Reflections on 2022 and the Year Ahead
Published on 9 January, 2023Latest News
Bonnie Hodson, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) at UAP, reflects on the trends that have shaped 2022 and what lies ahead.
In a year that has been dominated by economic and political upheaval, there have been inevitable challenges for all businesses. For manufacturers, supply chain disruption has also continued as have fluctuating material costs, creating further bumps in the road. But against this backdrop, there are also positive trends which are driving growth in our sector and creating new opportunities.
We operate in a fast-paced market, where customers’ needs and expectations are constantly changing. This is accelerating new product development with a focus on door hardware that improves security, durability, ease of use and installation.
One of the biggest drivers of new innovation has been the shift towards smart technology. The pandemic, which caused people of all ages to more actively use online devices, has meant that smart technology is no longer a nice to have. For many homeowners, it is expected and part of daily life.
This trend has seen more electronic door locks come to market in 2022, including the IONIC, which is the first in a series of smart products to be launched under UAP’s Fullex-ai brand. Although the product launched at the end of 2022, it follows five years of extensive research, planning and testing.
This saw us investigate customers’ priorities and the factors needed to provide the best possible experience. We learned that security, ease of use, speed, reliability and flexibility were all essential for end users.
The result is an ultra-secure electronic lock, enabling access via a smartphone App, a fob, push button on the inside, or a thumb turn. Security is enhanced through face recognition, which builds additional authentication into the App and the fobs have been manufactured in a way that prevents them from being cloned.
To continue to meet our customers’ changing needs, UAP has continued to carry out market and customer research over the past 12 months. This will result in the launch of several new products in 2023.
Keeping pace with customer demands also requires manufacturers’ processes to evolve and that includes investment in new equipment and technology. Automation is a crucial element in this strategy to improve capacity, manufacturing speeds and quality.
At UAP, we have been working on plans to integrate more automated technology into our operations. Our focus is on equipment and processes that will deliver a better customer experience both in terms of delivery times and stock availability.
At the same time, we have to be mindful of our impact on the environment. The need to improve sustainability credentials is key for all businesses and manufacturing is no exception. In the hardware sector, we must take a more proactive approach to deliver positive and tangible change. That is why UAP has launched a new initiative named S.E.E. which aims to go above and beyond standard environmental policies and accreditations such as ISO:14001.
Considering the core pillars required to deliver sustainability improvements (social, economic, environmental), S.E.E has been designed to engage staff at all levels. Each department has also been tasked with launching a sustainability initiative, led by a nominated sustainability champion.
As a long-term campaign with clear objectives, S.E.E. is driving new ideas that will deliver consistent environmental improvements and enable our business to share best practice and knowledge, both internally and externally.
A range of initiatives have been rolled out, including a competition to encourage our customers to upcycle crates or pallets, and a project aimed at introducing new manufacturing equipment that produces less waste and energy. Green customers are being identified to partner with us on new sustainability campaigns, and we’re working with suppliers in China to audit products and factories to stop the use of virgin plastic packaging.
The hurdles of the past year have underlined the importance of resilience. Managing ongoing uncertainty is incredibly difficult, so all businesses must be in a strong position to respond quickly and effectively to change and challenge.
At UAP, we have strengthened our operations through an acquisition strategy. This strategically targets complementary companies that will bolster our expertise in providing locks and hardware for doors and windows. Since 2019, we have acquired two businesses, and set up two companies overseas. In 2023, we will be back on the acquisition trail to secure further growth and provide our customers with a broader range of high-quality products.
To support our expansion plans, we have also restructured our finances this year and repaid our investors, providing us with more working capital to achieve our targets.
Of course, it is impossible to grow and strengthen a business without people and this has also led to new initiatives designed to support and develop staff.
Our growth share scheme means that every UAP employee now owns a share of the business and benefits from its future success. These shares are earned and can’t be purchased, with 20% of the UAP share fund now owned by our employees.
In 2022, we also embedded the UAP Training Academy, which is now integral to the way we operate as a company. The evolving initiative combines multiple tools to deliver its objectives, providing employees with both job specific training as well as the chance to learn softer skills.
As all staff returned to office-based working, another key development in 2022 was the launch of our free doggy day care service. Located on site in our Whitefield office, the facility has encouraged our people to transition away from remote working while improving staff morale.
Over the past year, one of the key lessons learned is that economic and political challenges should not be seen as a barrier to growth. As we look ahead to 2023, these challenges are unlikely to change, so we can’t stand still. Ongoing research, development and investment will ensure that our products, manufacturing processes and people can keep up with the pace of change and are fit for the future.