Andrew Will, Electrium Sales & Marketing Director, talks to Voltimum's Frankie Snobel about how the company has evolved, its market leading brands and the benefits Voltimum users will gain from its recent Voltimum partnership.
Electrium is now one of the UKs leading Electrical Groups. How has the company grown and changed throughout the years to become what it is today?
Electrium as we know it today was formed back in 1997 and was actually the result of a management buyout from Hanson Plc. The buyout itself is what brought together all these well known and respected brands in the electrical installation equipment industry, which includes Crabtree, Wylex and Volex Accessories. Each of the brands has around 100 years of innovation and a great deal of success in their history. The group was acquired by Siemens in 2006 and Electrium is now part of the Siemens Low and Medium Voltage Division.
At the heart of Electrium is our commercial centre, which is sited in Cannock. That is where the bulk of our administrative function is placed. The companys manufacturing base is in the UK as well, in Wythenshawe, Manchester. The factory itself is a vital part in terms of our future. Weve invested £4m in recent years, we employ around 200 people and there are several important disciplines there for us, including R&D, design engineering, the UKAS test laboratory – all these sorts of functions beside the actual manufacturing itself are also sited there in Wythenshawe. These local resources have supported Electriums leading position with many of the innovations of recent times, including 17th Edition circuit protection products.
We also offer our own distribution facility sited in Wigan and that incorporates a product adaptation line for specific customer built assemblies. There are further research and development facilities there as well, including a second UKAS accredited laboratory.
In this competitive market, how does Electrium stand out from other electrical groups?
Electrium, throughout its history, has had an absolute commitment to manufacturing and to quality and value for money. Although the recent trends have seen an increase in the number of companies importing products rather than manufacturing, Electrium has made the strategic decision to maintain its involvement and influence over product designs, production systems and methods and to partner with third party suppliers and not to simply outsource.
This has been demonstrated by the multimillion pound investment that we have given to the manufacturing plant in Manchester, where many of the components and finished goods are designed and manufactured from scratch. There are too many to mention, but the headliners include products such as distribution boards, panel boards, switch boards, switch fuse units, consumer units and isolators. In addition, Electrium is investing in people with real apprenticeships – true trade apprenticeships. We have added another six trainees to the existing high levels of production staff and the graduate intake program this last year. This multilayered investment both in terms of financial investment and also investment in the local infrastructure means that the United Kingdom quality house is involved in ensuring the products are designed and manufactured to meet British European and international product standards within quality approved partner facilities and that Electrium is ideally positioned to serve the UK market and is actually the home for British Standards around the world.
Tell me about each of Electriums brands.
Crabtree was established in 1919 and is famous for producing robust, high quality wiring accessories. The product range expanded over time and while todays Crabtree product portfolio still includes several high quality ranges of wiring accessories, from the basic white moulded to the high specification decorative flat plate Platinum range. There is also a fabulous plug-in range of consumer units called Starbreaker. Crabtree is also the only brand to offer a range of high specification three phase distribution boards for 16kA DIN MCBs and RCBOs. This ever-expanding portfolio now includes a recently launched modular range of MCCB Panel Boards and MCCB devices that will actually make it much easier for installers to comply with all of the legislative requirements, especially energy usage monitoring and control. In addition, Crabtree also offers cable management and busbar systems under the Britmac brand, plus control and trunking systems. Crabtree is really our primary brand for project engineers and specifiers.
Wylex was founded in 1897. It was originally an electrical contracting company that later manufactured installation products that were not readily available for themselves – they actually filled the gap in the market and developed the factory in Wythenshawe. Its mainly focused on the residential sector and very specifically in circuit protection. In fact, Wylex has the widest range of domestic circuit protection products in the UK and is confidently specified by many clients as the brand of choice. Its reputation over the many years has been built on service quality and engineering innovation and has been maintained over decades from Wythenshawe, which still has Wylex Works as its name carved into the stone above the main entrance. Today Wylex is still moving forward in domestic circuit protection. Recently weve launched a new range of circuit protection for photovoltaic installations and we have many other exciting developments to support initiatives like the Green Deal.
Volex Accessories and Appleby make up the third of the three brands or operating divisions of Electrium. Volex Accessories and Appleby serve the residential markets with a product range that is best in its class. Innovation again is a core feature here too, with the first and best dry liner boxes in the market and a leading position for first fix accessories. These products are an ideal complement to the wider range of Volex Accessories, for example grid systems, luminaires and IP55 products.
The three major brands have been developed to complement each other and whilst there is an element of overlap between the portfolios, that is only there to maintain the level of cohesion in ensuring that the portfolio serves the complete marketplace.
How is Electrium moving forward for 2012 and beyond?
Its not easy times for the industry at the moment with the current economic climate. Electrium will maintain its manufacturing roots, keeping quality and value very high on the agenda. We are constantly looking to develop new products and services. Being a member of the Siemens family, where innovation is a core component of Siemens values, means that we are looking to replicate that within Electrium and the brands. An example of innovative services includes our Factory Build Assembly, where we are capable of customising three-phase power distribution systems.
How will Electriums partnership with Voltimum benefit our users?
Users will have immediate access to the full portfolios of all of our brands through the Voltimum product catalogue. We will also be participating in the expert panel, found in the Technical Expertise Area on Voltimum. Here people will be able to place questions in the appropriate Inbox and gain a quick response from one of our experts. Electrium and its brands will also be able to discuss topical issues that affect the industry, whether it is a straightforward product launch or new legislation that affects us all.