Guaranteed Irish – over 80 years in production and still going strong

In this issue of The Hardware Journal, HAI CEO Annemarie Harte paid a visit to Tegral – the world’s only fibre cement slate manufacturer to be awarded a rating of ‘Excellent’ for the BES 6001 standard for responsible sourcing. She soon discovered just how far the company has come in the years since her previous visit.

The last time I visited Tegral was in October 2014, not long after I had joined HAI. At that time, I recall the environment of the production process of making fibre cement slates in the factory within the grounds of the plant in Athy as being quite dull and dark, with aged machinery. Therefore, to re-visit in May 2018 with new machinery already in-situ and with a new roof that lets so much light into the factory that you could mistake it for working in daylight, was a revelation and a tribute to improving the environmental impact on not only the employees but on the quality of the product too.

The new development is part of an €18 million investment in the Athy plant by Tegral owner, Etex. When the improvements are fully complete, Tegral will have a new slate machine to make better quality fibre cement slates and improve capacity by 20%. The new machinery will improve the working conditions and welfare for Tegral employees and more importantly, will further increase health and safety which is a priority for Tegral.

Investment will continue at Tegral with the new Rivendale line being manufactured in Athy. Currently, Rivendale is brought in from Etex’s French plant but from later this year the Irish market will be supplied with home-made product. This is great news for a town that was just hit with the loss of over 80 jobs following the closure of Coca Cola’s manufacturing plant. The commitment by Etex to develop their Athy location was recognition of the value placed on the Irish production team headed by – what could now be known as an industry legend and past HAI President – Paddy Kelly. “This is a really big bonus for us,” Kelly said. “The production of the slates will start in September/October, once the final parts of the machinery are in place.”

The new machine will be far more efficient, ensuring a new production process that will be 100% environmentally friendly with 0% of waste going to landfill – good for everyone locally, nationally and globally. Tegral operate to several high standards – ISO 9000, ISO 14000, OHSAS 18000, and they more recently received a unique standard with BES 6000 for sustainability. Initially, Tegral were awarded a ‘very good’ rating but last year, they were certified as ‘excellent’. Tegral are the only fibre cement slate company in the world that has this rating and it’s a testament to their commitment to the long-term viability of their products as well as customer demands to improve the provenance of the product.

As part of their ‘Raising the Standards of Roofing’ initiative, Tegral have been continuously improving their process with existing machinery over the past ten years – their slates are the strongest on the market with the highest quality paint and finish, resulting in a product that outperforms any other. Even still, the investment in the new machinery will make the product even better – smoother and stronger again – ideal for Irish weather conditions. With changing weather patterns in Ireland, harsher winters (this most recent winter a case in point), more storms and alleged higher temperatures in the summer months, the improved product will be geared up to take on these challenges.

Tegral has its own laboratory, within which it rigorously tests the raw materials going into the products: cement from Irish Cement, and fibres from Japan and China. Each shift in the factory tests the materials to make sure it meets the EN 492 standard (European standard for fibre cement slates). Not only that, but Tegral strive to exceed this standard by at least 20%. “Ireland is sitting at the edge of Europe, a windbreaker from the Atlantic, so it is vital that our slates are made stronger than the European standard dictates,” explains Kelly.

As part of their continuous improvement, Tegral are also concentrating their efforts on customer experience – a key factor highlighted by Steve Collinge at the recent HAI Conference – to ensure continued success. With a renewed energy and focus on their customer expectations, upskilling of the sales team and digital platforms are two key areas being improved upon. In a country where foreign direct investment makes up a significant part of its GDP, it is heartening to visit an Irish manufacturing plant that has survived the collapse in the housing market and is now the subject of investment to support the future welfare of employment in a rural town, as well as the commitment to sustainable and much improved products. Tegral – a company that has been, and will continue to be, ‘building for generations’.

The construction industry is a major consumer of resources. The BES 6001 standard was developed to enable construction product manufacturers prove that their products have been made with materials that have been responsibly sourced from suppliers who have documented health and safety systems, and quality and environment systems (ISO 9001 and ISO 14001). Introduced by the Building Research Establishment (BRE) in 2009, BES 6001 is a holistic framework, bringing together many of the current management systems. In addition, it provides further areas of assessment, including traceability of a company’s supply chain and their interaction with local communities.

If you have a story to tell as a supplier or manufacturer in the Irish market, please contact Annemarie on 01 298 0969 or for more information.