We've been real connectors for 20 years!

Guardian 20 jaar

Guardian BV, leading international player in roof fastening materials for flat roofs, is celebrating its twentieth anniversary in October 2021. A milestone. And a good moment to look back and, more importantly, ahead. What were the most important developments and pivotal points of recent years? What does Guardian stand for? And what does the company want to achieve? Lucas Borsboom, Managing Director of Guardian, takes up the story.

‘I joined Guardian ten years ago. I started as General Sales Manager and have now been at the helm for eight years. An amazing job. Why? Because the market we operate in offers so many challenges. There's growth potential in existing and new markets. I want to capitalise on those. And to do that, we are also working on the professionalisation of our internal organisation. I really enjoy working together with our customers, partners, suppliers and colleagues. We 'connect'. Stand shoulder to shoulder, side by side. That makes Guardian a wonderful company.’ ‘Before August 2018, our company operated under the name Afast. Many roofers and partners in the Netherlands know that name. But Guardian, the brand name of our products, was much better known in Europe. To prevent confusion and create uniformity, three years ago we decided to change our name. The name Guardian reflected the new direction we wanted to take.

Start and increased professionalisation

‘Afast was founded in 2001. At the time, the three founders saw potential in the market. They started small and looked for and found an investor in 2003 - the Irish company CRH which acquired Afast for 100% - to enable the rapid growth of the company. They were keen to keep control of the production of the materials. We already did our own stamping. And in 2007, the first injection moulding machine arrived! We could now make plastic fixation products more quickly and affordably to customer specifications, whilst introducing many new solutions to the market. Our product range expanded, while our production capacity grew rapidly from tens of thousands to millions of plastic products. We also made a conscious decision to get extensive certification for our product line. Valuable because the quality awareness within Guardian was continuing to grow. And because this also increased market confidence in our products.'


Hugh growth within SFS

‘In 2010, CRH sold Guardian, and in January 2011, we joined the Swiss SFS Group: a family firm with ambition and a long-term vision. We did well out of that. SFS offered us plenty of scope. But we also created that freedom ourselves through our extensive and certified product range and excellent performance. We grew from 12 employees and EUR 5 million turnover in 2010 to 55 employees and EUR 20 million in 2020. The market conditions are and were favourable and the number of flat roofs and options in Europe grew rapidly. There were years that we experienced a growth of 20% to 25%. That demanded a lot from the company. Continuous improvement together, smart innovation and professionalisation were no longer an option, but a necessity. We learned a lot from this, and we are still reaping the benefits today. Guardian now produces partly in the Netherlands, at SFS in Turkey, with partial procurement in the Far East. We are optimally organised to be able to meet the current and future market demands.’ In 2015 our own SFS market organisation also joined the Benelux market, which is focused on mounting materials and structural systems for the facade. The recent years have been extremely successful for new SFS product lines such as fall protection, Nvelope and mounting materials for roof and facade. The market potential for these segments will be huge in the coming years.'

Distinctive market approach with regular partner network

‘Guardian has a strong position on the Benelux domestic market, which it is steadily expanding. In each country where we see opportunities, we are also looking for one or two regular, reliable partners. We made a conscious decision not to supply directly. Finding the right partner is not always easy. It is preceded by extensive investigation, and we provide quite a lot of financial support in the early years. A risk we take. But we recoup the costs later. Ultimately, you need to be willing to invest together. Innovate together. And resolve any problems together. For us, this approach has resulted in significantly more turnover, growth and enjoyment. We have very good relationships with all our partners. I should emphasise that, besides our quality products, the services we provide to our partners and their customers are also extremely valuable. Think of services relating to wind load calculations, system testing and practical advice. But also marketing support and sales promotion. This enables us to achieve and connect the entire building envelope.’


Sustainable and circular developments

‘Flat roofs are increasingly getting new functionalities. Like solar panels, water buffering and green roofs. Or meeting places and rooftop swimming pools. In Switzerland, all new flat roofs must be green roofs by law. Each country has its own requirements when it comes to roof functionalities. And based on these, we and our partners put together the most suitable assortment for each country. This enables us to contribute to roof greening and sustainability. Together with other roof partners, we have also worked hard on “the circular roof”. All the products we offer ensure that each part of the roof structure can be dismantled and therefore recycled. We collect them when a building needs to be demolished and reuse them.’

The strength of Guardian

‘We are delighted to be part of SFS. The SFS Group is always interested in investing in opportunities. We benefit from the available experience and know-how, particularly relating to automation tools. Their automation programme SAP, Cube and the new warehouse management system implemented last year gave a boost to LEAN and efficient working. Personally, however, I'm most proud of my colleagues. Everyone is loyal, committed, and wants to continuously improve.
And I give them every opportunity to do so. At Guardian, employees are given freedom and responsibility. We have a common goal, but every employee takes their own path to achieve it. We structurally show what someone's added value is compared with the achieved results. Because we do this together. Our customers value our loyalty and our help in finding solutions. I am really looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead. Let's not just connect mechanically, but also digitally. We've got this!’