Berry Systems was formed in the 1970s and developed (and patented) a spring steel barrier system. After early tests at MIRA it was progressively adopted as the benchmark system for use in UK multi-storey car parks. Over the last 30+ years, standards and authoritative recommendations have advanced considerably and the solutions offered by Berry Systems have matched, and in many cases, have exceeded these requirements.
The product range has grown to cover a wide array of industrial and commercial situations. Products have been designed to protect plant and people from accidents with fork lift trucks, pallet trucks, trolleys etc as well as cars, vans and HGVs. The force of an impact will be absorbed by the object doing the hitting and the object being hit. The common theme employed by most products in the Berry Systems range is the concept that, if this force can be channelled into and absorbed by a safety barrier then less damage will be done to the objects involved, be they vehicles, machines, buildings or people.
This means that safety barriers must be more than just visible reminders of potential danger. They must be engineered to withstand the likely specific danger in any given situation. So all products are independently tested to meet the relevant requirements of BS6399 and BS6180. In addition, Heavy Duty designs are available for up to 40 tonne vehicle impact.
Warehouse & Logistics News – What does your job involve day to day? Has your role changed since last year?
The job involves overall control of the operation of the division in both the supply only and supply and installation sectors. It’s very ‘hands on’ and I get involved in all the major contracts and there’s been no change to the Berry Systems role since last year.
W&LN – 2011: how was it for you and Berry Systems?
2011 has been challenging both in finding projects in a static marketplace and also in ensuring costs are controlled. Fluctuating steel prices have complicated matters and have had to be closely monitored together along with all the other factors that ensure our products remain very competitive in the marketplace. The international financial situation is making business life uncertain for everyone. There’s a lot of apprehension around about the possible impact on the UK of a Eurozone meltdown and apprehension creates uncertainty and a lack of confidence in future investment. Consequently decisions are delayed and when they are finally made the deadlines are squeezed to try and make up the lost time. This means we have had to gear up to be even more responsive and shorten our lead times too.
W&LN – What is your particular proposition for customers in the warehouse & logistics sector?
Our main proposition for this sector is the supply and installation of full vehicle impact and personnel protection systems, ranging from pedestrian handrailing through to HGV impact barrier systems, together with associated products such as rack end protection, column protection, height restriction barriers, wheel guides , etc.
For very light impacts the inherent strength of a steel barrier, rigidly mounted can be sufficient to withstand the impact without suffering damage. However, this is achieved at the expense of transferring most of the impacting force between the object that hit the barrier – a fork lift truck for example – and the floor anchorage. Stronger impacts will damage both the barrier and floor, always involving costly repairs.
A semi-flexible mounting system, such as the Berry Flexi-Post can absorb more energy from the impact by deflecting up to 120mm. This deflection protects both the barrier and the impacting object. This is sufficient, for example, to absorb over half of the force involved when a 1.5 tonne vehicle hits a barrier at 10mph (4.5metres/sec).
Where even larger impacts are possible then the Berry Spring Steel Buffa system comes into its own. The mounting posts, as the name suggests, are made from a grade of spring steel that has enormous flexible qualities. A Spring Steel Buffa system can typically deflect between 300mm and 400mm and in the process absorb approximately 75% of the force involved in the example of the 1.5 tonne vehicle at 10mph
W&LN – How has the Barriers & Protection sector been performing in 2011? What do you see as the most important recent developments in the sector?
Performance was very slow in the first half of the year as the general manufacturing and distribution sector remains static. However the second half has improved with three major distribution centre projects being undertaken. Over recent years there has been a much better understanding about the importance of having not just a safety barrier but of having the right barrier designed and engineered for the specific job in hand. It’s a not case of getting a couple of lengths of Armco, mounting it on rigid posts and expecting it to cover all eventualities – as sometimes happens even today.
W&LN – Have you moved into any new business areas during 2011, within the industrial and commercial sector?
No, not within the industrial and commercial sector. Our barriers are pretty universally applicable to any premises with moving vehicles of almost any kind.
W&LN – Has your company grown in the last 12 months?
No, turnover for 2011 is forecast to be at similar levels to that of 2010, but that’s probably not a bad achievement in the current market, particularly as 2010 was quite a good year for us.
W&LN – Have you been investing in improving your premises, taking on more staff, upgrading your website, enhancing your IT etc in 2011?
We’re lucky that our parent company Hill and Smith is always ready to invest where necessary and recognises that some areas need more investment not less in hard times. We haven’t needed any premises improvements and, like any well run business, staffing levels and structures are matched to market requirements and activity levels. But we have invested in improving our web-site and preparing for the addition of on-line purchasing for the supply only part of our business. Other IT investment has included developing our CRM system to ensure we give the best customer service and integrating that with other systems in the company.
W&LN – How are your existing products and services doing?
Our spring steel buffer systems continue to be well specified and used in what has been a diminishing marketplace over the last 2 years. Alongside this we’ve seen growth in the newer products launched in recent years such as our wire rope system, Brisafe and the Berry System 3 which uses 4 steel rods rather than wires or a traditional barrier.
W&LN – Have you launched any new products or services in 2011? What are they, and how are they performing?
In the industrial sector we launched a new ‘Soft Stop’ bollard. It’s a dynamic energy absorbing protection system consisting of a base on which a protective pole, post or similar can be attached. During a collision, the kinetic energy of the impact is progressively absorbed as the post tilts, crushing an elastomeric sleeve within the base. The post is able to tilt from its vertical position to an angle of 20°and after the impact the post returns back to its vertical position, ready to perform once again. Depending on the specification chosen, it can cope with impacts from a light pallet truck right up to a 20 tonne vehicle.
For the car park market, our new combined barrier and cladding systems have been well received by specifiers and they have been installed on three projects during the year.
W&LN – What’s been your company’s single biggest achievement in business this year.
I think, like most people, survival came first in 2011. Beyond that it was the introduction of car park cladding systems as a completely new product range for us but using our accumulated skills in the car park sector. We’re uniquely placed to co-ordinate requirements for car park perimeters that incorporates things like impact loadings, ventilation and pedestrian protection. This is not directly relevant to the industrial sector but we consider that any growth in our expertise can ultimately benefit any of our customers.
W&LN – What was your personal favourite business moment in 2011?
I think that has to be the successful completion of our first major cladding project. It had a seven figure value and the client put a lot of faith in us. Fortunately we finished on time and on budget and my team did a magnificent job.
W&LN – If your company had to go through 2011 again, what would you do differently?
There are always the ones that got away so I think that would be a better follow up on some of the known available projects we missed out on. When you look back there’s always a thought that if this had been quicker or that had been better, or perhaps in hindsight we missed something vital to winning the contract. It is one of the reasons why we’re developing our CRM systems further.
W&LN – Do you operate in any other countries besides the UK? How are you getting on there? Have you gone into any new countries in 2011?
We operate on a supply only basis into Europe, the Far East and Australia and have for a number of years. This is generally through local agents although they tap into our expertise for specific projects when they need to. We’re also happy to learn from them and there are a few products in our portfolio that have come to us via our overseas agents. The economic turmoil is not restricted to the UK and business levels have merely maintained in 2011 but not increased in these areas.
W&LN – Have you won any awards in 2011, or been accredited to any new industry standards during this time?
Over the years a number of our products have featured in the winning entry for Car Park of the Year but nothing specific to Berry Systems this year. As far as accreditations are concerned, we’re working towards CHAS which should be completed shortly.
W&LN – Which industry sectors are your customers in? What applications do people use your products/services for?
Our main sectors are car parking and warehousing and distribution. That’s new build and refurbishment in both sectors. The products are used for the protection of personnel, vehicles and buildings. The basic technology used to safely stop a car in a car park is the same as stopping a forklift truck or HGV in a loading bay – although the weights and forces involved are usually greater in industrial environments. There’s often also a greater need for pedestrian walkways with handrailing and other forms of protection in a factory or warehouse and some requirements are unique to the industrial sector. One example is protection from the forks of an FLT. Most barriers won’t obstruct forks from passing through them into the pedestrian area with potentially disastrous consequences. So we’ve develop products that create a solid barrier from ground level to 650mm or even higher. Other products are less sophisticated like simple wheel guides or stoppers.
W&LN – Do you sell your products direct or through distributors? Has that strategy changed in the last year?
The bulk of our business is carried out directly with main contractors, construction companies, specialist contractors and end users. However we do have a network of distributors, particularly in the industrial sector. Our products are also available in some catalogues and from next year we’ll be offering some items for direct sale on-line.
W&LN – Can you name any of your major projects in the last 12 months, and talk about what you have done for them?
To give you three of the larger ones there’s the Aggreko Manufacturing facility in Dumbarton where we installed internal vehicle and pedestrian barriers plus external vehicle barriers as well.
Then there’s the Morrisons Distribution Centre at Bridgwater in Somerset. Again it was internal and external vehicle impact barriers and pedestrian protection.
But the largest one this year was the Eastside multi-storey car park in Birmingham. In addition to internal vehicle impact barrier systems we also supplied and installed the complete external façade cladding envelope. Not our first cladding project but the largest to date.
W&LN – How does your forward order book compare with a year ago?
Our order book is at similar levels as last year going into 2012. However we can rarely forecast beyond 3 months.
W&LN – Which trade shows did you exhibit at in 2011? How were they?
We exhibited at Traffex 2011 at the NEC. To be honest I thought it was poorly attended and a disappointment. But I think the whole exhibition business is suffering. With so much information available on-line these days a lot of people don’t see the same need to visit exhibitions.
W&LN – As the Christmas period is traditionally the busiest time of year for the UK warehousing and logistics industry, what challenges has your company been facing?
We’re not as affected by that. If anything, customers don’t want us working in their premises during their busiest time although sometimes that has to be balanced against completing work within their current year’s budget. Like a lot of companies, our biggest challenge in December is to get through a month’s work in three weeks. That and completing installation work to ever decreasing deadlines.
W&LN – As a company, what are your new year’s resolutions for 2012?
To continue to justify our position as the No 1 choice in our field and leave no room for complacency.
W&LN – What are your plans for 2012?
2012 is going to be another tough year but we’ve a number of new products coming through aimed at helping us to maximise opportunities within the marketplace. That includes a new range of barrier protection systems dedicated to the industrial and distribution sector. So, more on that next year.
W&LN – Where do you see your company in three years’ time?
Hopefully we’ll have seen the back of the current economic turmoil and be in a strong position to be part of a resurgent marketplace
W&LN – And finally, what would you like Father Christmas to bring your company in 2012?!
A strong order book for the year and prosperity for all our employees plus, for me personally, more time with my family – and an Aston Martin V12 Virage would make a lovely stocking filler!
Tel: 01902 491100