Neil Hargreaves is Managing Director for Knauf Insulation Northern Europe (KINE), which includes the markets across the UK & Ireland, Scandinavia and English-speaking countries in Africa.
Neil originally joined KINE in 2006 as Head of Commercial Finance before leaving to become Finance Director (EMEA) for a multi-national manufacturing and contracting business. In 2011, he re-joined KINE as Finance Director and has since played a key role in a number of commercial, financial and strategic projects. He was appointed Managing Director in February 2019.
Prior to joining KINE, Neil trained as a Chartered Accountant with KPMG and gained experience in audit, business consulting and transaction services working with clients across manufacturing, construction and leisure industries.
Neil sits on the board for the Mineral Wool Insulation Manufacturers Association (MIMA).
Knauf Insulation is the UK’s leading manufacturer of glass and rock mineral wool insulation products.
As part of the family owned Knauf Group, Knauf Insulation represents one of the most respected and progressive names in insulation. It offers an unrivalled range of insulation solutions for any application or project to meet the increasing demand for energy efficiency, fire resistance, thermal and acoustic performance in new and existing homes, non-residential buildings and industrial applications.
In the UK, the company operates at three manufacturing plants; Cwmbran, Queensferry and St. Helens.
Construction confidence has taken a battering of late, with geopolitical instability picking up even as interest rate rises have slowed. Despite this mixed picture, the market outlook for insulation remains positive. The urgent need to address rising energy costs and the climate crisis means demand for insulation is assured, even in the face of some retrenchment of green policies.
The amount of insulation merchants sell is likely to remain high, but that doesn’t mean change isn’t coming. The type of insulation that’s sold, and the way customers engage with merchants, will be transformed as the industry adapts to new regulations. Chief among them the Building Safety Act.
The Act is a major milestone in the push for higher safety standards in construction. And while its stricter provisions only apply to certain high-risk buildings for now, it’s indicative of the direction of travel for the industry: a one-way journey to increased scrutiny and accountability.
Woven into its heart is the golden thread – the essential digital record that will need to be created for every building. With that comes a much greater focus on product information and compliance.
Merchants will need to be ready to confidently advise their customers on compliant solutions, and provide relevant and accurate product data to support that advice. All underpinned by robust record-keeping and up-to-date product information supplied by manufacturers.
More guidance on this is expected from government shortly, and for our part, we stand ready to review this as soon as it’s published, and share any insights with our customers.
In the meantime, it’s prudent to prepare for this shift now, by collaborating closely with manufacturers, reviewing product portfolios, adopting enhanced data management strategies, and actively engaging with customers to help them navigate these new requirements. Those merchants who do this early are most likely to preserve their privileged position as trusted advisors.
Significant change is coming, and it will be most disruptive to those least prepared for it. When it comes to the golden thread, merchants will find that a stitch in time saves nine.
Launched in 2015, the award winning monthly Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report is the only reliable measure of repair, maintenance & improvement (RMI) activity in the UK. Filling an important gap, it can be widely used in construction, and by economists, Government, national media, commentators and influencers outside the industry.