£2m boost as Midlands industrial collective looks to recover from Covid-19 disruption

MAN Group

A unique Midlands-based industrial collective is fighting back from Covid-19 disruption by winning more than £2 million of new contracts.

The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), which comprises nine sub-contract manufacturers and a specialist engineering design agency, has been able to use its expertise in tube manipulation, precision stampings and contract manufacturing to secure new clients in agriculture, horticulture, healthcare and furniture production.

Member company PP Control & Automation is leading the charge with over £1m of business, with the majority of that work focused on specialist controls and automation for companies supplying into the NHS.

Birmingham-based Brandauer has enjoyed similar success, securing a £500,000 extension to an existing deal with a Middle Eastern disposable razor manufacturer. This was won against world class competition, beating a design and distribution model to produce new tooling and then delivering stainless steel razor blade substrates in volumes.

Tony Hague, CEO of PP Control & Automation, said: “Covid-19 has sent shockwaves throughout the global economy and many of our group have had to react quickly to adjust our operations to cope with sudden drops in volume, social distancing and the Government asking us to close.

“It is certainly on a par with the world-wide crash of 2009, if not a little bit tougher. However, like our sector has done on countless other occasions, we have pivoted and collectively attacked the challenges with tenacity and a desire to win different business using our core expertise.

“Four of the members have brought in more than £2 million of new contracts and others in our group have worked tirelessly to bring volumes back up to between 60 and 70 per cent of pre-Covid activity.”

He continued: “There is also a concerted attempt to explore reshoring opportunities, especially with Brexit looming large on the horizon. We believe there is a massive appetite for ‘localised’ supply and this could play into UK manufacturers hands if we’re prepared to collaborate and invest in the latest technology.”

James Lister and Sons Limited’s tube manipulation business continued trading throughout the lockdown, supporting existing customers and winning many new clients as a result of competitive pricing and rapid response.

£100,000 investment in a state-of-the-art left hand/right hand CNC bending machine late last year has been pivotal and directly led to £150,000 of orders with firms involved in heat exchangers, structural design, rail, fitness products and furniture.

Austin Owens, founder of Grove Design, picked up the story: “When the crisis struck, we diverted a lot of our design expertise into supporting the development of the manKind visor and other products for the NHS.

“We then started to receive a significant number of opportunities from innovators and OEMs, with two of these resulting in over £200,000 of contracts to support the creation of new products for the agriculture and horticulture sectors.

“Design and the ability to solve problems will always be a unique selling point and something we are working with other MAN members to help support their recovery efforts.”

The MAN Group is made up of Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, C-MAC SMT, Grove Design, James Lister & Sons, KimberMills International, Muller Holdings, PP Control & Automation and Ricor, with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) providing academic expertise, knowledge transfer and access to state-of-the-art technology.

Together, the collective offers a single-source solution to supply chain issues, providing access to castings, contract electronics, design, electrical assembly, forging, hydraulics, injection moulding, machining, PCB manufacture, pneumatics, high volume pressings/stampings and tube manipulation.

It employs more than 2,000 people across 21 factories, boasting nearly £150 million in annual sales and export orders to more than 35 countries.