Mayflower’s blooming in new sectors

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Diversification is paying dividends for Sheffield-based Mayflower Engineering.

However, it could have been a far different story but for the determination of owners Kevan Bingham and Glyn Hobson and the skills and versatility of the workforce.

Within months of the duo buying the Darnall-based company in 2008, the recession struck, wiping out 50 per cent of Mayflower’s business.

It was a tough challenge. Fortunately, Kevan and Glyn had formed a plan to move into new markets before they had even bought the business and, with the backing of the company’s financiers, they set about accelerating the diversification.

Today, the company is close to restoring turnover to pre-recession levels and boasts clients in sectors as diverse as renewable energy, defence, nuclear power, waste recycling, offshore construction, bridge building and structural sculptures, as well as its traditional markets of mining and steel making.

“When I joined Mayflower in 1984 it was all mining equipment – coal cutters and conveyors,” recalls Kevan Bingham, who started as a tradesman on the shop floor and is now the company’s managing director.

“Then we set off into the steel works, supplying British Steel and branched out into design as well as manufacturing. One of the first things we designed for the steel industry was an inspection line for finding cracks in billets.”

By 2006, when operations director Glyn Hobson joined from Barnsley mining machinery specialist Qualter Hall, almost 50 per cent of Mayflower’s contracts were with the steel industry.

Biggest customers were the Corus – now Tata – plants in Rotherham, Stocksbridge and Scunthorpe. The company also had clients in the North East and was doing plating work for construction plant giant Caterpillar.

Things were looking good when Mayflower’s original owners decided it was time to pass the business on.

“I came through the door and within 11 days of joining I was asked if I wanted to be involved in a buy out,” says Glyn Hobson.

“We put a business plan together to take Mayflower forward on the back of its current business profile and to diversify over several years, having recognised that it was very single sector dependent.

“At the time of the buyout we had a very buoyant business, which we had been building up to go to the banks for funding. We bought the business in April 2008 and in October 2008 we heard that the banks had problems. By the end of the year we had zero order intake from Corus and Caterpillar had taken the work we were doing for them back in-house.

“We had lost about half of our business within less than a year of buying the company.”

Faced with impending doom, Mayflower did its best to retain the skilled workforce on which its business is built and to compress three years of planned diversification into one.

“We just had to find the money and get approval from our loan providers to do that. They were very supportive of the strategy, but we had to come up with results pretty quickly,” says Kevan Bingham.

Mayflower did just that, capitalising on the skills of its workforce, recruiting additional sales staff to find new markets and rebuilding its technical functions by successfully recruiting a number of high quality engineers with high profile backgrounds.

“Nowadays our client list is almost completely different to what it was in 2008,” says Glyn Hobson. “It’s a great credit to the people here – going from mining and steel and adapting to work which is very diversified and very skill critical.”