warehouse in the emissions control industry in Europe and we have an incredibly flexible approach to manufacturing that ensures we are as quick and nimble as possible. As a fully self-contained facility, we can move production between parts and if a part becomes low or out of stock, we immediately make it. We can make products available that might not physically exist yet as they are still in the process of being manufactured. We are able to do this because we have such a high level of onsite expertise and adaptability.”

The structure of Klarius is effectively comprised of three businesses in one: Klarius Products, KM Tools, a bespoke machine manufacturer for OEMs in multiple sectors, and Emissco, a manufacturer and supplier of aerosols and sprays for the automotive aftermarket. This model means that Klarius has the ability to build, refurbish, inspect, service, maintain, and repair all of its own equipment, while building customised machines for others in the industry. At the time of our conversation with Mark, Klarius was preparing to deliver a mandrel bending CNC machine to a customer in the UK exhaust sector. Over the years, KM Tools has also worked closely with Bombardier, and in November 2020, the company won a major contract with another rail firm.

“That project is one of the biggest single contracts the engineering business has ever won,” Mark states. “The work will entail the supply and installation of jigs and fixtures for West Coast Main Line trains. It’s a really exciting project for us – not just for now, but also for the future. We will be working on high-speed trains that require a solid, welded body for impact resistance, which will demand a high skill level from both us and our client, putting us in great stead for another project on the horizon – HS2. We will be the only supplier in the UK with directly transferable experience.”KP b

Another of Klarius’ big achievements of 2020 arrived early in the year when Emissco won a Premium Partner contract with Yara, the world’s largest manufacturer of AdBlue, to bottle and distribute the product in the UK and Ireland. Designed for diesel vehicles, AdBlue is a fluid injected into the exhaust gas stream, helping to turn harmful NOx emissions into nitrogen and oxygen. Emissco began AdBlue filling operations in March and continues to win market share in the sector.

Mark notes, “At present, our fill rate is equivalent to 20 million litres a year, or 15 road tankers a week.” AdBlue is certainly set to play a major role in Klarius’ future as the business remains on track for significant growth. Building on a powerful combination of expert manufacturing and entrepreneurial flair, Klarius is ready to take its next great evolutionary leap as it looks to seize key opportunities to win more market share in its existing businesses, increase export activity, and further diversify the business.

“There is a truly unique atmosphere at this company,” Mark asserts. “This is a proper manufacturing firm with sparks flying, machines going, and men and women working hard. It is real British production, of which we should be proud. However, it doesn’t stop there because we’ve also got that entrepreneurial, fast decision making, quality of service side of the business that provides us with confidence that we will continue to grow.

“We learn quickly and we are always there to support different customer needs. I’ve been in meetings today where people are already asking, ‘What is the next new product on our aerosol liquid side?’ and ‘What are we doing about this potential new customer?’ For us, it is about constantly looking for new ways to delight customers with our service, which ultimately translates into new sales and a growing business that continues to create British manufacturing jobs.”

Klarius Products Ltd
Services: Aftermarket emissions control components

Cool solutions

Celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020, Gartner Refrigeration blends decades of experience with modern technologies to provide innovative refrigeration solutions for the food industry and beyond

Gartner Refrigeration opened its doors for the first time in 1945 with two primary goals: to embrace and refine evolving technologies in industrial refrigeration, and to work closely with its customers throughout each step of its operations. 75 years on, these founding values remain at the heart of the business and Gartner continues to build upon them, establishing itself as a refrigeration specialist with a reputation for innovation and a genuine partnership philosophy.GR a

Today, in 2020, Gartner specializes in the planning, design, and installation of refrigeration equipment for industrial applications. Primarily serving the food and food storage industries, the firm boasts a full engineering staff, a dedicated design department and celebrated construction capabilities that allow it to deliver solutions across a full spectrum of application situations. Custom-developed and expertly carried out, the company aims to design-build high-quality systems that are energy efficient and cost-effective.

Founded by German immigrant brothers, George and Herb Gartner, Gartner Refrigeration is a multi-generational business and a sense of family runs through the entire organization. According to company President Jim Andrie, the culture of encouragement and togetherness drawn from the firm’s family roots is beneficial to the way Gartner performs.

“There are a lot of things that make us stand out in this industry,” Jim states. “For example, some competitors that have similar market strategies to us maybe don’t have the bandwidth we’ve got. We have a large engineering group here and one thing we are doing is recruiting several younger engineers to provide continued growth long term to meet our customers’ needs for the next 75 years.

“We want to make sure that we are not short-sighted as a business, and have a good mix of ages and talents throughout the organization,” he adds. “Bigger projects might be led by a senior person with more years of experience, with the assistance of the younger personnel to work as a team. It ends up working like a family-type support system where we collaborate and learn from one another to make sure we are moving the company forward. If somebody struggles, we reach out and help them. It’s a culture of support.”

As evidenced by the way Gartner handles its workforce, people are important to the business. This notion extends to the firm’s customers, or ‘partners’ as Jim calls them, recognizing the active role that Gartner’s clients have played in the company’s success.

“We really have taken a very strong approach to making sure we are partnering with the right people,” Jim asserts. “Part of our growth comes through building relationships for the long term. We are a solutions provider, and rather than just fitting something mechanical, we are able to deliver a fully engineered product and back it up with good operating efficiency and support services. We develop systems that we expect to operate 20 to 30 years and we want our relationship to last the same amount of time.”

Gartner’s personal, relationships-based approach to refrigeration solutions has won the company a number of major projects over the years. Among these, in 2019, the firm performed design-build services for a large alcohol producer in the US, delivering cooling tower chilling systems, as well as mechanical cooling chilled water system with refrigeration compressors. The successful development added yet another multi-million-dollar achievement to Gartner’s growing portfolio.

Built on a history of continuous improvement, Gartner has been an early adopter of new technologies as far back as the 1940s when George and Herb introduced ammonia and the two-stage blast freezer to the firm, which acted as twin catalysts into the ice cream and red meat business. Technology may have advanced significantly since then, but Gartner remains as excited and open to new ways of doing things as it was in the beginning. Alongside exploring GR bcritical charge systems and natural refrigerants, Gartner has added modular construction to its expansive list of capabilities. Earlier in 2020, the company completed its largest modular project to date, delivering a 1000-ton chilling system for warehouse cooling.

“Technology in general is advancing incredibly quickly and the way construction is carried out is constantly changing with 3D modelling and offsite fabrication now being preferred methods of working,” Jim says. “I don’t think these technologies were that advanced five years ago, but they have certainly progressed and we continue to engage with them.

“Along with prefabrication, both internally and externally, we can now scan huge areas of some of our bigger projects and use the scans to create a model of where all the pipes, pipe supports, and hangers are going to go. When it’s all planned out, a system can then be fabricated offsite, brought in and just fitted together.

“Offsite fabrication and modular construction are, on average, 30 per cent more efficient ways of working as they save time, reduce cost on labor and shipping, and minimize risk for the owner because the number of people onsite, and how long they are onsite, is decreased. There are so many benefits,” Jim concludes, “and I can see things working this way for a long time.”

Perhaps the most groundbreaking innovation Gartner hopes to incorporate into its offering in 2021 is AI technology. Though currently still in the early stages of discussion with the firm developing the software and equipment, Gartner has already highlighted a number of key advantages that AI technology could offer the refrigeration industry, namely the ability to compile predictive weather data for the week ahead and feed those needs into a facility to ensure that a system is operated as effectively as possible.

“There are a lot of different types of controls out there right now, but I don’t know many that are as adaptive as this is, so it is a partnership we are looking to establish and a product we hope to take to a wider audience,” Jim reveals. “Ultimately, we want to be a leader in technology rather than following the rest of the market.”

As we approach the end of a challenging year dominated by Covid-19, Jim is pleased with the way Gartner has negotiated the difficulties presented by the pandemic. Deemed an essential business for most of the previous eight months due to its association with the food and construction industries, Gartner has continued working in line with government safety protocols such as social distancing, regular sanitization, and daily temperature checks. Having made it through one of the most problematic periods of its history unscathed, Jim claims that Gartner remains very much on track heading into the New Year.

“Overall, I think we are very satisfied with 2020,” he remarks. “It’s been a tough year to say the least and at times we have had half or three quarters of the staff working remotely, but I think people have stepped up and embraced the challenge. The pandemic has had an impact on the company, but we are still very close to the business plan we set for the year and we know we are fortunate that the food industry is still so busy.”

At its core, Gartner prides itself on being a learning organization and this is how the company aims to approach the future. Alongside offering a variety of industry training courses, including Ammonia Response Training and Standard Operating Procedures, the firm will continue to teach and support its employees, facilitating their growth into Gartner’s next generation of leaders.

“We are on a very good path and our growth potential right now is very positive,” Jim declares in summary. “There are a couple of new markets we want to move into over the course of the next three years and we will definitely be expanding, either through acquisition or natural growth. Within the markets that we already have a presence in, we are going to be embracing AI technology and increasing the scope of the controls technology that we already provide on a smaller scale. We know there is going to be progress and as a business, we are very confident of a really bright future.”

Gartner Refrigeration
Services: Industrial refrigeration solutions

Built better for longer

From humble beginnings in 1976, Bevan Group is today a multi-award winning manufacturer of commercial vehicle bodies, and a provider of multiple associated services

Having served its customers now for 44 years, Bevan Group is the UK’s leading commercial vehicle bodybuilder, manufacturing over 60 vehicle bodies per week, including curtainsiders, dropsiders and zero-emissions vehicles. Family owned and run, and with over 300 employees across its operations, the group today operates out of five sites, four of which are located in the West Midlands, with another based in St Helens. Each facility specializes in its own build BG atypes and industry sectors, increasing efficiency, consistency and quality across the board.

Placing innovation, longevity and efficiency at the forefront of all of its work, Bevan Group specializes in eight core service offerings. These include, the manufacturing of commercial vehicle bodies, graphic design and application, and passport service, where it has a whole vehicle type approval agency licensing out its approvals to 70 other bodybuilders and which acts as a consultancy to the business. Additional offerings see the group provide glass carrier services, breakdown response, the supply of Bevan and third-party parts to the industry, and the manufacturing and converting of electric/gas and hydrogen vehicles.

The group’s core services are crucial in providing its customers with a ‘one-stop-shop’ service that they heavily benefit from.

“Our ethos at Bevan Group is ‘built better for longer’, and because of this we have a client base that spans many sectors and fleet sizes,” explains Group Sales Director, Roy Shelton. “By building multi-use vehicles, we are able to demonstrate a clear business saving which, when coupled with our new 60-month warranty on all of our products, helps to make us the UK’s industry-leading bodybuilder.”

Bevan bodies are designed and built to be robust, have market-leading life spans, fewer issues during service, and higher residual values. The group works closely alongside its customers and end users across all processes – from vehicle body design through to implementation, vehicle life and disposal – to ensure that it provides a cost-effective and long-lasting solution at all times. “Our customer service is second to none, and we truly pride ourselves on offering a one-stop-shop to our customers and end users,” Roy continues. “We liaise closely with them after the vehicle build is complete in order to gain valuable feedback on what went well, and where any improvements could be made to shape and adapt our offering in the future. Our dedicated Customer Services Manager works directly with our customers on a personal level to ensure that our retention rate remains high. Many of our customers have been working with us for more than 30 years now, which we feel is great testament to the high levels of customer atisfaction that we provide. The feedback from our customers is presented in our quarterly sales meeting, ensuring that our whole operation is customer focused, and that customer service targets are met.”

Key to the success of Bevan Group over the years has been its ability to monitor market trends in order to target specific sectors as they start to emerge by continually adding to its product range. Meanwhile, any acquisitions that the group has made have been done to so to enter a specific sector that it was not previously present within, thus adding to its portfolio of services. While its pricing is at the top end of the market, its ever-growing customer base, warranty, and customer retention levels more than justify its strategy, and shows that it works!

“We stand by our product, and work closely with the end user to build the product that they want, adding innovation where required,” Roy affirms. “We are at the forefront of reducing the image of the industry as working out of old sheds. Our engineering and production teams are always working towards achieving the highest quality vehicles, so that when our customers come to place their next order, it us they think of first. Furthermore, our sales team are not tasked with just looking for the next order from a customer. Rather, they are looking for those orders that will still be being placed in five or ten years’ time, and not just so called ‘quick wins’. At the end of the day, we want to win new business and, most importantly, keep it.”BG b

More important than the above to Bevan Group’s prosperity, however, have been its people. “They are everything to us,” Roy proudly states. “This is a family run business, but with over 300 employees and close communication between our different brands, it is easy for everyone to feel a part of the team. This is a feeling that we look to instill in all of our people, from the large number of customer facing staff that we have, through to our customer care teams, sales people, and our more than 50 mobile engineers who interact with the end user every single day.”

It is a methodology that is clearly reaping its rewards, with Bevan Group continuing to be the recipient of a number of major industry awards. One of the most recent saw it named ‘Bodybuilder of the Year’ at the prestigious Commercial Motor Awards 2020. This marked the second time that Bevan Group had entered the competition, and its second success following its taking of the honors in 2017. “At a time when some of our team were furloughed and some were continuing to work, this achievement certainly helped in making everyone feel a part of the success of the group,” Roy says. “Thus far, in 2020, we have entered a number of different awards, and in each one we have not failed to be shortlisted.”

In the case of the Commercial Motor Awards 2020, its independent judging panel of road transport sector specialists singled out Bevan Group for praise as a business “bursting with innovation” and one that shows it continues to have “an eye for the future, particularly when it comes to electric vehicles”. This latter comment is especially significant as it follows the launch – in March 2020 – of En-Veco, a specialist business unit established to support operators as they make the transition to more sustainable road transport solutions.

As well as producing and fitting high-volume Voltia bodies for fully electric Nissan e-NV200 vans, En-Veco – the name is an abbreviation of ‘environmental vehicle conversions’ – offers a comprehensive bodybuilding service that covers other chassis which employ gas as well as battery power, including hybrids. “This side of the business represents a totally new start up for Bevan Group,” Roy adds. “To support 69it, we have sourced a production facility and tailored it to the needs of this particular product. Part of this is the conversion of panel vans which we have not previously been involved in. The staff will all be fully trained in the best practices of working on these types of vehicles, and the skills set will be increased as new products are launched.”

Despite the well-publicized challenges encountered by all industries throughout the world in 2020, Bevan Group is buoyed by the fact that as we enter the final few weeks of the year, it has not only maintained its customer base, but has also not seen any of its existing contracts cancelled. With this in mind, it has set itself several short, medium and long-term goals.

“Our short-term strategy is to stay stable and maintain our high-quality standards. Then, in the medium to long-term, we need to ensure that we keep ahead of the market by sourcing the right products, whilst also continuing to innovate. By doing so we can look to ensure that Bevan Group remains the first point of call for those customers who wish to receive industry-leading quality solutions and service,” Roy concludes.

Bevan Group
Services: Commercial vehicle bodybuilders

Masters of defense

A world-leading developer of specialist products for defense and commercial use, Sparton has been at the cutting edge of technology and innovation for more than a century

Celebrating its 120th anniversary in 2020, Sparton Corporation (Sparton) is a pioneering enterprise that has participated in many of the technological milestones of the 20th century. Sparton paced the introduction of the automobile by producing the electrical horn, introduced fully electric radios, and designed and developed sonobuoys and other Undersea Warfare capabilities. Across its 12 decades of operating success, Sparton’s resilient and agile business has been a leader in commercial, industrial, and defense markets.

Today, Sparton is predominantly a provider of specialty engineered proprietary products for domestic and foreign defense, as well as a variety of commercial needs. Designing products from sonobuoys to inertial systems to rugged SC acomputers, the company’s work is divided across three divisions: Sparton Undersea Warfare Solutions, Aydin Displays, and Stealth.

Sparton Chief Executive Officer, William J. Toti, explains: “Sparton Undersea Warfare Solutions is our largest division and covers the design, development, testing, and production of complex maritime electronic systems, including sonobuoys in support of Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and submarine deployed products supporting Undersea Warfare (USW). The division also covers navigation exploration, which produces micro electromagnetic miniature systems-based sensor systems for precision measurement of position, orientation, and direction applications.

“Our second division, Aydin, is an industry leader in the design, development, testing, and production of ruggedized displays for defense and industrial use, such as naval surface and subsurface vessels, ground units, aircraft, and air traffic control. Finally, our third division, Stealth, is a leading manufacturer and supplier of industrial computer components and industrial-grade small form factor PCs.”

As William suggests, the production of sonobuoys is a major part of Sparton’s current operations. Small, expendable, air-dropped listening devices used for the detection of submarines, sonobuoys have been manufactured by Sparton since the 1950s and the company continues to design and develop sonobuoys as well as new, innovative Undersea Warfare solutions for the U.S. Navy.

Due to the fluid and constantly evolving nature of Sparton’s work, product development is a key process at the company. Driven by the individual needs of the customer, and based on strong partnerships with clients, the latest product innovations at Sparton are the result of a team effort to provide solutions to some of the industry’s toughest and most complex engineering and manufacturing problems.

“For all our projects, we use the Advanced Quality Product Planning product development process,” William elaborates. “This process is structured to assure that the product development procedure is organized and the design and process inputs and outputs are recognized and accounted for at each phase. The phases are highly interactive with overlapping relationship of efforts in design, manufacturing, and quality, which requires simultaneous engineering.

“The work environment is very much one of innovation and is fueled by an amazing team of people who demonstrate a passion and purpose to solve our clients’ most pressing issues,” he continues. “This team culture is reinforced by Sparton’s Technical Awards Program that incentivizes employees to generate new IP, technologies, and innovative processes.”

Sparton continues to look for ways to enhance production efficiency and site capabilities. The Undersea Warfare Solutions Division, for example, operates from a dedicated 80,000-square foot manufacturing facility, as well as an 82,000-square foot engineering and administration site. Among the benefits of this site is dedicated engineering space for design; analysis and prototyping; specialized testing equipment to replicate unique operational and environmental conditions; a flexible layout to facilitate multi-shift operation; and internally designed equipment utilizing automation to help execute operations with high levels of ergonomic precision.

According to William, the move is already paying off: “Earlier this year, Sparton De Leon Springs won two significant awards from the Volusia Manufacturers Association,” he reports. “We were named Manufacturer of the Year and separately, took home the Innovation Award. We were also thrilled that seven of our talented employees were recognized as ‘Women in Manufacturing’.

“While we are proud of our accomplishments, we continue to focus on the future and are always looking to evolve and grow. Our offices in De Leon Springs have been central in our operations and the official relocation has allowed us to complete some requisite administrative changes to match our business. One of the most important programs we have in place to improve efficiency is our Continuous Improvement program, which utilizes a variety of systems, tools, and practices to introduce standardized best practices and stability into our daily processes, while delivering quality operational results.”

The widespread acclaim Sparton continues to earn has helped the company win several leading clients over the years, none more so than the U.S. Navy, with whom the company has developed a strong relationship. Earlier in 2020, Sparton was awarded a highly competitive $12 million contract for the Q101B sonobuoy in support of the President’s designated critical infrastructure production capability. This is a cooperative agreement effort with the U.S. Navy, which will see the two parties work closely together to ensure that Sparton is designing and developing a product that meets the needs of the fleet.

“As we continue to advance in the Undersea Warfare market, we routinely coordinate with other Navy program offices,” William remarks. “For example, some recent orders include a variety of our 3-inch products. With these products, we are able to package several different capabilities – including intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and electromagnetic signatures – into a 3-inch container that provides a unique advantage for our customer, the U.S. Navy, which places high value on products that minimize size, weight, and power generation. One of our 3-inch products, the Submarine Launched Unmanned Aerial System, was recently lauded as ‘an amazing opportunity for the Navy’ by their senior Program Executive Officer, Rear Admiral Goggins, due to the way it could enhance the fleet’s future warfighting ability.”

While Sparton has continued to drive its ongoing mission to remain the customers’ first choice for ASW and USW solutions this year, the company has also had to contend with the impact of COVID-19. With the mobilization of a SC bCOVID-19 task force at the very beginning of the pandemic, Sparton has stayed ahead of the curve in terms of prevention practices and safety guidelines. Consequently, the company was not only able to ensure the safety and well-being of its employees, but was also able to exceed expectations with regard to its performance between January and June, recording the best six months in company history.

“Our record-breaking performance for the second half of our fiscal year is what I am most proud of during my time at Sparton,” William states. “Despite the headwinds brought on by COVID-19, our team was able to produce more sonobuoys than any other six-month period in our history. Our performance is testament to the safety and prevention practices we installed and the unwavering commitment of every employee.”

While inspired by the company’s response throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, William was not at all surprised by his team’s talent, dedication, and hard work. As far as Sparton’s CEO is concerned, people have always been the heart of the business and are the cornerstone to Sparton’s 120 years of success. A multi-generational workforce that includes personnel with over 50 years of service, Sparton’s team encapsulates core American values of patriotism, family, and hard work.

“It is dedication that sets a Sparton team member apart from the rest and we make sure we reward that,” William says. “A focus on safety, time with family, and celebrating success makes Sparton a stand-out employer in return.”

With over a century of accomplishments and growth, Sparton is now looking to further its legacy. With 2021 around the corner, the company is currently developing products as part of early competition for independently designed sonobuoys to be selected in 2022. Closely following the U.S. Navy’s evolving shipbuilding and warfighting strategy, Sparton hopes to continue to drive innovative with highly effective products and solutions in the years to come.

“I think our strategic plan lines up nicely with where the Navy is going with its warfighting concepts, particularly in the undersea domain,” William points out. “Overall, I think our Undersea Warfare solutions product line is well positioned to support the U.S. Navy’s Fleet of the future.

“For now, though, our most important goal is to compete for the new sonobuoy contracts and solidify our position as the premier U.S.-based sonobuoy provider. At the same time, we will continue to diversify in the Undersea Warfare market by providing leading-edge solutions, including a variety of payload delivery capabilities. Finally, we want to expand our market share in the ruggedized displays and computer component markets.”

Looking back on an unprecedented year of disruption that ultimately became one of Sparton’s most successful periods in its 12-decade history, William concludes: “This has been the ultimate ‘all hands-on deck’ effort. I couldn’t be prouder to be a member of this winning team.”

Sparton Corporation
Products: Sonobuoys and other maritime defense technologies

Ahead of the game

Centurion Safety Products has been safeguarding workers for over 140 years with its integrated systems that combine total head protection with total ease

Founded in 1878, Centurion Safety Products (Centurion) was an ambitious start-up created by the entrepreneurs Edward Charles Vickers and Edwin William Knowles, after the pair were granted a patent to make a waterproof replacement for leather, pottery and paper mâché. Initially, the business was known as The Patent Pulp Manufacturing Co., and soon – under the leadership of new boss, Louis Adler – it was using its patented pulping methods to CSP adevelop, design and produce household articles such as basins, basin bowls, tubs, and trays.

It was then, in 1900, that the company won its first contract with the government to make pith helmets for the army of the day. The publicity gained from this contract resulted in the company also supplying hard hats for use in mines and shipyards. By the 1930s, its ‘Hard Hat’ was worn by thousands of miners across the land, and the company also found itself being a key part of the growing motorcycle industry, with the manufacture of its Centurion motorcycle helmets, which were first made of pulp in two layers, with a riveted harness and cradle.

Come the 1950s, pulp had slowly become obsolete and replaced by polythene. The company survived by upgrading from manufacturing pulp to plastic moulding, and in 1964 it changed its name to Thetford Moulded Products Ltd. By being flexible, innovative and able to react quickly to market forces, it expanded its range of safety products, while also becoming a major supplier of safety helmets to the National Coal Board. Other highlights in the coming years included, the release of its best-selling, jet-style XSC helmet in 1970, the arrival of its first injection moulded, full face helmet in 1973, and the launch of its ‘Sprint’ helmet in 1978.

By 1990, the company had moved into larger premises in order to accommodate growing demand, and in 1997 it officially changed its name to Centurion Safety Products as a means of reflecting the fact that it now concentrated solely on the manufacturing of its Centurion range of personal protective equipment (PPE). This century, the company has also been responsible for the creation of the lightest safety helmet on the market – 2004’s The Concept Helmet – and in 2016 it launched its modern and practical design, The Nexus.

“This is a business that was founded through innovation and disrupting the market, and it has survived and thrived by being a leader, rather than a ‘me-too’ follower,” explains Centurion’s Chief Executive Officer, Nick Hurt. “We are a founder member of the British Safety Industry Federation, and have been a leading participant in EU committees responsible for legislating on head protection equipment for industrial and leisure use.”

Today, Centurion offers a wide range of advanced helmet, bump cap and respiratory protection systems, as well as complementary accessories. Its integrated head protection systems combine total safety with total ease, so wearers are free to focus on the task at hand. Its comprehensive range of safety products covers the needs of workers in a multitude of applications and industries. These include general purpose helmets for the day-to-day grind, innovative bump caps that set the standard in form and function, advanced respiratory protection systems designed to help workers thrive in the most challenging environments, face protection for up close and personal tasks, hearing protection for those potentially deafening environments, and specialized helmet systems for more adept tasks.

Partnerships are also very important to Centurion. “We know we can’t be good at everything, so we work with people who think like us, and augment our skills and the value we bring,” Nick reveals. “One such key partner is Vanilla Electronics Ltd (Vanilla), a provider of technical supply chain solutions. Based just across the road from us, Vanilla started as a family-owned component distributor and now offers a fully outsourced service to its customers who are specialist, high-end technology manufacturers like us. Vanilla helps us consolidate our complex supply chain, leading to operational and financial benefits and longevity in the relationships.

“In what is an increasingly global market, we have chosen to focus each day on designing, developing and manufacturing in a way that pushes and establishes standards that our competitors have to catch up to, while also solving and preempting specific wearer needs and issues,” Nick states. “We feel, however, that this is not enough, and that we also must tell the story of why we do what we do. To achieve that, we have to improve the knowledge and understanding around key safety issues and help the market understand the importance of protecting the head – every part of it.

“In 2017, we started this journey with the development of a unique training facility at our headquarters called Clarity Counts University, and the employment of our Training and Education Specialist, Chris Tidy. Since then, we have CSP bdeveloped and established a market leading learning and development program comprising of over 30 bespoke training and education modules covering history, standards and products, in a way that makes the complex simple.”

Centurion’s strategic initiatives are focused on improving knowledge and understanding through training and education, reducing brain injury in the workplace through collaborative partnerships, and enhancing wearer safety through exceeding standards and enhanced levels of protection. “We need to be like our founders and like our past, disrupting and leading the industry in our design, development and manufacturing, but also in our training and education,” Nick continues, “Through continually upgrading transformational education, research and innovation, we aim to make a positive difference to, and impact on, the PPE industry, enabling us to lead and push innovation in PPE safety for years to come.”

The company today has two production facilities, one based in Thetford in the UK, and the other in the Middle East, where it specializes in the manufacture of helmet, respiratory and bump cap systems that can be customized according to individual specifications. This is all backed up with technology-based machinery and tools that allow it to produce quality products that are recognized worldwide. Nick is at pains to stress also that machines without the right people with the right skills and ambitions are just metal. “Our people are not just highly skilled and competent. They also understand the importance of what we do and how we do it,” he enthuses.

A cornerstone to Centurion’s success over the years has also been its willingness to invest in itself, not only in the way of new technology, but also its internal processes and infrastructure. This is well reflected in its recent, ongoing and forthcoming investment in 3D printing technology, an entirely new ERP system, and in its own Innovation Centre.

“For over 140 years, Centurion has always been keen to understand and adopt new technologies,” Nick confirms. “For example, we have been actively using 3D printing technology for rapid prototyping and component development for a number of years. We have also partnered with leading 3D print design and manufacturing companies to expand that technology into our existing product range. We will continue to facilitate the expansion of 3D technology into our mainstream manufacturing processes, and are currently engaged with the University of Warwick in ongoing projects to advance additive manufacturing processes.”

Meanwhile, when it comes to the aforementioned new intelligent ERP system, the company has just recently gone live with this development. “In an age when incumbent status is absolutely no defense against the competition, maintaining a sustained competitive advantage for our customers requires us to provide services that will surprise and delight them,” Nick adds. “Our new intelligent ERP (i-ERP) provides connectivity and access – machine learning and advanced analytics built off a data set that enables us to forecast, track, learn, route, analyze, predict, report, and manage our resources and business processes. Our new i-ERP is the backbone of a digital transformation that will see us fit for today, and lead to us having smarter factories, products and services for the future.”

Last, but by no means least, Nick also details how the company intends to dedicate one of its existing large buildings towards building an Innovation Centre. “Like any other UK manufacturing business, we will only survive and succeed if we have some of the best products in the world. We will bring together our commercial teams and our innovation teams so that neither operate in silos and to ensure that we truly have market leading innovation. In time, I would like to develop the area to include a customer training area, as well as an area where we can showcase our latest products and the innovations that we are working on.

“I am also acutely aware that we are in a real battle to recruit the best and brightest talent. I believe the Innovation Centre will be visible proof of our commitment to ongoing innovation and self-disruption, and can be one of the tools we use to attract the most talented engineers, technicians and marketeers to the business, by providing a modern and world class work environment.”

2020 has been a strong year for Centurion, so, as it moves into 2021 it does so with cautious optimism and a sense of excitement. “There will be challenges, but we will adapt and innovate, and find ways of turning those challenges into opportunities. In the longer term, I believe the sky is the limit for us. We have an exciting new product development pipeline, a committed team with loads of skills and experience, plus a complementary network of partners,” Nick concludes.

Centurion Safety Products
Products: Integrated head protection products

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