Jobs blow as Sheffield factory work goes abroad

Paul Chilton and crankshafts at Bifrangi UK
Paul Chilton and crankshafts at Bifrangi UK
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STAFF at one of Sheffield’s oldest engineering firms are facing a fresh jobs blow after the firm lost the bulk of a contract with one of its major suppliers.

Bifrangi - formerly Ambrose Shardlow’s - based on Grange Mill Lane, Blackburn, has notified the Government that it intends to make up to 50 redundancies, having already laid off 50 workers in spring due to an unrelated restructure.

The company, which makes crankshafts for engines, had a contract worth £12 million to £13 million annually to supply generator manufacturer Cummins, but the work has now been significantly reduced after it was re-tendered - even though Bifrangi says its offer was the cheapest and it had been supplying Cummins for 40 years.

Cummins has given German and Indian companies extra orders instead.

One worried worker at Bifrangi, taken over by its current, Italian owners 10 years ago, said: “This was the old Ambrose Shardlows factory, a well-known name famous for its crankshafts, even making them for Spitfires during World War Two. Just how many more men can they get rid of before they have to shut it completely?”

The job losses have been announced in Sheffield, despite Bifrangi creating 100 jobs and spending £50 million expanding its factory in Lincoln, which makes parts for power stations.

Bifrangi’s Sheffield factory holds remaining contracts with two other major customers, engine manufacturers Perkins and Guascor, which are secure.

But Paul Chilton, its general manager, is writing to Sheffield MPs asking them to lobby on the company’s behalf against Cummins’ decision.

Mr Chilton said: “Cummins’ decision will have a devastating impact on the business. We have been supplying Cummins for 40 years and it has been one of our three main customers.

“We have written to Sheffield MPs asking them to lobby Cummins on our behalf.

“For the life of me, I cannot understand why we have lost out to Indian and German competitors. Geographically, we are the closest to Cummins, which is based in Daventry in Northamptonshire.

“We submitted the cheapest tender and our quality score is exceptional.”

Mr Chilton said that redundancies earlier this year were voluntary and he hoped the new wave of redundancies would be ‘much lower’ than the 50 notified to the Government.

There are currently 121 staff at the plant.

Mr Chilton added that trade union, Unite, which represents workers at the plant, is being consulted.

Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield South East, one of the politicians who is being asked to lobby on Bifrangi’s behalf, said: “It’s a very serious situation. Quality engineering firms with a successful history are to be greatly valued.”

Mr Betts called the decision by Cummins ‘unbelievable’ when Bifrangi had offered the lowest tender price.

He said: “It’s a commercial decision so my powers are limited but I will be looking to see if there is anything I can do.”

Cummins’ management were unavailable for comment.