Earlier this year, UK rainscreen cladding specialist Sotech and the international engineering company Hilti confirmed a new partnership to provide a more complete offering to architects, contractors and installers specifying rainscreen cladding across the UK. The Sotech marketing team caught up with the people behind the partnership to find out more. What is the partnership? Simon Bullock, Key Account Manager for Building Envelope, Hilti: We are really excited about this partnership. It is a chance for two large, well respected firms to join forces and provide more value to the market. We have spoken at length about our new relationship and decided on three shared goals: (1) Share insights and innovations to make the products we design better, (2) Provide a fuller solution to the client and (3) Win more projects, as we introduce each other to our respective clients. For example, at Hilti we take feedback from surveys we commission, directly through our social media and through market insights based on what we learn selling at scale – what do people want, what is getting interest? The Sotech team have incredibly strong one-on-one relationships with their customers, who are specifying full complete systems. We can use this high-level data and the more tactical one-to-one insight to really get a feel for what is happening in the market and respond to changing customer needs more quickly. This new close and effective collaboration has been the key for us. Sotech have already introduced us to new projects and new customers, and I’d like to think we have considerably enhanced their service offering to their customers at site level. The result of this should be happy customers, repeat business with professionally installed, fully tested rainscreen systems. Graham Todd, Director at Sotech: Ultimately, Sotech and Hilti share similar values. They are both family run businesses with people who want to do the right thing. We want to work with brands of equal reputation to help bring more value to the market. This partnership helps us do that. How does the partnership work? Graham, Sotech: We can call each other for insight and advice on certain products and discuss how to tackle unique challenges. And we can introduce our clients to our counterparts for a fuller service. Sotech leads with support, technical drawings, manufacturing. We can advise on how to install the system and make sure the onsite teams have everything they need for safe and efficient working. But we are also teaming up to present to new clients too, offering an even fuller, more end-to-end service. Dean Fewtrell, National Manager, Building Envelope at Hilti: It is early days for the partnership, but it is based on a strong relationship we have been cultivating for a while. We have been engaging with the management team at Sotech for over a year to arrange our working relationship and since then we have been in contact with each other almost every week, asking questions, sharing insights, answering project specification questions for clients. It is fruitful, fun and it feels collaborative. At the site level, we have also seen a lot of interest in tools and site. Being in partnership like this means Hilti can provide even more direct help on site, as the job is being completed. In my mind it’s a win, win, win for all parties. What are the benefits? Simon, Hilti: Collaboration is key to growth. In the rainscreen cladding sector, we have found that 75% of clients are buying a complete system. Hilti provide the brackets used in many systems you see on tall buildings today, but we found we cannot always influence buyers – they are coming to us for individual pieces. However, in the rainscreen cladding sector, architects tend to specify full systems. Building a relationship like this enables us to get closer to clients to help specify full rainscreen systems safely. The SSE project in Manchester was the first example of us working together in a true OEM partnership scenario. Sotech won the project (with the full Hilti sub grid included) and Hilti looked after Sotech’s customer at the site level. This involved managing the training, overseeing the delivery requirements, and ensuring customer expectations were met on the day. Going forward, this level of collaboration will take away on site stress and give back valuable time to the Sotech team. Above all else, though, it means an even better experience for our shared clients. What lessons have been learnt so far? Jamie Brown, Estimating Manager at Sotech: We have over 20 new projects in discussion, and we are seeing key themes. Our brands are not the cheapest in the market, but we have the quality, the experience, and the insight to complete a job more quickly and with less problems. Together, we can avoid any back and forth time lost on the installation side. This benefits everyone and often leads to repeat work. Dean, Hilti: Energy-saving regulations are a key factor when designing the optimum envelop build-up, and it is something we have spoken about in our partnership: how do we help our clients reduce their costs even further through energy saving? The solution is to reduce heat transfer and we love that Sotech are constantly innovating their rainscreen cladding systems. Whilst reducing insulation thickness might not be a priority, it is certainly a factor in the innovations. What insights are you seeing through the partnership? Graham, Sotech: Things are changing in a good way. A lot more customers are asking questions around testing and warranties. They want systems that are fully tested, for peace of mind and for insurance purposes. This is not just for the contractors, but for the buyers who need certain insurances to later sell their properties. We have been sad to see that this has been a big feature in the news in recent months and we really believe in providing those assurances to everyone. Buildings should be safe, first and foremost and fully insurable. With our fire tested systems, we can ensure this. Our latest systems to the market, Optima FC+, TFC+ and Edge are all fully tested incorporating Hilti sub grid and fixings. The reaction to our needs from Simon and Dean at Hilti working to tight deadlines on our system development path has been commendable. Useful link: Learn about Sotech’s A1 and A2 systems here >> [LINK – https://sotech-optima.co.uk/testing-and-warranties/] Simon, Hilti: Things can go wrong. Projects can get delayed. Working together means we can pick up the phone to each other and resolve them more quickly. Jamie, Sotech: Beyond safety, we are also seeing a lot more interest in the aesthetics of a building. Because the cladding materials can come in a range of colours, shapes, and materials, with full fire testing, more architects are pushing the envelope on beauty, style, colour. As a team, we love to support this kind of innovation, building buildings that are beautiful and safe. *** About Sotech: Sotech is a leading designer and manufacturer of the optima range of engineered metal rainscreen cladding and architectural fabrications. Established in 1982, the expert team at Sotech works closely with architects, installers, and contractors to specify the most suitable rainscreen cladding solution for their needs, advising on the system, materials, and finishes, as well as fire safety, design, and production. Dedicated to excellence, Sotech are committed to continually test and improve their rainscreen cladding systems, Sotech has always put a huge focus on fire safety in the rainscreen cladding industry and has fire tested since 2006. Today, the Optima range is available in A1 and A2 materials such as PPC Aluminium, Anodised Aluminium, Pre-Paint Aluminium, ACM A2, ALPOLIC A1, Copper, Corten Steel, Stainless Steel and Zinc. All systems carry full CWCT certification and the Optima FC+, TFC+ and edge have been tested to BS8414-2. Sotech is also accredited to ISO9001:2015, ISO14001:2015, OHAS18001:2007. About Hilti: Hilti is a world market leader in fastening and demolition technology for construction professionals, with around 250,000 customer contacts per day. Founded in 1941 in Schaan, Liechtenstein, Hilti is a family owned business with over 30,000 employees in more than 120 countries. With a strong focus on design through to construction, Hilti supports the industry directly with ventilated façade solutions through its direct sales approach: (Account Managers, Engineers, Software Specialists, E-Business & Hilti Stores). Hilti also has a strong Social Responsibility agenda through the Martin Hilti Family Trust. They are currently running more than 40 Social Responsibility projects worldwide.