At the forefront of our war effort was a fledgling Gateshead, Tyne & Wear-based company; Tyneside Safety Glass. A family firm, still under the same ownership today and their first contracts were to produce glass for gas masks and windscreens for Britain’s new, revolutionary and soon-to-be-launched fighter aircraft, the Spitfire. Remarkably, with around 60 Spitfires still airworthy, Tyneside Safety Glass continues to produce windscreens for this iconic aircraft to this day – specialisms don’t come much more specialist that this!
“We are most definitely a specialist glass processing company,” confirms Tyneside Safety Glass Managing Director, Chris Hannant. “our products include bullet-resistant glass, windscreens for rail applications, glass for construction and agricultural vehicles, windscreens, side and internal glazing for the bus & coach industry along with heated glass for automotive applications, we are actually now the only glass processing company in the UK who can manufacture laminated automotive windscreens.”
International competition from low cost economies, particularly from China, has led Tyneside Safety Glass away from mass volume products and into its specialist niches:
“We simply could not compete on price on high volume products, so had to focus on areas in which we could excel,” explains Chris Hannant. “Moving into lower volume, higher value, more specialist products is a strategy which has served us well; today, the business is in good health with a £10 million turnover and a workforce of 115 skilled and experienced staff.”
In support of its glass manufacturing operations, Tyneside Safety Glass is an own-account transport operator with a fleet of three heavy goods vehicles, each of which carries the Scania marque. The mix comprises one 44-tonnes gross vehicle weight artic, a 450 horsepower R 450 6×2/2 midlift tractor unit, and two P 250 4×2 18-tonnes rigids. With all products lifted on and off by fork lift truck, the artic’s trailer and both rigids all have curtainsider bodywork.
While the artic is used primarily to deliver the company’s larger products, such as bus and coach windscreens, to UK-based customers, it also makes regular trips to Ireland. The rigids distribute the remainder of the firm’s products, making multi-drops to clients all around the UK. The operation sees all three vehicles cover approximately 100,000 kilometres a year, with drivers spending an average of two nights out a week.
Tyneside Safety Glass turned to Scania in 2018. As Chris Hannant explains, a change of truck supplier had been brewing for a while:
“We had been experiencing a number of reliability issues with our vehicles at that time and were not satisfied with the service we were receiving,” he says. “We decided the time had come to change supplier, the question was, to who? In my opinion, there is not a bad truck on the market today. All perform well and, according to their sales people, each of them has the best fuel performance of any truck out there!
“So for me, it was not really a question of which brand to go for, but which manufacturer offers the best support. In many instances we are supplying production lines which simply cannot be kept waiting, so the onus is always on us to deliver. And that obviously demands not only reliability, but a vehicle service partner who can and will respond quickly to our needs if and when a situation arises.
“I was looking for a full contract hire deal including all repair, maintenance and servicing, which I regard as fixed-price motoring. Like any business person I don’t like nasty surprises; known costs are key for me. Equally, I also wanted a partnership with a truck supplier I could rely on – basically, somebody I know I can pick the up the phone to at any time.
“When Scania came to us, it became clear that they were looking to build a relationship. As it happens, I had known their salesman for many years – he has been in the industry for a long time – and I felt he was someone I could trust. I knew Scania to be a quality product and reputable brand, and with the assurances I was given with regard to service levels, we decided to make Scania our preferred fleet choice going forward.
“That’s a decision we have not regretted for one moment. The vehicles perform well, they are most certainly reliable, our drivers like them and they look great on the road too, especially in our striking yellow livery. Our local dealer is Scania Newcastle and they do everything we ask of them. The deal we have is a five year full contract hire arrangement, with everything taken care of. Servicing is scheduled around our operational needs and everything happens seamlessly.
“The result is that we have excellent transport availability. In return for our fixed, monthly payment, our fleet is taken care of professionally. As Scania Newcastle is a manufacturer-owned service centre, we can depend on their technicians being properly trained and capable of carrying out work competently and safely on our behalf. Also, we know that Scania will only use OEM parts for any work carried out on our vehicles, which means they will be kept in top class condition for the entirety of the contract period.
“We are very satisfied with our decision to change to Scania. As I said, for me it’s not so much about the truck but more about all the things that come as part and parcel of the deal; the back-up, service and support we need in order to be able to provide our customers with the best possible service day-in, day-out. That’s what we get from Scania; in a couple of words, they maximise our uptime – and you can’t ask for more than that!”