With authority comes responsibility and that’s not something that Anthony Carlyle, the new managing director at IKO Plc, is taking lightly. New management has allowed for strategic alterations to the company’s operating structure and here Anthony outlines the changes at IKO and the outlook for 2019.
Last year was an exceptionally positive year for IKO, full of growth and investment into vital areas of the business. The most obvious sign of this investment was the opening of our brand new PIR insulation factory at Alconbury, Cambridgeshire, filling what many customers saw as the gap in our overall offer. This facility becomes IKO’s third insulation factory in Europe and the UK was selected as an attractive place to invest thanks to the core strength of the UK business.
However, we have seen substantial growth in all business areas, from IKO Polymeric out of Clay Cross, Chesterfield – now exporting to more than 20 countries in Europe – to hot melt and mastic asphalt at Grangemill, Derbyshire where we are seeing some great innovations in terms of both new products and manufacturing efficiency.
Alongside major changes there have also been numerous examples, even just since I’ve been in this role, where we’ve been asked to find a solution for customers which involves putting together a creative combination of our product offering. With IKO’s resources, we should always have a solution and we need to start thinking outside the box more.
Over the years, I think it’s fair to say that IKO as a business has been a little bit fractured. Much of this comes down to having such a diverse product offer which serves a very wide range of customers who may appear to have little in common.
We need to start operating our business in a more joined-up way and changes introduced over the last six months have provided progressive steps to ensure that IKO is in the best position for 2019 and beyond. We are restructuring in the true sense of the word, making sure that we are providing the best possible products and service for the market now as opposed to the market of 12 years ago.
It doesn’t make sense to bring on a new managing director and not make any changes. What needs to be recognised is the positivity behind the restructure at IKO and already we are seeing benefits.
The structure that we are putting in now is the right one to put us in the strongest position we can possibly be in, regardless of market conditions, and focussing on what we do best. There has, and will continue to be, significant investment into people, equipment and new processes: with this comes new energy and a strong and positive vision for the future.
It’s a very customer-centric focus with the recruitment of a new Key Account Team and the development and restructure of our existing technical team. We are moving away from the traditional Area Sales Manager role and evolving to a more holistic approach with all staff focussed on business development in its widest sense. We don’t want to keep people in boxes and instead are providing the structure and training to allow for a more free-thinking approach to providing solutions from across the business.
The result of this process will be that our customers will see a better service from a more multi-disciplined technical team, giving a more rounded approach. Contractors don’t want to see two different IKO people on the same project doing inspections and reports; they want one person, with the authority and respect to make decisions on all disciplines and that is what we are achieving. We want to make sure that we can offer contractors a high-quality support structure with first class technical back-up – that’s what our contractors tell us they look for.
Coupled with personnel changes, 2019 is another multi-million-pound year of investment across the IKO factories. At Appley Bridge it’s all about speed, efficiency, consistency and quality control. At Grange Mill it’s more about innovation with ideas of offsite construction and prefabricated units. Technically the fundamentals of hot melt do not change, but new product development is key to supporting new methods of build and that’s where our focus will be. The Clay Cross facility will receive the largest investment of 2019, to enhance the line, increasing the PVC export range and opening us up to new markets.
Essentially, I’m looking to evolve our business. The building industry is, I believe, set for major changes in the years ahead and all manufacturers need to develop to keep ahead of the game.
With our recent track record of success and growth it would be all too easy to relax and keep doing what we’ve been doing: I think that would be a complete mistake. The time to change is when you are being successful and have the energy and the resources to invest and move the business on.
I understand what has made the IKO brand so successful – I’ve been on the board for 13 years – but I also see the need for change and am delighted to have the opportunity to further develop this increasingly strong organisation.