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.
Since mid-2018, the UK’s major glass mineral wool manufacturers have had to operate allocation programmes to manage supplies. At Knauf Insulation, we were able to relax our allocation throughout Q3, before removing it entirely from 1st November (our rock mineral wool products remained fully available throughout).
Speaking with our customers, it’s clear that stock levels have returned to normal. This is of course good news for merchants, as it means they can supply products to meet customer demand for high-performance insulation. It’s also good news because it means it will be much easier to get a better sense of the reality of that demand. During the period of allocation, sales figures were driven by availability – now we can assess the true underlying demand for glass mineral wool insulation.
Speaking of which, housing sector completions remained stable throughout Q3. Most indicators suggest housing starts haven’t quite kept pace though, which may result in fewer completions through 2020. It appears larger housebuilders are continuing to build, but smaller housebuilders – more reliant on borrowing – are reducing activity pending Brexit and the imminent election. At the time of writing, we’re no nearer to knowing how Brexit will be resolved, or even whether we’ll have a stable majority government.
Once we do eventually have more certainty, it’s likely that we’ll see a boost in some construction activity. Many of the fundamentals are in place – unemployment remains low, real wages are rising, and consumer spending is strong. Business confidence is the main area of concern, with the UK Construction Purchasing Managers Index having dropped four points since May, though it saw a small rise in October, possibly as a result of parliament passing the Benn Act to avert a No Deal Brexit.
Anticipating eventual stability, we’re looking ahead at the other factors that will affect merchants in 2020. The energy efficiency of homes is high on all parties’ agendas which bodes well. The Part L 2020 consultation and Future Homes Standard will also be critical – the industry must deliver resilient buildings that perform as designed in the real world. For merchants, that will mean an increasing focus on supplying the right product for every application.
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.