From heat treatment to testing to special steels, engineering and forging, Special Steel Group’s growth has been driven by customers’ needs.
It took less than 14 years for the pioneering heat treatment business founded by Bennett Bradshaw to set up its own test facility, prompted by the difficulty it was having finding another company capable of doing the work.
However, it would be another 42 years before the Group made its next move, adding non-destructive testing to its portfolio, which has developed into a business in its own right.
Today, about two thirds of the work done by the Group’s Special Testing subsidiary and its UKAS approved laboratory is for external clients.
By the mid 1980s, Special Steel Group wanted to grow but the business was too restricted because of the cost of transport.
Chairman Alan Beardshaw says: “We realised we were solving a lot of people’s problems with the heat treatment of superalloys. We were doing all the technical work and they were making all the money, so we decided to start a superalloys business.”
It struggled at first, but the Group came up with a novel way of supporting it, renting out space in its warehouse for storing Easter eggs and Christmas cards.
Business grew. Rather than being a simple stockholder, it was able to add value by offering heat treatment and testing too.
As the oil industry took off, demand for hi-tech steels grew and Special Steel Group took the lead in helping the industry to cut costs by pushing the maximum length of drilling rod it could heat treat by a third, cutting the number of highly expensive connectors needed to get a string of rods far enough underground to reach oil reserves.
The breakthrough led to the creation of a separate subsidiary, Special Quality Alloys, which today has operations in Houston, Texas, as well as in Sheffield.