A lot of water has passed under the Newport Transporter Bridge since Fencing News last caught up with Scanpole.
That was back in 2019. A very different world. Since then, the operational challenges have come thick and fast particularly with Covid, Brexit and the war in Ukraine but the resilience and flexibility shown by this longstanding business, combined with innovative thinking, has allowed it to succeed and indeed thrive.
In fact, turnover has doubled over the past four years and looks set to increase substantially again over the course of 2023 with demand for their telecoms and electricity poles together with fencing booming.
Part of the Finnish Iivari Mononen Group of companies since 2015 with subsidiaries across Scandanavia, Scanpole, based at Alexandra Dock in Newport, has a heritage that dates back to 1848 as specialist timber treatment firm Burt Boulton Haywood.
Iivari Mononen started up in business in 1952 supplying sturdy utility poles to the UK market.
Senior Vice President Simon Pears explained: “As an essential service we were very busy during the Covid pandemic. People still needed broadband, electricity and agricultural fencing so we had to adapt our processes and keep producing. We managed to implement necessary changes and did not miss a day of production throughout the pandemic.
“Brexit has led to increased admin and supplier costs with those increases having to be passed onto our customers. We prepared well though by maintaining healthy stock levels which meant the longer leads time to us did not effect delivery performance to our customers.
“We were still breaking records all the way up to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Half of the wood we used came from Belarus with the sanctions meaning that we had to adapt and look elsewhere. Getting high quality pine is never easy at the best of times.
“Our Finnish operations, situated close to the Russian border, were affected by the war.
“We started to source from across the Nordics with our Norwegian plant increasing production to satisfy our needs and a shift to 100% machine rounded peeled posts. The slow grown pine, typically a century old when harvested, leads to a denser wood that offers increased strength and longevity.
“We also have an unswerving commitment to the environment,” he added “and consider biodiversity and the principles of sustainable development in all aspects of our wood procurement process.”
Scanpole is signatory to a whole range of quality standards and certifications including PEFC, FSC and ISO9001 as well as the WPA benchmark scheme.
The thorny issue of creosote, a treatment that Scanpole has depended on for over 180 years, is also on Simon’s radar with recent confirmation from the HSE of the postponement of the expiry date until February 13th 2025.
“A five-year transition period will certainly help. Farmers and fencing contractors are having a difficult time of it with failing fence posts but our creosoted posts provide a solution that can last for generations.
“We are rising to the challenge by innovating our treatment approach. Pole+, using Tanasote treatment supplied by Arcadia, represents the future and it is currently being used by UKPN, SSE and several Nordic energy suppliers and being tested by our other partners, including BT and the National Grid, as well as being rolled out across our fencing range.
“By combining slow grown Nordic pine with a copper-based treatment and the hydrophobic qualities of a carrier oil as with creosote, we can deliver a 40-year service life for our posts that also minimise safety concerns and environmental impact.
“In addition all of our fence posts go through a rigorous, seven stage checking process before delivery to customers. That includes a sapwood penetration test, preservative uptake testing and a final quality control check. We leave no stone unturned in order to maintain the highest quality posts.”
Scanpole benefits from a strong and agile support network as well as a solid commitment to quality recruitment.
Simon continued “The Finns put a big emphasis on having skilled people in key positions and their rapid decision-making means that we can continually adapt to changing circumstances.
“It’s full steam ahead and we are busier than ever thanks to the expertise and flexibility of our workforce. We are in a good place right now!” he concluded.
Wise leadership, it seems, is ensuring that Scanpole stays ahead of the game whatever existential challenges come their way. That Newport Transporter bridge will continue to provide a fitting backdrop to a business that is building bridges and futures wherever it goes.