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Q&A with Chalcroft Construction

18 October 2011

Food Express speaks to Mark Reeve about Chalcroft Construction, including its work with food manufacturers

Can you define Chalcroft in your own words?
Chalcroft is a dynamic growing business, focused on offering a specialist construction service, predominantly to blue chip clients in the food and drink industry.

Briefly, what’s the history of CC, origins and the MBO?
In 1979, Fred Chalcroft set up a civil engineering company, which grew steadily. By the 90s, Chalcroft was specialising in temperature-controlled facilities. The skills and experience gained enabled the company to become a main contractor for the food industry. The management team bought the business in 2007, and Chalcroft continues to be run by its owner directors, who take personal responsibility for each of our projects.

How was CC affected by the recession, and have you benefited from the 'Recovery'?
Chalcroft weathered the recession without difficulty, benefiting from its business focus. We are seeing a significant upturn in enquiries, with larger capital projects again being considered. We have just completed our financial year, ahead of target; orders in hand are 50 per cent ahead of this time last year.

How important is the food sector to CC?
It is a very important sector to Chalcroft, where we can offer specialist advice and a wealth of experience. We receive a high percentage of repeat business and enjoy excellent relationships with our clients.

Detail a case study involving CC involvement with the food industry.
Dover-based Tilmanstone Salads, part of Bakkavör Group, prepares a number of value-added salads and vegetable product ranges for a well-known, premier UK high street retailer.

When it needed to take on additional products transferred from another site within the group, Tilmanstone called in Chalcroft Construction to assist in the design and lead the build of an extension.

With tight deadlines, the need to reorganise internal facilities and a requirement to carry out the works without affecting production, planning and communication were key factors to the successful completion of the 16-week project.

This was a challenging project but we were able to deliver what was asked for on time. Necessity meant that this was a rapid project, and within a matter of weeks, the design had been agreed, orders had been placed and work had begun. As this is an operational site, we had to meet industry standards and Bakkavör’s exacting standards.

The high-care project involved the construction of a full-height, single-storey factory extension, which necessitated the demolition of internal structures in a protected environment, the addition of refrigeration services and a dressings area.

Chalcroft Construction has carried out a number of projects for Bakkavör, including a major extension to the premises of Isleport Foods, in Highbridge, Somerset, which produces a range of chilled desserts for the major UK supermarkets. The multi-million-pound project involved doubling the size of the production floor and the refurbishment of the existing building – all completed without any disruption to production.

How important is 'lean manufacturing' to CC?

Chalcroft runs a tight and efficient ship, with a very flat management structure. We are committed to providing excellent service to our clients, and constantly seeking ways in which it can be improved and how we can add value for our clients. We are 'non-contractual' and seek to resolve any difficulties swiftly, with the minimum of disruption.

Could you elaborate on the hierarchy of the UK office?

Chalcroft has two UK offices one in Kings Lynn, Norfolk and one in Pershore, Worcestershire. Most group functions are based in the Eastern office, which is responsible for 65 per cent of the group's turnover.

Relationships are more important than geography and we place our clients' needs, and continuity of service, first.

Could you tell us more about your background with respect to the food and construction sectors?

I left school at the age of 15 and went straight onto a construction skills scheme supported by the CITB. I served my apprenticeship as a carpenter with a small local builder. I became a self-employed carpenter, working across the UK, subsequently becoming a site, then a contracts manager. I joined Chalcroft in 1991, and by the late 90s was given operational control of the business. In 2000 I was appointed Managing Director, allowing me to shape the business towards the MBO in 2007. During our business planning in 2001, we focused on the food sector and set out an organic growth path to where we are today. Although this, of course, did not include the recession! 

How important are exhibitions to CC?

We see exhibitions as an integral part of our marketing strategy in raising industry awareness of our services, experience and skills.

Anything else you'd like to add?

At Chalcroft we enjoy working for food and drink companies: we understand the particular challenges of the industry where there is often no downtime and construction has to be nimble-footed with a very sharp awareness of the importance of Health and Safety.

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