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Ahead of the game

14 August 2018

FSM managing editor Mark Sennett finds out how Carl Bryan's company is at the forefront of technology in the fire detection, suppression and prevention industry.

Can you tell me about your career with WAGNER and your professional background?

My background is in security and I had a job for a number of years as an engineer in operations management and then into general management. I have been with WAGNER for almost five years now as managing director.

I started out in a YTS scheme at school and followed that through service engineer and then sales and account management. So, I have had a heavy influence in engineering all the way through my career and that set me up well for life at WAGNER.

What are the most memorable successes at WAGNER?

When we sell a large OxyReduct® project it is a really big achievement as these are highly engineered projects. When we take one of those projects they can take 2-3 years from inception through to commissioning and then completion.

OxyReduct® is a fire prevention concept. It is not a reactive system as the concept is to prevent fire. Rather than a traditional suppression or sprinkler system where we need a fire to be present and then to detect it and to extinguish it in some way, we take it back a step and we inert a space constantly to create a low oxygen environment to prevent a fire from ever occurring.

I am also very pleased with the way we have restructured the business, and we have built a successful team over the last five years as this is a big success for us. We have almost doubled the number of employees over the course of five years, as at one point we only had a staff of seven and now have 13 and we are looking to continue to grow.

What has fuelled the growth?

From my point of view, we have established a clear direction and have a clear position now in the market. We have increased our sales team and we now have a sales team of five so when you look at this it is a high proportion of our employee number. So, when you consider this five as an overall proportion of the total of 13 staff you can see that we have become a sales led organisation but with a heavy engineering capability.

What is your vision for the future of WAGNER UK?

We aim to continue our growth in the products business. We continue our presence and that is working with the fire trade and fire businesses to design and install our products.

We would also like to grow the solutions side of the business so that our engineering solutions can go direct to end users. We want to develop our offer to end users of the combination of detection, suppression and oxygen reduction systems, which can also be separate or could be a combined system.

What are the biggest challenges facing the fire safety sector?

I think, and I've had these thoughts pre the Grenfell tragedy but my opinion is now even stronger, there needs to be an overhaul of regulation. If we look at our European counterparts, we could learn a lot from them in that there is still a lot of self-certification in the UK fire industry and I think until we really embrace third party certification as far as systems is concerned, I think the standards will not improve.

What is your reaction to the independent review building regulations from Judith Hackitt?

In the Hackitt report there is a lot of talk about the general level of competency in the fire industry and this will lead to improvements in training. I think there is already some steps in the right direction with the FIA and their new training, so there certainly is a lot of good work going on in improving the level of education and the level of understanding.

But again, I guess if we look at what the European countries are doing as far as certification, they have a third-party to certificate a system. This is far away from what we have now where the company that is ultimately being paid to deliver a contract is the same company that is certifying the system. There has to be a conflict of interest there and I think once that conflict of interest is removed then it will drive far higher standards.

What is the biggest challenge facing your business over the next few years?

Like most businesses, BREXIT is obviously a key risk at the moment and as a German-owned entity here in the UK we are not clear what the position is. We are now not far off from BREXIT happening and we still don't know what will happen. That, at the moment, is our biggest risk and biggest challenge.

Are any exciting technologies or new products in the pipeline?

We have got the TITANUS® MULTI·SENS product that is due for release imminently and that is an aspiration product that can differentiate between smoke from a real fire scenario and that created artificially for special effects in theatres or nightclubs 

During your time at WAGNER, is there a particular project you have enjoyed the most?

There is a particular project in the pharmaceutical industry that we have just recently commissioned and that project has been almost a three-year-project from the initial contact with the client to delivery. It is a very sophisticated client and the project was technical and challenging, but a very nice client to work with, and I particularly enjoyed that project.

What does WAGNER offer and what sets you apart from your competitors?

We have a unique offering in that we provide detection, suppression and prevention, so I think that is unique in the UK market.

Our aspiration detection products offer very high-sensitive smoke detection. Our predominant route to market for that is through trade companies and fire installation companies. Where we differentiate from our competitors in that area is that we support these trade companies with design and commissioning if they need it.

We have a suppression offering that is predominately inert nitrogen systems. These inert gas systems are installed in combination with the aspiration product. Then we have the prevention system that I explained earlier.

We can use a combination of those systems so we could have a fire suppression system that is activated by the detection system and then we use the prevention system to hold the lower level of oxygen to prevent a fire. I think that delighting customers with our engineered solutions sets us apart from our competition.

Carl Bryan is managing director of WAGNER UK. For more information, visit www.wagnergroup.com.