by Richard Buckley, Editor, Business Eye

Operating in a global market that is estimated to be worth £2 billion a year, Cookstown based Keylite Roof Windows is known as a trailblazer in the roof window industry – racking up a plethora of national, trade and supplier awards for their product development, innovation and service. Neil Bradley, an experienced Financial Controller who has been with the company for the past six years, talks to us about the firm’s success factors and what’s on the horizon for this growing exporter.


“Since joining Keylite, I have seen the business grow on average by 20% year-on-year. Even through the recession and now with Brexit looming, the company continues to perform well – able to navigate the financial, trading and competitive pressures facing businesses, particularly those in the manufacturing sector. Today we have over 400 members of staff working across three locations – Cookstown in Co Tyrone, Swadlincote in England, and our manufacturing plant in Poland – to design and manufacture a full range of roof windows, flashings, electric operation kits, loft ladders, blinds and accessories.

Reflecting on the traits that have stood us in good stead, I would say a focus on innovation, investment and added-value is what opens the most doors – or windows should I say! – to us. For example, one project I have been heavily involved with is the implementation and roll-out of a new resource planning (ERP) system which has been instrumental in helping modernise and improve information management across not just Keylite, but indeed the other companies within the Keystone Group. Some of the more traditional sectors like manufacturing can perhaps have a reputation for resistance to change, or wary of the up-front costs or perceived risks of investing in technology – but I’m of the firm belief it needs to be a top agenda item for businesses today. Now our sales team, production and operation managers are armed with the most up-to-date figures and trends when meeting with customers or planning production or inventory levels.

From a trading point of view, Brexit hasn’t had any impact on the business and we continue to see steady sales growth.  Our market share also continues to increase in our core markets, Great Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  We are also growing sales into other existing and new markets, such as Germany, France, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Australia and New Zealand.  However, from a financial point of view, Brexit has resulted in weakening of the Sterling currency, which has impacted our bottom line, as a high percentage of our turnover is in the form of Sterling receivables, but a significant amount of our payables are in Euro, U.S. Dollar or Polish Zloty.  At the present time, there is relatively subdued consumer confidence, which means people are less likely to invest in home renovations, which is something we are very mindful of when approaching our forward planning.  This too is where our focus on innovation, investment and added-value products and service come into play. 

We see huge potential in the German, French, Australian and U.S. markets and have developed our product range to suit the different house styles and climates in these countries.  While it can be difficult to gain traction in new markets, our sales team is helped by the fact that many of our products are award-winning. For example, the product we have launched most recently – the Polar PVC Roof Window – has helped us win the Construction News Specialists ‘Innovation of the Year’ Award, ‘Best Brand New Product’ Housebuilder Award, as well as the ‘Construction Product of the Year’ Award from the Irish Construction Industry.  This product is ideally suited to the European market as it combines innovative design with the latest in material technology and precision manufacturing.  Our customers also appreciate the added-value extras that we incorporate into our products that provide extra performance but with no extra cost, whereas other roof windows on the market may require the use of additional cost accessories to achieve the same performance as Keylite.

While the sun might be shining on the roof window industry, it isn’t of course without its challenges. The labour market is incredibly competitive and along with our peers in the manufacturing sector, a key business focus for us is on attracting and retaining talent.  We continue to keep a watch on consumer confidence, the housing market, as well as currency fluctuations and it pays to have the right banking partners to help you plan for these times. We have significant expansion and investment strategies in place, including plans to build a new production facility in Poland, but some of these are currently on hold while we await more clarity on Brexit.  Our R&D team however are still focused on innovation – we’re currently patenting a number of new innovations that give extra performance to windows – and look forward to bringing these to existing and new markets in the year ahead.”

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