Sophisticated electronic racking allows for more efficient use of space.

Sophisticated electronic racking allows for more efficient use of space.

Partnership that fills the supply chain gap

Published:  19 August, 2011

Burdens recently announced a partnership with Italian pump manufacturer SAER Elettropompe.
Who is SAER and why would Burdens commit to such a venture? Lynn Sencicle reports.

Burdens is not a builders’ merchant, the group is quite clear about that. The Burdens Group is a supply chain solutions provider that seeks to develop partnerships with innovative suppliers in order to be able to provide the best solution for its customers. Burdens’ extensive customer data-base naturally includes merchants.

The term ‘solution’ covers a multitude of areas and is hallmarked by startling creativity. For example, logistics is one of the company’s specialist areas. It led to a proposal for using barges to supply building materials to the sites of some large London developments.

The company has also taken on the delivery logistics for B&Q, which some in the merchant industry might see as turning to the dark side. But, as Burdens is not a merchant, it is free to deal with independent, nationals and sheds as it will.

Being an innovative kind of group, the company was ‘going green’ some seven or eight years ago, with the launch of the Ecomerchant brand, which is sold through merchants as well as directly.

It is this methodology, along with a strong marketing team that has led to the partnership with SAER.

For this venture, Burdens has taken on the dual roles of both marketer and distributor for SAER in the UK, selling through merchants as well as its own outlets.

Founded over 50 years ago, SAER is a pump manufacturer based near Bologna in Italy. The company’s head-quarters is within spitting distance of Maranello, home of such quality scions as Scuderia Ferrari Formula One team, Ducati, Lamborghini and Maserati.

Originally a manufacturer purely for the agricultural sector, SAER is a family-run business, governed by strong family values, that already has achieved a prosperous global presence in over 120 countries.

Despite this, it remains a relatively small company and plans to stay small in order to be flexible enough to react to the market. It is also flexible enough to provide bespoke solutions and this fits in nicely with Burdens’ ethos. SAER prides itself on making its pumps from scratch at its factories in Italy, and has won awards for supporting Italian manufacturing and employment. It is currently run by the children and grandchildren of the company’s original founder, Carlo Favella.

The domestic pumps part of the business is highly successful, to the extent that the company supplies parts to pump manufacturers that are well known in the UK. Competition is fierce, with strong rival brands coming in from India and China.

It is because the company does make everything that Burdens was so interested in a partnership. Every nut, bolt and widget is made in the company’s factories and, while around 80% of product is for SAER, the other 20% is parts that are made for other manufacturers’ pumps.

Despite a recession that hit Italy as hard as it hit Britain, SAER has not stopped developing either its products or its factories, and the company is currently building a new plant, which brings its total number of sites to five.

SAER supplies over 120 countries around the world.

SAER supplies over 120 countries around the world.

There has been a great deal of investment into technology by SAER – from the sophisticated software in the research and development department, to an entire community of state-of-the-art robots.

While people are essential, especially for the research and development side of the business, the investment in robot technology makes for a streamlined and efficient process with a high level of build quality, as each robot capable of doing the work of six people.

A downside of making the entire product is the quantity of raw material as well as parts required. That can take up a lot of space.

In order to keep prices competitive and guarantee availability no matter what else is going on in the world, there is usually one to two years’ worth of raw materials stored.

One way of managing that space is evident in the main factory where the company has an electronic racking system.

With all the racks on rails, there are only one or two aisles available at a time. But, with the simple push of a button, the racks move and as one closes, another opens.

SAER has its own four-line testing room. The facility is so comprehensive that bespoke tests can also be undertaken. The results of any performance testing can be given to the customer, if requested.

Over the years, SAER has expanded into the industrial sector, and latterly, into marine pumps. But industrial pumps are its main offering.

That suits Burdens down to the ground, as the group’s foundations are in the civil engineering sector. In fact, Burdens identified that it was supplying virtually everything but the pump to the water and waste sectors. Now, with the addition of SAER products, it can provide a total solution.

SAER works very closely with its main distributors, and it is Burdens’ remit to promote the range of pumps as SAER UK. In line with this, Burdens is in the process of compiling marketing and promotional campaigns, a catalogue and product literature and a new web- site devoted entirely to the pump market.

The article first appeared in the June issue of Builders' Merchants News.

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