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PEOPLE FOCUS – MEET MATTHEW FREEMAN, ENGINEERING DIRECTOR AT ACS

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For the last 18 years, Matthew Freeman has been conceptualising and developing numerous products at ACS, with over 20 patented in his name. Here he tells us more about the intricacies of his role as Engineering Director and how our newest product CertusTM, is already leading change in the industry.

“ACS shares my appetite for innovation and gives me the freedom to investigate new avenues”

I started my career at ACS in 2006 on a two year project in my role as a Knowledge Transfer Associate with ACS and Sheffield Hallam University. The project involved the design of new products, the development of a full suite of calculations and developing & embedding new design processes into the technical operations of the business. I guess it went well as I’m still here!

I’m driven by my passion to develop new products which can make a real and positive change in the construction process. I’m lucky that over the years I’ve spent a lot of time on site, talking to brick layers, architects and contractors to understand challenges and user needs which can lead to light bulb moments of how I can improve their processes with innovative products.

Most recently that has been the creation of CertusTM, our advanced modular brick slip cladding system which was conceived through conversations with both brickwork and principle contractors and their desire and requirement to deliver masonry façades in a fundamentally different manner.

This interaction led our approach in designing and manufacturing CertusTM off-site, aiming to improve site productivity, improve safety and quality, and deliver a system that facilitated the industries ambition to transition to modern methods of construction whilst still retaining the look, feel, performance and integrity of a traditional masonry façade.

It’s a varied job with every stage of development presenting different challenges but it keeps it interesting! From concept and design development, through to creating a prototype and testing it, you have to consider a product through every aspect of its lifecycle as well as making sure it passes the many stringent and ever changing regulatory requirements. This was particularly challenging with CertusTM as the external testing stage fell during Covid and involved testing on full brick facades which we’d never done before but, we got there in the end!

I’ve been quite heavily involved with commercialising CertusTM which has been an interesting expansion of my role, and has allowed me to participate in deeper conversations with peers across the industry. There’s a tendency for people to be wary of new products – there’s definitely comfort in what’s been tried and tested and pre proved, so these conversations are really important to allow us to keep expanding, improving and evolving – not only internally at ACS which everyone in the company is already on board with, but in leading change in the wider industry as a whole.

It’s one of the reasons I’m happy here – the appetite for innovation and the freedom to investigate new avenues is a shared motivator. Obviously investment in new products is timely and costly, so I feel fortunate to work in a place which drives this forward with intention and focus.

My job means I engage and collaborate and build relationships with people across all areas of construction and manufacturing which I see as one of my strengths. Collaboration ensures that valuable expertise of other manufacturers and contractors is considered, making sure any new product we design is well researched and will work and interface with existing products and systems on the market that our products will interact with.

It’s also important to engage with key stakeholders – for example, with CertusTM, we had a continual dialogue with NHBC who provide warranties on residential buildings, particularly high rise projects – in communicating with them during the early stages of a project, we were able to establish a satisfactory route to demonstrate compliance and ensure warranty conditions are met on NHBC projects to the benefit of all project stakeholders.

Part of my role is to help mentor newer colleagues. I’m really proud to be involved in developing new blood within the industry, sharing knowledge and helping to future-proof. ACS are incredibly proactive at providing opportunities for all through apprenticeships. It’s really important that we continue to nurture new and existing talent and play a key role in contributing to the sector.

Work is busy and at times quite demanding, but when I’m not here I’m busy being a parent to Seren (7) and Raife (4) with my wife Kate. I also play electric guitar and sing in a band which is great fun, we do covers and tend to gig at parties and weddings. I also like to play a bit of football and go out on my mountain bike.

I’m keen to continue developing my role within the business and ensure the continued growth and success of ACS as a market leader in innovation, engineering and customer/market led product development and service, whilst encouraging the next generation to progress and make their own mark on construction.

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Article originally published on 11th June 2024