P&B has been no stranger to the changing fortunes of British manufacturing since it was established more than 85 years ago. However, with a steadfast strategy of investment in its design and production capabilities and in its people, the company has succeeded in fending off competition and acquisition. Carving a niche through innovation and responsive service in electrical protection, the company has become a globally recognised supplier in the oil and gas sector and is now setting its sights on the UK’s large power users in manufacturing.
A History of Investment and Growth
P&B first made its mark in the 1940s with the development of its ubiquitous GOLD Electromechanical Thermal Overload Relay. This technology has become synonymous with Motor Protection and still remains in service today throughout the world. Following decades of growth and the launch of its Vision range of intelligent relays in 2002, the company invested heavily in a new factory for manufacturing switchgear at its current headquarters in Manchester.
As the business grew, primarily through overseas markets, by 2008 many of its competitors were falling prey to acquisition. Amidst the boom and bust years of that decade, many also fell by the wayside. P&B however, made a firm decision to buck the trend by making a further significant investment. By bringing production of its printed circuit boards (PCBs) in-house, the company recognised that it could manage its PCB supply far more effectively, gain significant cost efficiencies and take control of the quality of one of its key product components.
Ten years on and P&B’s bold investment strategy appears to have paid off.
Power to the People
While investing in the very latest manufacturing technologies was clearly a strong focus, P&B has been equally mindful of the importance of investing in its employees. With an Apprenticeship Program that has been running now for over 15 years, the company has reaped the benefits of bringing new talent into the business. In a technology-led industry, this has allowed P&B to keep its capabilities current, while offering a platform for some of its ambitious employees to progress their careers.
Flexibility and Responsiveness is Key
From its headquarters in Belle Vue, Manchester, P&B designs the hardware and software for all its electrical protection technologies in-house. With this specialist know-how and a tight, efficient production set-up, their small but expert team is able to respond quickly with adaptable technologies that meet the vast ranging requirements of its clients.
Crucially, as well as offering Switchgear and Protection Relays for new applications, P&B has capitalised on its technical capabilities to offer replacement or ‘retrofit’ products that are compatible with a host of other manufacturers’products, as well as its own. By modifying its core product range, the P&B team are able to upgrade its customer’s electrical systems cost-effectively and with minimal disruption to their operations.
New Horizons - New Opportunities
In the oil, gas and power generation industries where quality and reliability are paramount, the P&B brand is a recognised player. In recent years, the company has extended its reach into supporting other large power using sectors including petrochemical, water and pharmaceuticals. With the advent of Industry 4.0, the team at P&B firmly believe that its intelligent technologies could also deliver significant operational and safety benefits for manufacturers.
It is estimated that many heavy manufacturing operations in traditional sectors such as food, automotive, paper, steel, aerospace and chemicals, have ageing switchgear and electrical protection equipment – often oil based, and as much as 25 years old. The risks to earnings through loss of production, equipment damage or at worst catastrophic electrical fires is not to be underestimated. For employee health and safety, the consequences of overlooking some of these risks are inconceivable.
Capital cost and potential for operational downtime is typically cited as why upgrading electrical systems is ‘unviable’. In P&B’s experience however, this perception is often worse than the reality. With thorough pre-shutdown preparations on-site, expertise in designing tailored retrofit solutions and rigorous testing, downtime can be kept to an absolute minimum. The benefit of more efficient, intelligent controls, reduced risk of failure, not to mention the health and safety benefits will always outweigh the cost implications.
Exploiting the International Stage
With its considerable experience in global supply, P&B is well positioned to support manufacturers with overseas operations. A recent project for an urgent and complex upgrade in motor protection for the Sultanate of Oman’s oil and gas supply is testament to the company’s capabilities and reputation. From assessment to design and manufacture, the project took just 8 weeks to deliver, with an installation and commissioning shutdown period of only 3 weeks. The plant was restarted on time and back to full production within 24 hours.
The P&B team is looking forward to working with UK manufacturers to understand their requirements, build relationships and start supporting their operations.
EEF invites members to join P&B on the 24th July when the company will be opening its doors to welcome visitors and share its experience. Click here to register for this event. You can also find out more about P&B at www.pbsigroup.com