Denroy Group – A Brush with Greatness
The Denroy Group is providing precision plastic injection moulded products to the aviation and healthcare sectors, but it all started with a hairbrush.
The Denroy Group was established in 1972 and is soon going to be celebrating its 50th birthday with a turnover of £30 million and over 400 employees. Throughout that half-century, the company’s core competencies have been in the plastic injection moulding sector, but as we soon find out, that expertise can take a business into a diverse range of sectors through its three key companies.
The Denman Brush
Perhaps Denroy’s best-known brand is the Denman Brush, a product with an 85-year history that even predates the Denroy Group as a whole.
“It was developed by a man called Jack Dean from Northern Ireland,” explains Kevin McNamee, CEO of the Denroy Group. “The brand was selling relatively well in the late 60s early 70s, and then the advent of the hairdryer meant a brush was needed that could withstand that level of heat. Then Vidal Sassoon discovered that the Denman Brush was perfect for achieving his trademark bob look.”
Sassoon’s endorsement was a huge boost for the Denman Brush, as McNamee points out “He was the original blogger of his era!”
Sassoon’s association with the brand led to popular recognition, particularly within the professional hairdressing industry.
“That has remained in place during the life of the brand. We’re the hairbrush of the hairdresser, the professionals’ choice,” McNamee says. “We work very hard to maintain that, with education and training at barbering colleges, and professional endorsements.”
While the Denman Brush has secured its place as “the hairdresser’s hairbrush”, the company is also seeking out new markets.
“We’ve been on a digital journey over the past few years, positioning the brand through social media and e-commerce platforms directly to the consumer,” McNamee tells us enthusiastically. “We are changing our whole marketing approach from a trade-only focus to positioning the brand directly at the consumer. The profile of our marketing team has changed completely. We have quite a few bright young things who really understand social media.”
As a result, Denman has seen significant growth, particularly with the shift to online shopping accelerated by the pandemic. Denman manufactures almost all of its products in Northern Ireland and the UK, then exports them.
“We’ve had quite a surge, which wasn’t accidental. We were already on this digital journey, but this surge has assisted our growth,” McNamee says.
Denroy Takes Flight
The aerospace industry might seem as far as you can get from hairdressing, but both industries require reliable, well-made tools that do what they are supposed to. Denroy Company is an engineering business focused on the more technical components for the aerospace industry, manufacturing components for companies such as Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier.
“For many of these companies we’re the only company certified to provide for the components we offer,” McNamee says. “We have unique specialisms in terms of processing capability. We specialize, for example, in high-temperature materials that can withstand jet fuel.”
Beyond precision manufacturing to demand, Denroy can also help develop those components.
“We offer an increasing level of design for manufacture and pure design services,” McNamee says. “We’re involved in the Airbus Wing of Tomorrow program, helping develop the next generation of aircraft wings. The reason we invest significantly in research in this sector is that the aerospace industry moves in ten-year cycles and you can miss one of those cycles if you are not in at the start. We invest significantly in research and development and provide substantial collaborative assistance to the aerospace sector. It’s a slow burn but a long-term investment.”
Another specialism Denroy Company offers is over-moulding.
“We take composite sheets and over-mould plastic features onto them,” McNamee says. “We’ve been developing expertise over a number of years and now offer assembled ready-to-fit components, mainly for the aerospace sector but the technique could be applied to others.”
Plastic for Protection
As you can probably guess, the Denroy Group’s work in the aerospace sector largely dried up during 2020, along with most of the aerospace industry itself.
“We saw a 75-80% contraction in the construction of aircraft,” McNamee recalls. “That obviously caused a significant problem in the short-term in terms of surplus capacity and retaining those key skills while the industry recovered.”
The solution was simple.
“We took aerospace engineers and tasked them to design PPE products,” McNamee says.
While the need for aircraft components was greatly diminished, in other places demand was high.
“There was a scramble to secure PPE for the NHS. So, in March 2020, we repurposed our manufacturing for the Health Service in Northern Ireland, creating Denpro, a new brand to supply masks and visors,” McNamee tells us.
As well as supporting the health service, Denpro also took their PPE to a wider market.
“Through Denman’s experience and structures, we have a strong digital and e-commerce team and we were able to offer Denpro branded products directly online to consumers and other businesses, which has also been very successful through the shortage of PPE,” McNamee explains.
It was meeting a huge demand in the market, but also helped sustain the Denroy Group through the crisis in the aerospace industry. Denroy also succeeded because it was able to work fast.
“Our first mask product was a reusable face covering, and the idea was it would have exchangeable filters, making the mask reusable,” McNamee says. From there we developed an FFP3 mask for the health service. This was a collaborative process facilitated by the Business Services Organization (BSO) in Northern Ireland who are the procurement and logistics provider to the local health trusts. They facilitated design workshops with the clinical teams in the Trusts and enabled our design team to produce a mask to their specification. This was of huge benefit and we are very grateful to BSO and the Trusts for their assistance. “The FFP3 mask was launched, designed by aerospace engineers, tested and approved to specification all in about 14 weeks. From an initial discussion concept in April 2020, we were in production by December, going from concept to full production.”
As a result of the drive and growth in Denman and Denpro, the businesses have doubled in size over the last 18 months. It is a story McNamee believes is emblematic of Denroy Group’s approach.
“As a group, the secret of our success is our breadth of capability,” he says. “We have a range of skill sets from product designers who start with a blank CAD screen and design from scratch. We’ve digital marketers who can offer products online through e-commerce. We have experts in product certification and approval. We have skilled production managers and are able to take a concept from the CAD screen to a manufacturable product that can be sold through digital channels very quickly. That’s our strength.”