Focused investment and continued growth throughout the recession have enabled Eastern Concrete to take advantage of improving conditions in the construction industry
Based in Stowmarket, Eastern Concretehas established itself as a competitive player in providing site-mix and ready-mix concrete to the local market. Current MDTom Baker founded the company with one volumetric mixer after spotting a gap in the market.“I worked in the construction industry and identified a need to have smaller loads of concrete delivered as it was very difficult at that time to have loads as small as a metre cubed or less delivered,” he explains. “The mixon- site vehicles are an ideal way of getting around this issue and that’s how we started.” Serving predominantly small builders and domestic clients at first, EasternConcrete has been able to grow steadily with its clients to reach the position it occupies today.
“By doing this we began to gradually create a market for ourselves,” says Tom. “Traditionally the small loads were not as important to the national ready mixed businesses as they concentrated on large volume. By providing a bespoke small load service, we gradually took on the mini mix concrete market.” Illustrating the level of growth experienced by the company, at the start of the business, these small builder clients accounted for 60-70 per cent of sales, now it only stands at 15-20 per cent, but as Tom assures, these customers are still a very important part of the client base. Another early opportunity for the company was a nighttime highways project, delivering concrete to the highway Area 6 maintenance contract. “Our site-mix vehicles are ideal for this as to open a ready-mix plant and to supply concrete on demand at night is very difficult and expensive,” adds Tom. “This has also pushed us into achieving BS8500 registration, so all of our concrete is quality assured.”
In such a demanding market, the pillar of Eastern Concrete’s success is in its customer service. “When people call up, they don’t speak to a call centre, they speak to someone who knows and understands what the customer needs,” highlights Tom. “We continue that commitment with our drivers by selecting not purely on the experience in the concrete industry but also on how they handle themselves in front of customers as they are our ambassadors. The building and civil engineering industry is a very demanding market, particularly when you’re delivering concrete, which the customer often needs at short notice. We strive to offer this consistently but it can be difficult. Therefore, over the next 12 months we are really focusing on improving how we interact with our customer by investing in new IT technology. This will enable us to track and monitor vehicles and plants, so that the shipping desk has all the information to advise customers on their order’s progression.”
Part of what has enabled Eastern Concrete to grow into a successfully operating company in today’s market is its approach to investment and diversification. “All the way through the recession we continued to grow and invest in the business and this is paying dividends at the moment,” expresses Tom. “I knew that the recession couldn’t last forever so felt that we need to focus on expanding the business and in 2012 we were fortunate enough to be approached by a ready-mix company, which we subsequently acquired. There is only so much business you can do with a fleet of mix-on-site trucks so I knew that one day we would need to bring ready-mix into the offering as well, and the acquisition was a great spring-board into this.” As a result, as the economy emerged out of recession in 2013, the company’s work started to pick up dramatically, particularly in the ready-mix segment, and a new period of growth has ensued. The opening of a new site in Wymondham within an existing quarry has accelerated growth. This site not only helps expand the company’s Norfolk presence but by eliminating aggregate transportation, also improves the efficiency of concrete production.
In 2015 the company has so far invested into seven new vehicles to add to its fleet including three ready-mix trucks, two volumetric mixers, a 39-metre boom pump and a tractor unit to collect aggregate. This followed a £500,000 investment during 2014 into a mobile ready-mix plant to facilitate specific on-site jobs. “This way we can bring aggregate to site and give the customer a better service,” says Tom. “We’ve done two jobs to date at a mushroom farm in Littleport and at Sizewell B Powerstation. Without the site plant being there, the type of mix they wanted would have been extremely difficult to deliver on conventional trucks from a remote plant. Going forward, this plant offers us opportunities to handle specialist projects where the customer requires high quality concrete at will.”
Eastern Concrete is in a strong position in the current market as it looks towards achieving its vision to become the ready-mix producer of choice in the Eastern region. Challenges exist with the underinvestment in mineral production and planning during the recession, which has lead to a chronic material shortage that plagues the entire construction industry. However, Tom believes that the same underinvestment by larger national concrete suppliers has left a gap in the market that can be filled by the quick decision making and heavy investment programme that are both central to the owner-managed Eastern Concrete. Bring these opportunities together with the company’s commitment to customer service and self-sufficiency and its future looks solid.
Services: Supplier of site-mix and ready-mix concrete