IoD accolade for Forgemasters

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A FORMER apprentice who turned around Sheffield Forgemasters’ forging division has narrowly missed out on being named an Institute of Directors’ director of the year.

Gareth Barker was highly commended in the large company category of the contest.

Mr Barker, pictured, started his career with Sheffield Forgemasters International as a 19-year-old apprentice and become the city firm’s youngest ever divisional director five years ago at the age of 30.

As operations director of the firm’s south machine shop he was responsible for co-ordinating the massive repair and clean up operation following serious floods in 2007, which devastated Forgemasters’ site.

A year later he became responsible for the firm’s forge division, which was losing £400,000 a month at the time and had only made a profit during one month in the preceding four years. Three months later, the forge was profitable again and it has not made a loss since.

“Nothing had been fixed properly so we were consistently fire fighting and running uneconomically,” Gareth Barker recalls.

He responded by introducing a strict, in-depth plant maintenance schedule, which resulted in the rate of machinery usage rising from 30 per cent to 80 per cent and the percentage of deliveries being made on time rising from 20 to 90 per cent.

A £1 million investment in new cranes dramatically reduced breakdown times and the focus on maintenance cut gas consumption massively, resulting in savings of more than £500,000 a year and environmental benefits.

Gareth Barker also oversaw the installation of a new 4,000 tonne press, to replace an ageing 2,500 tonne press and has been involved in planning for the introduction of a new 15,000 tonne press.

After years during which the forge was unable to take on more work, Gareth Barker has been able to challenge the company’s sales team to go out and sell more.

“They now find it difficult to match our productivity,” he says.