Putting The ‘super’ Back In Superglass Insulation

Colin Heath, Managing Editor of Insulate, recently interviewed Ken Munro (CEO of Superglass) about his approach and future plans for Superglass:

What first attracted you to the insulation industry?

It was the Superglass business that attracted me. As a large independent company competing against giant international players, I believed that Superglass would need to develop and adopt a more disruptive strategy. Running with the herd wouldn’t get the job done, and I felt that would be a great opportunity. I believed that there was space in the market for a manufacturer which prioritised flexibility, agility and service, over bulk and scale, and I was excited by the prospect of building that.

What were your main priorities upon being appointed CEO at Superglass?

The first, and most urgent, order of business was quite simply to return the company to profitability. Adapting to the end of the Green Deal and other subsidies, and the need to serve a dynamic and newly resurgent housing market, meant that we had to make some big decisions.

We had to execute a new strategy. We moved to prioritise building quality of revenue rather than bulk volume, by focusing on service and flexibility. And I wanted to get some real pace and focus on innovation. By building on the success of gaining certification for our Superwhite 34 blown wool product, we could differentiate Superglass as an innovative and flexible brand. We made Superglass profitable again last year. And as well as being a commercial necessity in itself, it was a key factor inattracting TechnoNICOL to buy, and invest in, the business.

What, in your experience, were the fundamental steps required to change Superglass from a commodity manufacturer to solutions provider

To execute the strategy I’ve just described, I would call out three initiatives:

  • Firstly, by creating the Superglass Innovation Centre to focus on developing product spec and quality, we have been able to give specifiers and installers real confidence that we had the manufacturing capability to meet their needs.
  • Secondly, to bring that to market we invested in a specifications sales team, so that there was real product and solutions expertise at the end of the phone.
  • And thirdly, to make sure we were offering something different from our competitors, we introduced Superglass Xtra – our customer service charter with key customers, which captures our speed of decision making and delivery.

I see that you are keen to push the environmental benefits of Superglass. At what point in your career did sustainability become something you wanted to get involved in?

I think that crystallised when I took over at Superglass. Not only are we manufacturing our product in the service of energy efficiency, but we are also huge recyclers of waste glass, and we have invested in production and packaging to minimise waste. For me, as well as the need to deliver strategic and commercial change to the company, I believe there is a real purpose to what we are doing. The UK needs to build more houses and deliver progress on energy efficiency at the same time – and I’m proud that Superglass is playing its part.

Do you feel the insulation industry has been successful at raising its profile in the construction community and with consumers?

I think there is more to do, to be honest. Obviously, we work closely with MIMA and other industry bodies to promote the industry to the relevant stakeholders. Closer in, we have made a significant upgrade in our marketing investment to tell the story of the Superglass brand, with new advertising content and a step change in Demand Generation. As I mentioned earlier, I think we have a great story to tell, and telling it well is a big priority for us.

How did you go about differentiating Superglass from other larger insulation manufacturers?

Prior to the TechnoNICOL acquisition, we didn’t have the scale of our main competitors. So, as a challenger brand we had to be more agile and flexible to carve our space in the market. We have a very flat decision-making structure, and customers have come to expect quick decisions, flexible specs and good delivery service from us. It was all about levering our strengths as a business, not scale we didn’t previously have.

What do you think the next big challenge will be for the industry?

I think there are two big challenges. Obviously, there are by necessity very aggressive house-building targets in the UK. That’s obviously a good thing, but the challenge will be to deliver more and more of the energy efficiency benefits into new homes via insulation, due to inevitable pressures on build-time and site efficiency. That’s why speed and flexibility are so important.

And secondly, driven by the same market trend, we absolutely have to keep up the pace on Innovation. Industries that stand still go backwards, and we won’t let that happen.

What changes do you think will be brought about by Brexit?

At the moment, the weaker pound has actually helped our export business. Longer term, we’ll of course watch the Brexit process with interest. Our main priority is to keep executing our strategy. Providing we keep our customers front of mind, keep innovating, stay flexible and keep building our brand, we’ll be well-geared to adapt as required to whatever the outcome of the Brexit process ends up being.

How will the recent acquisition by Technonicol change the Superglass business in the UK?

The obvious immediate implication is that we are now part of a much larger organisation, and at the heart of a new region that includes the myriad opportunities in the USA. That means that we will have significant scale and infrastructure – and of course a much broader product range – to bolster our strategies for innovation and growth.

Strategically, our priority is to knit together the capabilities and reach that scale provides, with Superglass’ continuing propositions around flexibility and service. Being bigger and broader will allow us to offer even more tailored solutions, not fewer. These values are the DNA of our business, and once we have allied those to the size and strength of TechnoNICOL, our offer to the market will be all the more compelling.