In early 2019, when Construction Industry News last spoke with Richard Abraham, Managing Director of Mansfield Sand, Covid-19 was unheard of and the disruption it was set to cause was still not known. Thankfully the company has not only successfully navigated its way through the pandemic, but has also managed a record year of sales, while also significantly bolstering its operation with the recruitment of Paul Seamer as the new General Manager of its brick operation. We recently caught up with them to see how it was achieved.
“All things considered, we have coped okay with the pandemic and have managed to roll with the punches,” explains Richard Abraham, Managing Director. “The brick works was the area that got impacted the heaviest as it had to be shutdown for around ten weeks, during which we were able to adapt our operation and identify new markets to sell into. This helped to carry the business through what was a very difficult period, after which we were able to reintegrate all the staff that had been furloughed and, as the construction industry recovered, so did the brick works operation.”
This recovery has been further invigorated by the addition of Paul Seamer as General Manager, who has brought considerable industry knowledge to the table thanks to 20-plus years working with the likes of Tarmac and RMC Group (now part of CEMEX). “Paul’s been doing a great job of steering the brick works business since he joined us around six months ago,” adds Mr Abraham. “His experience has been crucial in helping us build on the growth we’ve seen in the past year or so. We had a record year last year and with Paul’s input we’re aiming for that again this year.”
Even with the considerable experience and knowledge he brings with him, joining a new business can still be a daunting prospect so Mr Seamer’s successful transition has been all the more impressive given that it has taken place in unprecedented times. “Covid is something that we have not experienced before, as an industry or as a country or even as a planet, so it has been very unusual circumstances,” outlines Mr Seamer. “However, I’ve found that moving to Mansfield Sand has been refreshingly easy, as they have proven to be extremely dynamic and agile as a business from the moment I joined. When I speak to Richard about any of the issues we’re facing, decisions are made very quickly, which is fantastic. It is this approach that attracted me to the company in the first place, particularly as many of the larger organisations within the industry are not as agile in comparison.”
It is this dynamism, coupled with the wider construction industry’s ability to bounce back so strongly, that has enabled Mansfield Sand to post such a strong performance in recent months. This has been further enhanced by various changes that were made to the business several years ago prior to the pandemic, the results of which are now really paying dividends.
“The recovery of the construction sector has really taken off, which has obviously helped our situation, but around three years ago we implemented a number of changes to the company including adapting our strategy in various ways that have really helped us to push forward too,” explains Mr Abraham. “In the past we were perhaps guilty of putting all our eggs in one basket but we have now strengthened our offering in a number of areas and added additional strings to our bow in order to better manage the level of risk. This has been particularly helpful during the Covid pandemic. Another significant change we have implemented is communicating to our team members the cost of running the business and value of return on that investment so that they were much better informed. This has opened their eyes a little and has ensured that they have a much greater appreciation of the bigger picture. This means they really know the impact their work has on our operation from a business perspective, which they really appreciate. They have been extremely receptive to the changes that we’ve made and they work incredibly hard to help us achieve more, which is invaluable to us as a business.
“From Paul’s point of view, he’s been working really closely with our technical team to streamline our product lines, which has been really beneficial. There’s been a great deal happening with different elements having come together. Now we’ve come through this process, we’re in a great place with a fantastic team behind us.”
In terms of what Mr Seamer has brought to the business, his industry insight is already proving to be of huge benefit to the company, allowing him to adapt the business as required. “My experience complements the team really well,” he explains. “While the existing systems that were in place were already very robust, I have implemented several minor operational changes to bring a slightly different dynamic to how we operate commercially. This is because the market has changed and we’ve therefore had to adapt accordingly, while at the same time seizing new opportunities as they come through.”
The ease with which Mr Seamer has adapted to his new role is further underlined by Mr Abraham: “Paul is doing a great job within the brick operation and the changes he’s made have been really positive and have been fully embraced by the team, who now have a much better holistic view of the operation and their part in the overall jigsaw. As a consequence, the levels of production are much improved in comparison to previous years.”
Despite the success that has been achieved, Mansfield Sand has not been without its challenges, particularly with the materials shortages and rising costs that have been seen across all areas of industry as the twin issues of Brexit and Covid have made themselves felt. Thankfully the company has been able to manage its raw materials accordingly so that none of its customers have been let down. For a business that has always prided itself on its relationships with clients, this has been essential. “We have been very open and honest with our customers, who appreciate that these are industry-wide issues that everyone is facing,” adds Mr Seamer. “Again we have worked hard to keep our own staff fully informed so that we can all pull together to overcome the hurdles we’re facing. As a result, we are managing our stocks really well and haven’t let anybody down.”
With the marketplace continuing to improve, Mansfield Sand is now looking to capitalise on the growing number of opportunities that are coming through by building further on the strong foundations it has put in place.
“We’re in a really strong situation at the moment and moving forward it will just be more of the same, with perhaps some gradual refining of our systems and procedures taking place,” outlines Mr Abraham. “There’s always room for improvement and I’m sure that as Paul embeds himself further into his new role, his experience will prove invaluable in assisting this process, particularly as we are keen to expand the brick works and make it more efficient. We have always been a great believer in investment and this will continue as we get the business better prepared for what’s to come in the next 12 to 18 months and take things to the next level.
“It’s all about understanding the marketplace and making sure that we are able to adapt to its needs as they change. We certainly see strong potential within the brick operation, while we’re also really keen to do our bit from a sustainable perspective and reduce our carbon footprint. Again this is something I’ve discussed closely with Paul, as we develop our green strategy so that we’re well in-line with the Government’s targets. It’s very much a continual process of improvement across all areas of the business including the brick works and our quarry.”
As a company with over 180 years of operation under its belt, Mansfield Sand is well versed in adapting to the needs of a changing marketplace. What’s more, the recruitment of Paul Seamer into the fold means that the company is not only even better placed to meet the challenges it is currently facing, but is also in a stronger position to meet its longer term objectives moving forward.