Rushbrook fire test

Rushbrook fire test on plastic exhaust ductwork used in the electronics industry

Around the World in 80 Trades: Rushbrook

Fire safety engineering consultancy Rushbrook are a finalist in the micro exporter category at this month's HSBC Scottish Export Awards with Scottish Enterprise. They tell us more about getting started with exporting and provide some tips for those new to international trade.

What does your company do?

Rushbrook is a fire safety engineering consultancy, providing professional fire safety engineering and fire protection engineering consultancy to small, medium and multinational clients around the world.

Using experienced, qualified and chartered engineers we provide a range of services in the following business sectors;

  • Fire risk engineering
  • Fire safety engineering
  • Fire detection & fire protection engineering
  • Expert witness

Our primary activities are:

  • Fire engineering design & consultancy
  • Fire & explosion hazard identification
  • Fire & explosion risk assessment
  • Development of fire engineering strategies for protection of life and property
  • Fire detection system design, project management and installation verification
  • Fire protection system specification, design, project management and verification
  • Gas leak detection evaluation, specification, project management and verification

We have also carried out fire tests for clients to demonstrate specific fire hazards.

When was your company launched, who by and why?

Set up in 1999 by Al Brown along with three other professional fire engineers as a fire safety engineering consultancy based in Scotland serving clients in Scotland, UK & Ireland and the rest of the world.   

The consultancy was established just as the Institution of Fire Engineers was granted the right to create 'Chartered Fire Engineers' and the market for professional fire engineering was beginning to develop. At the same time, a market was developing for fire risk assessment in the semiconductor and electronics industry to provide specialised advice to protect the rapidly developing semiconductor and LCD fabrication industries in Europe, Asia and the USA.

How long has the company been exporting?

Since 2000, when we carried out our first equipment fire risk assessments for the semiconductor industry in the USA and the Netherlands.

What do you currently export, and where to?

We export specialised fire engineering design and consultancy services to industry. This includes fire risk assessment of process equipment and factories, design of fire protection systems and project management, and fire investigation & expert witness.

We are currently working in Ireland and South Korea, over the last 17 years we've worked in China, Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, Austria, Belgium, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovenia, the Netherlands, France, USA.

We've also spoken at conferences and industry seminars in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, USA, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, China, Ireland and USA

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?

Our MD, Al Brown, has been involved in exporting since leaving university in 1982, and has travelled the world as a consultant engineer since 1985. 

By 1999, when Rushbrook was founded, Al was a recognised expert in fire risk engineering of semiconductor cleanrooms and processes and it was a natural progression to generate opportunities for new projects around the world in countries where the industry was based, including the USA, Europe and Asia.

What is the easiest part of exporting?

Having ideas!

And the most challenging part?

Putting the ideas into practice, identifying potential clients and convincing them that you can deliver your service from the other side of the world.

Have language barriers, currency changes, etiquette and culture ever caused you any difficulties? How did you overcome them?

The electronics industry uses English as its main business language, so language is rarely a barrier. Understanding the culture of business in some Asian countries can be a particular challenge and having good local advice is essential to avoid running into issues.

The banking system is probably one of the biggest challenges to small exporters, particularly when dealing in foreign currency. The fluctuations in currency rates are a concern for overseas projects.

Making use of Skype for Business for voice and video calls and conference calls makes communications with remote clients much easier than the era before the internet was established, however, clients and business partners usually like to meet face to face to establish the relationship first.

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?

We had excellent support from Scottish Development International (SDI) in 2006 when we investigated the market in China, Japan and Taiwan. The Shanghai office of SDI were very helpful in setting up meetings with potential clients and in supporting us during our time in Shanghai.

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?

Understand your market and the cost of developing it. It is very easy to spend money in the export market without making any money.

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?

Building on our experience and expertise, we are generating exciting new opportunities for consulting work in Asia Pacific, Ireland and the EU, which we hope will result in high quality employment for graduate engineers and established/qualified professional engineers in the coming years. 

We are currently investigating ways in which we can mitigate the potentially negative effects of Brexit, identifying new opportunities and partnerships to enable us to continue to work efficiently and profitably in the EU. 

Our aim is to grow the company, continuing to balance our overseas projects with local work to enable us to deal with fluctuations in economic activity at home and abroad.

Rushbrook have been shortlisted for an award at the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2017 in association with Scottish Enterprise. Book your tickets now and join us to celebrate international trade.