Home Pitched Roofing “There is ample space for innovation in roofing”

“There is ample space for innovation in roofing”

Total Contractor puts the questions to Paul Duffy, Managing Director of Onduline UK, Ireland & Scandinavia, discussing current challenges and opportunities for the sector, sustainability in construction, the importance of innovation in roofing, and much more!

TC: Can you tell us a bit about your career so far and path into the roofing sector…
PD: My journey into the construction sector began in 1996, where I spent seven years in key and national account sales roles at Saint-Gobain Glass. Following that, I embarked on a 15-year-long tenure with Reynaers Aluminium, with ten of those years dedicated to my role as Sales Director starting in 2004. In that capacity, I managed a team of 18 professionals who oversaw mainly high-end residential and commercial projects, with a particular focus on façade glazing and glazed roofing. This experience became a crucial stepping stone in my career path, ultimately leading me to my current role as Managing Director at Onduline Building Products.

My transition to Onduline felt like a natural progression and it presented an exciting opportunity to collaborate with major players in the industry, such as Wickes. With a focus on the DIY market as well as the professional user, I felt this provided an excellent platform to leverage my industry experience.

TC: Tell us a bit about Onduline and the company’s offering…
PD: Onduline is a global manufacturer and market leader of bitumen roofing solutions. Although the mainstay of our success for many years has been providing roofing products to the DIY sector for timber buildings, we also look to see how we can utilise our bitumen roofing expertise to provide solutions to the professional market.

A great example of this is our latest innovation ISOLINE LOW LINE – the only system in the UK to be BRE tested and BBA Accredited to as low as 10º with a 30-year guarantee. ISOLINE LOW LINE is designed specifically for use on low pitch roofs and this lightweight bituminous corrugated sub-roof system has been rigorously tested and is proven to be an exceptional primary waterproofing line of defence. The tiles become a secondary line of defence enabling the pitch of the roof to be much lower than the minimum recommended by the tile manufacturer.

“2023 has been a good year. It got off to a somewhat sluggish start, which was a common theme across the industry given the current economic situation, but then began to see lots of traction as the mid-year point approached”

TC: How has 2023 been for Onduline – and are you positive for the sector in general in 2024?
PD: Overall, 2023 has been a good year. It got off to a somewhat sluggish start, which was a common theme across the industry given the current economic situation, but then began to see lots of traction as the mid-year point approached.
Onduline holds a prominent position in the UK market, serving major retailers such as Wickes and, more recently, B&Q. Our presence in these two retail giants places us at the forefront of the DIY sector, which remains one of the most influential and lucrative sectors in the UK.

Throughout the year, we have spent a lot of time developing, testing, and launching ISOLINE LOW LINE, which has now given us another dimension to our offering. Add this to our recently launched RIBA accredited CPD, which is gaining a lot of interest with architects and building professionals, and I believe this puts us in a very strong position moving forward.

TC: You have the backing of a larger parent group, how important was this during what has been a tricky few years for the supply chain with regards to supply of materials, lead times and price fluctuations?
PD: Having the backing of a strong parent company is always advantageous when navigating economic uncertainties, particularly considering the material shortages we encountered 12 months ago. The parent group displayed remarkable foresight and a proactive approach to ensure that ample stock was readily available, whether it was bitumen sheets or breathable roof membranes.

The group’s ability to position themselves and react promptly ensured that we not only averted any major material shortages but, most importantly, did not disappoint any of our customers.

“While it’s impossible to foresee the distant future, there doesn’t appear to be any upcoming bottlenecks I can see, at least not for the short to medium term”

TC: It’s very hard to predict with everything going on in the world, but looking ahead, are you confident that there will be more stability in these areas and supply chain won’t see the extremes we’ve experienced?
PD: In the short-term, it’s evident that the supply chain issues are already beginning to ease with the availability of timber and metal products, including our own, returning to typical levels. While it’s impossible to foresee the distant future, there doesn’t appear to be any upcoming bottlenecks I can see, at least not for the short to medium term.

“Sustainability and recyclability are values that hold significant importance within our business and underscore our commitment to a greener, more environmentally conscious future”

TC: Sustainability is something that’s been talked about for many years in construction, but it seems like now it’s really being taken seriously and has some real substance throughout the supply chain – would you agree with that?
PD: Absolutely. We’ve embarked on a concerted effort, driven by our parent company, to minimise the use of plastics in our packaging. In particular, we’ve made remarkable strides in reducing the plastic content of our packaging for our bitumen sheet range, achieving an impressive 40% reduction and we have set ambitious targets moving forward, aiming to further cut this plastic usage by a substantial 80%.

Moreover, our products are manufactured using up to 50% recycled content and we remain dedicated to enhancing this aspect as we move forward. Sustainability and recyclability are values that hold significant importance within our business and underscore our commitment to a greener, more environmentally conscious future.

“We are always looking at new products, new finishes, new resins and all of this innovation requires intensive developing and testing through our R&D operation”

TC: How important is R&D to Onduline?
PD: Onduline boasts a vast market share, so innovation is crucial to maintaining our position as a market leader.

We have a sizeable R&D operation based in France which focuses on not only how we can enhance our market share in existing channels, but also looking at how we can adapt our solutions to meet the needs of other applications. For example, our ONDULINE CLASSIC bitumen roofing sheets, which have been traditionally used as a timber building roofing solution, can now be used for garden fence or gate applications.

We are always looking at new products, new finishes, new resins and all of this innovation requires intensive developing and testing through our R&D operation.

“The roofing sector has predominately been very traditional, so there is a need to innovate and develop new sustainable and eco-friendly waterproofing solutions in line with sustainability targets”

TC: Following on from that, is there still room for innovation in roofing, and if so, what sort of issues do you think innovation needs to tackle?
PD: I firmly believe that there is ample space for innovation within the roofing industry, whether it be DIY projects or residential or commercial projects.

ISOLINE LOW LINE has been a key innovation for Onduline, which represents a significant leap forward in roofing solutions. We’ve brought a product to market that allows any houseowner, architect or roofing contractor to reuse existing roofing tiles or take any new tiles down to a very low pitch of 10º.

That’s pure innovation – using your skill set and product range to address a previously unmet need in the market.
The roofing sector has predominately been very traditional, so there is a need to innovate and develop new sustainable and eco-friendly waterproofing solutions in line with sustainability targets. It’s a big challenge for the sector, but a challenge we as a business are excited to tackle.

“In the professional channel, we’re seeing a move back towards trade stockists”

TC: As a construction product manufacturer, are you finding customers are purchasing products online or from ‘bricks and mortar’ trade customers/stockists – is this something you keep an eye on?
PD: It is something we keep an eye on and it’s a bit of a mix in all honesty. We see a lot of online activity within the DIY sector whether that’s purchasing products through our customers or utilising our drop shipments offering.

In the professional channel, we’re seeing a move back towards trade stockists. During the pandemic there was obviously a lot of purchasing done online as this was the only feasible way to obtain goods for a lot of contractors, but this won’t replace the desire to physically see and touch our products prior to purchase, especially when it’s something as significant as a new roof.

“I find great joy in connecting with customers and assisting them in fulfilling their needs, tackling challenges, and presenting innovative products and solutions that can make a difference”

TC: What are the most satisfying and frustrating things about your job?
PD: One of the most fulfilling aspects is the opportunity to directly interact with our customers. Having previously worked as a salesperson, I find great joy in connecting with customers and assisting them in fulfilling their needs, tackling challenges, and presenting innovative products and solutions that can make a difference.

However, like in any job, there are also moments of frustration. In our global organisation, virtual calls have become the norm. While they contribute to sustainability efforts, I can’t help but feel that they don’t quite compare to the value of face-to-face interactions!

TC: What can we expect from Onduline over the next few years and how would you like to see the business develop?
PD: Our primary focus is directed towards the professional channel. ISOLINE LOW LINE will play a major part in our business strategy over the coming years and we are keenly interested in continuing to develop strong partnerships with roofing contractors and specifiers.

However, we are committed to nurturing and expanding our core channels, including the DIY market, as well as continuing to cultivate relationships with retailers such as Wickes, with Kingfisher soon to follow.

Furthermore, we recognise the potential within the timber build sector. There is ample room for growth and development, especially among stable, shed, and garden room manufacturers. We aspire to become a trusted partner for these businesses, offering them high-quality solutions that meet the needs of the most demanding applications.
Our dedication to serving both professionals and DIY enthusiasts, the diversification of our channels, and our commitment to product development gives us as a business a lot to look forward to over the coming years.

www.onduline.co.uk

Video: Take a closer look at ISOLINE LOW LINE on roof-tube.co.uk

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