Engineering Capacity » 2008 » July » Plastic Parts, Moulds & Moulding » Car part makers work
Plastic Parts, Moulds & Moulding
Car part makers work together
03 Jul 2008
Working with nearby companies would have been unheard of twenty years ago, but a
group of West Midlands’ suppliers have decided that the ‘whole is greater than the sum
of its parts’ after landing an £8m contract jackpot.
Nine companies make up the Midlands Assembly Network.
The Midlands Assembly Network (MAN), which comprises nine car parts
manufacturers from across the region, has used support and funding from
the Birmingham Chamber and ERDF-backed Accelerate initiative to
successfully develop a pro-active ‘super group’ that can win major orders
from home and abroad.
By offering a complete package – from tooling and design through to castings and
injection mouldings – MAN has been able to compete with international rivals on
cost…something that was simply impossible to achieve as individual firms.
Graham Robinson, Chairman and also Managing Director of Barkley Plastics in
“The initial idea was to create a network that could work collaboratively to win an
assembly project from a major OEM, with the idea being that each member would
bring a different skill set to the table.
“This was the foundations for the start of the group, but we since have diversified
our approach to aggressively look at securing projects from both car makers and
global tier 1 suppliers.”
He continued: “This has worked extremely well and we have already completed
£8m of orders last year, creating fifty collective new jobs in the process. Orders
worth £3.5m will also be completed during the next six months.”
Nine companies – Barkley Plastics (injection mouldings/assembly/tool
making),FW Cables (cable harnesses), Brandauer (precision pressings), Westley
Engineering (pressings/tooling/machining), Alucast (aluminium castings and
machining), Advanced Chemical Etching (chemical etching/formed
prototypes),Wrekin Circuits (printed circuit Boards), PP Electrical Systems
(electrical/electronic assemblies and systems)and Barton Cold-Form (cold
forgings), make up the Midlands Assembly Network.
Each company has made a ‘Managing’ Director commitment to the project and
brings a different manufacturing capability to the mix, not to mention an enormous
amount of contacts.
Together the group has shared best practice, worked on diversification projects
and adopted a more aggressive approach to sales and marketing, in order to win
Pete West, Project Manager at Accelerate, added his support:
“Historically, SMEs in the West Midlands have neglected marketing activity mainly
due to a reliance on the existing customer base and lack of expertise, cash, time
and resources. This is no longer an option if you want to compete internationally,
especially when you consider the unfair playing field many of our firms have to
“The companies that formed MAN took an ambitious and calculated risk and it has
paid off for them. They recognised at an early stage that they needed to find a
new competitive edge and working together was one way of achieving this.”
He went on to point out: “What is really pleasing is that there is a real passion
about the group and an ownership about making it self-sustainable going forward.
With a new Chairman appointed from the member companies every six months,
there are no ‘hangers-on’, they all want it!”
A delegation from MAN has just got back from a hugely successful trip to Stuttgart
Components EXPO, where its exhibition brought in tens of new leads to chase up.
Whilst Graham is delighted at the progress to date, he’s adamant that there is still
work to be done.
“You have to keep evolving and we are no different. I think there are areas we
could strengthen and we would be interested in hearing from companies involved
in rubber extrusions, metal finishing, miniature turned parts and electronic
assembly. A high quality testing house wouldn’t go amiss either I suppose.”
Accelerate, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund,
assisted over 1500 companies last year in implementing lean manufacturing,
boosting sales, launching new products and improving quality, cost and
It also gave component manufacturers from across the West Midlands access to
the latest technologies, including alternative fuels and telematics.