Having operated internationally for more than 80 years, De Boer is an established and highly successful supplier of temporary structures and semi-permanent accommodation. In recent years the company has enjoyed considerable growth in the UK’s commercial sector, providing accommodation, services and expertise to customers in diverse markets – whether for salt storage or exhibition space, conference facilities or retail outlets, sporting venues or custodial units, warehousing or office suites, museum halls or temporary ice rinks. Via its UK headquarters at Brackley in Northamptonshire, De Boer also offers a highly valued business continuity service, supplying emergency facilities to clients requiring replacement offices, warehousing, retail units or other commercial premises within an extremely tight timeframe. The company offers a broad range of ancillary services, for example by providing specialist flooring, lighting, vehicle and pedestrian doors, security, heating and air conditioning, and can oversee all health & safety and local authority requirements.
Warehouse & Logistics News – What does your job involve day to day? Has your role changed since last year?
Within De Boer I oversee our services to the commercial sector, which involve a vast range of business areas including ports, local authorities, retail, the motors market, manufacturing and aviation, as well as our business continuity response for both the public and private sectors. During the past 12 months the role has become increasingly complex, reflecting the evolving demands of the marketplace and our efforts to expand the scope of what we offer.
W&LN – 2011: how was it for you and De Boer?
Ongoing pressures on the global economy have made 2011 a challenging year for the entire buildings and facilities sector – and for the semi-permanent accommodation market. Having a global presence – and bases in many countries – has provided De Boer with the scale and flexibility to respond to this difficult environment. We have continued to see steady growth in the commercial sector despite the pressures being felt by industry as a whole.
W&LN – What is your particular proposition for customers in the warehouse & logistics sector? Has that changed since last year?
At De Boer our philosophy is that we provide the space but the customer determines how it’s used. Our ongoing investment in research and development means we continue to introduce new structures or to enhance existing successful products. We aim to offer ultimate flexibility so that customers in the warehouse and logistics sector have choice not only in the structures they need, but in detailed matters such as layout, flooring, doors, lighting, ventilation and security.
W&LN – How has the Buildings and Facilities sector been performing in 2011? What do you see as the most important recent developments in the sector?
Our clients are experiencing challenges to almost every aspect of their own businesses and look to suppliers such as De Boer to come up with innovative solutions.
Typically we are finding that end users are expecting our clients to have flexible capacity and the ability to increase storage space to take account of seasonal fluctuations and it is times like this when our ability to delivery temporary space (that can be in place for months or years) gives them this operational capability.
W&LN – Have you moved into any new business areas during 2011?
We have built a temporary ice rink that is to remain in use for two years in order to enable another major project to take place.
This has created a series of challenges – the facility needs to deliver an exceptional skating environment and yet be capable of being removed and re-used at the end of the hire period.
Likewise, the client has a £100m project that cannot commence until the replacement facility is fully commissioned and so our handover date is of critical importance. On time and on budget delivery is one of our key deliverables.
W&LN – Has your company grown in the last 12 months?
Strange as it may sound, the biggest challenge is finding the right people who share our aspirations and who can enhance the wider organisation. When we find such people, we will always endeavour to find them a role.
W&LN – Have you been investing in improving your premises, taking on more staff, upgrading your website, enhancing your IT etc in 2011?
During 2011 we’ve created a new role within our UK business of Sales Manager – Commercial. Reporting directly to the directors, this new position has helped us consolidate our position across the commercial sector while also enabling us to focus on expansion in some key business markets. These include ports, food manufacturing and the motor trade. Jonathan Keyes, who has taken on this new role, joined De Boer with broad sales experience across the commercial sector.
W&LN – How are your existing products and services doing?
It has been an interesting year – we have clients who have used smaller structures such as Chalets or Acropolis as car showrooms or as retail areas whilst another required a massive 30m x 140m clearspan area as overflow warehousing for a 16-week period.
W&LN – Have you launched any new products or services in 2011? What are they, and how are they performing?
We have developed our steel-framed halls to use a slightly different fabrication method – this has made them even more robust and reduced our fabrication time so that we can respond to client requirements even quicker.
W&LN – What’s been your company’s single biggest achievement in business this year?
I am bound by a Confidentiality Agreement, but it would be a contract win that has generated a significant number of new jobs within our own organisation and also across the entire supply chain.
W&LN – What was your personal favourite business moment in 2011?
W&LN – If your company had to go through 2011 again, what would you do differently?
Push a couple of clients for an earlier commitment – the early part of the year was full of promise and the end of the year has been slightly hectic as these promises have come to fruition.
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?
De Boer operates a network of international offices, enabling it to tackle assignments in key European markets such as Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Belgium and Sweden. It also has bases in the Middle East and US, reinforcing its global presence. The company’s performance internationally has remained strong, assisted by increasing co-operation between De Boer’s many offices. This offers us greater flexibility and also ensures we have the scale and scope to bid for larger contracts. For example, 2012 will see De Boer once again tackling its largest assignment in the UK – the Farnborough International Airshow – which involves structures and equipment coming to this country from our various international bases as well as being transported from its UK headquarters in Northamptonshire.
W&LN – Have you won any awards in 2011, or been accredited to any new industry standards during this time?
We have maintained our industry-leading CHAS accreditation and our full-time Health and Safety Manager continues to make an important contribution to project delivery. As far as I know, we are the only structure provider who has invested in H&S to this degree – this is believed to be a valuable benefit to clients.
W&LN – Which industry sectors are your customers in? What applications do people use your products/services for?
De Boer works in a broad range of commercial sectors. Our semi-permanent accommodation is used extensively by local and central government (whether for academic facilities, custodial units, storage purposes or disaster relief); the aviation industry (for uses such as temporary terminal buildings, offices, catering facilities and baggage-handling halls); the motor sector (for product launches and as temporary showrooms) and the ports sector (providing warehousing space). De Boer also works closely with private-sector clients, offering structures for uses such as warehousing, sports facilities, exhibition and museum halls and temporary ice rinks as well as for business continuity after fire, flood or other disaster.
W&LN – Do you sell your products direct or through distributors? Has that strategy changed in the last year?
W&LN – Can you name any of your major projects in the last 12 months, and talk about what you have done for them?
We have delivered around 130 projects over the course of the past year and every one of these has come with a unique set of challenges. Some have involved us flying crews into mainland Europe whilst the UK was snowbound in order to build structures way up in the mountains above Courcheval whilst another required us to build a 30m x 75m structure on a scaffolding sub-structure. This was to provide a temporary Motorway Services at J10 of the M40 following a catastrophic fire – the scaffold sub-structure was required as there was a fall of around 1500mm across the site.
W&LN – How does your forward order book compare with a year ago?
Helping clients to grow their own business or respond to changing requirements within their own organisation will always create an ongoing pipeline of potential orders. We expect 2012 to be an exciting year with continued growth across all sectors of the business.
W&LN – Which trade shows did you exhibit at in 2011? How were they?
Through its presence in such a diverse range of business sectors – across both the commercial and events markets – De Boer is traditionally involved in a large number of trade shows. One of the events we attended in 2011 for the first time was Cold Comfort, which is targeted at local authorities and which focuses on winter services. De Boer’s growing influence in supplying salt storage facilities to councils meant the conference proved hugely significant for us, enabling us to highlight our many success stories so far and to reinforce and make new business contacts.
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?
Christmas and the New Year is traditionally an extremely busy period for De Boer, both because of its significance for the warehousing and logistics industry and because De Boer is a leading supplier of accommodation to the many temporary ice rinks that are created in towns and cities across the UK. However, the scale of our operations – and the experience and expertise of our team – mean we’re very capable of meeting the demands on our stock and our time.
W&LN – As a company, what are your new year’s resolutions for 2012?
To take more time to celebrate our projects and their successful delivery. All too often we are focussed on the next opportunity when, in reality, we could spare an evening to take the project team out for a meal and a couple of drinks…
W&LN – What are your plans for 2012?
To build on the strengths of our achievements in 2011, to deliver on our promises throughout the year and to plan for 2013 and beyond.
W&LN – Where do you see your company in three years’ time?
Recent years have seen the commercial sector accounting for an ever-increasing proportion of De Boer’s work and turnover. I would expect this trend to continue, reflecting the considerable opportunities available in the commercial marketplace and the foothold that De Boer has established in key markets such as ports, salt storage, aviation, warehousing and disaster relief. The marketplace obviously remains challenging but, based on recent expansion, I feel genuinely very confident that De Boer will continue to go from strength.
W&LN – And finally, what would you like Father Christmas to bring your company in 2012?
Stability in the Euro-zone – failing that, a never-ending supply of cookies, cakes and chocolate within the staff Bistro area to keep our energy levels up throughout the year!
De Boer Structures (UK) Ltd
Tel: 01280 846500