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New MD to oversee growth at Alucast

Sandwell | News | Published:

One of the UK's leading castings firms has capped a major year of expansion and investment by appointing a new managing director.

Former operations director John Swift has taken the reins at Alucast, a specialist supplier of sand, gravity and pressure castings to the automotive, construction, hydraulics and vacuum goods markets.

He replaces previous MD Tony Sartorius, who has moved upstairs to chairman and will now be responsible for strategic business development, training and succession planning.

The move marks the next stage in the Wednesbury firm's development, providing a platform for increasing sales to £10m by 2016 and boosting the workforce from 100 to 120 employees.

"We've bounced back from the recession of 2009 and are now in a position to take advantage of new opportunities in automotive and more companies looking to reshore to the UK," said Tony, who has been in charge since 2003.

"John has played a massive role in making the business operationally sound, introducing new lean processes and identifying acquisitions that can help us grow and expand our service offer to customers."

He added: "His move to MD is the first stage in our succession planning and will leave me free to focus on long-term strategy and in developing new opportunities."

Alucast has invested £1m in buildings, equipment and training in the last year, in order to meet demand from its growing customer base.

This has involved the installation of automated high-pressure die-casting cells to produce high volume components for the automotive sector, specifically around the desire for stop-start technology and environmental savings.

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These parts are being exported direct to Eastern Europe and highlights the UK's growing ability to compete with low cost countries on price, quality and delivery.

John Swift said: "We're really benefiting from the reshoring drive that is seeing many manufacturers look to bring production back here – a far cry from the previous five years where we have been under pressure from Far East rivals looking to copy designs.

"Nearly £2.5m of work has come back from Brazil, China and India and this has dictated the need to move to a three-shift system for gravity diecast parts. The good news being the pipeline is full and the UK is in a great position to be at the front of the queue."

Alucast, which specialises in sand, gravity and pressure casting, has put 73 of its workers through a comprehensive programme that has delivered diplomas in Business Improvement Techniques (BIT) and a host of adult apprenticeships.

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Working with Lean Education and Development (LEAD), the Wednesbury-based company has implemented a number of improvement projects that has already delivered £232,000 of savings and cash flow benefits and boosted workflow through its factory.

Skills

The management team also believes that improving the skills of its staff has been directly responsible for landing £2.5m of contracts previously undertaken by foreign rivals.

These include complex components for a leading luxury car manufacturer, a brake piston casting for Carlisle Brakes and gravity die cast parts for Delphi Pumps.

"Investing in our people is absolutely critical, especially with a lot of skills in our sector being difficult to replace as more casters are getting older and retiring," said Tony Sartorius, who completed a course as part of the programme.

"We sat down in 2012 and decided to tackle the situation head on by engaging with LEAD to review our business and the type of training we could put in place. He went on to add: "The organisation came up with an approach that focused on securing national qualifications for our staff by working on issues within the company.

"This ranged from energy management solutions and visual management to improvements in the core shop and the introduction of a dedicated cell for a new client.

Increasing our technical capability was a big plus for us and the training around the Japanese lean manufacturing techniques of 5S and Kaizen has been instrumental in us winning the new work."

The collective, which employs over 650 people and records combined sales in excess of £65m, provides access to precision pressings, castings, design, etching, injection moulding, wiring looms, toolmaking, PCB assembly and electrical control systems.

Member firms include Advanced Chemical Etching, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, FW Cables, Grove Design, Mec Com, PP Electrical Systems, Westley Engineering and SMT Developments.

For further information, please visit www.alucast.co.uk or contact 0121 556 6111. You can also follow @alucastltd on twitter.

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