Active Supply & Design (CDM) Ltd is an award-winning independent UK-based company with a wealth of experience in the design, construction and installation of mezzanine floors for a variety of industry sectors. Over the last two decades the company has built up an enviable customer base in the supply of storage services, and recent years have seen a positive change in the company’s prosperity and its scope of activities.
Active provide customers with a wide choice from their vast product range of column cladding, decking, staircases and handrails all designed to compliment customers’ buildings and match their corporate image. Scott Woodcock, AS&D’s Sales Director, spoke to Warehouse & Logistics News.
Warehouse & Logistics News – First of all Scott, what is your role in the company?
I’m a director of the company and together with Gareth Williams run the business on a day to day basis. I’m directly involved with the sales and marketing side, and have been for the past thirteen years.
WLN – Do you get personally involved in developing and installing mezzanine floors for customers?
Yes, my role is very hands on throughout an entire project from concept through to handover at completion stage. I, of course, work closely with all our other team members, both internally and externally.
WLN – How are you set up to service individual customers’ needs for mezzanine floors, in terms of telephone sales and field sales engineers?
We’ve always been a very hands on, close knit team: our Sales & Marketing Manager, Richard Allen, manages incoming sales, and we have a small team handling field sales. Supporting them is a group of in house designers working not only on floors but also on the many other storage solutions we offer. We also have a team of subcontract installers, all of whom have worked solely for us over the last 20 years and form a key part of the Active team.
WLN – When was Active Supply & Design (CDM) founded, and who by?
Andrew Donaldson founded Active in 1991, and we recently celebrated our first twenty years with a birthday party for our loyal suppliers and a number of our key customers.
WLN – What was Andrew doing before that?
Andrew was working for a competitor in the shelving industry. He wanted to go solo and saw an opportunity. With the aid of the Prince’s Trust he obtained a £2,000 grant and to make the cash go further, sold his motorbike, and began working for himself in the storage industry. Once he got established he appointed Mike Howard, as his right hand man and through sheer hard work and determination laid the foundations of what the company is today.
WLN – Is Andrew still involved in the company?
Andrew is still our CEO, but he’s not involved in day to day operations, as he also runs his own successful self-storage chain called BiG Storage, and sits on the Prince’s Trust’s North West leadership board. So he’s repaying the support and commitment that he was given in the early days, by helping other people who are starting out now.
WLN – Who owns the company now?
The shareholders are Andrew Donaldson, his business partner Mark Holme, Gareth Williams and myself.
WLN – Where are you based?
We’re in Crewe, Cheshire. It’s an ideal location, 30 minutes from Manchester and three hours from both London and Glasgow – well placed from a logistics perspective.
WLN – How big is Active Supply & Design now in terms of turnover and employees?
Our current turnover is around £7 million. We have a small team of 12, plus subcontractors in the field. We’re currently looking to add people to our sales department, to allow Richard to concentrate on pushing our business on further in areas we want to penetrate or expand.
WLN – What do the initials ‘CDM’ mean in your company name?
CDM stands for Construction, Design and Management, which are regulations aimed at improving the overall management and co-ordination of health, safety and welfare throughout all stages of a construction project.
WLN – Do you cover the whole of the UK?
We cover the whole of mainland UK, plus Northern and Southern Ireland, and also work throughout Europe: in fact, our involvement in Europe has increased in recent times. We’re well respected in the self-storage industry, both here and overseas, and find this helps us to pick up mezzanine floor work outside the UK.
WLN – What else do you do besides design, construct and install mezzanine floors?
Our food and drink is all forms of storage solutions –partitioning of all types, pallet racking, shelving, and associated building works. We mainly provide mezzanine floors for office installations, production areas and all forms of storage. Our strengths are in turnkey project management: just one phone call, and we gather all the requirements together and provide efficient solutions for the end user.
We also supply steel-framed buildings: we have built several for storage operators in France and Spain, and recently completed a major warehouse extension for a manufacturing company in the UK. We’ve had several further enquiries since then, and now have a dedicated website for this service, www.activesteelbuildings.co.uk. We’re working flat out, hence the need for another sales person, to allow us to continue to progress all opportunities as we look to expand.
WLN – What proportion of your business is mezzanine floors?
Mezzanine floors are around 50% of our turnover in value terms. We are a big steel partitioning supplier, but our mezzanine orders have increased in recent years as people look at expanding their operations. In good times people would possibly look for other accommodation, but in tougher times they look to maximise their present premises with a mezzanine floor in order to optimise space.
WLN – Where do you design and fabricate your mezzanine floors?
We design in Crewe, and our steelwork is drilled and fabricated in the West Midlands. All our design work is fully digital and utilises the latest design and structural software packages.
WLN – What industry standards do you make your mezzanine floors to?
We produce our floors to BS5950.
WLN – What’s your USP: why buy a mezzanine floor from Active Supply & Design?
We’ve always prided ourselves on our high levels of service. Our motto is, give the customer what they want, when they want it. You wouldn’t believe the number of times people tell us they’ve asked for quotes, but the supplier hasn’t come back with the right information. When we give the client a schedule, we stick to it. We’re extremely tight on programme deadlines, this being reflected in the amount of repeat business we secure. We are also unique in that our clients have one point of contact throughout the whole process, which results in better business relationships being formed.
WLN – What awards have you won?
We’ve won a number of them over the years: in the early 1990s we won the Shell LiveWIRE UK national winner for the most promising business enterprise, and in 1996 the Duke of Westminster Special Award and the Prince’s Trust’s Best Commercial Achievement Award. We’ve won another Shell UK award since then, and we were granted Investors In People status in 2002. We are Construction Line qualified, and this year we also achieved CHAS accreditation, Contractors Health & Safety Assessment.
WLN – Which industry sectors are your customers in? What applications do people use your mezzanine floors for?
We put mezzanine floors into manufacturing facilities, and have worked around customers whilst they remain operational. When we install our floors in distribution warehouses, we will often need to work overnight to ensure the minimum of disruption. We also put floors into retail environments, car dealerships, self-storage facilities and for office purposes, in fact anything and everything that needs extra space.
WLN – Do you sell your mezzanine floors to contractors and integrators?
We normally sell them direct to the end user, but are equally happy to talk to contractors and integrators. We often wear both hats and do projects for a number of main contractors.
WLN – What is your particular proposition for customers in the warehouse & logistics sector?
We have 20 years’ consistent experience in this industry, building mezzanine floors. We have a depth of knowledge of working for clients in warehouses that are operating 24/7, and have done so many times over the years. Our vast experience and positive attitude has benefited many of our clients over the years and ensured successful conclusions to complicated projects.
WLN – Can you name any of your past customers, and talk about what you have done for them?
We tend not to disclose our customers’ identity, but we work for everyone from major PLCs to small independent businesses, in manufacturing, self storage, retail, the public sector and warehousing and logistics.
WLN – How have the price of your mezzanine floors been affected by recent commodity price rises?
It won’t surprise your readers to hear that commodity prices have increased both in terms of steel and timber decking. We will absorb increases in costs where we can, but during volatile periods we say prices can only be held for a certain length of time to protect ourselves. In this situation clients are generally well informed and understand the environmental and economical challenges faced.
WLN – How long does it take from ordering a mezzanine floor to having it installed?
If approval of our drawings is quick then from the order to arriving on site we generally take about three to four weeks.
WLN – How long does it take to install a mezzanine floor?
It depends on the size: on one project recently we installed 700 square metres per week of a three-tier mezzanine floor, and have equalled these rates on numerous occasions. However, in respect of installation times, every floor is different and should be viewed individually.
WLN – How long is the waiting list for your mezzanine floors?
As I mentioned in a previous question, our lead time can be as little as three to four weeks from order stage. Sometimes as demand increases we may need the fabrication department to work around the clock, but we will always aspire to the shortest possible lead times in order to satisfy our clients.
WLN – What are the smallest and largest sizes of mezzanine floor that you can supply?
We’re pretty flexible: we’re currently nearing completion on a 5,000 m2 mezzanine floor, but we’re also quoting for a small retail mezzanine floor of 30m2, so again we will accommodate anything and everything.
WLN – What are the height criteria (to the eaves) and loading criteria for your mezzanine floors?
Normally the eaves height should be 5m clear for a single tier floor. It all depends on the application and usage of the floor at any level. Generally you need 2.4m clear headroom, but we make sure whether there’s going to be sufficient room or not when we do the pre-order measuring, which we do at no cost to the client.
The loadings vary: mezzanine floors for offices must be able to take 3.5KN/m2, for general floors it’s 4.8 KN/m2 and heavy-duty floors, 7.2N/m2-9.6KN/m2. Each of these requires different steelwork.
WLN – What are the building regulations for mezzanine floors? Do people need planning permission to install them? Do you help them achieve it?
Mezzanine floors need Building Regulations approval, and in turn Building Control consults the local fire authority. If we’re involved, we can deal with all that on behalf of our clients. This is an area that can cause concern for people, which is why we work closely with approved inspectors to ensure that regulations are adhered to and certificates of completion are issued at the end.
WLN – What are the fire regulations for mezzanine floors?
It depends on the size of the mezzanine floor and its usage. Most floors will need to have fire resistance, and travel distances to the nearest fire exit must be determined, with fire-protected stairwells being required in some instances. Automatic fire detection services must also be considered, amongst other items on which we can advise the client.
WLN – What does the floor on which the mezzanine floor is to stand need to be like? Do you provide flooring services to achieve this?
The underlying concrete floor needs to be flat, but we can accommodate for some unevenness by packing the mezzanine floor, or shimming it.
WLN – What is the lifetime of your mezzanine floors? Do they need to be inspected at regular intervals, or have special maintenance?
The lifetime of our floors is indefinite. They are structurally sound and are signed off on handover. Respected and not overloaded, they will last many, many years and form a cost effective solution to extra space requirements. They don’t need regular inspection or maintenance.
WLN – Do you carry out the finishing and related services for your mezzanine floors yourselves?
We are totally responsible for all the aspects of our floor installation: in our world of turnkey projects, we work closely with a number of reliable contractors, making sure that different trades are effectively managed at all times.
WLN – Do you also supply such related items as handrails, stairs, load gates and lifts?
We supply handrails from stock, make stairs to order and provide load gates, all in corporate colours if needed. We work with a number of well-respected lift suppliers, and will liaise with these suppliers to ensure our clients’ project runs smoothly.
WLN – Who do people need to contact if they are interested in your mezzanine floors?
Initially the best person to contact is Richard Allen, our Sales & Marketing Manager, however if Richard is unavailable any of our friendly team will be able to assist.
WLN – What effect has the recession had on sales of your mezzanine floors?
Like most we have suffered recently, however, we’ve not had to make any redundancies. We’ve maintained a healthy order book and stayed in profit so obviously we’re very happy. If anything, the recession has made us better, sharper and more efficient. We’re looking to expand soon as we seek to increase our market share during challenging times, and firmly believe that our commitment and endeavour will allow us to do so.
WLN – With 2012 just round the corner, have you provided any mezzanine floors for any Olympic venues and related buildings?
We’ve completed a couple of projects on the Olympic Park, and are currently tendering for a mezzanine floor in a well-respected UK sports university where Team GB athletes train.
WLN – Finally, where do you see Active Supply & Design going from here?
We hope to expand our share in the warehouse and logistics sector, and to see the company continue growing for another 20 years. After a few difficult years, we see ourselves to be expanding and growing both here in the UK and throughout Europe.
Active Supply & Design (CDM) Ltd
Tel: 01270 215 200