We are an SME based in Salford, employing 35 people and part of a multinational French-owned group which has a multifocal philosophy in that it allows its subsidiaries to run as autonomous profit centres and cater to local needs and customs, rather than imposing a centralised doctrine. We manufacture energy and data transmission systems for mobile equipment. With the demise of heavy industry we saw a dramatic decline in our traditional markets, principally the electric overhead travelling (or bridge) crane industry. We had to adapt or die; we chose the former option.
Ten years ago, although the fundamental business was sound, it was stagnating. It is not that we were short of ideas – far from it. However, creative thought often withered on the vine before a change of management liberated our engineers and allowed their considerable creativity to blossom as ideas were assessed, calculated but sensible commercial risks taken and, inevitably, survival and growth ensued.
We changed from being a mere supplier of components, a role which had brought considerable success for the past forty years, to a provider of solutions, listening to customers’ requirements and developing innovative solutions to their specific problems. This led to our designing safety systems for use in rail depots and to adapting our core product (insulated conductor bar) for use in the precious metal mines in South Africa.
When we did the maths on the rail contracts we had won, we discovered that the conductor bar portion (which, previously, would have been the only element we supplied) represented a mere 5 per cent of the total contract value. So, our conscious decision to change emphasis had a tangible and extremely positive effect on our business. Without that change, it is unlikely we would still be here today.
Again – adapt, change, innovate or die.
The challenge now is the next generation of change to ensure succession and longevity of the business. We are embarking on a partnership programme with a highly technical and capable local University to seek out new opportunities, either for new products or new uses for existing ones – and that is the beauty of manufacturing. It is the ability to do something, to make a difference and keep the wheels turning.
It may be a simplistic view but I have always believed that someone has to create the wealth to sustain the nation and the safest and most fulfilling way to do that is to actually get off your backside and make things.