Fire safety systems supplier Blaze Manufacturing Solutions is plotting a route back to its heyday after diversifying to beat the downturn.
The management team has developed a business plan which maps out a growth strategy and focuses the business on the key markets where they believe they can build on the current client base.
Owner Howard Johnson said: “When we talk to local clients, investors and banks, they still have us down as an oil and gas service company rather than a business with a diverse client base operating in different market segments.
“Our challenge is to work out what Blaze will look like going forward. We already know it will be significantly different from the company we founded and the market we have served for the last 11 years.
“The business plan brings a focus to where we are, where we want to go and what we need to deliver our objectives and, ultimately, success.”
In 2013, Blaze’s entire client base was in oil and gas. Fast forward to 2017 and less than 20% of the company’s turnover comes from the sector.
The business has expanded into biomass, waste to energy, transformers, renewables, defence and mining and is looking to secure public-sector work.
Mr Johnson continued: “With support from Scottish Enterprise, we have grown and evolved, and whilst a lot of our products and services are still consumed here in the UK, today we are also exporting as much as 65% to an international and European client base.”
The company returned to the black within the last year and turnover is currently on track to double. Blaze has taken on more employees to help cover demand for services.
Blaze is currently working on two different transformer contracts in parallel, and the sales pipeline in this market is strong with further projects being worked on.
In previous years, Blaze’s orders rarely stretched further than six weeks into the future, but now they have projects going well into next year and beyond.
Manpower and service mobilisations are also increasing, coupled with service recurring revenues.
Mr Johnson also said design and manufacturing work was progressing well on the fire-fighting foams systems that Blaze is providing in Africa. Other African customers are keeping tabs on Blaze’s progress in this arena.
Mr Johnson added: “Our oil and gas opportunities are also on the increase here in the UK as well as overseas, and whilst this is now only part of our business strategy it remains a vitally important sector to Blaze and one that should return to being our core business. As this market moves into late-life there are increasing SME challenges and Blaze has unique solutions to assist in maximising economic recovery.
“We are developing client services that will enable us to support operators into decommissioning with rental solutions rather than the traditional model of providing capital expenditure equipment suitable for a 20 to 30 year design life.”
Blaze has also had success over the last year in the awards arena.
Blaze was named as one of the top 1,000 Companies to Inspire by the London Stock Exchange (LSE).
Blaze will be working with the LSE over the next few years after joining the ‘elite programme’. It means Blaze will be exposed to different types of companies, new networks and people who can help the firm diversify further. Mr Johnson said the achievements had given Blaze a real boost and that the firm was definitely getting more interest from investors.
This year will also be remembered for individual accolades for the team at Blaze.
Ann Johnson, Mr Johnson’s wife and Blaze’s finance director, was named entrepreneurial supporter of the year at the Elevator Awards in June.
Andrew Johnson, the couple’s son, has been shortlisted for the rising star category at the Northern Star Business Awards in October and Howard Johnson is in the running for the industry leader prize at the Press and Journal Gold Awards in September.
The second half of 2017 will be busy for Blaze, with the company planning to attend a number of exhibitions, including Offshore Europe in September and a Ministry of Defence event in November. Offshore Europe is important to Blaze, regardless of its diversification drive and whilst low crude prices may be here to stay, oil and gas is very much in Blaze’s recovery and growth plans.
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