The longest winter in living memory may be finally releasing its icy grip in mid-April – but one West Midland firm may not be joining in the spring rejoicing.
North Warwickshire-based Instarmac has mushroomed from humble origins as one man’s vision to become the market leader in pothole repairs in the UK, with business often generated by severe winter blasts.
The firm, launched by the late West Midland entrepreneur Charlie Hudson, has grown to employ 142 people at their 100,000 plus sq ft offices at the Birch Coppice Business Park.
And the long, hard winters of recent years can be a boon to the fortunes of Instarmac, says managing director John Holcroft.
“Local authorities have done a lot of work but it appears that winters are becoming more severe. In the short term, it is bad for sales but in the long term it can create problems on the roads, so our sales can benefit from that. But it is not something that we wish for.
“Some of the infrastucture is 30 to 40 years old and sometimes the money is simply not there. The older the road, potentially the more potholes.
“Roads are terrible all over the world – I have been to a lot of places and the roads all seem to be as bad as they are over here.
“I think that local authorities are trying to do what they can within their budgets. Local authorities get a hard time, sometimes unjustly.”
The Instarmac story began when Charlie Hudson saw the BBC1 science show Tomorrow’s World – and a demonstration of a type of tarmac which could be laid on the ground cold, rather than hot.
He contacted the inventor, bought the idea for £1,000, and set up his company Instarmac.
Mr Holcroft said: “Charlie started in Streetly, moved to Minworth, bought some land at Kingsbury and then had these offices purpose-built. He paid £1,000 for the rights to manufacture instant road repairs.
“He bought mixing equipment, started making it (the product) and knocked the doors of local authorities, hospitals, racetracks, golf clubs and started selling instant road repairs.”
Charlie Hudson died in 2008 but his legacy has continued to reap rewards for the firm at Dordon, near Tamworth.
“I begged Charlie for a job and he told me I was not suitable because I didn’t have any experience in the construction industry.
“I started as a salesman, and I went from national sales manager to sales director to managing director. Charlie was very good to me – he was like my dad.
“One of the reasons we have been successful is that we realised that we couldn’t survive on one brand alone. We diversified into other markets – we have got our own laboratory, we have a technical director.
“It is all about markets – we try and target the markets and we have exported to Nigeria, Japan, Western Europe, Africa, Malaysia. I visited nine to 10 markets looking at the state of the infrastructure and I was never far away from a pothole.
“We came here to Birch Coppice in 2007-08 – we employed 106 people at the time and this year we are up to 142. The growth has been phenomenal and we have a lot of very good staff.
“We are still growing and creating jobs. We will focus on passing £40 million (turnover) and the long-term milestone will be to get to £50 million.”
Instarmac now sells a range of construction industry materials and systems under four specialist brands, Ultracrete, Ultrascape, Ultratile and Ultrafloor.
Instarmac says there are around 252,128 miles of roads in the UK, and all are subject to degradation over a period of time.
Many roads experience potholes caused by the long-term effect of weather, with ultra-violet light breaking down essential oils in surface bitumen.
Voids left by the dissolved bitumen accumulate rainwater, which then goes through a cycle of freezing and thawing, eventually leading to cracking and the formation of potholes.
Instarmac has also embraced a number of environmentally-friendly measures, including intelligent lighting, rain waste and washout recycling, warm air recycling, waste oil, printer cartridge, plastic and pallet management.
The green measures, aligned to a company culture which constantly strives for new initiatives, has led to Instarmac’s official seal of approval from the Carbon Trust.
Working with the Waste and Resources Action Programme, the firm continuously looks to increase its use of recycled materials such as glass and rubber.
Instarmac currently has over 20 licencees worldwide, manufacturing and marketing Ultracrete’s Instant Road Repair.
The repair solution has been used in over 25 countries, including Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and Kenya.