Projects and Features
Barrett Steel raising the bar
Barrett Steel’s investment-led growth is consolidating the steel stockholder’s position at the fore of supplying the thriving steel construction market. Customers are reaping the benefits as the investment plan gathers pace, as NSC reports.
The opening of Bradford based Barrett Steel’s new facility at Montrose in Scotland in March marked a key step forward in the company’s strategy of growth by investing to maintain its family owned independence, while providing the UK steel construction and other key markets with a class-leading service.
Already one of the biggest stockholders in the UK, Barrett Steel aims to increase its presence in Scotland from a base in Bathgate, West Lothian, which has recently been augmented by the new Montrose distribution centre.
Montrose is conveniently placed to serve the north east Scotland market, lying between Dundee and Aberdeen on the Angus coast. The site holds some 2,000 tonnes of general steels and has extensive on-site steel processing facilities.
The Group’s five-year investment programme is on track to achieve an objective of growing turnover in the UK and overseas to £300 million by 2020, from £250 million at the start of the five-year period. ‘That is a sustainable and manageable rate of increase,’ says Group Managing Director James Barrett. ‘It isn’t all about growth though, our investments have been carefully considered to enable us to provide customers with the highest quality products and services at the most competitive price.
‘The feedback from clients across the sectors we work in, including construction, has been highly positive and we are confident that we are improving the quality of our products and services and the efficiency of our operations at the same time as expanding.’
Barrett Steel operates under four main divisions – General Steels, Engineering Steels, Tubes and International – and construction is a key market. Most construction related products and services are supplied via the largest division, General Steels. A new operating company called Barrett Constructional Steel focuses exclusively on larger steelwork contractors, who are likely to have unique and challenging requirements due to the larger size and complexity of the projects they work on.
The General Steels division provides practically all of the steel elements needed to create modern structures including heavy structural sections, steel plate, tubular sections, light sections, flats and angles. A stock of some 100,000 tonnes of steel is available at any one time for just-in-time delivery to wherever customers need it using the company’s own vehicle fleet.
The Group is proud of its technically advanced steel processing capabilities aimed specifically at constructional steelwork, a leading edge service that is kept up-to-date by continuous investment in quality and productivity enhancing computer controlled equipment.
State-of-the-art equipment includes machinery for sawing, shotblasting and priming, which is traditionally the sort of service delivered by steelwork contractors, Barrett Steel’s main clients. Far from this creating conflicts of interest though, steelwork contractors value having routine operations using this equipment carried out by stockholders, allowing them to focus on design, more challenging fabricating operations and erection.
Recent investment in leading edge processing equipment has included a three spindle drilling line for processing beams and shaped rolled sections with small and large dimensions. This is directly aimed at meeting the needs of UK steelwork contractor customers, a significant step forward in beam processing.
Group Managing Director James Barrett said: “The construction sector will always be extremely important to Barrett Steel and represents a significant portion of our heavy section sales. Expansion over the years has led us into other markets like offshore, several of which will see continuing growth, but construction remains the core of our business.
Mr Barrett singled out investments to support growth in the Scottish and Irish markets as having opened new opportunities. “Continuous investment in our stock and service offering will ensure that we remain at the forefront of the steel stockholding sector.” “We are constantly looking to expand either organically or via acquisition,” he said.
“We have come a long way as an independent, family owned company since being founded 150 years ago. Our success is due to the hard work and dedication of our employees and the customers and suppliers who have partnered with us. We look forward to continuing that tradition of success and continuous development to serve changing markets.”
Excellence roll out
Barrett Steel reported a solid trading performance in its latest annual results, for 2016. James Barrett said in his trading statement on the release of the results that Brexit had not yet had any impact on demand in the company’s traditional construction markets. Weak sterling was forcing importers to consider increasing prices, which made price rises almost inevitable in any products incorporating imported raw materials or products, he warned.
A notable landmark during the year was achieving ISO 14001 accreditation across all the Group’s UK sites, underlining the Group’s commitment to sustainability and minimising environmental impacts. New investments in the last year included saw/drill lines at Bradford and facilities in Ireland and Scunthorpe. Over £1 million was invested in IT systems during the year and £1 million on enhancing the HGV fleet.
Quality is being enhanced by the investments in machinery, and also by investing in people, as seen in the Barrett Excellence Programme that is being rolled out across the Group. Several series of courses are under way, ensuring that senior managers and shop floor team leaders are properly equipped to deliver the high level of product and service that clients expect.
The Group’s Business Excellence Programme has been branded ‘Raising the Bar’ and training specialist Qualitrain has been recruited to roll out business improvement techniques across the Group following pilot schemes that have seen 154 of the workforce already trained.
Barrett Steel now has 44 operating companies, with 200 people employed at the Bradford head office and 1,030 across its operations in the UK, as well as overseas in the United States, Middle East and Europe, all of whom will be involved in the Raising the Bar programme.
The Group secured funding of £80m last year to support its development plan, which includes overseas expansion in markets including Southeast Asia and the Middle East. Barrett Steel already supplies steel to cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The investment programme is focussed on the latest added value steel processing technology, ongoing replacement of the company’s fleet of HGV’s, upgrading IT systems and ensuring that staff have the skills needed to deliver on quality and productivity targets and compete against international competition.
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