Cornwall Glass Manufacturing has unveiled £6m investment plans for our Highbridge site, something which Mark Mitchell, Chairman of the Cornwall Group, argues extends our reach along the M4 corridor.

Cornwall Glass, more accurately Cornwall Group since July 2019, has come literally, and metaphorically, a long way since being founded in Truro in 1978.

Now operating across three divisions, Cornwall Glass Manufacturing; Cornwall Glass and Glazing and merchanting business, Mackenzie Glass; who together are pushing glass processing and IGU manufacturing ‘north’ along the M5.

As an IGU manufacturer, which specialises in the supply of over-sized units, the announcement of a new £6m investment in our Highbridge manufacturing site, just west of Bristol, is set to expand our geographic reach again, this time along the M4 corridor and in central southern England.

“We have been looking to expand our reach geographically for a little while”, says Mark Mitchell, Chairman, the Cornwall Group. “Finding a suitable location and people with the right skills is very difficult, so it’s taken us a little while.

Highbridge’s Spraying Station – part of the Factory’s Processed Glass capabilities

“During that time a location next to our pre-existing site at Highbridge opened up, which allows us to triple our footprint and with it, expand our customer offer.”

Cornwall Glass Manufacturing is currently split across three sites; St Austell and Plymouth, plus Highbridge. Each of our location manufactures IGU’s and has processing facilities, however, there is a level of specialism at each.

This includes Plymouth, which following recent £5million investment has an until now, unique capability within the Group to manufacture architectural IGU’s alongside standard units.

Custom Laminated Panels produced at Highbridge

As part of our investment plans, this will now change going forward with a second line capable of manufacturing over-sized IGU’s built as part of our Highbridge investment plans.

Mark continues: “We have a cutting-edge capability in Plymouth and that gives us the capacity to manufacture more than 2,000 units a day, including our Bystronic IGU line which gives us the capability to handle units of up to 2.7m X 5m, in addition to automated concertina racks, the gantry crane.

“With St Austell, that takes us a very long way already and gives us the capability to supply a broad range of products.

“What we are seeing, however, is growing demand, particularly for larger and higher specification units. Having a second site capable of processing and manufacturing over-size architectural units allows us to introduce more flexibility in what we do, and ultimately to deliver a better service to our customers.”

The investment programme takes the site from 15,000 sq ft to 55,000 sq ft, making it the largest of the Cornwall Glass Manufacturing three sites.

To be delivered over three-years, in addition to new capacity to handle jumbos, as well as manufacture over-sized units, the investment programme will also house a new heat soak oven and autoclave.

This reflects increased demand for heat-soaked products from the commercial sector, as well as laminated and specialist products.

“The risks of IGU failure increase with size and we’re seeing heat-soaked products specified as a default on a growing number of architectural but also light-commercial projects. The flexibility a dedicated heat soak facility in Highbridge will give us, allows us to service projects more effectively across the South Midlands and east along the M4 Corridor and up into London”, Mark explains.

Highbridge’s Glass Lift in Operation

The investment programme will also give Highbridge a new specialism including walk-on insulated glass units; nonslip glass floors; staircases and other specialist processed glass products.

The expansion programme will also create up to 30 new jobs. This includes a pledge to create a number of new apprenticeship roles.

“Apprenticeships are key to our future and the sector’s future. We have committed to making sure that 10% of our workforce at any one time is made up from either current or former apprentices”, says Mark. “That will be carried through as part of our expansion plans at Highbridge.”

Plans for Highbridge follow the six-figure investment announcement at the beginning of the year in a new Bottero 520 LAM(e)/37 cutting table at our St Austell site, significantly increasing the glass processor’s, laminate capability in line with exponential growth in demand.

“We adjusted our business model in 2019 to form the new Group structure to bring increased specialism to our operations and to facilitate more effective sharing of manufacturing expertise across sites” says Mark. “I can say without a doubt, that decision has paid off. We have far established far closer working across sites and the service that we have been able to offer to our customers is better, despite the challenges that the industry has faced in the last 12-months or so.”

The Team at Highbridge, with Managing Director, Mark Knight, outside the existing Highbridge factory

“As we move forward, the investment programme that we are committed to at Highbridge, will support us in building on that, allowing us to deliver a higher level of service and expand our offer as well as our geographical reach.” Mark concluded.

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