2019 will be a milestone year for Pland Stainless as the company celebrates its centenary. Still based on the original site in Leeds, the firm will have been producing stainless steel products — mainly for the commercial market — for 100 years.
Its broad product range is targeted at many sectors including healthcare, sanitaryware, washrooms, laboratory, education, catering, janitorial plus an anti-vandal range for secure accommodation. In addition, the supplier produces a range of standard products and a growing number of bespoke items designed in-house by its experienced technical design team.
PBM speaks with Steve Duree, Managing Director of Pland Stainless.
Q. How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
A. I came into the industry literally at ground level. I’d worked for a timber treatment company and was made redundant. With a young family to support, I was looking for any position that paid me a salary and a friend’s father was a supervisor at Pland. They were looking for a fork truck driver and he asked me to pop down to see them. A brief interview followed with a two minute drive up the factory and back again to show my competence.
There has always been opportunity within Pland for career progression and I sought out the opportunities as they became available, progressing through Quality Control as an Engineering Inspector and then an Internal Sales Role assisting the Estimator. I then became Commercial Sales Manager responsible for non-domestic product and later, Commercial Director with a focus on increasing sales.
I had the opportunity to acquire the business in 2008 and that’s the year I partnered with a Technical Manager, took out a huge business loan with guarantees on our homes and haven’t looked back. I now hold the position of Managing Director with responsibility for all aspects of the business.
Q. How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?
A. Brand has started to play a much more pivotal role. With the advent of the world wide web, consumers and contractors are more aware of what is available and are likely to specify a brand rather than a generic product. The time when a contractor would readily accept an alternative based on cost and availability is starting to wane.
Next day delivery is commonplace and expected by consumers, unless the product carries a hefty price tag. The manufacturer must carry more stock to win the orders that are being placed in ever decreasing quantities.
Q. What are the current challenges facing your company?
A. Confidence in the economy is low and public projects are just not coming to fruition quickly enough. Along with our competitors, we’re all fighting for the same share of a smaller piece of the pie. This inevitably means reducing margins to bring in work and keep a factory employed. Increased costs and reducing revenues do not make for good bed fellows.
The continuing challenge is better identifying where our sales come from. In the many years that I’ve worked for Pland, we always struggle with our future forecasts. We have a loyal customer base that we can count on for future sales, but the real challenge is what the product mix might be.
If we knew this, then manufacturing would become a little easier and we could perhaps easier identify where the return on investment would be better spent.
Q. What about the factors relating to the merchant sector in particular?
A. Embracing change and finding the different routes to market. The new generation have everything to hand on their smartphones and technology will play an increasing part in sourcing the right product.
Where a product is technically challenging, then it’s about being able to offer a service to the customer at local level. That may be educating the merchant with product training to add value to the brand they represent.
Q. What has been the highlight of your career to date?
A. Almost definitely buying the company I work for in 2008. This was immediately prior to the recession and though the formative years were tough, we never had any doubt that Pland would deliver.
Q. Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
A. Most people would say sipping a nice cool beer on a warm beach somewhere relaxing on a sun lounger. In all the years I’ve been in business, I’ve never yet reached the stage where I don’t want to work.
I still enjoy the daily challenge and, as long as health permits, I’d quite like to continue in my current role building the business and looking for other opportunities that would have a natural fit with the Pland brand.