Viewpoint: Dave and Michael Lewis

September 3, 2020

Durham brothers, Dave and Michael Lewis, established their own wholesale business in their early twenties and, over four decades, have developed it into an international powerhouse. Apex Wiring Solutions now provides pioneering mechanical and electrical solutions and products for major construction projects around the world. Here, Michael explains how innovation and entrepreneurship have been key to their success

This year is the 40th anniversary of Apex Wiring Solutions. What led you to establish the business with your brother, and how has it developed in that time?

My brother and I worked for a national electrical wholesaler and, in 1980, we decided to set up on our own. We were 20 and 24 years old.

We began as an electrical wholesaler but after five years moved into cable distribution. We were successful at this for the next 15 years –supplying turnkey power station projects and rail networks, in particular. We were then introduced to a potential client who was building offsite student accommodation and wanted a new wiring solution.

We worked with a European connector manufacturer and developed a modular wiring system. In doing so, it awakened my brother and me to the possibilities of modular wiring and so we invested a seven-figure sum in machinery and facilities to develop this further.

What are the benefits of modular wiring?

The modular system’s components are manufactured offsite, which can reduce labour onsite by as much as 70 per cent. This is particularly beneficial in the current climate of social distancing. Other advantages include health and safety and environmental benefits. The systems also offer cascade benefits because getting power onto a site sooner benefits the other trades.

How has the modular wiring side of the business developed?

Our initial entry into modular wiring was through the student accommodation provider, after which our market was principally commercial office space. We saw the potential within healthcare and developed a special system based around medical products, which the market loved. Over the last 20 years, we’ve delivered more than 50 major healthcare projects across the world, and have opened offices in Dubai and Australia.

We moved into residential after partnering with US connector manufacturer, TE. Our flagship project was providing modular wiring for the London 2012 Olympic Athletes’ Village.

This year, we’ve launched our EVO IDC Connector system, and we’re already working with the major players including Legal & General, Berkeley Modular and Project Utopia.

You’ve also recently launched the Apex CORE prefabricated utility cupboards. Tell
us more…

The two big tranches of investment in the last 12 months – representing more than a £1 million – have been the EVO IDC connector system and the development of our CORE prefabricated utility cupboards. These cupboards house all the mechanical and electrical services and, within residential, there’s a big move towards making them prefabricated in a factory, so we’ve invested in a new workspace, new facilities and new people to service that.

Alongside this, we’ve launched our own architectural lighting brand, which has further crystallised us as a business.

Innovation seems very important to Apex…

We like to innovate, not for its own sake, but because we want to push the limits of electrical solutions. Product development and product innovation are part of our DNA – they’re what sets us apart from our competitors.

How was the business impacted by the COVID-19 lockdown?

Apex didn’t close as a business. We continued to service our clients’ needs, but like everybody else, we suffered the consequences of the construction industry, essentially, closing down. We had to furlough some staff but we’re pretty much back to full employment.

What do you think of the Prime Minister’s ‘build, build, build’ announcements supporting the construction sector? Could Apex benefit?

In light of what’s happening within the economy, the Government has announced it’s going
to fund the building of schools, hospitals, and support residential developments. If the Government follows through on that – given our experience in these sectors, we’re confident there will be opportunities for us.

What’s the future outlook for Apex?

Dave and I are entrepreneurs and we’re opportunistic for the future. We’ll continue to service all sectors within the construction industry, but with a focus on healthcare, commercial office space, education and offsite and onsite residential.

We’re also committed to marketing our innovative wiring solutions to the industry. The construction industry, traditionally, is slow to adopt new technology. We need to change mindsets but we’re confident we can do that. If you combine the attributes of our new EVO IDC system with the CORE prefabricated cupboards, we think they’re game-changers.

Apex Wiring Solutions
www.apexwiringsolutions.co.uk

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