Last month Armstrong Ceiling Solutions emerged as Zentia, a new look UK-based ceiling systems manufacturer. The pandemic meant that a traditional celebration was not possible but a live-streamed online event was a statement of intent about Zentia’s digital-led future. Adrian JG Marsh met with Graham Taylor, Zentia’s director sales and marketing, to find out more.
Back in 2018 Armstrong World Industries, a global leader in the ceiling market for well over a century, agreed to sell its European, Middle East and African activities to Knauf. Then to meet regulatory demands over competition it had to dispose of parts of the business and as a result the UK-based arm, Armstrong Ceiling Solutions, was acquired by investment fund Aurelius in March 2020.
Zentia is now on a mission to move from Armstrong to Zentia, from A to Z as Mr Taylor kept reminding. “We’re going to be using the fantastic equity of the Armstrong brand to build a place for Zentia so it becomes recognised as the solutions and specification provider in our chosen markets.”
The reaction so far has been positive, both internally and externally. “We’re proud of our UK base in the North East. We have great people in our business who were committed to the old brand but they are now committed to the new brand. We’re creating something fresh and very different.”
As Zentia starts to make the most of its own independence it plans to develop its product range. “We’ve a gap in the discontinuous space of baffles and islands which we intend to fill. And even with the pandemic there could be new opportunities as the office environment changes.
“There has been a trend away from open plan which the pandemic has only accelerated. We will continue to offer solutions that reflect the needs of the new normal and deliver improved performance characteristics for a post-pandemic built environment.
“Let’s not forget, there will always be a place for traditional products for exposed grid systems because they suit certain office, health and education environments.
“We’re also seeing greater demand for signature spaces; whether in an office or a public building, a lobby at a university or a hospital. These spaces need good acoustics and practical ways to provide for M and E services and fire safety. All of these, Zentia provides but we know we have to provide more and we will come to market with new solutions.”
Freed of the shackles of reporting to Paris and Pennsylvania, Zentia is now in control its own destiny. It can be more agile and responsive in devising and creating solutions for architects, designers and contractors in its home market.
The Omega contractor partnership scheme has been hugely successful and today there are more than 120 partners. It is recognised as an exclusive club and Mr Taylor confirms that it will continue and plans are being developed to buildon it and give it a boost.
Mr Taylor explains: “It is right at the top of our agenda to reinvigorate and put more resource into the programme. There are no plans to change the name because it’s well established and recognised. But that’s not to say we won’t bring it into the Zentia family.
“There is value for contractors who are Omegas and we intend to engage with them and get their feedback about what is good and what it needs to do to give it more value. The market will see evidence of this by the spring of next year.”
The reality for Zentia is that all the reference points and project examples come from the past. For 18 months the management team has been building for the future. In the coming months Zentia will be focused on its core activities that are centred on the two plants in the North East, where it produces ceiling tiles, grid and suspension systems.
“We have big plans, we’re already investing in these facilities and these investments will enhance our current capabilities so we can produce more enhanced ceiling solutions. We’ve no plans to shoot off in a different direction but where a project requires something different, we will work with our supply chain partners to create the right solution.”
Looking forward Mr Taylor sees a very healthy project bank. During 2020 there has been a shift to more refurbishment, yet he remains very optimistic about next year and beyond. He said: “We already have a strong presence in the commercial sector and we’ve grown within the education and health markets.”
Zentia at heart is the same people, with the same products and services but it’s now wearing a new set of contemporary digital clothes.
To find out more about Zentia visit www.zentia.com