Profiles

Tank commanders

With a focus on continuous improvements, enhanced customer services, product diversification and creating new service offerings, Quality Steel Corporation (QSC) is on track for an exciting future

Amanufacturer of pressure vessels for residential, commercial, small industrial and agricultural use (with a core focus on the production of propane tanks) and a subsidiary of LT Corporation, Quality Steel Corporation (QSC) has been a feature on the landscape of the Mississippi Delta for 64 years.

Established in 1957 in Cleveland, Mississippi, the business remains family- and employee-owned, with the current President and CEO Sean Wessel having taken over from his father-in-law Jim Tims, the son of founder Lowry Tims.

Lowry himself began his career in the propane gas business and following a fruitless search for a high-quality tank, he decided to fill that gap in the market himself. Primarily focusing on 250 gallon tanks, which were built on the same site QSC awhere the company’s headquarters remains to this day, Lowry created a solid American manufacturing business, which steadily grew and flourished, originally under Lowry’s management, and eventually passing to his sons.

Over the ensuing years QSC underwent several major re-evaluations to remain competitive, but it was in 2013 where a real evolution took place, with the acquisition of its largest competitor, American Welding & Tank. Lynn Hardin, the current VP of Sales & Marketing at QSC played a significant role in the negotiations of this deal and he explained some further details about what made it so remarkable. “At the time, we were one of the three major propane tank manufacturers in the US. We were the smallest and American Welding & Tank was the largest, so it was rather like a guppy swallowing a whale!

“It was pretty big news throughout the propane industry, but it just occurred at the perfect time when American Welding & Tank had a need for new ownership and direction and we could fill that need. It took us almost three years to get that deal done, and as a result we became the market share leader in the industry and we have worked really, really hard to maintain that position.”

Clearly this was a very important development for QSC, but as company President and CEO Sean Wessel noted, American Welding & Tank was by no means the last acquisition made by the business. “In April 2019, our parent company LT Corporation expanded our group of companies by purchasing another family business, LP Cylinder Service. This is a tank refurbishment business based out of Shohola, Pennsylvania, and is now a sister company to QSC.”

In basic terms, LP Cylinder Service recertifies, requalifies and refurbishes older tanks. “This was kind of a hedge for us, so when we are in recessionary markets, and people are not interested in buying new tanks, they would buy refurbished tanks instead,” added Sean. “Again, they are a family company, which means we have very similar cultures and we have formed a great team altogether with LT Corporation.”

The acquisition trail has continued for LT Corporation, and as recently as October 2020, it added another family business to the mix with the purchase of the Buckeye Fabricating Company, located in Springboro, Ohio. Forming another sister company to QSC, this division steps away from the propane industry, and brings customized vessel and cylinder manufacturing to the Group. “Buckeye makes American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) coded tanks and non-coded tanks, and this again provides some diversification away from propane for us,” Sean confirmed. “We are now in the process of integrating Buckeye into our family of companies.” With these additions, the organization now operates six facilities in four states, across three time zones, with a little over 400 employees.

Thanks to the bold steps that QSC has taken, Lynn explained that it is now the US leader in ASME residential and small commercial propane tanks, with tanks ranging in size from 120 gallons to 2000 gallons’ capacities. Its tanks can be for aboveground or underground use. “We also build propane dispenser tanks for propane fueling stations for Autogas, and anhydrous ammonia tanks for the agricultural industry,” he added. Add these tank capabilities to the operations provided by Buckeye and LP Cylinder and the offering that the Group provides is formidable.

Yet, this isn’t what Lynn and Sean believe is the main differentiator between QSC and other manufacturers in its sector. “Sean and I are both big believers that our people are the major factor in making us stand out from the competition,” Lynn emphasized. “We’ve spent many years building our team and we have got a very seasoned sales force, which is dedicated to creating solid customer and distributor relationships - our distribution network in the US and Canada is really second to none in our industry. Believe it or not, year, in year out, our number one capital expenditure is people. We invest quite a bit of money each year in training and live programs - you name it, we try to make it better!

“But we do see our culture, which is very family-focused, as our ‘secret sauce,’ and this is an important factor in our acquisitions. Whoever else we may buy in the future, if we are going to maintain our culture then a handshake and a smile will still have to mean something.”

This focus on culture and people has also proved very valuable over the past three years, as the company advances through the stages of a lean implementation across all its facilities. “To say that we are excited about this is probably an understatement,” exclaimed Lynn. “It has gained very positive employee feedback and we are getting good results out of it. The program has really helped our employees’ voices to be heard and brought about a closer relationship between team members, middle management and the executive team.”

“We are listening to our team members and from that we’ve identified process improvements, safety issues, and other areas of concern, so it has really worked well,” agreed Sean. “At the start of the program we hired some continuous improvement professionals for all of our QSC facilities, who are led by a continuous improvement leader, based out of our West Jordan, Utah facility. We are implementing the Kaizen philosophy and before the pandemic we were on an average of about one Kaizen per month, at each QSC location, where we also assemble teams during Kaizens to work on specific issues.

“I have been really inspired and I think the leadership team has been as well, about all the great ideas that come from our people. To see our employees’ eyes light up when they are speaking to the leadership team about the results is just amazing. We have much, much more to do on our lean journey, but we are excited about it and we will continue to invest in that area.”

With acquisitions to integrate and a major lean implementation underway, it would appear that QSC already has an active agenda to complete, but rather than rest on its laurels, it has also embarked on a five-year, $13.9m investment into expanding its Fremont, Ohio facility. “Fremont is the largest of our three QSC facilities and we operate two shifts and two production lines there,” Sean explained. “We have a growing workforce, which demanded additional office and training space, as well as enhanced dining and locker room facilities. The investment also covers expanded production capacity, and we are very happy to be delivering these improvements.

“This investment also reinforces the idea that we do what we say we will – so this was a commitment from the leadership team and - pandemic or not - we are moving forward. We can’t wait to have the Grand Opening hopefully sometime in July this year.”QSC b

Having raised the specter of the coronavirus, Sean moved on to reveal how QSC had been dealing with Covid-19. “Early on in March 2020 we were as nervous as everybody about what the pandemic would do for our business, as well as worried about our local communities and families.

“Once the leadership team saw how things were headed, we gathered together and strategized about what we needed to do to protect our people, and our business, with people as the priority. We immediately put some travel restrictions in place, we enhanced our protective equipment, we mandated social distancing, we required masks, and we followed a lot of the OSHA and CDC guidelines.

“We also reassured our staff that if they were sick or exposed, they can stay at home in quarantine and we will continue to pay them. I know this was the absolute right thing to do, to protect our people and their families.”

A legacy from Lowry Tims that remains an important principle for QSC is its belief in delivering good, old-fashioned, customer service, and again, this was an area that needed to be adapted to reduce the risks associated with Covid-19. “Customer relationships are so important to us, and we build most of these by sitting across the desk from somebody or meeting them at trade shows or industry events, and obviously, the pandemic stopped that,” said Lynn. “So, as a sales group we had to back up and look at what our options were and how to best serve our customers and we made the decision to embrace technology and continue calling on our customers in a virtual environment.

“We then took it a step further and used it as an opportunity to do some things throughout the year that we typically wouldn’t be able to do, which culminated in trainings with our distributors and propane customers.

“I am very proud of the fact that in the midst of a pandemic, we found a way to add value for our customers, where a lot of companies weren’t able to, so we were very blessed to have the opportunity to go out there and do that,” added Lynn.

Both Sean and Lynn had emphasized the good fortune QSC has experienced through the pandemic period, and Sean noted it was very important to them to give back to the community – again another ethos inherited from the Tims family. “We give to food pantries in the locations where we operate and make sizeable donations to organizations that make a deep impact in these communities,” said Sean. “We encourage our employees to be involved where they can, and because of the blessings we have been given in 2020, despite the pandemic and the challenges out there, it was very important for us to pay it forward where we could.”

As MT spoke to Lynn and Sean in the second month of 2021, one of QSC’s primary goals remains a continuing focus on keeping people safe, both at and away from work. “Furthermore, with the economy being a little uncertain and volatility in the markets, we need to monitor the rapidly changing landscape and pivot our strategy where necessary to protect our business,” added Sean. “The way we will do that is by focusing on maximizing our productivity, ensuring we continue to produce a high-quality product and keeping expenses and costs controls in place.

“Also as Lynn alluded to earlier, we need to continue to enhance our training on the shop floor, as well as protect our ‘secret sauce’ and the culture that makes us a unique and very successful company. We can’t lose sight of the fact that we are a family business and we need to continue to focus on the family and keeping our folks safe and happy.

“Lastly, we need to have a relentless pursuit of acquisition, diversification and growth now more than ever. Back in 2016 our leadership team embarked on a strategic planning effort and this continues on an annual basis each year, focusing on how we can continue to grow our core tank business, so that will be another focus in 2021 for us.”

“We also have an exciting product line launch that we hope to be announcing soon,” Lynn divulged. “I can’t share exactly what that product is, but we are excited about its potential and we feel it will bring us one step closer to becoming a total solution provider for our propane customers.”

Going forward, the solid foundations that QSC has in place will stand it in a firm position to add additional growth and success to its already respected pedigree in the market. As it maintains its longer-term strategy, the business looks set to flourish and reach further heights than ever before. “We are really trying to listen to our customers’ needs and ask how we can solve their problems,” concluded Sean. “I think we have got the right formula, and as long as we continue to listen to both our customers and employees, then the next three to five years should be very exciting for us.”

Quality Steel Corporation
Products: A manufacturer of pressure vessels for residential, commercial, small industrial and agricultural use
https://qualitysteelcorporation.com/

Batter business

Boosted by the recent acquisition of intellectual property from Vanderpol Waffle Systems, Sugden Ltd’s hotplate lines are taking the world by storm

A world leader in the design and manufacture of hotplate plants for the production of pancakes, English muffins, crumpets, and similar products, Sugden Ltd has over 45 years of experience in the development of custom-configured griddle and prover technology. Offering full installation and training across the globe on bespoke lines designed and manufactured in-house, Sugden’s high-quality bakery solutions benefit from superior engineering.Sugden a

“We are always looking for ways to improve our lines and I think that’s what helps us produce some of the best crumpet, pancake and English muffin hotplate plants in the world,” declares Sugden’s Managing Director, Chris Baldwin. “We recently triple insulated our English muffin line to increase energy savings, while new servomechanisms on the crumpet lines improve efficiency, reliability and consistency. These updates are all part of a mission to evolve, year on year.”

Having formed a strong partnership over the years with American firm AMF Bakery Systems, Sugden was recently presented with an opportunity to acquire the intellectual property of Vanderpol Waffle Systems – a member of AMF’s portfolio. Following 12 months of negotiation, Sugden finalized the acquisition in December 2020, meaning the firm can now manufacture, supply and install a full range of popular Vanderpol waffle solutions.

“It was a proud moment when we finally announced the acquisition. We are pleased to be in a position to carry on supporting and supplying market-leading waffle lines under the Sugden Vanderpol range,” Chris states. “It was a great opportunity because the waffle lines are a perfect fit, as the equipment sits very closely to what we already manufacture.”

The Vanderpol acquisition was made possible by Sugden’s relocation to a purpose-built 35,000 square foot facility in 2019. Now with the capacity and capabilities to work on up to six lines at once, the company is in an ideal position to expand.

“Vanderpol marks a huge expansion to our portfolio and, so far, the response has been really good,” Chris reports. “We are currently quoting eight waffle lines worldwide and I would hope to see a few more orders in the first two quarters of 2021.”

Product innovation has never been in short supply at Sugden and in 2015, the company introduced the multi-plant – a single line that can be used to produce various batter products. At the beginning of 2021, Sugden launched its latest product – the mini hotplate. Incorporating the same core technologies as its larger systems, the mini hotplate is specifically designed to help small and medium-sized bakeries deliver a range of products on a single piece of equipment with a small footprint.

“During our extensive travels, we have realized that the demand for high quality products for smaller bakeries is not being met. We have also experienced a huge call for traditional UK products like crumpets and pikelets in places as far away as Russia, Bangladesh and India. These gaps in the market led to the development of the mini hotplate,” Chris reveals. “We are already quoting bakeries in Asia for the mini hotplate, so we think it could be a real breakthrough in bringing crumpets and pancakes to the world, as well as helping to serve a growing craft bakery market in the UK. If we can get the mini hotplate into emerging markets around the world, we think demand for products like crumpets will grow, and orders for bigger lines will follow.”

In 2021, Sugden will be pushing for more growth, with the business set to add around 10 new members of staff and embark on new projects across the world. Whatever the challenge, Chris is proud to have the support of Sugden’s skilled Sugden band resilient workforce.

“Our people are everything and we are extremely lucky to have them,” he asserts. “We take on apprentices every year and with our encouragement and support, our people learn and grow, becoming increasingly more vital factors in our success.

“Right now, we are shipping three lines into Australia and we are quoting all over the world, so we hope 2021 will be a good year. With the help of our staff, we are getting ready to take on three more projects in North America in the coming months.”

Over the last half-decade, Sugden has doubled in size and the company is hoping for a continuation of that trajectory in the years ahead. Buoyed by the addition of its Vanderpol lines, and the launch of new systems like the mini hotplate, Chris hopes the company can expand by 25 per cent before 2025.

“Vanderpol is an established brand with 60 lines worldwide, so the waffle side of our business looks very receptive already,” Chris says. “Our spares and service work is likely to increase as vaccines lead to the easing of travel regulations, and I can’t wait to sell our first mini hotplates to places like Bangladesh and India. Getting small machines out to emerging markets could mean that, in five years’ time, bakeries want bigger lines because business is booming. It’s a positive, forward-thinking approach that gives us a lot of hope for the future.”

Sugden Ltd
Products: Hotplate lines and griddle technology
www.sugden.ltd.uk

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Opening new doors

Specializing in the supply of doors and associated joinery items, Performance Doorset Solutions is expanding into new sectors as it charts a course for profitable growth

Established in 2003 to make composite doorsets for the social housing sector, Performance Doorset Solutions (PDS) has built its reputation as a door-related products manufacturer of unrivalled quality. After starting life in a 5000 square foot facility with only three members of staff, PDS moved to a purpose-built factory just three years after its founding. Benefitting from a capacity five times the company’s original site, PDS evolved into a manufacturer of fully factory-PDS afinished general joinery and windows, including sash windows, timber windows, and fire resistant doorsets.

Understandably, a decade of success at PDS attracted widespread attention, and in 2015, the company was acquired by Canadian corporation Masonite International. However, in March 2019, PDS returned to the UK when Co-Founder Tim Fairley headed up a 14-strong consortium and re-acquired the business, rescuing it from potential closure.

“When we originally sold PDS in 2015, we were turning over around £14 million and employing 148 people,” Tim recalls. “We bought it back from the Canadian corporation three years later because, unfortunately, they had run it down, reducing our employee total to 59 and losing £3 million in turnover. As of today, with PDS back in safe hands, we are up to £10 million in turnover and 112 employees. We’ve really kickstarted our growth, taking us back towards where we were in 2015 and hopefully soon, beyond that.”

Serving a variety of clients, including major construction firms, house builders, social landlords, local authorities and home owners, PDS’s product range places an emphasis on security, fire rating and made to measure permutations. The high-quality, fully-certified and well-tested offering has been an enduring factor in the growth of PDS and remains a differentiator for the firm in a competitive market.

“When it comes to our products, we have the flexibility to make many different configurations and sizes, and we profit from the support of a strong sales team,” Tim says. “Our core specialist product right now is security fire doors. In the main, these are being installed as part of the Government’s fire door replacement scheme, triggered by the Grenfell tragedy. It means high-rise and multi-occupancy properties draw high-demand for our products. As the main owners of these large buildings, social landlords are our principal route to market at the moment and we are working with them on a number of replacement and refurbishment schemes.”

In order to support the rise in demand for fire doors, PDS recently invested over £1 million into new machinery and testing for its products. Much of the company’s fire door manufacturing is performed using high-tech, computer-controlled CNC routers, of which PDS now owns seven. In terms of testing, the company spent well over £60,000 in 2020 as part of a rigorous certification program to ensure its doors protect lives and properties.

“We are always looking at the evolution of products and how the market is developing. Testing is a vital part of the way we innovate,” Tim states. “Every time you perform a fire test it can cost anywhere between £6000 and £14,000 depending on the scale and scope.

We are in a constant state of development with our products so testing is being carried out all the time.”

One of the products that has helped set PDS apart from the competition over the last decade is its timber fire door. Available in standard and bespoke sizes with a host of finishes and internal and external options, the timber doors offer clients assurance of performance from both a security and fire perspective. As a member of the Fire Door Alliance, many of PDS’s timber fire doors are dual directional tested, PAS24 tested, EN1634 certified, as well FD30 and FD60 fire rated.

“To sell a fire door into the markets we operate in, you have to have product testing and third-party accredited certification,” Tim explains. “At PDS, we have all that across a wider product range than the majority of our competition.”

In January 2021, a tower once earmarked for demolition became the latest property to receive PDS fire doors as part of a £7.5 million improvement project at Fitzwarren Court in Salford. More recently, the company was involved in work for Rochdale Borough Council and Rochdale Development Agency’s town hall relocation project. The schemes mark a strong start to the year for PDS, especially in light of the challenges and upheaval caused by 2020’s Covid-19 outbreak.

“The first nationwide lockdown in 2020 was perhaps our biggest challenge of the last 12 months because we lost around six weeks of production when the Government decided to shut construction sites,” Tim reports. “We fared better in the PDS bsubsequent lockdowns as the Government made it clear that production and construction had to continue. They’ve made a commitment now to keep construction going because they know that it is driving the economy.

“Additionally, the Government has committed to fixing the safety issues at thousands of properties around the country that are not currently compliant from a fire risk perspective. They cannot risk stalling these fire door installations and cladding upgrades and so construction sites are now back in full flow. In the meantime, construction companies have put a lot of time and effort into creating safer working environments. The industry is thriving again, and we, as a company, are thriving too as a result.”

Looking ahead, PDS is set to further its activity in the healthcare and education sectors in the coming months as national demand increases in both areas. The Government’s focus on upgrading the NHS means that relevant door-related products will soon be needed in up to 40 new UK hospitals, as well as upgraded and refurbished wings in existing facilities. With many students learning from home due to Coronavirus restrictions, schools and colleges are experiencing a similar increase in renovation and new construction work, unlocking another new avenue for PDS’s expansion.

“In order to keep growing our product range, we’ve put in new machinery onsite because healthcare and education both have quite specific product requirements,” Tim reveals. “The fire doors we are making for hospitals will be slightly different to our regular line and products for schools will need features such as added finger protection. Both segments are exciting new areas for expansion. We are evolving quickly as a business.”

As PDS grows, the company’s workforce will have to grow with it. To shore up its next generation of employees, PDS recently lent its support to a local college as part of the Government’s ‘Build Back Better’ post-Covid economic recovery plan. Working with Hopwood Hall College in Rochdale, PDS has vowed to employ more apprentices and give students in the Rochdale Borough an opportunity to gain workplace skills through industry placements. A long-time supporter of its local community, PDS is dedicated to creating further job and training opportunities, and this reflects the value it places in people.

“People are everything to this business because we are a manufacturing firm, and as much as people will tell you that modern manufacturing is all about technology, it’s not - you have to have a good combination of both,” Tim declares. “Good people with the right attitude and the right work ethic are vital. Then, when you couple this with modern equipment, you have a powerful recipe for success.

“As much as we benefit from our machinery, people are our most important asset,” Tim adds. “No matter what the experts tell you, we couldn’t replicate what we do at PDS with less people.”

After an eventful, but ultimately successful, 17-year journey, PDS is back in the hands of its founders and ready to tackle the year ahead. With all items machined, assembled, pre-hung and fully decorated in-house, the firm remains a trusted supplier in complete control of its entire production process. Proud to operate a policy of continual improvement and investment, PDS is on the cutting edge of the industry in terms of testing and compliance, and offers consistent quality and market-leading expertise. As the firm proved to the nation in 2020, no matter what it faces, PDS, like its products, can be relied upon.

“This business has been built in such a way that it is healthy, self-sufficient, and without any debt or borrowing to its name,” Tim proclaims. “Over the next few years, all I ask is that we keep growing organically, keep creating jobs for the local area, and keep making it a good, vibrant place to work. We know that our technical capabilities and certification focus will keep us at the head of the market, so as long as we continue making a good quality product, people will return to us and keep buying. With vaccines rolling out and Covid-19 almost behind us, I think we will start to see the market bounce back, and we will still be right there with it when it’s buoyant again in three to five years’ time.”

Performance Doorset Solutions Ltd
Products: Doorsets and associated joinery
www.pdsdoorsets.co.uk

Ingenious solutions

As demand for its high-end inspection and metrology equipment increases, Camtek is looking forward to more growth in 2021

A history of innovation has made Camtek one of the technological leaders in the field of inspection and metrology for the semiconductor market. Incorporated in Israel in 1987, the company began life as a provider of optical inspection equipment to address the needs of the PCB industry before launching its first automatic inspection system for the semiconductor sector in 2003.

After building on its technologies and adding three new inspection and metrology product lines in the years that followed, Camtek sold its PCB business in 2017 and became a pure semiconductor capital equipment company. The firm is publicly Camtek atraded on both the NASDAQ and Tel Aviv Stock Exchange, and offers world-class sales and customer support infrastructure across eight territories (subsidiaries).

“Technological innovation and operational flexibility have always set Camtek apart from the competition,” declares company Chairman and CEO Rafi Amit. “Our innovative solutions are tailor-made to meet our customers’ requirements and roadmaps. The fact that each solution is individually customized makes it possible to provide clients with systems that satisfy fluctuating needs, supported by short delivery time and local support worldwide.”

Camtek’s modern product range is centered around automatic inspection and metrology systems designed to detect individual dice defects on wafers before they are packaged. Sorting defected dice before packaging is a vital process for the semiconductor industry because a single device defect can cause the failure of an entire product.

Through employment of the latest technology, including advanced optics and electronics hardware, advanced algorithms and software, image processing, motion control and material handling, Camtek develops bespoke customer solutions that its competitors have yet to imagine.

Serving IDMs, OSATs and foundries in the most demanding semiconductor market segments, such as Advanced Interconnect Packaging, Memory, CMOS Image Sensors, MEMS and RF, Camtek systems inspect and measure IC and IC features on wafers throughout the semiconductor device production process.

“First, the wafers are scanned under the advanced optic heads (2D inspection and metrology and 3D metrology) in our systems,” Rafi explains. “Advanced software and algorithms are implemented on the scanned wafer’s data and then, as a result, our systems automatically sort good dies from defected dies. The defected dies are removed from the production lots and will not be inserted into a package, hence the total end product yield is enhanced by ensuring that only known good dies are shipped to end-users.

“Camtek systems are easy to operate and offer high accuracy and productivity in high volume manufacturing environments,” Rafi adds. “For extra reliability, each system is employed at various manufacturing stages starting from the front-end macro inspection and outgoing Quality Control (OQC), through inspection and metrology of bumps in the mid-end and the inspection of post-diced wafers in assembly.”

As of 2021, Camtek’s manufacturing facility is based in Northern Israel and operates in line with a two-stage production methodology. In the first stage, EMS companies build the basic parts of a machine. The second stage sees critical components assembled on the systems, before final integration is performed in clean rooms at the production facility.

In line with Camtek’s meticulous design requirements, some of the company’s optical, mechanical and electronic hardware developments are completed by its

suppliers, whereas most critical hardware components, and all detection engines and software, are developed inhouse. Before production can begin however, Camtek works closely with its key customers on the design phase of its projects.

“Our clients are developing the next generation of packaging technologies and they use our systems to make that happen,” Rafi says. “Working in collaboration with these companies allows us to understand the Advanced Packaging industry’sCamtek b roadmap and design our systems and solutions accordingly. In our field, the development of new generations of products and solutions never stops. We’ve always got the next big answer in the pipeline.”

When it comes to customer support, a global, direct to customer, pre- and post-sales service is operated through subsidiaries in the US, Europe, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea and Singapore. “Our local teams are able to install our systems at customer sites, give customers ongoing support and training, as well as solve application issues,” Rafi states. “It’s a real advantage and enables us to quickly respond to our clients’ needs.

“Whether in production, sales or customer service, people are key to the company’s success,” he continues. “Our employees are extremely professional, and we always encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, which leads to the development of innovative solutions.”

The bond Camtek has built with its workforce has been particularly important to both parties throughout the last 12 months. As Covid-19 threw many businesses into a state of uncertainty, Camtek and its employees across the world worked in cohesion to ensure the company’s continued prosperity.

“Things were quite unclear at the beginning of the pandemic when all countries in Asia closed their borders,” Rafi recalls. “It was not clear what was going to happen with our clients and our business back then, but I am proud to say that, thanks to the hard work and support of our local teams, we continued manufacturing and installing systems around the globe. The huge collaborative effort resulted in a record year.”

A successful 2020 capped off a period of significant growth for Camtek that has seen the business triple its revenues since 2013. Rafi believes that there are a number of key factors behind this growth, including the fact that semiconductor products have an ever-increasing presence in all areas of 21st century life.

“The semiconductor sector has become a strategic industry for the world and demand for new products is on a steady rise,” Rafi remarks. “End customers’ requirement for defect-free components has become standard, meaning manufacturers must now use inspection machines to test 100 per cent of their shipped goods.

“Our strong presence in fast-growing market segments has been greatly beneficial over the last few years and we keep increasing our market share due to technological superiority, bold leadership and the introduction of new products that address evolving customer needs and emerging applications.”

A winning combination of performance, flexibility, ease of operation and reliability means Camtek now has close to 1200 of its systems installed worldwide, serving over 100 customers, including most of the world’s major semiconductor manufacturers. In addition, the firm has an increasingly strong position in Asia, especially China, where its market segments are growing faster than anywhere else.

“Our big challenge for 2021 is to continue expanding at a rapid pace and meet the growing demand for our systems,” Rafi asserts. “We must also complete new developments that will allow us to continue to be a leading technology company and to increase our product offering through potential acquisitions.

“We expect Camtek to continue growing organically at a similar pace to recent years. In addition, we will strive to acquire companies that have synergy with Camtek, and allow us to increase product lines and expand beyond organic growth.”

Camtek Ltd
Products: Inspection and metrology equipment
www.camtek.com

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Quick and able

Trusted, nimble and growing, Amazon Filters is a leading manufacturer of filtration solutions, with the ability to outmaneuver its competition

Exceeding expectations in ever-changing environments, Amazon Filters is a business on the up. Serving a variety of sectors, including water, pharmaceutical and food & beverage, the company has established itself as a trusted filtration AF aspecialist over the course of the last 35 years, with a flexibility and accelerated speed to market unmatched by its peers.

“As a business, Amazon Filters offer tens of thousands of filter permutations and housings and supply our customers with those products on short delivery times,” declares Managing Director Neil Pizzey. “That is really our whole premise, but we dilute it down to the phrase ‘quick and able’. We compete with some very large multinationals and we pride ourselves on being a bit nimbler than them. We are big enough to be credible and trusted, but small enough to maintain that flexibility to provide a customized product portfolio with fast delivery.”

The past half-decade at Amazon Filters has been defined by a major investment cycle, which has allowed the business to expand its sales operations and increase its growth rate. Underpinning the company’s ‘quick and able’ proposition, the most recent phase of investment has been focused around improving and upgrading Amazon Filters’ Camberley manufacturing site.

“We invested well in excess of £1 million into our manufacturing, focused primarily around building infrastructure, factory space and equipment,” Neil reports. “We’ve insourced the bulk of our metal work, including a new press shop, sheet metal and CNC machining facility to help vertically integrate the majority of our filter housing manufacturing, which again, supports our ability to deliver bespoke products in short order. We are a business investing through its life cycle and this latest upgrade program is making us more competitive and responsive than ever.”

Aided by the company’s new facilities, Amazon Filters’ extensive range of filter cartridges, capsules, bags, housings and accessories continues to evolve. Though it may only be two months into 2021, the firm has already added new products to strengthen its portfolio and better serve its clients.

“One of the new products we’ve introduced - the SupaSep LGP - is a high-performance liquid coalescer line to support critical separation processes,” Neil reveals. “Used to remove liquid droplets from gas streams, these are already employed extensively in upstream, midstream and downstream oil and gas operations, and can be supplied in bespoke housings or as direct retrofits. Benefitting from patented interpleat stabilization technology, SupaSep LGP products offer a novel functional improvement to what is currently on the market.

“In addition to this,” Neil continues, “we have recently strengthened our meltblown SupaGard range with the addition of what we call KilBac technology. This is the use of antimicrobial and anti-algal additives in the manufacturing process to inhibit the growth of bacteria and algae on the filter when in service, stopping the product from being blinded prematurely.”

Recently nominated for Manufacturer of the Year and Exporter of the Year at the Made in South East Awards, Amazon Filters’ success has not come without its challenges. This has never been truer than in 2020, when the company, like the rest of the world, took on the difficulties presented by Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has been a completely new challenge for us as we tried to maintain operations for all our critical industry customers,” Neil states. “Until something like that happens, you don’t realize what a vital cog you are in the AF bwider world and just how many sectors rely on you. As a company involved in healthcare, pharmaceuticals and energy, among others, we had a moral imperative to keep going.

“It’s been a challenging year, but we carried on successfully, despite the crisis. We are especially proud of supplying water filters to help front line NHS staff and Nightingale Hospital Projects. Those are the things that go beyond commercial satisfaction and allow you to recognize that you are contributing to the greater good. We are not NHS workers, but we did all we could to contribute.”

As a privately owned, family-run business, Amazon Filters’ number one priority throughout the pandemic was to protect and support its workforce. Over the last 12 months, through a combination of remote and onsite working, the company has kept its people safe and, consequently, continues to fulfil its obligations to clients.

“From the very beginning, we were very clear on our responsibilities to our people, our clients, and to the wider world,” Neil remarks. “We tried to do everything right because we quickly recognized that, if we shut down Amazon Filters, critical customers such as vaccine manufacturers and drinking water suppliers were going to encounter costly disruption.

“One thing we are incredibly proud of is the way our people reacted,” he adds. “The way they adapted in order to continue supplying our customers has spoken volumes about the resilience and fortitude of our staff. There have been challenges - trying to train people while socially distancing creates real difficulties for example - but the ability of our people to adjust has been exemplary.”

With Covid-19 vaccines rolling out across the world, and the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, Amazon Filters is looking forward to expanding its presence in 2021 as it turns its attentions to potential opportunities in Asia and the US. At present, around 70 per cent of the company’s sales are in exports, with more than half of that going to the EU, but Neil believes this is a positive sign for future growth beyond Europe.

“We firmly believe there is a place for our high-quality, high-spec products, combined with a credible, traceable European manufacturing base,” he asserts. “Our flexible, responsive approach to customers puts us in a really good position to expand the business and we are well-set for the future in terms of structure and capacity thanks to our investment program. Of course, we will be looking to increase our sales in the EU, but we are really focused on trying to become recognized asa truly global player in the filtration sector over time.”

No matter how much the company expands, Amazon Filters will remain true to its core values, including its commitment to the environment. The company’s environmental policy has always focused on minimizing waste and avoiding pollution, as well as ensuring that all equipment, technology and practices fully comply with environmental legislation.AF c

In 2020, Amazon Filters successfully completed its ISO14001 external audit, gaining perfect results with no non-conformances. The company also installed a new robotic pallet wrapper – an automated technology that can scan pallets and calculate the number of spins required to securely wrap contents. Robotic pallet wrappers are one of the latest and most advanced innovations on the market for helping businesses reduce the amount of plastic shrink wrap they use, and thus, assisting them in cutting down their environmental footprint.

As a company that receives a great deal of cardboard-packaged raw material, Amazon Filters took action in the last 12 months to cut down its packaging waste. In 2020 alone, the company recycled over 40 tons of cardboard, but it won’t be stopping there. As Amazon Filters continues to find ways to develop its green strategies, in 2021 the company aims to overhaul the materials used in the packaging of its finished goods - moving away from plastics and introducing recyclable, paper-based solutions where possible.

Proven filtration experts, Amazon Filters has demonstrated over the years that it can be relied upon to deliver quality products and first-class customer service to its clients across the globe. Though, after 35 years in business, it has become an increasingly complex and expansive organization, the customer remains central to the Amazon Filters experience.

While expansion and investment will continue, Amazon Filters still vows to get the little things right – answering phone calls promptly, acknowledging queries within two hours, shipping in-stock products the next day, and resolving problems efficiently and satisfactorily. The company’s technology might be advanced, but the approach to client relations is simple – to provide a service that shows customers how much Amazon Filters cares.

“Our whole reason for being is to serve the desires of our customers,” Neil says. “Filter products aren’t ornaments; you buy them because you need them. We really believe that what people want from Amazon Filters is knowledge enveloped in a physical product. We are trying to make sure we spread our expertise, communicating it through our teams and out to our customers. Our role is to recognize and solve our clients’ problems.”

Amazon Filters
Products: Filter solutions
www.amazonfilters.com

Adopting a world class approach

With a mind-set that remains as steadfast today as it did 125 years ago, Siddall & Hilton Products’ mission is to be recognized as a world class mesh manufacturer and a local employer of choice

It has been little more than a year now since Manufacturing Today last highlighted the efforts of the UK’s largest manufacturer of industrial welded mesh, Siddall & Hilton Products. At that time, we spoke in depth with Chief Executive Officer Ian Thurley about the company’s plans to branch out and grow in the wake of a management buy-out (MBO) in the summer of 2019. Now, in December 2020, Ian is able to discuss the progress made since that time, how the company has SHP 1848 anavigated the challenges of this year, and how the years ahead are shaping up.

“There has been significant consolidation in the UK mesh industry in the last few years, following a period of intense price competition due to a chronic oversupply problem in the market, resulting in a rapid race to the bottom,” Ian begins. “Two major UK-based competitors have closed their manufacturing operations since late 2018, and we have successfully picked up some of the business they left behind. Today the market has returned to more orderly trading and steel prices are rising sharply after an 11-year decline.”

During the course of the above-mentioned last few years, Siddall & Hilton Products has re-positioned itself and is now focused entirely on welded steel mesh production, having disposed of other ‘wire products’ operations including container handles and furniture springs. “Market consolidation within the mesh industry has been partially responsible for the growth in demand for our mesh, particularly in the industrial mesh sector,” Ian says. “That is mesh sold to steel stockholders and fabricators, as opposed to our main line of business, which remains a broad range of general and high security fencing panels. The second factor behind the growth we’ve seen is our dedication to customer service, product quality and delivery performance.

“We, at Siddall & Hilton Products, see product quality and customer service as two areas where we are able to differentiate from our competitors. We measure our ‘On Time In Full’ delivery performance on a weekly basis and regularly exceed 97 per cent, as things stand. However, we’re not happy with this, and are working towards consistent attainment of the World Class standard, which is 98.5 per cent!

“We also believe in looking after our customers and, whilst we would prefer everything to be right first time, on those occasions when things do go wrong we will always work closely with our customer to rectify the problem so as to minimize the disappointment and inevitable financial implications. In addition, we will conduct a full internal investigation to understand the root cause of the problem and take actions to minimize the chances of a repeat performance. Continuous learning and development are central to this approach.”

Since the buy-out in August 2019, the company has streamlined its back-office operations and focused on improving its manufacturing efficiency, reducing process scrap to less than half the level that was acceptable just a few years ago. Siddall & Hilton Products has also significantly reduced the working capital requirements of the business through rationalizing its stockholding and by improving its cash cycle.

“In 2018, we also implemented Microsoft Nav, replacing a 20-year-old Pegasus Opera system,” Ian details. “This change placed much more accurate, real-time information at the fingertips of management, and has further helped our efforts to improve the efficiency and profit performance of the business, since we now have a better grip on our cost base and much improved insight into our wire cost and usage. As we continue to develop the system, we continue to reap further benefits.”

As Ian goes on to explain, the buy-out itself followed a detailed review of the business’ performance, which highlighted the need for a radically new approach. “The MBO marked a fundamental change in strategy towards focusing on becoming a ‘World Class’ mesh manufacturer and local employer of choice. As part of this we have moved away from seeking to grow volume, instead focusing on the pursuit of deeper customer relationships, improved margins and generating higher value-added business. The change has also initiated a significant cultural shift within the business, involving a strategy of much greater employee engagement and development.

“We are already seeing significant improvements, with year-on-year profitability up by almost 40 per cent, and employee satisfaction surveys have revealed that we’re making great progress towards building a much better business for our employees. The attitudes and behaviors have already changed beyond recognition, and the business is now a more vibrant and happier place to work, with the ‘one team’ ethos now becoming more firmly embedded in everything we do.”

Turning to how the business has performed in 2020, clearly no-one would have predicted back in the summer of 2019 that the world would soon be dealing with the effects of a global pandemic. As was the case for all responsible businesses, Siddall & Hilton Products’ response to the onset of Covid-19 was swift and effective. “The board took the decision to close the business and pause operations following the announcement of the first lockdown back in March,” Ian continues. “We did this in response to employees’ concerns and also to ensure that we shut down in an orderly fashion. We furloughed the majority of our employees and decided to top up their furlough payments to 100 per cent of normal pay for the duration, so as to minimize any financial distress caused to them and so that they could focus on family matters, including for some, their need to be involved with home schooling. Meanwhile the Board members took a SHP 1848 asubstantial pay cut and, working from home, devised a plan to re-start the business in a Covid- 9-secure manner.

“We re-opened in late April on a shift-by-shift basis, taking three weeks to resume our 24/5 operations, and our business has, fortunately, proven to be resilient. By June, sales levels were back to two-thirds of normal and what followed was the strongest July performance in over a decade, and the best August in four years! Since then we’ve remained very busy and are having to put on regular weekend shifts to try to keep up with demand.

“Year to date turnover is still almost 20 per cent below last year, but our profitability is well ahead of our expectations when we sat down in March to re-budget. Throughout the pandemic our supply chain, from various parts of Europe and Turkey, has remained incredibly robust, even when Italy was really struggling with the virus during the early spring. Meanwhile, our employees have also proved to be extremely resilient and have demonstrated a real commitment and determination to get the business back on its feet. Their positive attitude has been invaluable and our position today is in no small part down to them.”

For Siddall & Hilton Products, business has remained buoyant throughout the autumn and it has just recently seen the largest weekly order intake for many years come through in December, which is traditionally a quieter month for the business. This certainly bodes well for 2021 and beyond. “2021 will indeed be a very busy year for the company,” Ian confirms. “We have already committed to a fifth mesh welding machine, at a cost of over £2 million. This is scheduled to arrive in Brighouse in April 2021, and we plan to have it fully operational by late spring.

“The new machine is being built by our long-time machinery suppliers, EVG, based in Austria, and is an LGR102 machine, making use of the latest resistance welding technology. It is 40 per cent faster than any of our existing machines, and produces up to 70 per cent less process scrap. It will be configured to produce our entire industrial mesh range, enabling us to operate the site much more efficiently by facilitating longer production runs, meaning fewer changeovers, and thereby allowing other machines to focus on our fencing mesh range. The project will create 12 new manufacturing jobs – a 25 per cent increase in our headcount – and is the first major investment we’ve made in 12 years.”

The company is clearly entering what is to be an exciting phase in its 125-year history. “The investment in new machinery is just the start and we plan further significant investment in machinery and infrastructure in the next few years. We will also be making a big investment in people and skills as we seek to build a resilient, world class business, capable of providing sustainable employment opportunities well into the future,” Ian adds.

Bringing the conversation to a conclusion, Ian again reflects on some of the major changes he has witnessed within the company in the last 12-to-18 months. “Since the MBO, the business has embarked on a major cultural shift which, as it continues to develop, will see employees having a much greater opportunity to participate, and the business playing a much bigger part in the local community, engaging with schools, colleges, universities, charities, and good causes. We want our business to be a showcase for a career in manufacturing and to become a place where future generations aspire to build a highly rewarding career.

“We have made significant strides forward in a short space of time, but there is much more to come. It is our fundamental belief that by putting customer satisfaction and employee fulfilment at the heart of our company we will be extremely successful. It is a poor business that focuses only on profit, therefore we must increasingly recognize our social responsibilities within the business and community from which we draw our staff, and to whom we ultimately owe the success of our business.”

Siddall & Hilton Products Ltd
Services: Industrial welded mesh and perimeter fencing panels
www.sandhp.com

Easy environmentalism

Offering a variety of spill control, spill containment and spill response solutions, Empteezy is a specialist manufacturer working for the environment

Bruce Wishart was a General Manager in the recycling industry in the 1980s when the sector opted to replace its steel silos with large demountable skips. The switch led to customer complaints about how to empty waste into the new vessels and Bruce sought to develop a solution. His answer was Empteezy – a container that could be used with a forklift and from which waste could be ‘emptied easily’.

After acquiring a patent for Empteezy, Bruce began large-scale production of the product – first subcontracting out the manufacturing, before opening up his own manufacturing plant in the late 1980s. Soon, Bruce was adding more products Emteezy 184 ato the line, expanding the fledgling company’s offering into health and safety solutions before moving into the environmental market. After almost 35 years of tremendous growth, Bruce’s company now has over 978 production lines and bears the name of his first innovation – a fitting reminder of how far the firm has come. Today, Empteezy is more than just a product; it is a company that solves problems.

“We see ourselves as more of an environmental company these days,” explains Bruce. “All the products we manufacture are tied into environmental regulations for the protection of, mainly, groundwater and water resources . Our focus is on the industrial handling and storage of hazardous liquids and chemicals. We do a little bit on the marine side, but the main focus is the industrial slips and spills where the market is very much driven by compliance with environmental regulations.”

Operating from five manufacturing plants across Europe - two in Scotland, two in France and one in Spain - Empteezy produces a complete range of environmental protection products for the storage of hazardous and non-hazardous chemicals. Working in steel, plastic and polypropylene, the company offers everything from £10 spill trays up to large-scale storage systems worth £1 million.

“Most of our products come from solving problems for customers,” Bruce says. “If a solution seems to have applications elsewhere, we will take it further and it might be introduced as part of the range.

“As of 2020, our products run into the hundreds and we have a highly diverse offering. The latest product we introduced was facemasks. We have distributors in the Far East, Russia and Australia, and we have watched how SARS and Bird Flu have affected behavior in these areas, so when Covid came along we started making masks. One of our factories that makes industrial absorbents also makes filter material used in masks, which means we had control of the supply chain. The move has created 35 jobs and the masks have serviced the UK market as well as the export market. Our factory in Livingston is an export hub from which we serve around 49 countries.”

Though the Covid-19 pandemic was disruptive for Empteezy in 2020, Bruce describes the impact of the virus as ‘no more than a stumble’ for the firm. After closing its doors at the very beginning of the crisis, Empteezy tweaked the layouts of its large 75,000 to 100,000 square foot facilities and was back in operation in less than three weeks.

“As it was for everybody, Covid was a shock, but we got over it very quickly,” Bruce remarks. “Despite the pandemic, we’ve hit historic highs in output and production in the last couple of months, in France and in the UK. We are now going into January with the biggest order book we have ever had in 40 years of business, right across all our product lines and all our factories.”

Empteezy’s recent success is the continuation of a five-year trend that has seen the business double in size with revenue growing by 10 per cent year-on-year. Named as one of the London Stock Exchange’s 1000 Companies to Inspire Britain, Empteezy continues to secure major projects across the world and at the beginning of 2020, fulfilled a large contract for the Nigerian Ports Authority.

“The project in Nigeria lasted eight months and was completed in February 2020,” Bruce reveals. “It involved the design, manufacture and supply of products for liquid chemical storage at a fuel docking bay.

“More recently, after the height of the Covid crisis, we worked in conjunction with Jaguar Land Rover on the design and supply of lithium battery storage for both waste batteries and batteries for production. It was another six-figure project and it took over a year, start to finish, working to design a system that would meet Jaguar Land Rover’s requirements for electric vehicles.”Empteezy 184 b

With expectations high for more expansion on a global scale, Bruce is confident that Empteezy will be able to double its turnover over the next three to four years. However, with so much business conducted in Europe, Brexit will certainly have an impact on the company’s operations going forward, but that doesn’t mean Empteezy won’t be prepared for it.

“Everything will depend on whether the UK and EU can come to terms on a deal,” claims Bruce, “but we are already taking action and have duplicated some of our production. The main French production centre will stay in France, but instead of expanding that factory, we have put a production line in the UK, which will reduce the amount of any potential tariff.

“If, at a worst-case scenario, a six per cent tariff was imposed on us, as a UK employer we tend to have an advantage when it comes to the social cost of employing somebody. It is about 30 per cent here, compared to around 50 per cent in the rest of Europe.

My gut feeling is that, in general, Brexit won’t slow our growth. We’ve planned for it and I think we are probably better placed than a lot of companies.”

Even with the uncertainty of the year ahead Empteezy knows that it can rely upon its 250 team members across Europe to drive the business forward in the face of adversity, just as they have done in 2020. The workforce at Empteezy, Bruce indicates, is an extension of the firm’s clients and the company prides itself on fostering excellent working relationships internally and externally.

“Across the years, we have only expanded where we can find the right people to uphold our company values and do the job to the level that we require,” Bruce states. “People are the heartbeat of this business. They are what has made Empteezy possible.”

The focus on people extends to Empteezy’s social responsibility initiatives too. For a number of years, the company has supported homeless charities in Scotland, including Social Bite, a major employer of homeless people, as well as the largest provider in the UK of freshly made free food for those in need.

“I believe businesses should put back into their local communities, so we have been a big supporter of Social Bite and others for many years and regularly take part in big sleepouts and other fundraising events,” Bruce reports. “We campaign every year and have raised well into six figures for homeless causes.”

As we move into the New Year, Empteezy has over £8 million worth of orders in progress and sits at around £48 million in total turnover. Though the Covid crisis is not over, and the next stage of the Brexit fallout is just beginning, Bruce and his team are brimming with confidence for the future of the business.

“It’s my hope that events like Covid will make governments realize that the current outsourcing of everything is short-sighted,” he comments. “On an environmental front, very few companies today factor in the carbon cost, and the life cost, of buying cheap goods from low-cost labor parts of the world. One thing that may come out of Covid is we might start to see an acceleration in the return of onshoring.

“I believe in manufacturing,” Bruce declares finally. “My kids say that if you cut me, I bleed oil, not blood. I am a manufacturer at heart and this is very much a plea from me to bring manufacturing back.”

Empteezy Ltd
Products: Environmental protection products
www.empteezy.co.uk

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Global reach

Thanks to a growth strategy of diversification, dedication to innovation, and ambitious attitude, BMP Engineering continues to go from strength-to-strength

Founded deep in the manufacturing heartland of England in 1894, and with roots tracing back to the British Industrial Revolution, Andrew Industries is a family-owned organization based in Lancashire in the UK. Comprising three divisions - BMP Engineering, Industrial Materials, and Laundry Textiles – it remains today a privately-owned business, with manufacturing sites across Europe, North America, Mexico, China, and Malaysia.

One of the wholly-owned subsidiaries of Andrew Industries Ltd, BMP Engineering (BMP) was created in 1974, and since that time has grown organically through the collaboration of local manufacturing excellence and support in Europe, North BMP 184 aAmerica and Asia. Since the company was founded it has focused on its core technologies of polyurethane and engineered textiles, and as the business has evolved several global OEM’s have come to rely on BMP’s Engineering Division as a source of quality, innovation, and technical excellence. Mark Booth, Sales & Marketing Director explained that as its expertise grew, so too did its portfolio of products: “BMP was initially founded to convert nonwoven textiles into cleaning products for Xerox. Over the years, however, the business has expanded within and also outside of its core printing industry market to supply Canon, Lexmark, Xeikon, Electrolux, HP, and Bosch. We have also diversified into new market segments, into areas such as material handling, powder handling (3D Printin), offshore energy, and filtration (Dyson vacuums).”

Alongside the additional market sectors that BMP now serves, it has also expanded its global footprint. “We have set up large, efficient manufacturing facilities in China, Malaysia, and Mexico in order to support our valued customers locally,” divulged Mark. “It is our ethos to manufacture in the same geography as our customers, to shorten the supply chain and provide the best cost model possible. We are always looking to utilize our capabilities to diversify into other markets and are currently developing environmentally friendly biodegradable materials as we see this as an emerging market for the future, where we can utilize our material and manufacturing expertise.” Illustrating BMP’s move into greener solutions, Mark highlighted a recent multi-million-pound project being undertaken in 2021 that he believes will ‘lay the foundations for our strategic plan to penetrate the sustainable and environmental market segment’. “BMP have recently partnered with a company called Nexgen who have, together with BMP, developed a biodegradable tree shelter. Utilizing BMP’s manufacturing and polymer expertise coupled with Nexgen’s market knowledge, we have developed a biodegradable tree shelter that will replace the current plastic product offering therefore eliminating micro plastic contamination in our countryside.”

Other elements of BMP’s Environmental Strategy include ISO 14001 accreditation, a commitment to working closely with its customers and suppliers to identify opportunities for re-using metals, plastics and elastomeric products, as well as working with suppliers and customers at the product design stage in order to identify environmentally-friendly raw materials which can be easily recycled. BMP also provides specialist environmental services such as Remanufacturing and Asset Recovery initiatives to a growing portfolio of global clients.

The organization’s Environmental activities are part of its wider commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility, alongside Health and Safety, and Quality. Health and Safety is a top priority across the business, as BMP prizes its team of excellent staff and maintaining their health and wellbeing is something the business takes seriously. “Our employees are by far our most valuable asset,” emphasized Mark. “We are a family-owned company and thus see each individual as a valued part of the BMP family. Everyone is on first name terms and has full access to the management team at all levels. We have an open-door policy at BMP and pride ourselves in the low turnover of staff we see with a good number of employees (myself included) working for BMP for over 30 years, working up from a temporary employee to company director.

“We strive to communicate our endeavors throughout the business at all levels, and as we move forward for the future, we are aiming to engage with our employees using social media such as Facebook where we can interact together outside of work. We use Facebook as a portal where we can run competitions and provide business information to all employees, in turn keeping them motivated and engaged in our family ethos.”

This approach extends across all of BMP’s operations, both in the UK and further afield, and Mark moved on to discussing how the business makes sure that its locations are operating efficiently, wherever they are based. “In the markets where BMP operate cost is key, and we proactively continue to innovate to remain competitive. It is imperative that our manufacturing facilities in Mexico, USA, Europe, Malaysia, and China continue to be proactive with regards to costs by the use of automation and best practices. Our ethos is, just because you are manufacturing in a low-cost geography does not mean you should not look to operate efficiently, reducing waste in labor and raw materials in order to maintain a competitive advantage.”

Indeed, BMP prides itself on remaining innovative in all areas, and this has been a driving force behind its new product launches and expansion into new product sectors. With regards to this latter point, Mark explained: “We are also looking to new markets such as non-lethal munitions, high speed railway rail pads, and offshore lighting systems, where we can further utilize our polymer technologies and global manufacturing capabilities. We also have a new innovative sealingBMP 184 b technology for the appliance dryer seal market, which increases efficiency, due to launch in 2021.”

He continued: “We believe that our further continued diversification into new markets, leveraging on our global manufacturing presence and core technologies, is key to both our growth and sustainability. As the world becomes more aware of the importance of protecting the environment, BMP’s shift into this emerging and growing market segment is key to our future growth whilst playing a part in protecting the environment for future generations.”

Having successfully diversified its product offering, BMP found that when the full force of the Covid-19 pandemic hit, its resilient operations were able to balance the challenges as they came in. “Our strategic diversification plan has really helped us during the Covid-19 pandemic,” confirmed Mark. “We have seen negative impacts in some of the markets where we operate, such as office printing consumables, as people work from home. We have, however, seen growth in other segments where we operate, such as 3D printing and respirator manufacturing.

“Overall as a business we have been negatively impacted by the pandemic but testament to our employees and management team, we have continued to operate throughout the pandemic to keep all of our customers and key workers supplied with products to aid in the pandemic effort.”

With a fighting spirit and positive attitude, BMP advances into 2021 with a plan for growth and a strategy designed to bring even further levels of success. Having received numerous customer and supplier awards over the years, as well as three Queen’s Awards for Innovation and for International Trade, Mark and the team look set to reach further heights in the years to come. “Our mission remains to profitably grow our business, centred on our core technologies of polyurethane and engineered textiles, along with utilizing our global foot print and diverse capabilities to add value for our OEM customers. This is achieved by using our three most precious resources of people, technology, and innovation to continually provide our global customers with manufactured solutions that meet with their requirements for both cost and quality,” summed up Mark. “We are a diverse, global, family business and we remain forward-thinking, open to new challenges and well positioned both globally and technically to diversify into any market where there is an opportunity to bring innovation and value.”

BMP Europe
Services: Polyurethane and engineered textiles manufacturer
www.bmpworldwide.com

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