GM Business Connect were very pleased to recently interview Rod Burton-Chambers, Managing Director of RLBC Limited. The company is a fantastic example of great British design and engineering, and supplies innovative vehicle barrier systems all over the UK and across the world featuring their unique designs and craftsmanship. Their current range of products feature a unique system for stopping vehicles called the Scorpion, and this has now been re-engineered as a portable unit, which opens up a fantastic range of new applications in a worldwide marketplace. The West Yorkshire based business is a great example of Northern engineering innovation, and has global plans moving forward.
Rod – please tell us about the history and development of RLBC?
“I started the business in 1993 and now run it with my daughter Jynayer. As a family company we’ve enjoyed steady growth, and have had some excellent high-profile clients, including the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, the London Olympics in 2012, plus many national organisations like Network Rail, HM Prison Service and the MOD. We’re also featured in the UK Government’s catalogue for security equipment published by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI). In fact, all our systems are either accredited or in the process of Government accreditation to BSI pas 68 level for impact testing and rating for hostile vehicle mitigation products.
“We’re a specialist designer and manufacturer of what we call ‘Hostile Vehicle Mitigation Systems’, providing static and portable solutions across both the public and private sectors. For over 30 years I’ve been designing, developing and producing these systems working with a range of specialist manufacturers to create vehicle arrest/blocking systems that are practical, tactical and commercially viable for the changing world we all share. Also, since Jynayer has come on board with her background of sales and marketing, the business has taken a more concise direction. She also knows the products and processes very well which puts us in excellent shape for growing the business, particularly towards the International marketplace.”
The business has produced some ground-breaking security solutions over the years, can you share how these ideas have come about?
“I would describe myself as a really good ‘scribbler’! My starting point would always firstly be a doodle which would then go to our engineers. From there, initial prototypes are then fabricated, followed by testing by CPNI, which is the Government body providing protective security advice to business and organisations, both in the public and private sector. For the next stage, if it works of course, and is still a viable product to sell, we’ll draft production drawings and register the IP rights and patents on the product, and then start gearing up for manufacture and marketing.”
One of your most exciting recent developments has been the Scorpion Portable Barrier. Can you tell us how this anti-terrorism device came about?
“When I first came up with the concept, we didn’t have a specific terrorism requirement for a vehicle stopping system. The original Scorpion system was a static device that worked exceptionally well, and applications at the time tended to be the protection of commercial premises against criminal activity or trespass. It wasn’t until post 9/11 that the need for these as anti-terrorism devices became apparent, and increasingly over recent years one of the requirements was for large events where the general public were unfortunately the target of vehicle terrorism.
“With the development of our MK20 portable Scorpion barrier we can fulfil part of the need for this type of protective measure. The device weighs 320Kg which makes it portable enough for event organisers to move quickly, also heavy enough to remain in place without the risk of accidentally being moved. The portable system isn’t just for counter-terrorism purposes, it does in fact have many more applications. The types of areas it is ideal for are Sea and Airports, Highways and Infrastructure projects. One particularly useful application is when work is being done on the infrastructure of Airports, where constantly changing road and site works create rapidly changing vehicle access points. These still all need protection due to security issues, and easily moveable barriers are perfect for this.
“The static barriers we do can also perfectly suit Industrial, Retail and Commercial sites, Pedestrian pathway protection plus a host of public and private uses.”
Where are your barriers currently being manufactured?
“Previously we’ve worked with a range of external manufacturers, always trying to keep the work local. This has worked very well for us in the past, as we have chosen to work with the very finest precision engineers (always certified to ISO 9001 accreditation). However, we have recently brought the manufacturing process in-house, and we are currently looking for larger premises. This has resulted in reduced costs for our end users and crucially a higher level of control over reliability and turnaround.”
Where are you looking to market your barriers?
“Currently we’re looking to export, and for the types of International application we are targeting public areas, stadiums, airports, anywhere where there is a need for protection against vehicular based terrorism threats. The other advantage with our portable Scorpion system is that when they are not deployed they can act as speed bumps, creating an opportunity for traffic calming in sensitive public areas. Another marketplace we are looking at developing is the private sector, specifically private driveways and roads, protecting against crime involving vehicles, parking issues, and criminal trespass using vehicles.”
What are your plans for growing the business?
“In the years to come I’d like to see us ‘well placed’ in not just the domestic security marketplace but also the International sector. I’d also like us to grow large enough to make our products even more competitive in pricing. Alongside this we are always looking at new developments and products and I look forward to see many more ‘scribbles’ come to life!
“With reference to International growth, in 2014 we were invited by Homeland Security in the US to have our system listed as one of their preferred products. This was a fantastic opportunity for us, as it meant we were the only product of its type featured in the catalogue, and as such opened us up to not just the US, but Canada, Australia and Israel. The listing also cleared our products for use by the American Army of Engineers. So, we’re now looking to build on that momentum and export specifically further into those marketplaces assisted by the Department for International Trade, who have shown a great understanding of ourselves as a business and what we’d like to achieve by exporting.
“We’re also going to be exhibiting with our new products at the International Security Expo at stand A82 at Olympia in London on the 28 and 29 September.”