fire systems Q&A

“We need frictionless trade”: Vimpex’s James Jones on Brexit and “doing things differently”

Adam Bannister

Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

Adam Bannister is editor of IFSEC Global. A former managing editor at Dynamis Online Media Group, he has been at the helm of the UK's leading fire and security publication since 2014.
September 3, 2019

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Exports to the EU are central to British success story Vimpex Limited, a leading independent manufacturer and distributor of alarm and evacuation products and accessories.

Speaking to IFSEC Global, James Jones, the company’s managing director, discusses Brexit as well as UL certification and strategies for the future in fast-changing global export markets.

IFSEC Global: Vimpex’s Identifire TriTone sounder has recently been certified by UL Laboratories. What does that mean for the company?

James Jones: UL is the largest and best-known testing service internationally and Vimpex’s ambition is to be seen as the go-to independent manufacturer of alarm sounders and associated accessories.

It fits with our determination to grow our exports into new markets – many of which favour UL approvals. I believe that our combination of UL approval to European standards is a winning combination.

We believe then that we should stand on the shoulders of giants and use premium and respected approvals bodies for product testing and factory audits.

IG: How easy is it for a UK company to export technology?

JJ: Since it’s so very heavily regulated by product approvals, regrettably innovation in fire safety is relatively slow. The cost of approvals mean that product life cycles are ever longer.

“The true performance and core function of sounders and beacons for evacuation has been ignored for too long”

Having said that, Vimpex has plans within our product development roadmap to create technology for use in evacuation systems that is unique and will genuinely improve the safety of building users. This technology will be able to be exported albeit with the caveat that we need to ensure that trade is frictionless and relatively free of regulatory and tariff barriers.

IG: What impact will the Vimpex’s new UK manufacturing production facility have on the company?

JJ: We’re excited by the opportunities created by our nearly half million pound investment in transforming our business from pure reseller to now having a manufacturing production facility, which will enable us to rapidly develop our markets for both Vimpex-produced and distributed products.

We’ve created a phenomenal capacity for business growth that will allow the company to innovate and increase its product ranges, markets and territories, and to significantly increase export activity in targeted markets in which we anticipate a doubling of sales revenues by 2025.

IG: Explain Vimpex’s diversification of product ranges?

JJ: One of our mantras is that “we are not afraid to do things differently” and that extends to product development. We’ve created a very efficient factory with relatively low overheads, which means our economies of scale are reached fairly quickly. This means we can create new products, both third party-approved and non-approved, with innovative features relatively quickly, and get them on the market.

We’ve plans for some innovative products in the future which will put the evacuation element of fire detection and alarm systems firmly back on the agenda. The true performance and core function of sounders and beacons for evacuation has been ignored for too long and we know that there’s growing demand for products that can incorporate voice messages, clarity of alarms and, most importantly, effective evacuation of buildings.

IG: Is Brexit a concern?

JJ: Yes. I’ve made no secret that I believe Brexit to be an extremely foolish move for the country, fraught with danger for the manufacturing industry and massively disruptive for our sector.

That’s why we are investing in UL approval for our products. The way the negotiations have gone up to now has made many of our European customers question their supply chains that include British products. So far, we have been able to persuade them that we are positioned to ensure continuity of supply whatever happens in the future.

The fact that we have a wholly owned subsidiary in Sweden, which is of course in the EU, is a big advantage to us.

On a more positive side, if the Brexit government are serious about helping exporting businesses look beyond the EU for growth then we have every intention of accepting and exploiting that assistance. I see this as additional rather than replacement business as we would be crazy to turn our backs on our current European customers whilst waiting for other trade opportunities to come about.

It’s still much easier to trade with someone living next door than someone the other side of the world.

Vimpex is exhibiting at the Emergency Services Show (NEC Birmingham, Stand C71, 18-19 September).

The Future of Fire Safety: download the eBook

Is the fire protection industry adapting to the post-Grenfell reality fast enough? At FIREX International 2019, Europe's only dedicated fire safety event, some of the world's leading fire safety experts covered this theme. This eBook covers the key insights from those discussions on the developments shaping the profession, with topics including:

  • Grenfell Inquiry must yield “bedrock change” – and soon
  • After Grenfell: Jonathan O’Neill OBE on how austerity and policy “on the hoof” are hampering progress
  • Hackitt’s Golden Thread: Fire, facilities and building safety
  • Fire safety community has to “get on board” with technological changes

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