In a Q&A session, Cristex’s operations manager, Scott Singleton reckons that whilst the pandemic has been tough for many businesses, it has allowed the company to reflect and redefine a path for its future success.
Formed in 1990, Cristex Composite Materials has steadily evolved to become one of the UK’s premier suppliers of high-performance fibres and fabrics for the UK composites and reinforced plastics markets. The company also offer a tailored service, specialising in the cutting and kitting of fabrics and core materials for the composite industry, and the slitting of rolls into narrow width tapes.
Q) To begin with, please provide the latest company news on any new equipment purchases and factory upgrades?
We’ve made significant investments in machinery over the past 12 months to ensure we can continuously support our customers’ needs and to support the continuous growth of our production department. We’ve recently invested in a new slitting machine that is designed and developed to process a variety of composite reinforcements. This machine is capable of slitting rolls 300cm wide down to 2.5cm comfortably.
As part of our planned expansion, we anticipate acquiring a second unit specifically focused on the processing of materials into tapes and kits. This extra space will allow us to accelerate and increase our capacity to support the various projects we are working on.
Q) What industries do your customers typically hail from? Is it mainly for the provision of kits?
We have strong working relationships with market leaders across a huge range of industries, which has allowed us to grow with the market as we strive to offer the very best service we can as a material supplier.
Looking at the cutting and kitting side of our business, we have fantastic clients of whom we supply kits to, again across a wide range of industries. We’ve made a strong push into the marine industry over the past 12 months with excellent results. We have live projects with several of the UK’s major boat builders where we see the real-life benefit in production because of the services we offer. It’s great to see the rewards of the ideas we started to discuss and put in place a few years ago coming through.
Q) What were your reasons for specifying your flatbed cutting system and what kinds of composite-related thicknesses do they cut?
When the decision was made for us to commit to setting up a kit cutting department within Cristex, there were a few points we all agreed upon. Whilst there are many factors that need to be considered to deliver this, the machine itself needed to be from a reliable and trusted manufacturer. The whole experience dealing with Zund was a pleasure and the continued support is equally as good.
Another important factor to mention is that the cutting system is modular. For example, if we receive an enquiry for the cutting of a certain material our current set-up cannot process, we have the capability of slotting a new cutting module in. This allows us to offer a huge range of cutting capabilities with one machine, ensuring we can forge our own path based on clients’ requirements.
To date we’ve had experience of cutting most types of composite reinforcements for our existing and new clients, covering prepreg, dry carbon fabrics, glass fibres and honeycombs. Most of our materials vary from less than 1mm to around 5mm in thickness.
Q) Do you have a favourite customer success story through using the Zund flatbed cutting machines that you can bring to mind?
We’ve had so many good case studies from projects we have been involved with over the past 2-3 years, but one which the operators always love to ask me about is Urban Automotive, a company specialising in the modification of high-end vehicles. This is our oldest kit cutting client and one we have been delighted to have grown with in all areas over the years.
We have digitised, nested, cut and approved visual carbon kits for Lamborghini, the Mercedes G Wagon and a range of Range Rover cars. There is a real following of all Urban Automotive’s work from the whole team involved in these kits and its great to see this enthusiasm in all areas for the exciting work we get involved with. The introduction of kits into the production at Urban Automotive has increased quality and consistency of produced parts, reduced material wastage and layup time.
Q) Would you say that your long-standing partnerships have brought huge benefits, particularly as trusted relationships can lead to a better way forward for all?
Yes, most certainly. It was and still is a very challenging time to be running a business during the pandemic. I must say the support and understanding from both our suppliers and our customers has been overwhelming. The spirit of working through tough times together has been at the core of our business over this period and will continue to do so. Our main priority has always been to meet our clients’ expectations and provide the trusted service we have built over 30 years of operating.
The entire team at Cristex has been working hard to ensure any disruption in what has proven challenging circumstances for most businesses over the past 12-18 months are minimised. We’ve invested in additional sales and production staff to both communicate with clients and increase our capacity internally as we strive to keep moving forward. A massive reminder to us all here about the importance of building and looking after all relationships with clients and suppliers.
Q) What particular aspect has helped your company get through the pandemic?
Looking back on how the business looked 12-18 months ago to how it looks now has been an exercise we have done regularly at Cristex to reflect on decisions we have made, and often more importantly the ones we didn’t make. We’ve seen the obvious change into how we engage with clients. Embracing online meetings and remote working has forced us to adapt to a new way of operating as a business.
One of the main aspects that has got us through these tough times is hard work and effort from the whole team. There have been countless waves of challenges, hard conversations, but the attitude to keep moving forward, communicate with the whole supply chain and to have that resilience to not let anything stop us, is what I believe has got us this far and will continue to do so. I would like to say a huge thank you to all the team at Cristex for their efforts through the pandemic.
Q) Finally, where to next for your company?
We are looking forward to having the opportunity to get back out and see our clients face to face and see first-hand the innovative projects they are working on. As much as online meetings has been an interesting experience and a vital tool over the past year, it doesn’t replace the face-to-face meetings we are so used to.
At Cristex, we are excited to explore more of the opportunities within the composites sector that are so widespread across all industries, with the huge push and breakthroughs in material capabilities and developing success in the recyclability of composites. I want to see us continue to listen to our clients wants and needs and work with them to grow both our companies. This strategy has been key for us and will continue to do so.