Technology and tradition are combining to cook up a perfect recipe for success for Barnsley-based Naylor Industries.
The company, founded 123 years ago in the teeth of a potential financial disaster, has never looked stronger and, after years of supplying bricks and clay pipes to the UK construction market, is enjoying success in Europe, the Middle East, South East Asia and Australasia.
In recent months the Clough Green company has been on the acquisition trail, too, acquiring a decorative pots business in Gloucestershire and a plastic pipe manufacturer closer to home in Wath-on-Dearne.
Meanwhile, Naylor has continued to invest heavily in plant and what some might see as a “Back to the future” business, making flower pots, which has proved highly successful, securing a prestigious partnership with the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew.
Naylor’s rejuvenation owes much to the enthusiasm of Edward Naylor – a self-confessed “reformed accountant,” who quit Deloitte on the verge of becoming a partner to run the family firm.
“It was a slightly bonkers decision,” Edward Naylor concedes.
“I had set up the German desk at Deloitte and had been working as an acting finance director for a logistics business with an £85 million turnover in Kiel, North Germany, which had been taken over by English people.
“I was on the cusp of becoming a partner at Deloitte, my wife was pregnant with our first and then my dad died and I said I am off to run the family firm.
“No one else wanted to take on the business, so I bought out my brother and uncle. I felt it was the right thing to do. It’s a great gang of people with terrific continuity of service.
“When I started here as a 30 year old, I was giving out long service awards to people who had worked for Naylor for 10 years longer than I had been alive.
“It’s not just a family business at my end. There are people here with sons in the business and the next generation coming along.”
Edward Naylor faced immediate challenges. The business, as it was then, only made clay pipes, largely for the domestic market, and concrete lintels.
Plastics were eating into its market share, the business was losing £1 million-worth of sales a year and making a loss.
Naylor’s response was to develop new activities, initially in clay.
The company started making ‘Jacking Pipes’ – clay pipes that are strong enough to be pushed through the ground, avoiding the need to dig trenches.
It also developed Hathernware pipes, made from vitrified clay, which are resistant to thermal shock and corrosive chemicals.
Today, there is only one serious competitor to Naylor’s Denlok branded jacking pipes, based in Germany.
Meanwhile the only alternatives to Hathernware, which is also available in a version suitable for trenchless installation, are highly expensive pipes made from special plastics, steels or glass.