Formed in 1981, Barton Fabrications is one of the market leaders in aluminium and stainless steel silo design, manufacture and installation for markets including the plastics industry. The company is the UK’s largest manufacturer of aluminium silos and works with materials handling partners across the globe. A family run business, Mark Barton Managing Director of Barton Fabrications has been at the helm for the last 21 years.
What trends do you think will shape the future of UK plastics? How will Barton Fabrications respond?
Environmental pressures are forever growing and, in particular, concerns about plastic waste in the oceans have been increasing over the last couple of years. Initiatives such as the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan launched at the start of 2018 and the Commonwealth Blue Charter agreed in April this year will keep the issue high on the political agenda for the foreseeable future. Barton has seen an increasing demand for silos as companies recognise not only cost savings, but also the environmental benefits of using silos for plastic feedstock storage. We also continue to introduce environmental silo features such as low profile painted options for aesthetic benefits and devices to avoid plastic feedstock spillage to the environment during filling.
How has Barton Fabrications developed during your tenure?
One might imagine that there is little that can be done to change a basic aluminium storage silo, however, we have been keen to introduce product innovations into our markets. For the plastics industry, one such initiative was the introduction of the in-silo blender, which is of particular interest for companies using recycled material in the form of plastic regrind. The variable nature of this feedstock means that batch mixing is beneficial. We have designed our blender with no moving parts so uses no power and cannot break down: material is drawn from different parts of the silo during discharge thus providing significant mixing. The efficiency of this process can be demonstrated on our Perspex test rig where we load different coloured feedstock into the silo at different levels. The stream of material from the silo shows how efficient the blending is.
What do you credit as the key to your success?
Solid engineering principles, good design and responsive customer service. These have been, and continue to be, our guiding principles. Whilst getting the word out about how good our product is, is obviously important, the product needs to work well, have a long life and be trouble free. Many of our customers place repeat orders, which is testament to our engineering principles. Our longest standing customer in the plastics market has been a client for 30 years.
What has been the greatest challenge in your career?
Increasing legislation – over the years we have seen an increasing amount of legislation covering design, manufacture and installation of silos. These include the recent Construction Products Regulations and CE Marking, material traceability, coded welder certification, silo access equipment, lifting schemes and transport regulations. We have met, or exceeded, all these requirements and whilst most regulations have been implemented for good reason it has added to the administrative resources required to understand and comply with the new standards. In some cases, we have introduced new concepts to the market, such as our full or half penthouse silo designs, which address ‘safe working at height’ legislation by providing a fully enclosed, safe environment at the top of the silo.
What advice do you wish you’d had on entering the industry and does that differ from the advice you would give to an Apprentice joining now?
It’s been such a long time I can’t really remember what advice I was given, but I think keeping up to date with technology is really important in today’s fast paced environment. When I started it was slide rules and drawing boards; now it is computers, CAD systems and remote monitoring telemetry. Being aware of how technology is affecting the industry and keeping up to date is not only the company’s responsibility but also the individual’s.
What hidden talents do you have?
I am a car fanatic and love restoring old vehicles. My latest project has been renovating a 1973 VW Convertible Beetle which is now complete and has given me great satisfaction in restoring. I love automotive engineering and it’s been a great chance to get my hands dirty in the workshop.