Along with every other company in the UK, 2020 presented us with unprecedented challenges the likes of which we may never see again. We have had to work harder than ever to manage significant health risks, changes to working practices and a disruption to the economy on a scale we have never seen before.
Despite these trials and the prevailing uncertainty, we are proud to say that AB Glass posted a very positive year, overall. While turnover has dipped by some 20%, our profitability has remained robust and we have successful invested in new equipment, talent and expanded premises – all of which will hold us in good stead for the future.
We were fortunate in that we were able to trade in some form throughout the pandemic, working closely with the authorities and within special health and safety regulations drawn up specifically for the construction industry in the context of the pandemic.
As the first round of restrictions eased in late summer, we saw a surge in demand and new orders. This gave us the confidence to invest in our talent pool. We were proud to have created seven new jobs in the autumn, as we geared up to manage a boom in new work and projects and also eyed a big year in 2021 for the business.
A significant milestone for the business also occurred when our long-standing Finance Director Sharron Newton took well-earned retirement. We were delighted to have a deep enough talent pool internally to replace her with Lisa Walker, who has worked in our accounts department for four years, taking the reins.
Despite the challenges of COVID, we also continued to demonstrate our commitment to recruiting and training a new generation of employees by partnering with local schools and apprenticeship programmes. We were especially delighted to be associated with Gower College Swansea’s Annual Awards – and sponsor the GCS Training Student of the Year Award.
Encouraging young talent has always been at the heart of AB Glass so being associated with something that does much to inspire young people to go on and make their mark in industry was a fantastic opportunity.
We also made a six-figure investment in building a new storage unit that will release 30% more floor space in our production unit, enabling us to increase and to further grow our order book. The construction of our new 5-bay storage unit should finish in early Spring 2021, in line with the projected expansion of the business.
We were able to respond to the challenges of the pandemic in specific ways. AB Access Control, our access control unit, successfully rolled out an innovative solution to help companies get their workforces up and running again safely.
It offers the installation of a cutting-edge access control system for premises that incorporates facial recognition software with the ability to assess the body temperature of the individual seeking access to a building or premises. The system means a company will be able to assess the health status of employees or visitors and their potential for being infected with COVID-19. Couple this with the already available touch free entry with automatic doors, we offered the complete hands free entry system.
We were also proud to work on helping the Princess of Wales Hospital Bridgend increase its capacity of beds, enhancing its ability to treat patients with COVID-19. The NHS hospital built a new Respiratory High Care Unit specifically for patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Working alongside contractor John Weaver on the project, we supplied around a dozen 6mm Clear Tough glazing units at the new facility.
We also continued to reach for an achieve the highest standards in our industry in terms of certifications and awards.
We were once again awarded the highest Green Dragon Environmental Standard for our continued dedication to effective environmental management. Level 5 Green Dragon is equivalent to, and in fact requires a greater environmental commitment in respect to public reporting and carbon emissions than ISO14001 and EMAS.
Several members of staff also secured the South and West Wales Safety Group Award Certificate on behalf of AB Glass. The South and West Wales Safety Group was founded in 1943 to provide a source of information, advice and training on workplace health and safety for organisations.
We were also proud to continue our membership of ADSA – the Automatic Door Suppliers Association, which developed the industry code of practice for automatic doors. It means we can advise on every aspect of automatic doors, from the initial selection and specification, through to installation in order to ensure that clients end up with the right type of door for their particular requirements.
A number of our staff also successfully completed a training course geared to the specific skills needed when working with Passivhaus developments, a type of structure designed with energy-efficiency at its heart. We have been working on the first Passivhaus leisure centre in the world in partnership with sub-contractor MC Installations and main contractor Kier.
Meanwhile, AB Glass has also secured and completed many high-profile projects in 2020 for notable clients across Wales and the UK. Some of the projects we were especially proud to work on included the former Guardian Exchange building in Bristol, we’ve been working on for Kier Construction. The three-acre site, developed by Royal Asset Management and now called Glassfields due to its former use as the site of the original ‘Bristol Blue’ glassworks, has been divided into 4 plots with our AB Glass team working on plots 2 and 4.
We were also delighted to be working with Bouygues UK on the build of a brand new school in Barry thanks to a £34.7 million investment by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Welsh Government. The Pencoedtre High School project is a part of the 21st Century Schools programme, which will see over £135 million invested in transforming educational facilities across the Vale of Glamorgan. Part of the Swansea Bay scheme we are proud to be working on the North Block residential scheme with Buckingham Group, on a building that has been confirmed as ground floor retail and POBL housing in the residential scheme above.
We also enjoyed working alongside global construction specialist ISG to deliver a landmark building in Swansea – the £40 million student high-rise accommodation block at Mariner Street, Swansea. Reaching 19 stories and 78 metres tall, the building will house 780 students and be the second tallest in the city.
We worked closely alongside contractor Morgan Sindall on a project that will make a big difference to the young people that attend Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School in the Afan Valley. Part of the Welsh Government’s 21st Century Schools and Education Programme, the new build will be built on the school playing fields with a completion date to accommodate the start of the new term in September 2021.
We played our part in completing a landmark project at Aberystwyth University that involved the refurbishment and creation of new facilities of one of its most famous halls of residence.
Again working closely with contractor Morgan Sindall the project’s completion means Pantycelyn Halls opened in time for September.
Finally, we were especially honoured to have played an important role on the manufacture and installation of architectural glazing systems for the world’s first Passivhaus leisure centre at St Sidwell’s Point in Exeter.
Benefits of the Passivhaus design include a 70% saving on energy costs when compared to a current good practice pool, a 50% reduction in water use, outstanding internal water and air quality, excellent daylight levels and lower maintenance costs due to a high-quality building fabric.
Alan Brayley, our managing director, said: “Clearly, 2020 threw some severe challenges at us but I am very proud of the resilience we showed in how we quickly adjusted our working practices and worked very hard all year to ensure we weathered the storms and move into 2021 in good shape.
“While our turnover was down a little, our profitability remained robust and I am delighted with some of the other investments we were able to make in new offerings, equipment, expanded premises – as well as welcoming a new generation of talent to the business.
“We now move into 2021 in a bullish frame of mind. Other challenges remain including the uncertainty around Brexit. But our order book for the first half looks very robust and as the situation around COVID improves, we believe we will enjoy a solid trading environment.
“Finally, I would like to thank all of our extremely valued customers, associates and members of staff for all of their support throughout 2020. We wish you all a wonderful Christmas and very happy New Year, and look forward to working with you in 2021.”