Berck of West Bromwich: worker-management co-operation, training and investment

September 26, 2017

Berck Ltd, a family-run company in West Bromwich, founded in 1947, took difficult decisions to weather the downturn following the 2008 economic crisis.

To reduce costs, the company chairman Brian Yates and the management team decided to cut 11 jobs in the firm, which employed 90 people (above). They also asked the remaining employees to cut working hours and they agreed to do this in order to help the company through the crisis. After applying for a bank loan secured against the factory buildings, there was still a question about Berck’s ability to pay its monthly instalments on the loan and the directors were asked to take a salary break of two years, and put in some of their own money.

These measures were successful and in 2015, Berck received a Made in the Midlands’ Manufacturing Achievement Award

Berck produces a wide range of precision components, including cabling and routing, brackets batteries, terminal contacts, in-tank fuel cell sensors, air bag technology, switching for dashboard systems, which are used in the majority of car manufacturing plants in the UK and overseas. Products are exported to China, Mexico, India, Brazil, Egypt, the United States, Dominican Republic and most countries in Europe. components. Berck also serves over twenty other sectors, including domestic appliances, home computers, alternative medicines, i.t networking and solar heating

Like many successful West Midlands companies covered on this website, they invest in training and new machinery.

Above: Joe Hickman, toolroom apprentice – more news of apprentices on their Facebook page.

Last year, Berck invested in a Nikon Metrology iNEXIV VMA-4540 CNC video measuring machine (below) to replace Mitutoyo Quick Vision Ace CNC optical coordinate measuring machine (CMM) and a Kemco manual touch-probe CMM to inspect sheet metal parts and tools. See the Nikon pdf.

The latest widely reported news is that in July this year, Berck acquired Walsall’s Fourjay, specialists in deep drawing. The staff from Fourjay will now move across to West Bromwich to join Berck’s 70-strong workforce. Darren Yates, managing director at Berck, welcomed the addition of people with a variety of new skills to their skilled workforce.

Berck will now be supplying the MoD with vital fuses for Typhoon Eurofighter and F-16 combat jets. May they be used only for defence.  

 

 

 

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Metro and Redwood: new banks offering loans and savings accounts for small and medium sized companies

September 7, 2017

Metro Bank started operations in 2010. Its first branch in the West Midlands will be the flagship operation for the region.

Business Desk adds that Metro Bank is the UK’s first new retail bank in more than 100 years, providing both retail and commercial banking services. The four floor Birmingham operation will also be slightly larger than its other outlets, which typically create around 25 jobs.

The model is based on a retail format and located at the heart of the busy shopping area.

Its website says: ” We’ve built a different kind of high street bank. A bank with stores that are open when it suits you, 7 days a week. A bank where you can walk in without an appointment and walk out with a working account, debit card and all. A bank that tells you exactly what you’re getting, in language that actually makes sense. A bank that puts you first”.

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Redwood Bank promises that its money is being invested in British businesses and our local communities

Redwood Bank, Britain’s newest business bank for SMEs, is open for business just over four months after securing its initial banking licence.

The FT reports that co-founder Jonathan Rowland said the uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote would continue to restrict appetite among the mainstream banks to engage in commercial property lending:

“This is an ideal time to apply for a full banking licence; the major banks have not returned to anywhere near their pre-crisis business lending levels and the uncertainty caused by Brexit is likely to worsen the situation.” Mr Rowland helped to restructure and recapitalise Kaupthing Bank Luxembourg, a subsidiary of the Icelandic bank.

Gary Wilkinson, co-founder and chief executive of Redwood Bank, said: “We are delighted to be open for business so soon following the issuing of our initial banking licence. We aim to offer a real alternative for small and medium sized organisations, providing them with simple transparent loans and savings accounts, great service and a promise that our money is being invested into British businesses and our local communities.“

 

 

 

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Arc Specialist Engineering Limited: Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Walsall

August 6, 2017

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Arc Specialist Engineering Limited, formerly known as Bowman Birmingham Limited, is a group of steel processing businesses formed in March 2013 which manufacture and supply various specialist steel products. Its majority shareholders were Marc and Nathaniel Meyohas (Greybull Capital, a family-owned, family-run business, see its dealings with Tata, Morrisons and more). Over the years the number of employees has grown from 200 in 2013 to 500.

In July 2017 Mobeus Equity Partners backed Arc’s management team buyout and refer to a partnership with the Arc managers.

Its strategies: to differentiate services and find niche markets

  • As UK manufacturers facing overseas competition, the Arc companies look for manufacturers of products that won’t travel well, because items that are easy to dispatch overseas face competition with countries such as China, South Korea and Taiwan.
  • They have found that small-volume manufacturing accesses markets that larger competitors wouldn’t enter, such as the pre-coated non-stick bakeware market. Many bigger coil coating businesses are coating 100,000 plus tonnes of metal per year; while Arc’s subsidiary Cooper Coated Coil (below) coats just under 20,000 tonnes per year.

  • PVC window and door reinforcement products access markets which require lower run quantities, more frequent deliveries and more product variety than larger firms are interested in offering.
  • Because relatively small amounts are manufactured Arc’s companies are good at ‘changeovers’ – converting an assembly line or machine from running one product to another
  • Its system enables the managing director of each business to be close to customers and employees within the business, providing not only the product itself, but also knowledge, advice and an excellent service, building strong long-term relationships.

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Over Greybull’s four years of ownership, time and resources were invested to turn Arc around. Andy Richardson, who leads the current management team, said: “The past four years have seen a transformation of Arc into a profitable growing business, with hundreds of jobs saved along the way, all made possible by much-needed investment in our manufacturing capabilities. We are immensely excited about the next stage of our journey, which would not have been possible without Greybull’s guidance and support. We are very grateful for everything they have committed to the business”.

 

 

 

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Thermotec news

December 12, 2016

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Thermotec Plastics, based  in Electra Park, Witton, is a Birmingham-based plastic and composites manufacturer, ‘bespoke supplier’ of engineered solutions in vacuum forming/thermoforming, polyurethane mouldings and super lightweight composites, working in several sectors including luxury automotive, off-highway vehicles, aerospace and defence.

PRW, the leading trade magazine serving the UK polymer industry, reported last year that Thermotec had received major funding to help support its plans to develop and expand the business. The group received funding approval from Birmingham City Council from the Greenbridge Supply Chain Programme for SMEs which can give grants for business support packages, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Thermotec’s managing director David Rose said the funding would allow the business to target more business and recruit up to 11 new staff, to join the current workforce of 50 employees, adding:

thermotec-machine“Receiving this funding from The Greenbridge Programme, combined with our own investment will allow us to put automated processes in place that not only increase productivity, but allow us to improve the environmental impact of our activities”. In April 2016 Thermotec announced the addition of a seventh Vacuum Forming Machine to  to support increased demand and new contracts.

crank-trayIn May Thermotec introduced a new crank tray for Jaguar Land Rover From paper concept to product was a 10 week process; and the timeframe for changes could be shortened to 5 Weeks. The whole project, from design to tooling and manufacturing has been done within a 50 mile radius in the Midlands.  

In addition to the new recruits it is aiming to hire, Thermotec has taken steps to upskill its existing workforce with the help of Made in the Midlands members InTraining – a process about which no information has yet been found.

 

 

 


Will the new business tax accounting system for SMEs be more onerous and expensive?

November 19, 2016

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Earlier this month Marco Forgione and other people running small and medium-sized businesses wrote to the Financial Times about a ‘flawed’ government consultation on significant changes to business tax reporting:

In just over a year’s time all businesses will be required to file accounts digitally five times a year (every quarter plus an annual final trading statement).

The government’s website on its proposals, Making Tax Digital, is worded positively:

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The writers’ comment:

“For the first time in the UK’s history the government will prescribe the way in which all businesses file their accounts, using government approved software. This will require many micro, small and medium-sized businesses to invest in new accounting systems”.

 

 

 


Crofts & Assinder

May 29, 2016

crofts logoEarlier this month Pamela Pinski wrote about Crofts & Assinder Limited based in Lombard Street, Digbeth, “the birth place of industry in Birmingham”.

On the company website we read that in 1875 George Crofts and Frederick Assinder started trading as brass founders in Lombard Street, Digbeth (below: the latest premises).

They specialised in the design and manufacture of cabinet handles and fittings and now use a range of materials including: brass, steel, cast Iron, zinc (mazak/zamak) ceramic, glass, acrylic, plastic and wood. Their products have been used in Rolls-Royces, London’s Ritz and Waldorf hotels, the White House in Washington and the Titanic.

crofts factory

Chief executive, Alex Crofts, the great-great grandson of founder George Crofts has pressed for more schools, and more students, to take an interest in manufacturing and engineering when it’s perceived as an undesirable career choice? Changes to educational funding have meant that the teaching of practical skills in some schools and colleges is reducing, meaning that students miss out on the chance to experience new skills and learn about our industry as a career. He writes about this subject which is taken seriously by other producers featured on this site:

”To address the skills gap, we should look closer to home. It’s important that we don’t forget our existing staff and we invest our time and money in order to teach them new skills. Moreover, individuals who have worked in a company for many years possess traditional skills, which are just as important as modern and technically advanced skills”.

“[T]he UK Commission for Employment and Skills 2016 survey revealed that ‘the modest economic growth of the past four years has been met by an unprecedented shortage of skills, leaving thousands of vacancies unfilled’. In my opinion, the lack of skills could be down to the decline in students wishing to pursue a career in manufacturing.

” . . . [I]ndustry must work closely with teachers and career officers in schools and colleges to offer work experience placements and apprenticeships, which provide a true taste of the industry. Whether it’s through career talks and fairs, work experience, workplace day visits or career sessions with motivational speakers, it’s our job to support and inspire the next generation of young people.

In recent years, Brumhour reports, Crofts has made significant investments into their product design range and now offers an exclusive bespoke design service. This has been followed by a 40% rise in export sales across Australia, France, Benelux, Germany, China, North America and Russia.

For more information, see the Crofts & Assinder website here.

 

 


The Black Country Growth Deal: automotive, aerospace and construction sectors

December 8, 2015

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A link in the Brummie led to the Birmingham Press article: ‘Made in the Black Country, sold around the world’ and an online search added more information.

The Black Country Growth Deal, ‘Made in the Black Country, Sold around the World’, was agreed with Government in July 2014. The Growth Deal aims to create the skills, connections and locations for further high value manufacturing success and support growth in the Black Country’s automotive, aerospace and construction sectors. Over its lifetime (2015-2021) the Deal will deliver:

  • Leverage of an additional £312m public and private investment, totalling £450m.
  • £162m Government funding 2015- 2021
  • At least 5,000 new jobs and 1,400 new homes
  • New Government investment to the Black Country of £26m in 2015-16
  • Approval for 14 of the 16 projects submitted by the LEP
  • 13 projects will commence in 2015-16, with provisional funding for two more projects 2016 -17, including an Elite Centre for Manufacturing Skills.

The Elite Centre will be established as a non-profit making organisation governed by partners and with an industry-led board of directors. The Express and Star (Dec3) reports that project development will be led by the University of Wolverhampton and the centre will operate as a ‘hub and spoke’ model with equipment and facilities being installed across four sites in the Black Country which will regenerate two brownfield sites. The Elite Centre is intended to become the new institute of technology in the Black Country.

The centre will be housed in an 8,600 sq ft regeneration of an historic but derelict building at the University of Wolverhampton’s new Springfield Brewery site in Wolverhampton city centre.

black country2 hub

The foundry and pattern-making spoke will be located on a site adjacent to an existing foundry in Dudley Port with access to their industrial facilities and will demolish a derelict building, replacing it with a purpose built training block of 10,2000 sq ft.

The Growing Priority Sectors Programme is helping small and medium-sized businesses invest in plant, machinery and new buildings so they can compete with the best. The Centre for Advanced Building Technologies and Construction Skills at Dudley College will provide training and skills so local people can benefit from skilled construction jobs on infrastructure projects like HS2.

Universities, Science and Cities Minister Greg Clark said: “This Deal sees £162 million of government investment going into the Black Country to create thousands of new jobs, homes and bolster business. By devolving powers away from Whitehall we are putting local people back into the driving seat of their own growth.”

 

Read more here:

http://thebirminghampress.com/2015/12/black-country-manufacturing-skills-boost/

http://www.blackcountrylep.co.uk/people-skills/elite-centre

http://www.expressandstar.com/business/2015/12/03/7-6m-funding-approved-for-elite-centre/