114 GGP 0217

GGP February 2017

I N T H E H O T SEAT No such thing as an average day When Colin Stanley started working for Astraseal he was still a teenager. Now as operations director, he talks to GGP about what it’s like to be an integral part of one of the UK’s leading fabrication and commercial installation companies. GGP: Colin, thanks for talking to us. Can you tell us a bit about how you got started in the industry? CS: I started out fairly young. I’d always had an interest in manufacturing and engineering – and aged 17, I did a year’s apprenticeship at Airflow Streamlines before moving to my first job at Astraseal. In the beginning, I worked as an admin assistant for the production planning department. Then I was moved into the trade department, where I worked as an order processor. As time went on, I picked up more and more responsibilities and ended up managing the department – until, in 2014, I was made operations director. It was a big shift for me – going from an administrative environment to finding myself directing the staff on the factory floor, but today, our transport management, production management and trade management all report to me. GGP: What does the average day in the life of Astraseal’s operation director look like? CS: The honest answer is there’s no such thing as an average day. Every morning at 8.30am, we have a daily production meeting – and it’s that more than anything else that shapes the rest of the day’s activities. That meeting can be half an hour. Or it can be an hour and a half. It entirely depends on the work we have going through, the material requirement and the deadline. Whatever the workload we’ve got in front of us, that meeting is non-negotiable – it’s a vital part of each working day, and ensures we’re working at the peak of our productivity. GGP: Astraseal has a huge product range, and completes thousands of orders a year. How do you keep things lean? CS: It can definitely be a challenge. We have recently transferred our aluminium production to its own dedicated factory. The demand for our aluminium range comes from all sectors, which often means large orders of varying different systems and profiles. We’re now also able to achieve better economies of scale, and pass on better prices to our customers – we’ve just invested in huge stocks of aluminium bi-fold material for example, which we just wouldn’t have had the capacity for beforehand. On the PVC-U side, we’re manufacturing a range of different systems, all out of the same factory, and fulfilling both large and small orders – but we’re making massive progress in this area as well. We’re in the middle of full implementation of barcode scanning and a new, bespoke production management system throughout the factory, which will give us an invaluable strategic overview of the manufacturing process. GGP: In your role in particular, thorough knowledge of the products you offer is vital. How did you pick up the technical know-how you need? And how did you keep it up to date? CS: If I was giving advice to someone who’d just been appointed to a similar position, my message would be simple – you’ve got to get out onto the factory floor. It’s how I gained valuable knowledge – by talking to the factory staff, spending time with them, and even chipping in myself from time to time. If we find ourselves short-staffed, I put on some jeans and get involved. GGP: How has Astraseal changed in the past five years? CS: Five years ago, Astraseal was predominantly commercial oriented. This was the leading area of the business, but we needed to grow in all sectors. Myself and our sales and marketing manager, Zac Nedimovic, argued very strongly that the business needed to reorient itself to face the trade sector a lot more. Fortunately, the rest of our executive team agreed – but it was far from simple. It required us to start offering a “Whatever the workload we’ve got in front of us, that meeting is non-negotiable – it’s a vital part of each working day” much wider range of products for one thing. There was a pain barrier we had to go through, but now we can boast one of the most extensive product portfolios in the industry. GGP: How has Brexit affected business? CS: Brexit obviously brings with it a fair amount of uncertainty. But we’re optimistic about the future – particularly on the trade side. We’ve actually been quite saddened by how some parts of the industry have responded to the referendum result. I think there are some companies out there who’ve used Brexit as an excuse to increase prices. We know the challenges fabricators are facing – our suppliers have put up prices too. But whereas some firms seem only too keen to pass them on to their customers, we’ve negotiating hard to get the best deal possible. Rather than downgrading our products, we’re looking to upgrade them – while keeping prices as competitive as possible. GGP: Finally, there are a lot of fabricators out there – what do you think makes Astraseal stand out from the crowd? CS: I think it’s our commitment to doing the absolute utmost for our clients – going above and beyond the call of duty for them and their businesses, whether that’s in terms of some of the most rigorous quality assurance in the industry, a hugely knowledgeable team on the end of the phone to answer any questions, or a trade counter specifically designed to streamline the order pickup process for local customers. But we’re not complacent – every single day, we’re looking for new ways to go even further to improve the quality of the service we offer, and make dealing with Astraseal as convenient as possible. We have several new products already in the pipeline for introduction throughout 2017. It is essential that we continue to increase our ranges and services. We must never stand still. 114 www.ggpmag.com February 2017 Colin Stanley


GGP February 2017
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