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.
Neil Hargreaves, Managing Director Knauf Insulation is BMBI’s Expert for Mineral Wool Insulation.
Robust demand for mineral wool insulation continues in 2019. Housebuilding remains buoyant in the Midlands and the North, offsetting a softening of demand in the South East. This has a positive impact on mineral wool insulation sales because houses built in these regions tend to be larger and so need more insulation.
In some ways it’s difficult to assess the true underlying demand for glass mineral wool, as supply constraints remain a factor. Since mid-2018, the major manufacturers have had to restrict sales using allocation programmes. At Knauf Insulation, we were pleased to be able to increase our allocation to customers in March, raising it to 115% of prior year sales.
We’re keeping the situation under constant review, exploring ways to further maximise output and increase availability, and will relax the allocation further as soon as we are able to. There continues to be no restrictions at all on our rock mineral wool products.
The Brexit elephant in the room continues to affect confidence across the whole industry, and has undoubtedly depressed construction activity. More directly, uncertainty is impacting manufacturers’ and merchants’ operations. As the March deadline approached, prudent businesses stockpiled raw materials and imported goods in case of ‘No Deal’ disruption. The decision now is whether to maintain those stockpiles through to the new deadline of October 31st.
Despite its prominence, Brexit isn’t the only thing on the political agenda affecting the industry. This year we expect the government to consult on further changes to the building regulations, with a particular focus on Part B (fire safety) and Part L (energy efficiency).
Last month’s widespread Extinction Rebellion protests have brought new urgency to the climate change discussion. Another significant event was March’s announcement of the planned Future Homes Standard. This is underpinned by two commitments: to ban fossil fuel heating in new homes by 2025, and to deliver world-leading levels of energy efficiency.
I’ll update you when its potential impact becomes clear, but at this stage we can say that merchants should ultimately expect increased demand for high-performance materials that deliver resilient buildings.
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.