The company manufactures unique products with a patented technology process and is consistently developing new versions for its expanding clientele
ILIUM, a manufacturer of fibreglass structural composite reinforcements, has registered production increases as demand for its innovative products grows in both eastern and western markets.
The company, which operates its plant at the Bahrain International Investment Park (BIIP), touched production of 1,000 tonnes in 2015, an increase of 30 per cent over the previous year, and expects output this year to climb 50 per cent, according to its business development manager Colin Leatham-Locke.
The company commenced production in 2012, has annual output capacity of 10,000 tonnes and utilises a patented technology process.
The fibreglass structural composite reinforcements that Ilium produces are the outcome of a process in which polyester flow media are sandwiched between layers of chopped fibreglass. “The unique feature lies in the way we assemble the product and in the automation. All elements are made in line, in a single process from basic raw materials,” said Leatham-Locke.
“We manufacture the polyester material we use, unlike others who buy it from a specialist nonwoven manufacturer. And while our competitors stitch with a polyester thread to accomplish the three-layer cohesion, we encapsulate our product with a lightweight polyester surface veil, and with our patented process technology assemble the three layers.
Ilium buys polyester in the form of staple fibre from Europe and makes from it nonwoven carded flow media, designed to optimise resin flow. The fibreglass is sourced in Europe, China and Saudi Arabia.
The company’s plant has several bespoke machines imported from five manufacturers, most of whom are in Europe.
It has developed several specialisations with iSpring and iFlex as the standard lines and the two accounting for about 90 per cent of the turnover. iSpring sales are considerably higher than those of iFlex.
“We’ve developed our range, but it takes time to gain traction in the market,” said Leatham-Locke. The Bahrain market accounts for some 20 per cent of sales and exports go to a string of destinations including Turkey, Europe and North America. The company has not made much headway in Asia where competition from China is strong. Still, Ilium has customers in the Philippines and Japan and the official says it is targeting the Chinese market as well ‘as we have a better technology product.”
So far the Gulf Cooperation Council market has been limited as Ilium’s products have specific applications that the region does not cater to in high volume yet, but the company acknowledges there is potential, particularly in Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
The company’s iSpring line has diverse applications including those in trailers, caravans and mass transportation products such as trains as well as water slides. Customers who make water slides include one in North America, one in Turkey and one the Philippines.
FOCUS AND FEEDBACK
The company is currently focusing on customers and distributors who Leatham-Locke says “see value in our products and recognise and understand the difference.”
It is looking at growing its global sales network and on stepping up production to reach levels closer to capacity. The strategy is also to cater to specialities that take advantage of the company’s technology and solve customers’ problems that its competitors cannot deal with on their own.
“We can provide products or alternatives that our competitors cannot supply,” affirmed Leatham-Locke.
“Our product development is through collaboration involving spending time with our customers and understanding their challenges. Through that process and through utilising our technologies and our capabilities we are able to develop a product that is completely new to market. We make sure there is no similar product in the market and foresee it will grow fast.
“We consistently develop new versions of existing products in order to increase product diversity and customer suitability. We launched four over the past year.”
Spring is traditionally used in vacuum-assisted Resin Transfer Moulding, a closed mould process, which is ideal for cost-effective production of semi-structural, medium- to high-volume parts requiring complex geometry in a wide variety of applications.
“Customer feedback shows a high level of satisfaction with our products in terms of quality and versatility. Using state-of-the-art technology and maintaining the highest levels of quality, improvements in resin flow and surface finish have resulted in products that outperform similar existing products in the market,” a company statement said.
Ilium’s owner is BFG International, a fully Bahraini-owned company that is a market leader and products innovator in the global composites industry. The company has 15 manufacturing facilities worldwide and employs more than 2,000 skilled staff.