This year sees architectural ironmongery specialist, John Planck Limited, celebrating its 25th anniversary. Construction Industry News recently caught up with Tom Planck, Managing Director, to see how the impressive milestone has been achieved and to find out what the company’s future plans are moving forward.
“We marked the anniversary with a celebratory get-together for all our employees and our customers and suppliers, both past and present,” explains Tom. “We felt it was important to recognise the support that we’ve had as a company since Day One and it was very much a celebration of the efforts that everyone has put in over the last 25 years, as this level of input has been absolutely vital to our success.
“As for how we’ve been able to clock up 25 years of operation, I suppose there have been a few factors at play but the most important has been the quality of the offering that we’re able to provide, not just in terms of the products but also regarding the support that our customers receive from our staff. We always look to go that extra mile for our customers and our entire ethos has been built upon delivering consistently excellent levels of service and setting ourselves apart from the rest of the competition with our offering. We’re almost unique in the marketplace in being able to provide highly bespoke products in a variety of finishes and different appearances, which is something that we certainly now excel in. In the last few years we’ve seen a rise in demand for more unique products including many variations of products that are currently available within our portfolio. It’s very much about listening to the client or an architect or designer and coming up with something that suits their needs precisely, whether it means making the item slightly wider or longer, darker or lighter.”
This emphasis on customer service and its ability to develop bespoke product solutions has clearly been a major factor in John Planck’s longevity as a business since its creation in 1991. The company, which was the first specialist architectural ironmonger in Kent, started trading from Medway City Estate in the Medway towns. It quickly established itself with local builders and contractors before developing relationships with architects and other specifiers, especially in London. This expansion was furthered by opening a high quality showroom in Clerkenwell, the architects quarter in London. John Planck’s experience and status in the industry encouraged many manufacturers from both home and overseas to be associated with the firm, expanding even further the range of products the company was able to offer. John Planck retired at the end of 2009 but the company continues to go from strength-to-strength, retaining its independence under the guidance of his son, Tom.
“We marked the anniversary with a celebratory get-together for all our employees and our customers and suppliers, both past and present. We felt it was important to recognise the support that we’ve had as a company since Day One and it was very much a celebration of the efforts that everyone has put in over the last 25 years, as this level of input has been absolutely vital to our success.”
Tom Planck, Managing Director
The company’s products and services have been recognised by the industry in the form of the accolades it has won in the various categories of the now bi-annual GAI Specification awards including both categories of ‘Renovations’ in 2001 and ‘Established Buildings’, proving longevity of use, in 2008/2009 for the Royal Opera House, and ‘Hospitality/Residential’ for The Lancasters development in 2013.
In-keeping with modern practices, the company has been constantly evolving. In 2012 it moved out of its warehouse/office unit on the estate to an office suite in the picturesque surroundings of the Historic Dockyard, Chatham. It combined this move with the transferal of stock to its centralised warehouse facility in Yorkshire, which services its requirements on a next working day service as standard. In 2013, as a result of the ever-changing marketplace in which it operates, coupled with the ending of its lease, the company moved out of its London showroom, in the process further enabling it to combine its administration duties under one roof in Chatham, where its team remain at customers’ disposal for any assistance they may require.
“With our experience and the infrastructure we have in place we are able to specialise in the specification and supply of door furniture, door hardware and window hardware,” adds Tom. “We trade out of our office in Kent with a workforce of ten employees, which are a mixture of internal and external positions.
“In terms of the marketplaces in which we operate and our customer bases, we effectively have two target areas that we concentrate on. On the specification of architectural ironmongery side, we target and assist architects and interior designers when they’re planning and designing their buildings, whether they’re new builds or refurbishment projects. But, our customers primarily consist of building contractors and joinery companies that physically place orders and buy the products from us.”
“As for how we’ve been able to clock up 25 years of operation, I suppose there have been a few factors at play but the most important has been the quality of the offering that we’re able to provide, not just in terms of the products but also regarding the support that our customers receive from our staff. We always look to go that extra mile for our customers and our entire ethos has been built upon delivering consistently excellent levels of service and setting ourselves apart from the rest of the competition with our offering.”
Tom Planck, Managing Director
With two and a half decades of operation under its belt, John Planck Ltd has pretty much seen it all all and survived the dips within the market without getting carried away during the good times. Bringing things up to the present day, despite the uncertainty following the vote for Brexit, the company is currently enjoying favourable market conditions. “Things are currently bubbling away nicely with the market having been quite buoyant for a couple of years now, although there are signs that there has been a bit of hesitancy within the market following the EU referendum. That said, we are still seeing strong growth potential within the residential sector, particularly in London, which is an area that we are increasingly getting involved in.”
Even with the positivity surrounding John Planck Ltd following the 25th anniversary celebrations and the upbeat market conditions, Tom Planck remains mindful of the potential pitfalls that could affect the company. “There’s always competition to contend with, particularly as there is the unfortunate trend within this country where so much is price-driven with the emphasis being on cost rather than quality. This means that a lot of quality products end up being replaced by cheaper alternatives. For our part we remain committed to operating at the higher quality end of the spectrum. This is reflected in the investment that we put into the business. I never like to blow our own trumpet too much but we probably have one of the best scheduling systems in the industry, which greatly helps the architect and the contractor.
“Away from IT, we’re also moving our distribution centre into purpose-built units, which is further evidence of our progression as business, whilst from a staffing point of view we’re very lucky to have such a well-settled team. We are, however, always looking to add to our numbers if the right people come along.
“Looking further ahead, the main objectives are to carry on with what we’re doing and identify any other growth opportunities as they arise. One particularly interesting development has been the growth of the doorset sector as it’s become increasing fashionable. In the last couple of years many companies have bolted ironmongery onto their product offering, so they’re now supplying the doors complete with ironmongery. It’s something we’re aware of and are also providing on relevant projects, working in conjunction with some like-minded door manufacturers. We’re quite fortunate that we have in-house expertise in doors so we’re able to cater for a wide variety of different projects.”
It is this ability to turn its hand to a diverse range of projects, coupled with its enduring emphasis on quality, that is sure to see John Planck Ltd adding further to the 25 years of operation it has already chalked up.