Road to success
Occupying a leading position in the commercial and industrial segments, A1 Flue Systems has amassed a portfolio of iconic projects and now sets its sights on the domestic market
With 42 years of successful trading behind it, family owned, multi-award winning A1 Flue Systems has grown to become a true leader in its field.Employing a dedicated team of 134 people, the company specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of tailor made flue systems, and has established an unrivalled project portfolio of high profile projects across the UK. “We cover a wide range of projects from small, local projects of values as little as £6000 and supply right up to the top end at about £250,000,” highlights Contract and Manufacturing Director, John Hamnett. “In 2014 alone we completed just over 5000 projects, with up to 400live contracts running at any one time.”
Predominantly a manufacturing business, the company employs a team of 45 manufacturing and 20 engineering staff to cope with this demand, and deploys 16 of its own install teams across the company to deliver the systems to a high specification. “With this team behind us our strength is in the fact that we only offer bespoke solutions,” John continues. “We manufacture and tailor make every system to meet every client’s needs and the specific site requirements. Whilst many of our European competitors try to fit standard systems into buildings, we have established a reputation for doing the opposite – designing around the buildings.”
Amongst its growing list of projects, A1 has supplied systems to many of the iconic London structures including the Shard, where the company successfully installed a fleet of seven flue structures serving three boilers, two generators and two CHP systems, whilst ensuring longevity and ease of access. The Leadenhall building, 20 Fenchurch Street, most buildings on the Canary Wharf complex, Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament also feature, as well as a number of ongoing developments across the capital. Elsewhere, the company has supplied to the recently completed Birmingham New Street Station redevelopment and Glasgow Law Courts projects.
Presently, the company is involved in the ongoing development of London’s iconic Battersea Power Station. “We have been linked to this project since 2008 and whilst the programme has been knocked back a number of times, we have continued to maintain our involvement,” explains John.“As a result we were recently awarded a contract to provide some temporary flues whilst the chimneys are being rebuilt as well as designing and putting a specification together for the permanent system.”
Complementing A1’s offering is its specialism in flue dilution systems, for which it has demonstrated a leading capability to deliver across Europe. “We have successfully won and completed a number of large projects that are of a scale and design complexity that our competitors haven’t been able to rival,” notes John. “For example, we worked on a very big fan dilution system on Twickenham stadium, which we were awarded because we were the only company that put forward a compatible quotation. Likewise, we have just completed a large dilution system in the Grand Egyptian Museum in Egypt. Again, despite tendering across Europe, we came out as the only compliant tenderer that put forward a suitable and viable option for them to go with.”
In its bid to diversify and maintain its position at the top of the industry, A1 Flue Systems has recently made some significant strategic moves to expand and enhance its offering to the market. Firstly is a partnership with natural ventilation providers, Monodraught. John explains: “We worked as a supplier to Monodraught a number of years ago when they offered flue systems as well as natural ventilation but as they moved away from flues the relationship fizzled out. Then, recently they approached us because they could see an opportunity where we could open up each other’s channels and offer a complete heating and ventilation package to the market by working together. There are a lot of synergies to be had here and we hope to see some positive development as we move forward.”
In addition to this, in October 2015, A1 announced the launch of its new, standalone business, A1 Expo Ltd, in partnership with Italian stainless steel giant, Expo Inox. Specialising in flue systems from 125mm to 200mm for installers of small-scale chimney systems and wood-burning stove retailers, A1 Expo is the company’s first foray into the domestic market.
“A1 Flue Systems is firmly established as the UK market leader in the design, manufacture and installation of commercial and industrial chimney, flue and exhaust systems – but we have long harboured ambitions of being equally dominant in the domestic market,” highlights A1 Director, TJ Duncan-Moir. “To make a success of it, we needed to partner with an industry heavyweight, and Expo Inox fitted the bill perfectly.” Supplying a range of products from twin and single-wall flue systems, cowls and chimney fans, to core vents, stove fans and carbon monoxide detectors, the venture has ambitions of joining its parent companies as a market leader.
The market for A1 has been challenging over the past 18 months as the economy still recovers from a long recession and John notes that during this period the company faced tough competition from cheaper, European suppliers. “This appears to be bouncing back now,” he comments. “Whilst we never really dropped the amount of work during the period, we were facing more cost pressure, which has alleviated now that are winning more quoted value contracts.” Securing the company’s continued success is its ability to stand apart from the competition and offer highly technical, cutting edge solutions, which appear to be favoured in a market that is recovering from a period of cost-sensitivity.
With new market opportunities opening up as a result of careful strategic planning, allowing A1 Flue Systems to make inroads to new customer bases, and recovering market conditions, John is clear that the company is still as focused as ever on its core industries. “Looking ahead we are keen to carry on with more of the same,” he says. “We know where we come from and we know what we’re good at. We have established a reputation for the large, bespoke projects so we will be securing more of these, but at the same time we will continue with our smaller jobs, as these are vital to the business’s continued success on a day-to-day basis. We believe that we are leaders in what we do, but being leaders and staying leaders are two different things so we have to focus on maintaining this position.”
A1 Flue Systems
Services: Leading specialists in the design and manufacture of bespoke flue systems