History of UAP
“It started with a door knocker…”
Walt Disney famously started with a drawing of a Mouse, and in 1996 we started with just a door knocker – it was that from which UAP was born. As a company we have grown to include over 3000 product lines, export to more than 25 different countries and have established 5 additional brands, which range from door hardware solutions, to locksmith tools and home security products. The huge growth at UAP since then has been as a result of huge investment in product development, and the pioneering spirit to always seek a better solution.
How It All Began.. Universal Imports
In 1996 we set up under the name ‘Universal Imports.’ We initially began importing door knockers and the standard door knockers supplied were made from brass and then lacquered – there were no PVD, stainless steel or zinc options. If you wanted a product with a hole in it then you had to drill it yourself; if you wanted a product coloured white or black then you had to go and get it powder coated yourself. The stories of famous companies having their staff use Tippex to cover up where the white powder coating had been missed are sadly true.
We knew there had to be a better way, which is why we went directly to the factories to see how things were done. We went directly to the buyers to see how they wanted things done and as a result became the first company to supply pre-finished products!
Everything, from start to finish was completed at the factories and products were ready to be handed to the customer right off the shelf – whether they wanted black, white, brass or chrome.
Initially UAP was run from a small home office. In 1999 we built our first head office in Bury – Bank House, and it was in 2000 when we officially started to trade from Bank House, and our MD employed his first official employee – Wendy Rushton, who is still with us today!
In 2000 we changed the company name from Universal Imports to UAP Ltd. Many people have asked what UAP stands for, and we will let our MD explain:
“UAP came about following a trip to India in 2000. We needed a shorter name than Universal Imports to put on hardware. I had a long, long journey to India followed by a 6-hour drive in a car whose exhaust fell off half-way and needed welding back on. After 6 hours we arrived at a factory which was called Akhil, in temperatures in excess of 120 degrees F. As you can guess by now I was not in the best of moods. The factory owner steps up and says ‘are you happy.’ ‘No I’m not’ came my reply. To which he repeated the question with an even more gritty reply. He then pointed to a sign he had painted – Universal Akhil Partnership …UAP… ‘Are you happy’ in his broken English. That was a godly event and the 3 letters have been used ever since!”
In 2003 we passed ISO9001, and also got our first BSi Kitemark accrediation. We also stopped making door panels to concentrate on other products.
It has been our constant desire to push boundaries that has driven our expansion. In 2007 lock bumping was quite new, and we developed Pickbuster, which was a high tack lubricant which was easily applied to the inside of a cylinder lock are protecting against bumping. We sold a lot of this product to homeowners, with it being heavily promoted on QVC.
We were the first to introduce an anti-bump cylinder using Pickbuster (nowadays our cylinders are mechanically anti-bump,) and we developed the sacrificial cut shim to stop banana-shaped cylinders when they are dropped during the manufacturing process.
It was also in 2007 we bought our first unit in Whitefield which became our warehouse.
In 2007 we got involved with a charity called DCWC Nepal (Development of Women and Children Centre.) After attending a local auction for the charity, our MD David Jennings approached Gary who ran the charity and said UAP would like to build a school in Nepal. The first school was built very quickly in Bhimphedi, in the Makwanpur district of Nepal. With one school UAP went on to build another 4, and even raised all the funds for a hospital to be built!
This year saw our first collaboration with industry-leading locksmith Martin Pink. With it came the development of the Genuine Lishi brand which has literally revolutionised the auto locksmith industry. Genuine Lishi is today distributed in many countries around the World.
2009 saw the launch of TradeLocks, our brand for locksmith tools and equipment. As we wanted to concentrate on the hardware and the TradeLocks brand, we stopped making glass and windows. Our first unit in Whitefield was too full, so we bought a second warehouse with offices (which today has become our head office.)
In 2013 we bought our first product testing machines, which has since turned into our own testing department. Every batch of products are tested in our salt-spray, all-weather and UV machines, as well as having specific machines for different products e.g., our letterplate flap cycle machine. It was in this year where UAP really started to become the company it is today, and in this year alone we employed 5 external sales people! We also bought a warehouse in Whitefield for our overflow stock.
In 2014 we bought our first 3D printing machine (we now currently have 5.) This gave us the facility to 3D print samples and products in house to make sure we are always ahead with our product development and innovation.
In 2015 we also started to build an extension on to the head office, as we needed more office space.
Acquisition of Fullex Locks
In December 2016 we acquired Fullex Locks, which was a strategic move to establish UAP even further into the fenestration and door industry.
Fullex have a fantastic brand reputation, and a remarkable range of high quality products, and we believed with our input we can increase and enhance the Fullex brand significantly.
Took Over 2 New Warehouses
With the addition of Fullex, we needed to expand out warehousing facilities. We acquired a further 2 warehouses on the estate, taking number of warehouses we operate from on the estate to 5.
In September 2018, we completed a £20 million management buyout by Maven Capital Partners; aligning ourselves with a pro-active private equity house who shared our vision for growth. David Jennings became CEO and our management team was strengthened with several key appointments.
UAP America Opens its Doors
UAP America is born, operating out of North Andover in Massachusetts, but supplying all across the USA.