Projects and Features
Family firm invests for growth
Barrett Steel is a leading force among UK steel stockholders, celebrating 150 years of family ownership this year. NSC reports on the company’s ambitious, five year, investment-led growth plan.
Bradford based Barrett Steel has grown from a one-man band founded by Henry Barrett into the prominent steel stockholding force it is known as today while proudly maintaining its family owned independence.
Construction is a key market for the company which is split into four broad divisions – General Steels, Engineering Steels, Tubes and International. Construction is served mostly by the largest division, General Steels, where a new operating company called Barrett Constructional Steel has recently been established to focus on larger steelwork contractor clients.
Barrett Steel holds a stock of around 100,000t of steel that can be delivered wherever a customer needs it by the company’s own vehicle fleet, providing a just-in-time delivery service across the UK. The great breadth of this stock as well as the company’s UK construction focus can be gleaned from its General Steels product brochure, illustrating virtually all of the steel elements needed to create modern structures including heavy structural sections, steel plate, tubular sections, light sections, flats and angles.
Over 65% of steel supplied in the UK comes via a steel stockholder; Barrett Steel is one of the largest of those specialising in the construction sector. Many of the iconic – as well as the smaller structures that we pass each day and seldom notice – might have used Barrett Steel supplied material.
Customers include the steel construction sector household names and Barrett Steel supplied steel is known to have been used on many diverse projects both in the UK and overseas, such as Rushden Lakes and Friars Walk shopping centres.
Stockholders like Barrett Steel are far from being simply the bulk breaking middle men of the past. The company maintains a cutting edge steel processing capability aimed specifically at the constructional steelwork sector thanks to continuous investment in quality and productivity enhancing computer controlled equipment. State-of-the-art laser cutting machinery sits beside more traditional kit for sawing, shot blasting and priming.
Steelwork contractors value being able to have the routine operations possible on these machines carried out at the stockholders while they focus on design, more intricate fabricating operations and erection on site.
Processing capabilities have been boosted by recent investment in a new FICEP Endeavour three spindle drilling line for the processing of beams and shaped rolled sections with small and large dimensions.
This is leading edge technology that is directly geared to meeting the needs of UK construction customers and the company sees the investment as a significant step forward in beam processing.
Group Managing Director James Barrett said: “The construction sector continues to be extremely important to Barrett Steel and represents a significant portion of heavy section sales.
“We have always been forward thinking in our approach and over the years we have grown our business to support a wide array of market sectors. Construction will remain at the core of our business alongside the development of numerous other sectors.
“We continue to invest in our stock and service offering to ensure that we remain at the forefront of the steel stockholding sector. Our developments into the Scottish and Irish markets in recent years have opened opportunities for us and we are constantly looking to expand either organically or via acquisition.”
The Barrett family has always taken a hands on approach to running the company. James Barrett began work with the company in 1973 by slinging steel in the Bradford warehouse. He gained experience in various roles before moving on to work in the accounts, purchasing and sales departments.
He and his fellow family shareholders are firmly committed to the company remaining a family business and being driven by the next generation of the Barrett family. The sixth generation, Tom and Guy, both currently hold roles within the Group.
James Barrett said: “We are proud of how far we have come in the past 150 years. Our success has been thanks to the hard work and dedication of every Barrett employee over the years and all of the customers and suppliers who have partnered with us.
“We look forward to continuing our success and developing further in the future.”
Barrett Steel is a headline sponsor of Steel for Life
Investing for the future
Earlier this year the company secured £80m as part of a funding package to support a five year development plan that includes growing turnover to £300m by 2020 and expanding overseas trading, exactly the sort of manufacturing export strategy that the government is keen to promote to bolster the economy.
The £250 million turnover group now has 44 operating companies, employing 200 people at its Bradford head office,1,030 across the group’s operations in the UK as well as overseas in the United States, Middle East and Europe.
The new financing will help it grow sales overseas in markets like 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 averages £6m per annum and will focus 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.
Securing that level of funding involved scrutiny from lending institutions, who were happy enough with the company’s commercial set up to comment that Barrett Steel had transformed its business in recent years, investing in the latest technology and employee training.
Group Managing Director James Barrett said: “With the new funding in place, we are able to invest in advanced steel processing technology that will drive growth, and focus on maximising commercial opportunities both in the UK and globally to ensure continued progress.
“We are very excited about developing our relationships in overseas markets like Dubai as well as uncovering future prospects for the business over the next few years.”
Full service offer
As well as supplying the full range of general steel products including universal beams, columns, channels, angles and flat products, Barrett Steel also offers full processing facilities including:
- Surface treatment – shot blasting to BS EN ISO 8501-1 SA21/2.
- Primer painting using water based weldable holding primer to 25 micron dft (high build to 75 micron available).
- Square and bevel cutting on the full range of structural sections.
- Sawing and drilling using our close coupled saw drill lines with hard stamping facility – coordinates can be received electronically via StruCad or XSteel producing information in DSTV and/or CAM formats, or input from physical drawings.
- Punching and shearing for both flats and angles – ideal for the production of base plates, trusses, connection plates and braces.
- Full profiling facilities including laser plate cutting, plasma plate cutting and oxy-propane flame cutting.
- Laser tube cutting and plasma tube profiling up to 1500mm diameter.
Barrett Steel is CE approved to Execution Class 4.