In the summer of 1981, the now Lord Tebbit offered some encouragement to those who were suddenly jobless, based on his own father’s experience of hardship in the depression of the 1930s.
“He got on his bike and looked for work, and he went on looking until he found it,” he said.
In the summer of 2005 Smethwick automotive pressings company Baylis Automotive responded in much the same way to the collapse of MG Rover.
But they went a little further than a bike ride. In fact, they started treating the customers they had with a little more care, began to look more closely at their own housekeeping and training, then set about winning new business on the world market.
Now business is booming. This year they are looking at a turnover of more than £7million – up from under £3million in 2005-2006.
Their customers include Land Rover, Jaguar, Ford, CES, Visteon, Johnson Controls and Denso Manufacturing and their international markets extend from Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic to India, Mexico and China.
When MG Rover failed, Baylis were looking at a black hole in their business of around £1.5 million. But with the aid of the West Midlands automotive supply chain network Accelerate they have not only plugged the gap, but also filled it many times over.
Leading the company’s recovery has been Managing Director Raj Desai, a man who embodies the firm’s “can-do” philosophy and of whom Accelerate Adviser Norman Taylor says: “Raj Desai will tell you . . . If you get off your backside, you can get work.”
Raj turns out to be as forthright as advertised: “Anyone can grumble and moan and whinge,” he says. “It’s a tough industry. You have got to get on with it.”
Baylis clearly have. In 2004-2005, their turnover was £4.7million. On the back of MG Rover’s demise and a general downturn in the industry, that had dropped to £2.7million in the next financial year.
Says Raj: “We recovered through 2006-2007 and went back up to £4.7million and this year the running rate is £7.5million. At the end of 2008-2009 we expect to be around £10m, which fits into our original 5-year business plan”.
He does not underestimate the results of what amounts to something of a culture change brought on in part by the MG Rover collapse.
He admits that post April 2005 the Baylis plant was a quiet place, but points out: “The crux of the matter was that with some of our other customers we weren’t really looking after them or responding to their requests.
“We have managed to turn that round in 12 to 18 months and after the MG Rover situation, when a lot of suppliers’ labour left, we didn’t make anyone redundant. We got people to concentrate on tidying machines and working on efficiencies and implementing the TS quality standard.
“Then, when the business was secured, we spent time tooling the projects up.”
The result has been a major uplift in contracts, including £1.6million pa with CES, £1million pa with Visteon for parts for the new Freelander and £1.5million pa, again with Visteon for a transfer of business from one of their own plants, plus another million or so on other contracts.
Says Raj: “Prospects at the moment are very good. We’re still winning business and that includes six new parts in the last three months all destined for the Czech Republic.
“We are also doing work with Denso on the Toyota Auris and next year on the Toyota Avensis. That particular business has grown from nothing to half a million and will keep growing.”
He is also encouraged by what could be seen as a diminishing threat to the automotive supply chain in the UK from places like China and the Czech Republic over the last six to nine months.
“Capacity is an issue and so is climate in China,” he points out. “And in the Czech Republic there’s a general increase in operating costs, which is what you would expect with their membership of the EU.”
Accelerate adviser Norman Taylor has worked with Baylis for four or five years, in which time the company has been bought by Hunt and Rogers Automotive and moved into their Smethwick plant that was previously owned by Wagon plc.
He is full of praise for the way the company has bounced back including making improvements to the plant itself.
“Accelerate initially went in with some aid, including wage replacement and retraining,” he recalls. “During this time Baylis were very proactive and went out to find new work. The factory has been tidied up and they have attracted an awful lot of new business.”
Adds Taylor: “It’s true Accelerate has put significant funding into the company over the last two or three years – but Baylis have put in a lot of hard work and they have won orders against worldwide competition.”