Fibreglass chimney pots and walls have provided a route to survival for a Black Country manufacturer left high and dry after losing its main customer.
L&R Products, based in Kingswinford, originally built up its business supplying a range of fibreglass parts for the automotive industry.
It specialised in body panels and radiator surrounds for the HGV business, with three quarters of its business with Cheshire-based truck maker ERF.
But the work dried up when the ERF factory was closed by its German owners MAN three years ago, forcing L&R to enter new markets.
Following the end of the HGV work, it was forced to reduce its workforce from 21 to 15, but has now returned to its full staff complement boosted by new orders for its innovative brick feel fibre glass.
Gary Nicholas, director of the company, said: "About three quarters of our business was with ERF, and we always knew it could be a problem.
"But if there's work, you run with it, and we used it as a backbone for the rest of the business.
"The signs were good; they had just opened a new factory in Middlewich with Princess Anne at the ceremony.
"But when it closed we were up a gum tree and had to find work elsewhere."
L&R had been asked by one company to produce brick finished fibre glass panels, and a sample was produced.
But it lacked an outlet before linking up with Banbury Bricks.
Mr Nicholas said: "They asked if we could fibre glass chimneys, we did them a sample and we are making chimneys and they are being fitted.
"A lot of them are dummy chimneys to make the house shape more authentic. Some planners insist houses have chimneys.
"Some of them have insulated flues so they can be fitted to gas fires and work with a chimney.
"The chimneys are lightweight and can be bolted on to the rafters."
The company has developed whole wall systems, which can replace bricks on gable ends for buildings where there is no room for foundations.
"On a new building these can be attached to the timber frame," said Mr Nicholas.
He added the firm was also developing new fibreglass products to be used in buildings, including dwarf walls for conservatories.
Instead of using brick for the lower portion of the wall, a fibre glass substitute can be installed instead.
He said: "We have developed a panel system, which means instead of having a bricklayer in to build the conservatory, it can be done in two days."
The company has also developed moulded fibreglass trailers to be used for advertising hoardings when pulled by scooters.
"These are better than the metal ones because they are lighter, don't rust and can be moulded so they are prettier."
L&R was helped by the Manufacturing Advisory Service, which arranged ultra violet tests on the panels to check whether they faded, as well as wind tunnel tests for the chimneys.
Mr Nicholas said: "We are doing okay again.
"We are hoping to take on some more people, and work with more builders and developers in the future," he added.