Redefining safety standards with Reacton

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Reacton’s CEO, Sam Malins, discusses the company’s global impact and the future of fire safety solutions

In the dynamic and technologically evolving world of fire safety, Reacton Fire Suppression has emerged as a front-runner.

Established originally in 1968 to protect racing cars from fire, the company has metamorphosed into a global manufacturer of critical fire suppression and detection systems​​.

Founded in 1996, Reacton has carved a niche for itself in the research, design, and manufacturing of pre-engineered automatic fire suppression systems, under the visionary leadership of Sam Malins​​.

Reacton’s systems, known for their reliability and innovative pneumatic tube-based detection, are manufactured exclusively in the UK and are a testament to the company’s commitment to quality and safety​​​​.

Under Malins’ stewardship, Reacton has expanded its global footprint.

With offices in Phoenix, Essex, and Dubai, the company has made significant inroads into the Middle Eastern market, a region of particular interest for its growth potential.

Reacton’s partnership with Tabra Trading in the UAE, aimed at safeguarding thousands of buses, exemplifies its proactive approach to market penetration and customer safety​​.

This exclusive interview with Sam Malins delves into his journey from the waste management sector to leading Reacton Fire Suppression, exploring the challenges, innovations, and strategies that have propelled the company to its current market position.

With a focus on Reacton’s expanding role in the Middle East, the interview promises insights into the company’s approach to navigating the unique challenges of the region, its recent successes, and its future aspirations in the evolving landscape of fire safety.

Could you share with us your journey in the fire safety industry up to your current role at Reacton?

My background originally lies in the waste management sector.

In the UK, we identified a unique opportunity to introduce a cost-effective fire safety system.

The existing systems on the market were prohibitively expensive.

My business partner, Ed Barnes, and I were driven to offer a highly reliable yet affordable alternative.

This endeavour began in 2009 when we partnered with a UK-based manufacturer of fire systems, initially installing their products.

However, we soon realised these systems weren’t tailored for heavy plant machinery.

After two to three years of installations, we felt a need to have greater control over the quality and certifications of the products, aiming to make a significant impact in the market.

Our passion for the technology, especially its simplicity and reliability, fuelled our desire to showcase it to a global audience.

In 2016, we acquired a company to further this vision, focusing on quality and approvals not previously available globally.

For the past seven years, we’ve been working towards this goal, and I’m proud to say we’re now on the map as one of the global market leaders.

Our primary motivation has always been to provide an affordable, durable, and highly dependable product for fire safety.

This commitment forms the core of our business journey.

On a personal note, Ed Barnes and I have been instrumental in leading our business to this point of success.

Can you set the scene for Reacton’s work in the Middle East?

Our journey began in 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

We established our office in the region that year, shortly before the onset of the pandemic, which led to a couple of years of inactivity.

Our focus in the Middle East involved collaborations with Civil Defense and understanding the market’s needs, particularly in protecting school buses.

This specific requirement was a key reason for our foray into the Middle Eastern market.

Our system’s competitive edge lies in its combination of high quality and cost-effectiveness, which aligns perfectly with the market’s demands there.

The region requires products that are not only outstanding in performance but also financially viable.

Entering the Middle Eastern market with a high-priced product would likely result in little to no market penetration.

Our approach to cost-engineering our products, coupled with their simplicity, positioned us to potentially become a market leader in that area.

I consider this phase as laying our foundation in the Middle East, primarily with bus protection.

However, our core products extend to engine bay protection for buses, heavy mining, and plant equipment.

Our current focus is on building upon this established foundation.

What has driven Reacton’s increased focus on the Middle East market, and how does this align with the company’s overall strategy?

Reacton’s intensified focus on the Middle East market is primarily driven by our expertise in vehicle protection.

This includes not only buses but also extends to heavy plant machinery.

We define ‘vehicle protection’ as encompassing a comprehensive safety approach.

Our systems are designed to safeguard engine bays and hydraulic bays, offering a broad range of protection, not just focused on engine bay protection, but covering additional risk areas, particularly in plant machinery.

This strategy of providing more extensive protection sets our systems apart in the market.

Looking forward, we aim to continue our engagement in the bus market while also expanding into the heavy machinery industry.

This dual approach aligns seamlessly with our company’s overall strategy, ensuring a broader impact and relevance in the sectors we serve.

What unique challenges does the Middle East present, and how has Reacton adapted its products to meet these challenges?

One unique challenge we face in the Middle East relates to the rapid pace of expectations.

In this region, there’s a prevalent ‘need it yesterday’ attitude, which I quite enjoy, although it does present its own set of pressures.

This is especially true as safety standards are becoming increasingly stringent.

New safety regulations are known to arrive overnight and suddenly, all products need to comply.

Another challenge is the competitive pricing and the presence of rogue competitors in the market.

These competitors often claim to have necessary approvals when they don’t.

This issue is a daily hurdle for us, and our response is to ensure that our customers are fully informed about how our products function and the legitimate approvals that substantiate their quality.

Can you share some of Reacton’s key successes or milestones in the Middle East?

We have several notable projects and partnerships in the Middle East.

A significant ongoing project involves Emirates Transport and Dubai Taxi, two of our major clients in the region.

With the support of our partners Tabra, these projects have been foundational for us in the UAE, where we have installed thousands of our systems across these two customers alone.

Additionally, we’ve made inroads into Oman by starting work on a major copper mine.

Another exciting development is our involvement in the NEOM project in Saudi Arabia, where we’ve successfully deployed a number of our protection systems.

These initiatives are indicative of the growing presence and impact of our market in the region.

What trends are you observing in the Middle East fire safety market, and how is Reacton responding to these?

One trend that stands out in the Middle East fire safety market is the region’s commitment to pushing the boundaries in safety standards, particularly in fire safety.

It’s impressive to see the heightened focus on this area.

There’s a noticeable upsurge in the demand for enhanced fire safety measures, especially concerning passenger vehicles and high-rise buildings.

The region, with Dubai leading the way, is elevating safety standards significantly, and the rest of the Middle East is following suit, albeit at varying speeds.

This is evident when you visit cities like Riyadh or Jeddah, where the seriousness with which fire safety is taken is quite apparent.

With Intersec 2024 approaching, what are Reacton’s goals for this event, and what innovations do you plan to showcase?

We have set clear goals for Intersec, focusing on showcasing our recent advancements and innovations.

Since last year, we have achieved six new approvals, and we plan to highlight these accomplishments.

These approvals span across various market verticals that we cater to.

We are lucky to operate in a broad spectrum of applications and industries, such as buses, mining, port equipment, CNC machines, and electrical control panels.

Many of our systems have attained UL approval, and we have also obtained UAE.S 5041 and SASO 2946 Approval for bus protection in the UAE and Saudi Arabia markets.

These milestones are significant achievements that we plan to showcase at Intersec 2024, reflecting our dedication to continuous improvement and adherence to rigorous safety standards in our industry.

I would like to highlight our recent accomplishments in certifications, particularly the UL 2166.

We have obtained two new UL approvals for our direct DLP (Direct Low Pressure) technology and indirect ILP (Indirect Low Pressure) technology.

Additionally, we have achieved certifications for a dry powder system under AS5062, and a foam system under AS5062.

We are excited to share that we have made significant investments in our UK headquarters, including research and development, precision component manufacturing, and product simulations.

Our investments have reduced product development time and improved our manufacturing capabilities.

We have introduced new machining centres and a metrology laboratory, which will be UKAS approved by the end of the year.

Our commitment to quality is reflected in our passion for delivering exceptional products to our customers.

We ensure the highest standards of quality in our systems before they leave our factory.

What long-term objectives does Reacton have for its operations and influence in the Middle East and beyond?

Reacton has set clear long-term objectives for its operations and influence beyond 2024, both in the Middle East and globally.

The company’s primary focus is on the markets where it currently operates, with a special emphasis on Saudi Arabia.

Reacton is dedicating significant efforts to developing this region, recognizing the substantial market potential for its systems, particularly given their price point and quality.

Furthermore, the company’s strategy involves its new UL direct system (DLP), which is UL2166 Approved.

This system presents a significant opportunity, particularly in the oil and gas industry, for the protection of electrical control panels with a UL approved system.

The UL direct system is a pioneering advancement that will offer a world-first solution for this critical industry need.

Intersec Dubai will take place between the 16th and 18th of January at the Dubai World Trade Centre, Dubai. Reacton Fire Suppression’s Stand Number is Stand 4-F39.

This article was originally published in the January 2024 issue of International Fire & Safety Journal. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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