A NORTH East roofing company hopes to revolutionise one of the building industry’s key skills after launching its own equipment and training arm.
Durham Roofing Centre is working with German manufacturer M-Tec to distribute pump machinery that allows builders to apply render straight on to brickwork rather than by hand and is about to launch its own centre to train staff how to use it.
The expansion is part of a £25,000 investment and will see Durham Roofing become the only firm in the North East, and only the third in the UK, to distribute the technology, which retails at £7,500.
The firm, which has already sold three of the pumps, now believes it can maintain its £1.5m turnover this year with the help of the new income stream, with the longer-term aim of growing it and adding to its eight-strong workforce once conditions improve in the construction sector.
Roofing material supply now only accounts for 5% of the company’s activities as it has steadily expanded into other areas, particularly the sale of coloured rendering product, since setting up in Durham’s Dragonville Industrial Park in 1992.
Managing director Vyvian Wetherell believes the technology will become popular among contractors who are short on labour at present, as it automatically mixes the render and speeds up the application process.
He said: “Training is not a short-term option. The industry can not afford to stand still and we believe now is the time to focus on innovation and training.
“While we don’t know when the upturn will come, it is important to ensure there will be a good supply of well-trained renderers available for that time. As any contractor knows, if you ask two men to each mix a bucket of render, the results will be very different. They then have to carry buckets of render across the site and apply it by hand – often with visibly different results. The machine, however, can guarantee quality control and can apply the render with perfect, continuous coverage, at a speed that human beings just can’t match.”
With its rendering materials used on housing developments, including those by Newcastle builders Bellway, Mr Wetherell admitted that the firm has been hit by a slowdown of private sector orders.
However, he believes a recent spate of social housing refurbishment projects will help to keep the firm on an even keel for the remainder of 2009 and is already advertising for a new member of staff.
“The potential for a business like this could be massive,” Mr Wetherell added. “Render is becoming more and more popular, especially among local councils, and we would be looking to add many more staff if the new technology takes off – which I’m sure it will.”