Skin in the game: MSP Façade Solutions marks major milestone

CUMBERNAULD-based MSP Façade Solutions is reaping the rewards after investing heavily in people, training, and equipment.

The business, which specialises in the supply of cladding systems and related products, has been operating for over 30 years and was acquired by Vivalda Group in 2019.

The firm recently celebrated a major milestone with the announcement that it is to manufacture MetSkin, Vivalda’s new solid aluminium cladding system for residential high-rise or municipal projects.

Supplied as a whole tested and warranted system, the product is manufactured in Cumbernauld. The system is fabricated using ‘premium grade’ non-flammable, solid aluminium sheet. Once formed, this is powder coated on-site to Qualicoat standard. The chrome-free process is undertaken by sister company Prism Powder Coating.

MetSkin is available in Interlocking Plank (2mm thickness), Hook-on Cassette (3mm thickness) or Tray Panel (3mm thickness). In addition to being available in more than 740 RAL colours, MetSkin can be supplied in an A1 anodised finish or A1 PVDF pre-coated aluminium, providing architects and specifiers with ‘limitless’ creative possibilities.

Project Scotland was invited to a recent press event at MSP’s Cumbernauld HQ to learn more about the system and recent developments within the business.

Gillian Thomson, branch manager at MSP Façade Solutions, said, “For 30 years, we’ve been making component parts for other people’s tested systems. Now we’re putting together all the information that we’ve gained – from pitfalls we’ve seen other people go through – to design from the ground up our own system, with the thought being, ‘Let’s make it what a contractor wants and simple as possible for them to put on a site’.”

Gillian revealed a huge amount of research was carried out, including speaking to systems installers on site about the ‘little quirks’ that can crop up, to ensure that the final product being supplied would be what clients want. Around 18 months passed from concept to manufacturing prototypes.

Having the capability to produce such a system is testament to the progress made within MSP in recent years. Gillian paid tribute to the ‘hugely skilled, knowledgeable workforce’ and explained that, since becoming part of the Vivalda Group, an investment in a second turret punch has dramatically improved capacity and allowed the business to increase the amount of product that goes through by about 70%.

Prior to Christmas, a significant investment was made in software with the upgrade of all CAD/CAM technology.

“We now have 3D drawing capabilities, which means the guys in the drawing office can model what they’re going to make,” Gillian added. “The investment saves us a lot of time and allows us to take on a lot more tricky jobs. We can push the limits.”

Following substantial growth, MSP has also recently moved to a multi-shift operation encompassing early, mid, and back shifts. For the past year or so, the company has been gearing up for further growth by launching a recruitment drive.

Two extra welders have been employed and, to help tackle sector-wide skills shortages, a strategic decision was made to invest in training the next generation of workers.

“One of the hurdles that we faced when trying to grow is that there’s a serious skills shortage in the market,” Gillian said. “What we do is quite niche. There are lots of welders who can weld a big, steel tube that’s going under the sea, but the finesse involved in aluminium cladding and trying to do it so that it looks aesthetically pleasing, is a real challenge.

“We’ve taken on a welder apprentice who’s got a mentor in the factory. It’s a four-year apprenticeship programme. We decided to grow our own. It’s the same for machine operators; we couldn’t find experienced machine operators with the skills to be able to make what we make, spin it around at speed, and move it through the process. We now have three trainee machine operators. The hope is when we get to year one in their traineeship, we’ll need more, and we’ll just keep that process going.”

Andy Thomas, trading director at Vivalda Group, was in attendance at the press day. He describes MetSkin as representing an ‘important step’ for the group.

“While we are already well-known by contractors for the supply of world-class, non-flammable cladding materials including fibre cement, GRC, terracotta and solid aluminium, it’s exciting to be able to provide customers with our own fully approved and tested envelope system,” he said. “We see a significant market for this product in the UK, on both new build and retrofit developments.

“We have worked hard during the two-year development phase to create a complete solution for architects and specifiers – matching existing colours or helping them bring to life their latest vision. For contractors, this means that we supply a total A-rated, tested system, including fixings, rails, and ancillary products such as membranes and insulation as required. We’ve designed MetSkin with creativity in mind, which allows the use of various substructure configurations, without compromising on the safety or aesthetics of the façade. We’ve also not forgotten about contractors and made our system easy to order and easy to install.”

MetSkin has been tested to CWCT standards at an accredited test centre and is distributed exclusively through the Vivalda Group, which includes Vivalda, BBS Facades and Pura Facades.