Coated Abrasives Manufacturer, sia Abrasives, Eyes up No.2 Market Position in the UK
27 July 2010
The Abrasives Hubs talks to Ray Bardsley, the General Manager of the UK arm of sia Abrasives about the group’s latest developments and ambitions.
When the Olympic year dawns in 2012, sia Abrasives will have a new £35 million manufacturing plant at its headquarters in Frauenfield, Switzerland. Named "Maker 5" work has already begun on this major construction project. This new plant comes on the back of a £2m investment in stock at a new UK warehouse and the launch of a range of new products aimed at targeting market opportunities in precision engineering and high technology industries…
The sia Group currently ranks among the world’s top three suppliers of coated abrasives with a turnover of £160 – 170 million, 1,250 employees worldwide and representation with partners in over 80 countries. Its expertise also covers abrasive and surface technologies and its business units cover coated, micro-finishing, nonwoven and foam abrasives supplying products aimed at the wood, metal, composites and the automotive sector. The company develops, manufactures and markets complete abrasive systems tailored to specific requirements and applications for surface preparation and finishing of all kinds.
Not content with their current UK number three slot, sia Abrasives (GB) general manager, Ray Bardsley, has signalled that the group has its sights firmly set on rising up the rankings. “sia Abrasives (GB) Ltd. has enjoyed rapid and sustained sales growth over the last three years which have taken it to number three in the UK abrasives industry. At the current rate of sales growth and with significant future planned investment it is in a strong position to move into the UK number two position in a relatively short period of time.”
The group believes that it has the right strategy by continuing efforts to lower manufacturing and supply chain costs over the short and medium term while also growing sales. “Customers in the abrasives market place are increasingly putting manufacturers under pressure to reduce the cost of ‘commodity products’ whilst at the same time demanding more innovative, high performance products,” points out Ray Bardsley. Competition within the market place is becoming more intense. Lower trade barriers and open markets enable more manufacturers to compete on a world-wide basis. “This creates advantages and opportunities for companies such as sia that deliver high quality products, unrivalled levels of customer service and invest heavily in R&D and new product development. This ensures all markets and all market sectors can be serviced quickly, efficiently and, importantly, profitably.”
In terms of R&D, a dedicated facility, based in Switzerland, which has been responsible for developing the new coated series and this department is supported by application engineers specialising in metal, wood, automotive and composite materials segments.
Focus on precision
As Ray Bardsley notes, “Almost all of sia Abrasives business is involved in some way or another in demanding abrasive applications. From chipboard sanding, furniture production and the automotive industry, the watch and jewellery sector, printing rollers, castings and foundries and metal fabrication, all these areas are critical abrasive applications and sia Abrasives prides itself in being an important supplier to all these industries.”
One of the ways sia sees growth is through focusing on high tech & precision industries, which use high performance alloys and superalloys. Customers who operate in ‘high tech’ industries such as aerospace, turbine and medical markets are increasingly demanding complete ‘process solutions’ from suppliers. “Here, we are introduced to a world where precision grinding is of the utmost importance. Within these areas it is clear to see the complexity of grinding and sanding required as materials become stronger and the machinery more demanding to operate,” explains Ray Bardsley.
sia Abrasives has created a new metal portfolio comprising both new and improved coated abrasive belts and nonwoven product materials, which can be used together as complete application processes for the specialist and intricate grinding imperative for these growing markets. The company has also developed specific high-grade abrasives for repair work on turbine blades and vanes.
Coupled with these new products has been the launch of a raft of recent products including the sia ceramic range and siacarat, the new diamond abrasives disc developed specifically to sand ceramic vehicle paint which conventional sanding discs found very hard to sand as the paint surface is so hard.
Customer service also counts
sia Abrasives (GB) Ltd. has met this challenge in recent times by delivering ‘Service Excellence’ to the market place – which in reality means offering & delivering the highest levels of customer service and support in the UK abrasives industry today.
In the UK, the new warehouse holding some 8,000 different products means the company has a stock of 95% of everything its sells. Orders placed for stocked items by 4.30pm will be dispatched and delivered the next working day FREE OF CHARGE. The company is also is happy to deliver to its distributor customers directly if required, at no extra cost and their sales team actively give technical advice.
sia Abrasives also has a programme of continuous improvement with a regular upgrade of key product series and materials. “As a Swiss company, sia Abrasives is renowned for producing high performance abrasive products, consistently giving the same life and finish every time and sets an industry standard which is hard to equal,” says Ray Bardsley. That’s why the company is optimistic that its strategy for snatching that coveted second position in the UK market is well within grasp.