Moving Production in Wales

Moving our Operation In Wales

Towards the end of 2021, we acquired the assets of CastleOak Timber Frame, from administration. The business had space and well-established manufacturing lines and was just up the road from our existing site in Abercarn, South Wales.

We were keen to develop the site at Abercarn as we knew we needed to grow to benefit the business, however planning permission was proving difficult.

The team and the factory were performing brilliantly at Abercarn. However, the factory was nearing its capacity and the time when this could potentially hold back the team and the business from moving forward was fast approaching.

The CastleOak factory in Ebbw Vale gave us  a new site with established Timber Frame facilities along with room for current production and the potential future expansion. The proximity of the site to our existing factory meant that staff could choose to move with us, and we are grateful that so many have.

Operational requirements meant that we had just two months to move from the old site to the new one and huge credit goes to all those people involved in facilitating the move. Special mention also goes to those that ensured minimum downtime in production to ensure minimal disruption to the business and our clients.

We had an incredible team that stayed at Abercarn until the very end and a fantastic team at the other end, helping us move production capacity to our new site.

Robinson Manufacturing (RML) and the team are now settled in at the new site in Ebbw Vale. The move has enabled us to manufacture roof trusses, spandrel panels and open and close panel systems from a single site without the immediate restrictions we faced in Abercarn.

General Manager Matt Korny is delighted with how the cross functional team engaged with the move performed. “As soon as the decision to consolidate our operations in Wales was made, the project plan kicked in.” He continued: “Every part of RML was involved in one way or another and the resulting multi-product manufacturing facility puts us in a great place to continue to develop the business.”

In future blogs, find our about infrastructure development and machinery moves that went into the move.

For more information, call us on 01933 279597 or click below to request a quote any timber engineered products today.

Navigating the New Normal

Tranquillity in Chaos – Navigating the New Normal.

A blog update from Simon Kidney

It started around the 20th January 2013. We just didn’t know it then. Nine years later it is still going, with the conflict in Ukraine the latest eruption in what so many considered an established world order.

Did you know that less time elapsed between the T-Rex and the iPhone than between the first dinosaurs and the T-Rex? No? The ‘reflection points’ that a five year-old can give you are immense, simplistic yet profound. We are here for just a heartbeat in the world’s cycle.

Ah, so, back to 2013. What happened? As I recall David Cameron told the House of Commons that the British people must have their say on the future relationship with the EU. Whether in or out, they must have the vote. Subsequently the Conversative party won the forthcoming election, and we didn’t suffer chaos and confusion under Labour and, particularly, Ed Miliband. Phew.

The last nine years following that have been relatively quiet and calm. Honest.

Now of course we cannot blame the Brexit debate and some of the social divides it created for COVID 19, various invasions, global recessions, global supply chain shortages, energy crises and widespread anxiety but we can pinpoint it as a significant stake in the sand, a moment from which we can identify, bluntly, that ten years isn’t a long time in history. It is likely to have been the first time in generations where society had been so divided, yes or no, certainly the first time such polarisation has been coupled with social media, with the great expertise debates a familiar thing on feeds and threads. Everyone has an opinion.

Conversation is great, debate is great, both should be rational, considered and measured. More importantly it should be encouraged. The challenge with such black and white terms such as right and wrong is they discourage conversation. Nobody likes to be wrong; everyone wants to be right. Yet science, and the literature tells us, that you can be right and wrong at the same time. It tells us further that a good deal of the time the debate is far more generous in benefit than the conclusion. Furthermore, humans tend to invest their emotional capital much more wisely without risk of conflict. The human mind is tired and its emotional capital needs to be used sparingly. There is so much to think about and consider in today’s world. The brain is an organ but acts very much like a muscle. Recovery time is paramount. Bandwidth is currently at capacity and strained. Dopamine appears, on the face of it, to be in short supply. (Other friendly chemicals do exist, so don’t feel left out Serotonin, Endorphin or Oxytocin)

If you could indulge me briefly, when I was a boy I grew up with a poster in my lounge with the words from Desiderata, a poem by Max Ehrmann, from 1927. For ease I’ve copied and pasted for your consideration,

“GO PLACIDLY amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”

A text that is 95 years old, from a very different world (albeit inter war) from today but the same encouragements are relevant today as they were yesterday.

As an owner of a business that employees 250 people who rely on you daily, I can confess to ignoring Max’s words. But at a personal wellbeing cost. Following your own code, or a code like the above gives you your own personal strategy without which, aimlessness can manifest and a sense of purpose and belonging diminish.

If I can share some last thoughts to try and assist navigation through the chaos,

  • Take a break. Take a walk. Take time out. Remember to give your mind time to recover. Healthy body, healthy mind. You aren’t invincible as much as you like to think you are.
  • Social media is great for connecting but we are information rich and conversation poor. Manage it, delete it, mute it. Engage with channels that make you feel happy. Exclude channels that make you feel anxious.
  • The world is not normal. But normal is a perception. The world is now perfectly normally but it is a normal that we aren’t used to or comfortable with. Whilst it is important to have a say and utilise your freedom to air those views, freedom of speech isn’t freedom of consequence. Consider where the views are targeted and how perception, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
  • You can’t control the uncontrollable. You can only control how you react. We have become socially poor at managing our own risk, or at least considering risk vs reward. We can’t stop a Syrian, Libyan, Afghanistan, Ukraine invasion and war but we can empathise and demonstrate humanity. Controlling how we react will shape how others react, don’t underestimate your personal influence. History tells us that the good always does out. Take comfort that will never change.
  • Reset your own personal values of what good looks like. Is it realistic (I’m not expecting your own SWOT analysis!) Set yourself little, tiny wins. One today, two tomorrow. Make someone else smile. Write them a note. Everyone is involved in their own personal battles.

There are of course many more and the idea behind this blog is to inspire a little thinking, a little conversation and a little context.

The couch to 5k for some people is an absolute horrific thought, me included, but it sets realistic targets daily to improve your fitness.

The brain is no different. One smile today leads to two smiles tomorrow including making someone else smile, nothing beats that feeling. Before you know it, the chaos is normal, the resilience is stronger and you’re smiling. A bit like you’re doing now.

Embrace the new norm, and remember what opportunities there are in chaos.

 

Simon Kidney is Exec Chair of Robinson Manufacturing alongside other entrepreneurial activities across several sectors. Simon is currently researching entrepreneurial exit motivations through internal and external forces as a Doctoral student at Cranfield University School of Management.

 

For more information, call us on 01933 279597 or click below to request a quote any timber engineered products today.

A View on Timber Pricing

A View on Pricing

by Matt Korny, General Manager

Many times throughout history, individuals have pondered how things may have been different had they had a ‘crystal ball’ to predict the future.  Going back to the first century AD, fortune tellers used their ‘crystallum orbis’ to supposedly give insights into what was to come…

Many of us would have paid good money to a reputable soothsayer in January 2020 had one existed, to discuss the forthcoming pandemic, its impact on family, friends and colleagues as well as its effect on our industry in terms of supply and demand, and of course the resulting influence on material cost prices. 

We would of course have visited the same person again over the last few weeks to talk about the situation in Eastern Europe, and the ongoing impact first and foremost on a humanitarian level and what we could do to help… and secondly about how we could minimise the consequences on the supply chain and our much-valued partnerships.

Alas, these are things of fiction, and so cannot be utilised as we might like!  However, we do have the next best thing – data and science. 

So, with ‘2022 [construction] set to see a return to pre-COVID levels, with underlying project starts up 3% on 2019 levels’ [i], let’s look at the impact on our industry, and what effect the geo-political situation in Eastern Europe will potentially have on material cost prices, as we step further away from two years of a global pandemic, but closer to the unknown…

If we look at a global summary first of all, based on recent forecasts by industry specialists. –    ‘…Material prices will not fall this year, as supply chain problems and high production costs continue to hit the industry.’ [ii] 

A solid, if not welcome, starting point, but what does it actually mean?  It is suggested that supply chain problems including but not limited to, ‘distribution problems and high demand’ will unfortunately result in price issues not softening.  In terms of high production costs, energy and haulage are set to ‘stop steel prices going down, despite a slight dampening in demand.’ [iii]

This slight ‘dampening’ is reflected in the Government ONS indices data, as can be seen below. 

Timber prices will continue to jump, with ‘demand remaining high and rising gas prices hitting the production of lumber. [They] are not expected to fall significantly from recent highs, but improved supply chains and more stable growth in residential construction are likely to contain inflationary pressures.’ [iv]

This said, the Timber Trade Federation suggest that energy prices do not have a major impact on the cost of timber anyway, but instead comment that increasing labour and logistical costs will have the biggest effect, whilst also predicting that supply will tighten in Q2 2022 as the industry looks to use low carbon products such as timber. All this prior to the events currently unfolding in Eastern Europe.

Dave Huddlestone of Tygnum Ltd comments that supply is also shorter than originally predicted – ‘The expectancy at the very start of 2022 was that stability would continue through Q1 and price rises would follow in Q2 and Q3.  This has not been the case, the excess stock positions have depleted much faster than expected (partly due to a mild winter) but underlyingly due to continued high demand in UK and global demand for construction timber has once again proved strong, particularly in USA.’  Dave continues, ‘UK prices for construction timber have risen from 1st January by around 10% during Q1 and this rise will now start to accelerate with prices being quoted at plus 12-15% for Q2 supplies.’

Sheet materials do use more energy in their production process than sawn timber, with ‘prices… forecast[ed] to move upwards, in the early months of 2022.  A resumption of purchasing is anticipated at this time [with] Mills… keen to recoup their rising outlay on electricity and gas.’  [vi]

Government indices (below) show imported timber and plywood rising to 129 and 74 points above the base rate, respectively over the course of 2021, before dropping slightly early 2022, although still significantly above normal levels.  2022 Q2 early indications are that the price of TR26 timber and CLS may rise by 5 – 10%, but not currently to the levels of August 2021.

The above data is also somewhat reflected in the Timber Price Indices from the Government Forest Research Department for homegrown timbers, which states ‘the average price for softwood sawlog sales was £79.39 per cubic metre overbark in nominal terms in the 6-month period to September 2021, an increase from £67.70 in the 6 months to March 2021 and £49.76 in the 6 months to September 2020.  [vi]

As well as raw material cost, energy and haulage increasing, ‘Costs for shipping goods by container will be higher in 2022 than ever before… [due to] forecast that container lines’ strong position in negotiations for long term rates and shippers’ desire to secure capacity will lead to fixing higher long-term rates.  [vii]  Russian sanctions are also biting the shipping industry as Russian vessels are being refused entry to British ports, which is reducing the availability of cargo vessels for timber supplies.

To summarise, there are definitely rises on the way, and in actual fact some upon us imminently.  Much like 2021, the UK timber market appears to be facing sustained increases for the first half of the year.  In terms of percentages, it looks to be around 10% – 15% for Q2, and could rise again significantly in Q3, as it did last year.  We believe that security of supply and robust supply chains will be more important than ever against a rising price and look forward to supporting in that respect in the months to come.

[i] Construction Forecast – Output to return to pre-COVID levels by 2022 (glenigan.com)

[ii] Material prices to stay high in 2022, consultants forecast | Construction News

[iii] Material prices to stay high in 2022, consultants forecast | Construction News

[iv] Material prices to stay high in 2022, consultants forecast | Construction News

[v] 2022 lumber markets outlook – Wood Business

[vi] Timber Price Indices – Forest Research

[vii] 2022 shipping costs ‘will be higher than ever before’ | Seatrade Maritime (seatrade-maritime.com)

 

For more information, call us on 01933 279597 or click below to request a quote any timber engineered products today.

Developing Our Staff Inductions

Developing our Staff Inductions

Our formal company inductions have developed significantly over the last couple of years, in line with business and legislations changes within the industry as well as to make them as useful and engaging as possible for people new to Robinson Manufacturing (RML).

We complete two inductions for all new employees. One of these is on the new starter’s first day. It will be completed with the line manager on site and covers the basics that the worker needs to be aware of.

A full Health and Safety employee induction will be completed on site within the first 14 days of the new staff member’s employment. These inductions are completed throughout our 7 sites across the UK by Emma Carr.

During the induction Emma gives a background of the company so employees know more about the business they are working for. Members of the management team will also be discussed along with their job titles and duties. This enables new staff to know who’s who, and which person to speak to about certain things.

The induction then focuses on Health and Safety. This will include things like health and safety at work, manual handling, working at height, general site housekeeping, fire safety and evacuation, ISO accreditations and more. Key business policies such as smoking, drugs and alcohol will also be covered during the induction.

Also included in the induction is the HR side of the business. This will include how to request holidays, who to speak to about pay and more, as well as our stress and mental health support available to all workers. Colleagues will be told about the company internet where all policies can be found. They will also be shown the company benefits schemes, discussing where to find them and how to gain access to them.

At the end of the induction everyone is given a test to complete. This helps us ensure that all staff fully understand everything they need to know. If there are any gaps in their knowledge, then we can go over these again for some workers. It is not a ‘tick box’ exercise. We want to ensure our workers know what is expected of them and that they are safe on site.

Throughout the induction Emma ensures hew new colleagues are interacting and engaged. This is not an induction where workers are just sat looking at a screen. We appreciate a lot of our new starters have experienced tick box inductions in this industry, this is why we create the induction bespoke to everyone. Emma shares real life examples from the business, so it connects to what is around staff right now and through their initial employment.

If you’re interested in working for Robinson Manufacturing, visit our careers page, or email your CV to hr@rmuk.co.uk.

For more information, call us on 01933 279597 or click below to request a quote any timber engineered products today.

What will it take to for housebuilding to employ as many women as men?

What will it take to for housebuilding to employ as many women as men?

Did you know, females currently make up less than 1% of the workforce on building sites?

Yes, less than 1%.

Businesses perform better with a strongly gender equal workforce and with half a million construction workers retiring in the next 15 years, now is the time for the sector to act.

Executive Chair of Robinson Manufacturing (RML), Simon Kidney is keen to drive change in what is one of the UK’s last bastions of gender inequality. The contacts he has developed in six and a half years as CEO of RML put him in the ideal place to do so.

He’s been turning ideas round for over a year with colleague Andreya Ashwell and they are now getting ready to launch consultations across the industry about plans to tackle the issues at root, bringing together everything that’s already in place and working together with partners across the sector to have relatable conversations and deliver tangible goals.

Branded Inspiring 50:50, the project plans to deliver a continuous pipeline of female candidates to help sites reflect society’s male:female balance and Simon has set some ambitious but tangible goals:

  • Working with educational and housebuilding partners to create a flagship operational site employing a 50:50 male:female ratio of trades by 2025.
  • Using the success of the flagship site as a fulcrum, develop five further sites by 2029 for regional impact

Traditional industries don’t always take well to change so this will ruffle feathers. Simon believes it will also mark those involved as visionaries unafraid to tackle challenges: “As business leaders, we can’t be afraid to ask the difficult questions about the role and importance of gender in the workplace,” he explained. “That’s the only way things will change; I’m delighted with the feedback we’ve already had and looking forward to effecting real change!”

Find out more about how Inspiring 50:50 plans to tackle these challenges, how to join the conversation to get your business involved on the ground floor and to ask us any questions about the project at www.inspiring5050.com.

For more information, call us on 01933 279597 or click below to request a quote any timber engineered products today.