Three-pronged solutions

Top team: Managing director Steve English with, from left, head of project delivery Matthew Woods, financial controller Tracey Roberts, sales manager Darren Smith and manufacturing director Jim Gilbert.         Pictures Steve Taylor
Top team: Managing director Steve English with, from left, head of project delivery Matthew Woods, financial controller Tracey Roberts, sales manager Darren Smith and manufacturing director Jim Gilbert. Pictures Steve Taylor
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A SERIES of successes with clients as diverse as top supermarket groups, leading high street banks, rail companies, leisure operators and health and education is fuelling growth at Birley Manufacturing Solutions.

The company has gone from strength to strength since it was spun out seven years ago from Sheffield shopfitters Barlows and is successfully fending off the effects of the slump which has hit the retail and construction sectors.

Managing director Steve English puts the Birley Vale Avenue business’s success down to a three-pronged strategy, built on diversity, quality and competitiveness.

The company, which was once tied closely to retail, has actively sought business in other sectors, targeting blue chip clients and developing close working relationships with them.

“Operating in more than one sector ensures the business is robust,” says Steve English. “Client relationship is key. If you get blue chip clients and you deliver in terms of quality of product, being cost competitive and doing what you have said you will do, you get repeat business.”

Birley’s focus on quality spans design, manufacturing and installation and is built on meeting the criteria for best practice set by national and international standards covering health and safety, environmental impact and staff development.

“A lot of blue chip clients demand you have health, safety, quality and environmental standards for you to come to the table,” says Steve English, but, he stresses, achieving those standards is important to Birley irrespective of that.

He cites the impact the work the company did, with the help of a business coach, to secure the Investors In People standard as an example of the benefits to be gained.

“IIP has helped us connect with employees better. We invested in a business coach to work with management teams on strategy, values and managing people and he is still working with us, coaching team leaders and managers,” says Steve English.

Birley has also striven to ensure its processes are as lean and efficient as possible as part of its emphasis on being competitive in terms of both cost and performance.

“A lot of clients have looked at going overseas in the past, but I think that is happening less and less. I believe manufacturing is coming back to the UK,” says Steve English.

“There is the cost associated with long lead times when you go overseas and some things don’t travel. The industries we work with don’t have the luxury of having time to spare, whether they are getting some thing designed, getting the designs approved or ordering it.

“And, if you are not cost competitive, you won’t be working with blue chips.”

The truth of that statement is evident from the number of closures among Birley’s competitors and Steve English expects more, as there is still excess capacity in the sector.

Birley Manufacturing Solutions, however, confidently expects to continue expanding. Sales have gone from £6.2 million just before the recession to £9.3 million last year and the company is aiming for double figures this year.

“If we get to £10 million, we will have grown the business by 60 per cent in a five to six year period. Turnover growth is good, profits are growing in line with turnover and we have a bunch of good people in key positions, so we have a fair chance of achieving that,” Steve English concludes.