Explosion protection safety company Pyroban® is investing heavily in its UK manufacturing plant as it brings online a further 10,000sqft and increases its workforce. We talk to Pyroban Group CEO Brian Quarendon at the South coast operation.
WLN: You have invested heavily in your UK manufacturing operation and continue to do so. Why?
Firstly, we have been through a sustained period of growth since 2017 due to increased demand for explosion proof lift trucks in the UK and overseas, and an increasing market share.
Under previous ownership, we had lost market share in the materials handling sector as the main focus for the business was in the oil and gas market. Material Handling Equipment (MHE) had become a secondary interest until SEA Equity’s acquisition in late 2017, when I joined.
We immediately put much more emphasis on the explosion protection business in the MHE sector and believe we now have more than 25% – 30% market share.
Changes were necessary to help improve the overall offering to our customers across the world, and that did result in factory closures in both China and the Netherlands. We regrouped to the UK to control quality, consolidate knowledge, IP, skills and reduce production times to make the customer experience exceptional. But we have maintained local representation in China, for example, and have a team of service engineers in mainland Europe.
WLN: How have you changed your operation?
We are now focusing on MHE with high priority which can be seen in the EN1755:2015 investments we have made and the additional investment in new technologies to cope with the increasing quantity of add-ons seen on lift trucks, such as telematics, camera and awareness systems.
Our factory, and headquarters, are on the south coast of England in Shoreham by Sea, West Sussex. We have recently expanded with another 10,000sqft of manufacturing space coming online this spring, together with new facilities for sales, marketing and finance departments. That followed the opening of a stateof- the-art fabrication, machine and painting centre in an 18,000sqft facility.
We have also undergone the biggest recruitment drive in the company’s history. Nearly 50 skilled new staff started with us at the plant in the last six months and we have taken on several apprentices.
Our sales and service teams have also expanded, particularly in Europe, recently appointing a new sales manager to cover Eastern Europe as we see new business coming from the region. But we are also doing more in our local business community and we’re proud to have been awarded the Adur and Worthing 2018 Manufacturing & Business Award.
For our customers, this has all meant better communication, better lead times and an overall better experience. In fact our pricing in Europe is very similar to our competitors, but our quality, system technology and service support is very different, which is our differentiation in the market.
WLN: Does the market understand what you do at Pyroban?
Most of the time, large organisations are aware of the risks they face regarding explosions and are mostly careful and compliant to the ATEX Directives. However, we have found there is a constant requirement for Pyroban to educate and advise lift truck OEMs and salesmen, and the smaller companies at risk of explosion, such as small manufacturers handling solvents.
For trucks in the market place already, making sure they are maintained correctly and audited is an essential part of the safety regime. If companies don’t get that right they may be exposed to risk. We are constantly educating decision makers about training the service engineers to maintain Pyroban equipment properly, and to undertake an independent audit by Pyroban.
It’s important to remember, explosion protection conversions are not a standard product. The OEMs customise their product, and then we create a completely bespoke solution each time.
We must consider every single element of the truck and additional items whilst working closely with OEMs, dealers and end users. Afterall, we provide a highly bespoke and complex conversion that enables an operator to drive a lift truck into an explosive atmosphere, safely. The risks of getting it wrong are huge, which is why it takes time, money, strict standards, manufacturing excellence and uncompromised quality control.
Only when customers visit our factory do they truly appreciate the complexity of the work that we do. system6000™ is our most soughtafter product which is a gas detection system that offers active protection in Zone 2 areas. However, we are capable of converting almost all brands and types of electric and diesel materials handling equipment so that they are safe for use in Zone 1, 2, 21 or 22 hazardous areas. Outside these areas, we developed Gascheka duo™, an added safety gas detection package for mobile equipment.
WLN: I believe you are marking a 50th anniversary this year. How did it all start?
The Pyroban project began in 1969 in the UK to provide explosion protection for industry above ground, giving birth to zone 2 areas in conjunction with the then UK government HSE. Today, Pyroban (the company) helps keep people safe in a variety of manufacturing and logistics applications where potentially explosive atmospheres may exist, including those in the food and drink, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, chemical, coatings and waste management industries, as well as the Oil & Gas industry.
WLN: So what’s next?
We see some growth in the UK market across all brands of lift truck, but it is in mainland Europe where we see major growth for Pyroban, and we have a very strong order book through into 2020 already. There is also opportunity in China and the rest of the world.
We expect to continue to grow our market share because of our service support and products such as system6000™ as businesses opt for an active approach to safety, particularly in mainland Europe. We are also developing new technologies for other vehicles and equipment, such as tugs, lifts, cranes, and more.
Don’t forget we also have a strong business serving the oil and gas markets with explosion proof kits for large diesel engines that drive well service equipment. As the oil and gas markets recover, we expect to see major growth and we are also looking at potential acquisitions to complement our offering.