Maccaferri UK is part of the 120 year old Italian-based Maccaferri Group, which has international turnover around £700M. The Bologna-based company made its mark by inventing a double twist wire mesh process for which it has found a diverse range of uses from the civil engineering gabion to the cradles on champagne corks.
It built its first gabion more than a hundred years ago as an erosion control measure on a section of the River Reno, which runs through Bologna. No surprises then for guessing who was later responsible for developing the Reno mattress.
The UK office falls within the group's environmental solutions division, which grew on the strength of the gabion, and as in the UK, remained until recently very much wedded to it.
The group operates from 17 companies throughout the world. The UK differs from most of its sister companies in that it does not support a manufacturing base.
Most of the Maccaferri products used in the UK come from Brazil. This, believes Greenford, gives the UK operations greater freedom. 'We see our position as agents of change for the group. We are in a much stronger position than others to develop into new areas.'
Without the pressure of supporting a home manufacturing base, Maccaferri UK has the ability to draw on the expertise developed in the group internationally, develop it and promote it back to the whole group. For example Italy and Canada are strong on environmental aspects such as soil bioengineering while the US and Australia provide experience with segmental block walls.
Helping the process along, technical director Philip Staten is one of the driving forces behind the Maccaferri International Technical Committee, which twice a year brings together technical managers from around the world to share experiences and identify technical development priorities.
This group of international technical managers also gets a say in the Maccaferri Group's impressive $1M annual research and development budget, with this money being spent externally, typically as research grants.