Tobermore – Paving the Way with Quality
Tobermore, the Northern Ireland-based manufacturer of top-quality paving and walling products has expanded capacity to meet growing demand.
Tobermore is recognised in Ireland and the UK for the outstanding performance of its products and market-leading solutions, which are supported by continuous investment in the latest technologies and manufacturing practices.
“Founded in 1942, Tobermore has evolved from a modest sand and gravel business into a world-class manufacturer of paving and walling products, supplying commercial and domestic markets throughout Ireland and the UK. The products are appreciated by customers for many aspects, including aesthetics, durability, functionality and versatility.
Under the management of Mr David Henderson, who joined the company 45 years ago and took over the family business from his father, the company has experienced a massive transformation from a basic concrete product manufacturer to a leading player in the sector, collecting numerous quality awards and still growing.
“When I joined the company back in the mid-1970s, it became clear that we needed to focus on higher-value products, and this has basically been my journey – taking the business from grey concrete to more decorative concrete products used primarily for paving and walling,” says Mr Henderson.
Under his leadership, the company invested in new machines, one of the fundamental changes that pushed the business forward and implemented production improvement processes such as lean manufacturing and kaizen. But the key was changing the company culture.
“Only with a committed and loyal workforce is it possible to achieve top quality. Changing the business culture was one of our greatest achievements, one that has made the company what it is today – a very effective and efficient organisation, supportive of its staff and with a positive, friendly atmosphere.”
“We are driven by our determination to produce world-class products, whilst providing an excellent customer experience. We truly value our people and acknowledge that our successes are a result of their hard work and dedication,” he affirms.
He further points out that it is precisely the high quality of its products, as well as of the service, that is behind the company’s growth over the years. In 2005, the company won the UK Business Excellence Award, followed in 2007 by the European Business Excellence Award, where Tobermore beat the likes of Volkswagen, Siemens and other global manufacturers. “For a small company from Northern Ireland, that was an outstanding achievement.”
Achieving this level of excellence was aided by Mr Henderson’s acute awareness of the need to invest in the best manufacturing technology and innovative methods. “When we saw the level of investment that goes into the state-of-the-art, sophisticated machines employed by European manufacturers, we knew that was the way we wanted to go.”
The company uses a world-class manufacturing plant from Germany, so it can create the best quality European-style paving in the UK. The factory uses renewable energy and rainwater during manufacturing and deploys a vapour curing process referred to as Ef-Stop to virtually eliminate efflorescence.
Mr Henderson admits that the top quality enabled by the best machines and a dedicated workforce is also the basis of the company’s competitive advantage today, and its success in the GB market.
Many of Tobermore’s block paving and paving flag products undergo a special manufacturing process to produce products with a hard-wearing surface layer, PrimeTop, that has a dense composition using very hard sands and a higher dosage of cement and colouring. This hardened surface layer has increased resistance to wear and tear, with very strong, long-lasting colours.
Investing in Growth
Unlike many other companies, last year was a fantastic year for Tobermore in financial terms as house-bound people started to invest in home improvements. The factory was closed for seven weeks at the beginning of the pandemic but was achieving record-breaking sales by July.
The company was well prepared to meet the surge in demand, affirms Mr Henderson, aided by a recent investment of nearly £11 million in the expansion of the manufacturing facilities. The new plant has a gross internal floor area of 4416 m2 and is expected to create dozens of local jobs in many departments including production, despatch and haulage, not to mention sales and administration.
Furthermore, the company’s growth plans involve a further £20m investment, in additional manufacturing facilities. Mr Henderson says: “This investment will put us in a unique position to exploit multiple markets in the coming years, with UK and Ireland our main priority markets. We are excited by the next stage of our growth plans, which requires the major expansion of our current facilities and significant investment in recruitment and marketing.”
Given the substantially increased capacity, the plan is to further increase market share. “We expect demand in the homeowner sector to continue for some time, and later on new demand boosted by increased activity within the commercial sector. We are ambitious and humble at the same time, focusing on what we need to do to grow our business in the longer term, making sure that customers don’t buy from us just today, but in five years as well.”
“We have maintained the exceptional quality levels for both products and services even during the difficult year of 2020. Tobermore takes great pride in their customer care focus and recently have employed several more customer-facing staff to ensure we answer the phone promptly with immediate answers,” Mr Henderson affirms.
The company has seen a 25% increase in output since last year, a sign that Tobermore is doing its business well, he says. “Our products are now stocked in over 380 outlets in the UK. It is most rewarding for me to see a little company from Northern Ireland doing so well in the market. Our superb product quality and exceptional customer focus will pave the way into the future for us.”