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Construction Wales Innovation Index nominee: Zip-Clip

Matthew Clay-Michael tells UMi that his business was started with an innovative product and its a culture that they have carefully nurtured to ensure their staff is continually looking for improvements and fresh ideas.

What does your business do?

Zip-Clip Ltd was founded in 2004 from a fledgeling idea between friends. The company was founded on a new product that was an inventory step on traditional methods that had been supplied in the construction industry for decades.

Since its initial idea, Zip-Clip has now grown into a manufacturer and innovator in wire suspension systems to the construction industry. Our products are used for the suspension of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), mechanical and electrical systems (M&E), acoustic boarding, signage, seismic restraints and more recently in civil engineering applications.

Our systems are designed to reduce labour, construction costs and time compared to traditional methods such as threaded rod. By enabling the contractor to install their systems quicker they are able to increase the revenue potential of the site and increase the number of sites within a year, with a reduced headcount.

Our system can also be installed without the need for a hot works permit and its associated costs. Zip-Clip also supports engineers on site through its technical team to design specific solutions for complicated or restrictive applications. If our standard range is not suitable for the application a bespoke solution will be developed.

Zip-Clip’s head office and manufacturing base is in Welshpool and for the past ten years, the customer focus has been to develop its export customer base throughout the world. We currently export throughout Europe, America, Far East, Australia and New Zealand. We are currently working on many prestigious projects including EXPO 2020 in Dubai, the World Cup football stadiums in Qatar, Boeing Goldcare hangers at Gatwick and previous projects include the London Olympics, Harry Potter studios, Selfridges, Tesco, Liddle, Ferrari, JLR, M&S, Natural History Museum and many more.

To support our export market we have now opened branches overseas with Zip-Clip SARL based in France and more recently Zip-Clip PTY Ltd in Australia.

What innovative products, services, materials or processes do you have relevant to the construction sector?

Zip-Clip has created over 50 innovative products for use within the construction industry. From its initial concept of the Plus system we now have a wide range of wire suspension solutions for the construction market.

Our systems have been developed to not only work in a standard vertical application but also horizontally with our catenary system and at angles where a vertical fixing point is not available or accessible.

The Seismic range has been developed for supporting rigid applications in earthquake-prone countries and in the past eighteen months our Zip-Splice application has moved us into the cage pilling works application on site.

Our systems can be used with a plethora of roofing profiles from concrete to steel substrates and whether a knock-in application is required or a wrap-around solution is required our range can accommodate the contractor and engineer.

If a standard solution is not applicable we will develop a solution through our R&D department to accommodate the engineer’s requirements. These solutions-based systems then become part of our standard range and rolled out throughout our customer base throughout the world. 

What difference does innovating make to your business?

Innovation enables the company to grow its product range and to create solutions for our customer base. Our customers are continually looking for innovative ideas to incorporate into a building design to improve its appearance or performance. Our products through innovation enable this and continue to allow Zip-Clip to lead in its field.

How do you manage innovation; how do you encourage staff to innovate in their jobs?

Innovation is an essential element of Zip-Clip. All our staff are involved in the development of improving current systems and creating new designs. Whether through material improvements, design or manufacturing processes we continue to improve our product offering.

Staff take ownership of ideas throughout the organisation and assist in developing the idea from concept to launch. By enabling staff to be involved in innovation they then become new product focused and are increasingly looking at ways or methods our product range can be improved.

We also have the same view in manufacturing and our automotive programme is developed with the assistance and input of all staff. Each consecutive machine designed is an improvement in design and performance to the previous one. This can only be done with the input of all staff.

How do you encourage innovation in your supply chain, or in those that you partner with?

We work closely with our supply chain and many of our suppliers have been supporting Zip-Clip for the past fifteen years. By having close links with our supply chain we are able to utilise their unique expertise to help us develop and improve our current product range and to develop new concepts.

Our supply chain can advise on the best materials, manufacturing methods or design improvements to allow us to create a product that meets the harsh and demanding environment of the construction industry. We utilise many of our partners' products in our own range and work closely with the likes of Fischer fixings to be able to offer a total solution to our customers. 

What is the most interesting/innovative contract or development you have been involved in?

Zip-Clip has been involved in many innovative developments over the years, from reducing the carbon footprint in the construction of supermarkets to making a sky hook a reality. As a business, we always look forward and our most interesting and innovative idea is always our latest concept.

For the past two years, we have been developing the Zip-splice range to be used in the positioning of steel cages used in foundations. Traditionally a cumbersome and expensive method is used to splice the two cages together. This also involves the need for the contractor to put their hands into the cage whilst they tighten the bolt on each joiner, which can be dangerous if the cage shifts.

Working closely with our customer we have developed a system that is not only cheaper than the current methods but is also quicker and safer. Zip-Clip developed the Zip-splice that enables the contractor to quickly position our system onto the cage without the need of spanners, etc. The system is a lot lighter and easier to handle. The contractor also does not need to put their hands inside the cage to install the Zip-splice, making the installation process a lot safer. The new concept will revolutionise the fitting of cages worldwide and the range is being developed to accommodate heavier cages used in construction.

What has been your biggest challenge with embedding a culture of innovation?

As an organisation, we have always had a culture of innovation. The company was created on an innovative idea and we have continued to have that drive to innovate since Zip-Clip's concept in 2004. Everyone joining the organisation is encouraged to offer suggestions to improve how we work across all areas whether it's in R&D, production, operation procedures or new product development.

The biggest challenge is managing all the new ideas and ensuring the good ideas are developed into new products or a new method of working.

What advice would you give to other businesses looking to increase their innovation?

To grow and to ensure the longevity of a business innovation in all areas is a must. If you’re not innovating then your competitor certainly is and will leave you behind.

Don’t be scared of innovation and to try ideas. When Zip-Clip started a number of people we took the idea to didn’t think it was workable. Take on advice and criticism from others to better the concept.

What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?

Our short term plans are to continue our export drive. We have strengthened our export team and with the addition of Zip-Clip in France for the European market and Zip-Clip in Australia, and our partnership with Zip-Clip Dubai we are well positioned to drive our export sales.

From exporting we also see new potential in product development by working closely with our customer base to drive through product developments and innovation. Our products can also be developed for new markets that we have just not considered yet. The future is very exciting for the Zip-Clip group.

Related campaign: 

Construction Wales Innovation Index is a major initiative to identify some of Wales' most innovative companies across the construction and built environment sector, looking particularly at the supply chain to highlight the depth of the sector and its relevance to the future economic prosperity of the sector in Wales. 

The campaign will showcase nominated companies through inspiring content via a digital campaign and a series of events and debates shining the spotlight on Wales' most purpose driven construction companies and their businesses.

For more info visit https://www.innovation100cw.co.uk/.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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