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Company Profile: S&P Coil Products plays to its specialist strengths

WARWICK Taylor joined SPC in May 2005. His brief was to grow the business in the UK leaving the managing director to concentrate on the burgeoning Middle East division. The company decided to move out of high volume/low margin coil work in favour of the higher margin specialist business. As well as coils, SPC supplies radiant panels, trench heaters, door curtains, heat pipes and fan convectors Door curtains are an add-on to the business. It is something the sales managers can offer when they are quoting for complete projects. 'SPC has one of the broadest ranges and most powerful door curtains on the market. There are also new control packages which have recently been developed.'
Company Profile: S&P Coil Products plays to its specialist strengths
S&P COIL Products (SPC) is going from strength to strength as is often the way of MBOs (Management Buy Outs).

Three directors: Allan Westbury (managing); Peter Teasdale (financial); and Kelvin Davison (operations) teamed up with venture capitalist Northern Venture Managers to buy the company in 2003 when it became non-core for specialist electronics group, Halma PLC.

Peter Pritchett is non-executive chairman and the sales director is Warwick Taylor who joined the company from Industry heavyweight Vent-Axia

There is an additional director, Sudeep Sethi who is regional director - Middle East, where SPC has a thriving export business.
A couple of years ago turnover for SPC was about £5M with £0.8M coming from exports.

Last year turnover grew by 20% and this year's target is £7.5M - £8M of which £2M will come from overseas. The plan is to reach £10M by 2009. SPC has had a good start to 2007.

'This year our UK growth has been phenomenal. Our financial year starts in April and already, (four months in) we have sold more than half of last year's core business,' says Warwick Taylor.
SPC's main markets are health and education which would account for most of the growth.

Warwick says that government has already pledged some £8BN to schools with 3,500 new or refurbished schools promised 'and there is a similar amount planned for health'.

As for the Olympics, Taylor insists: 'I think it is very hard for small businesses to get a chance to bid for some of the large Olympic projects and the government should help us out'.

He is adamant SPC products would fit the specifications well.
He reckons his best chance for 2012 is to enter a partnership agreement with a contractor SPC already has a relationship with, to provide a joint fully inclusive service to the client.

The flip side of this, he adds, is that this year SPC has picked up a substantial amount of coil business from the National Grid through one of its customers in the South West of England.

'The government has discovered it needs to generate more power for London because of the Olympics, but it cannot build more pylons, nor put more cabling underground.

'An expert in this field has discovered that if the existing cables are cooled, then power transmittion can be significantly improved.
'SPC was invited to design the cooling coils for the sub-stations.'
Warwick insists SPC is probably the only company in the UK which could design these specialist coils. Specialist is a key word for the company. It now does very little run-of-the-mill OEM coil work, preferring to focus on more specialist applications and HVAC contractor's requirements.

Warwick admits to losing about £1M worth of business in the first year after he joined the company.

But, he says, by replacing it with more a smaller amount of more specialist work it equated to only £3,000 of lost profit.
'The factory was working at full capacity but we were busy fools.'
He adds SPC was never the cheapest in the market but now tries to add value for its customers.

Design service

SPC offers a full design service with unrivalled technical support. Increasingly, clients come to SPC because of this customer service knowing they will get some of the best advice in the industry.
The company has moved to make its literature all electronic.
'We took a major decision to stop printing brochures as I think clients appreciate PDF information e-mailed immediately when they request it.' Information can be cut and pasted straight into a proposal document, he adds.

SPC surveyed its customers who agreed overwhelmingly to go electronic before it made the move to ditch the printed literature.
Also on the SPC website is its selection software which customers can use for both coil and heat pipe applications. Plus, all the information is replicated on a free CD-Rom.

'Some design consultants and architects still use drawing boards and our representatives will sit alongside them with the selection data on their laptop computers.'

There are also four in-house design engineers.
SPC's IT department has developed an in-house quotation programme for all their products.

This has reduced quotation turn-around times by half, thus improving both efficiency and customer satisfaction.

SPC sees radiant panels as fitting in with the increasingly regulated education and health sectors.

For instance, in health and education one of the issues is limited wall-space, so some schools and colleges have been built with underfloor heating. But, while the floor is warm when underfloor heating is on, hot concrete takes time to cool when it is switched off.

Underfloor heating is not suitable for use in hospitals because of, for instance, spillages of blood.

Radiators are also unsuitable for wards and offices as they collect dirt and dust creating a health hazard as well as taking up valuable floor space.

'Our strategy is to offer radiant panels as the answer to these heating problems in education and healthcare establishments - and to good effect.'

SPC has also been trialling projects using an installation partner.
'It is all about trying to help the customer by making their job easier. More and more contractors are looking to manufacturers to offer a one-stop design and build solution.'

Warwick says that if his company is to continue its growth, then it needs to partner with a high quality installer with a solid reputation so that both can work to a common end.

If SPC wins an order then the partner does the installation work and if the installer wins the order then SPC supplies the units.

Warwick insists that if the partnering project works well then it is the perfect solution for the contractor, installer and supplier.

Warwick adds SPC is currently very busy. 'We have buoyant sales and a record number of quotes coming into the company.'

There are also several new products in the pipeline 'which will increase our market share even more'.

He believes SPC is increasingly becoming known as a specialist supplier of heating products. For instance, the award winning MINIB T50 is the smallest trench heater in the world with a depth of only 50mm. And, says Allan Westbury, the MINIB T50 has an EC motor which is very energy efficient.

'If we cannot use passive technology, then our motors must be as energy efficient as possible.'

And there is more to come! The company is a major supplier of fan convector heaters although these are more likely to be used for refurbishment than in new build.

'The market for convector heaters is declining. New school buildings generally use radiant heating or underfloor,' he says. But, again, SPC is moving to EC or DC motors to make the units more energy efficient.
One new product which SPC does insist has a bright future is its ThermaSail Radiant Conditioning Sails. These are suspended units which hang beneath the ceiling with hot or cold water being pumped through the sails providing a radiant heating or cooling effect.
'A room has natural convection, where hot air rises and in a cooling application as long as there is an air space above the suspended sail, the air will go across the back of the sail, be cooled and then drop back to the floor.'

The ThermaSail Radiant Sail thereby provides passive cooling. It is a two-ply aluminium sandwich design without any sidewalls.
'Some competitors need to use a sidewall on their panel to give greater strength but this reduces the cooling properties.'

Radiant conditioning sails are creating great interest here.
There is also the ability to add lighting and other services to the conditioning sail as you can in a multi-service beam. Because of the sails greater surface area, however, there are none of the cold down drafts often associated with high output beams.

SPC has a specialist sales engineer for radiant conditioning sails who conducts CPD presentations on the subject of radiant conditioning.
'There is a backlog of appointments as so many specifiers have been enquiring about the product.'I have always believed SPC should have radiant cooling products. We looked at the building regulations and decided that they we had to offer our customers passive solutions.'
Warwick spoke to several building consultants in the UK who all confirmed this view.

The introduction of radiant cooling sales to the UK market almost come about by accident.

When SPC visited its German supplier of corrugated panels in January, it asked what would happened if it put cold water through its existing radiant panels instead of hot water.

'The supplier said the company did it all the time!'
SPC's ThermaSail Radiant Conditioning Sails have been available in the UK for three months now and Warwick was very pleased with sales enquiries so far.

'We decided to sell the concept through the specification route on the back of CPD presentations on the subject and this has proved very worthwhile. The enquiries are rolling in.'

There are about 60 people in the company. Included in this are five external sales representatives as well as three distributors covering Scotland, Northern and Southern Ireland.

So the change of ownership has been good for the company.
It has undergone massive change with management having to change first and then drive that change philosophy through the rest of the company.

But change has meant a stronger, thriving SPC which is going places.

1 September 2007


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