A major investment in new equipment and in 3D design software has produced significant productivity gains for Ballyshannon-based Seamless Aluminium. BIMIreland.ie reports on a company founded on ‘one good turn deserves another’.
Founded 40 years ago by Donal Kelly, the son of a blacksmith, Seamless Aluminium has grown to become Ireland’s market leader in the manufacture and distribution of aluminium rainwater management systems, as well as aluminium fascia and soffit systems for domestic and commercial use.
The company’s motto is ‘Quality, Versatility and Flexibility’ and it has added to its capability to deliver in all three of these areas with an investment in Building Information Management (BIM) software to aid in the design of bespoke products and in CNC machinery and laser cutters to improve production capability. “Orders that would take us a week to fulfil can now be done in a fraction of the time,” says Donal. “It is a big improvement and BIM is a major step forward for the company. We decided to get involved in BIM because a number of our long-standing clients, such as BAM, were increasingly using BIM on their projects. We have been doing a lot of training in house for the last 12 months and we have been working closely with IT Sligo.
“Using the BIM design software, you can make sure everything is correct and as it should be before in the 3D model before production begins, which means that there is much less waste than there used to be. Over the past three years we have invested over a half a million euro in new machines and we were able to do that from our own cash flow, without having to borrow money.”
Donal originally started in the building industry as a manufacturer of precast concrete sills and lintels, but during a visit to the US in 1974 his eyes were opened to the use of aluminium for fascias and cladding. After making enquiries, the Donegal man visited the headquarters of Englert Inc, who had developed a fabrication system for seamless gutters. “I met company president Herb Englert and he asked me would I be interested in heading up a distribution unit. I said ‘I would love to but I don’t have the money’,” said Donal. “He asked me how much would I need and I said ‘More than you will give me!’ But on a handshake he agreed to give me $100,000 credit per month over three months and he didn’t know me from Adam. At home, I only had IR£1,000 credit with my bank at the time in Ballyshannon. Other than monthly payments on what Englert supplied, Herb didn’t ask anything else in the repayments from me!”
It turns out that when Herb Englert was setting up his company, a similar thing happened to him. When he went to pay back the investor who gave him his initial capital, he was told: “Pay it forward, help others become successful businessmen and we’ll all be the better for that.”
Certainly, Donal is under no illusion as to the quality of the products he manufactures and supplies. He says, aluminium is the most durable metal commonly used in architecture and is resistant to all normal atmospheric corrosion agents. It is not susceptible to insect or pest damage and is unaffected by fungi, moss, mould, lichens or bacteria. Under normal atmospheric conditions the factory-applied coatings will retain a good appearance for a minimum of 15 years and will not flake, split, peel or crack. Colour changes due to weathering will be uniform along any elevation. On a weight to strength ratio aluminium is 23 times stronger than PVC and has the advantage of being fully recyclable.
In addition to Seamless Aluminium’s 60,000ft manufacturing facility in Ballyshannon, the company also has a UK distribution base in Solihull and it has been active in the UK market for more than 20 years. The UK currently provides about 25% of company revenue. During the downturn, overall turnover fell to below €2m, but now it is at more than €3m and steadily rising. The company employs 25 people and will recruit more staff this year. “Some of the people we had to let go during the downturn, went off and up-skilled and now we are taking them back into the company,” said Donal. “There is greater engineering expertise in the company now than there was previously.”
The Ballyshannon manufacturing plant houses a pre-treatment plant and a digitally-controlled electrostatic powder-coat line so that products can be supplied in any RAL colour and all powder-coated products come with a 10 year warranty.
With a renewed focus on quality, Seamless Aluminium achieved ISO 9001 quality management certification in April to help the company ensure that its products meet all statutory and regulatory requirements and also to ensure excellence in customer service. Donal’s daughter Sarah recently became a fully-certified internal auditor at the company and part of her role is to ensure that the motto ‘Quality, Versatility and Flexibility’ is kept on the factory floor, in the back offices and on site.
“We are all about quality,” says Donal. “It’s the key trait we look for when we are selecting approved installers.”
As part of its marketing drive, Seamless Aluminium is showcasing its strengths at this year’s Home Building and Renovating Shows in London and Edinburgh.