Arco2 Ecofab

Bodmin based Arco2 Ltd & Ecofab are looking forward to a sustainable future thanks to business advice and support from the ERDF Convergence Programme.

Arco2 is a firm of sustainable architects specialising in low energy and zero carbon architecture. Early expansion led to Ecofab, an innovative construction and prefabrication company, being set up to complement Arco2.

Since 2003, Directors Martin Penk, Ian Armstrong and Nathan Davis have focused on sustainable green building design, growing the two companies to 8 full time employees. In early 2013 they reached that tipping point which many small businesses do in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly about how to take their businesses to the next level whilst allowing innovation to flourish.

The team at Arco

Arco2 & Ecofab contacted the South West Manufacturing Advisory Service (SWMAS) Ltd which is part funded through the Convergence Programme to seek advice on how best to move forward.

SWMAS has a project called the Product Development Centre (PDC) to support innovation and growth of small and medium sized manufacturing companies in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The PDC can offer bespoke support on product development (new and existing products), identifying and accessing new markets, strategies for business growth and much more.

‘The SWMAS process made us look over each aspect of the business and think about how we market ourselves. Our Ecofab concept is unique and we have set a marketing agenda so more people can learn about it. '                

Arco2 & Ecofab Director Ian Armstrong

Interestingly Arco2 and Ecofab are almost like a “one stop shop” in terms of design and build as Ecofab uses a unique prefabricated system of building using straw bale, timber and reclaimed materials. The Ecofab system stemmed from stick build straw bale projects undertaken in 2004 by the team to make a flexible, cost effective and sustainable building method whilst eliminating the disadvantages of traditional straw bale building. Coupled with their architecture expertise, the businesses can offer new build and sustainable redesigns, with current projects stretching from St Just to Bude.

Arco Ecofab buildings

Talk us through your coaching experience…

Ian: I think one of the benefits from our work with the SWMAS project is the business coaching which has been really productive in enabling us to think about how to move our businesses forward. The coaching has got us really excited about everything and we have acted on quite a few of the suggestions already.

Looking at everything did it make you think about the company as a whole?

Ian: Yes, we are looking at all of our processes at the moment and trying to decide whether to create a new role so we (the three Directors) can become more efficient, but as you can imagine after setting this up between the three of us it is obviously hard to let go! I think the work we have done with our team to discover our strengths and weaknesses and how to allocate work to take advantage of our strengths is something we will all take advantage of.

‘The work with Arco2 & Ecofab shows that small Cornish manufacturing businesses are prepared to take that next step with expert guidance to keep them on track.

I congratulate them on their UKAS ISO accreditations, but I think the revolution the process has inspired within the company is the greater benefit, which will give them direction and focus for the next financial year.’

Martyn Pearson, Manufacturing Advisor from SWMAS

Before and after an Arco build

With the three directors and two brands there must be cross over?

Martin: Yes, if we break down what we do, the architecture, the prefab and construction, and non prefab construction, there is a lot going on. Even with three directors we still have cross over and all of us want to be involved in the decision making. What we realised through the training is that we can take a step back and it would be more efficient if one person dealt with these three things separately, which really is a culture change; we will try and divide up our resources to combat this!

Achieving the ISO was a major piece of work?

Martin: It was a major piece of work for us but it was something that we recognised as a company that we needed to do to enable us to win the big contracts. Our procedures and the way we work weren’t efficient or slick and we have taken on the ISO as a tool for the company to provide quality assurances for existing and prospective clients.

Ian: For some companies achieving ISO it may have just been a tick in a box to acquire, but for us it was to make us more efficient and use it as a company to grow. Personally I think all of the SWMAS work and the ISO accreditation has made our company a better unit as we work as a team towards our future goals.

SWMAS offered support so Arco2 & Ecofab could gain:

UKAS accredited ISO 9001 & 14001 to improve quality and environmental management systems

Wednesday 7 August 2013