A shift from brawn to brains has helped a Birmingham tool maker double its turnover and diversify into new markets.
Mechatronic Solutions in Sheldon is half way through a four-year project which has seen it add a design element to its operations.
The company has more than doubled its annual turnover from £750,000 to £1.7 million, increased permanent skilled staff from ten to 16, and won business from several new markets.
Originally a tool making business, Mechatronic moved into equipment design and manufacture in 1988 under the directorship of Richard Evans.
After ten years of good growth the market changed, particularly in the automotive sector, which accounted for a significant proportion of Mechatronic's business.
So in 2003, Mr Evans approached Business Link Birmingham and Solihull for advice.
Keith Dunton, diversification manager, recommended a plan that would assist Mechatronic to examine its existing business practices, capitalise on its highly-skilled engineering expertise and maximise growing market opportunities.
Mr Dunton said: "Diversification is not a quick-fix. It takes time to research new markets and then develop new products or services to satisfy them.
"It can be difficult for a company to challenge the way it does things but diversification increases greatly a company's chances of success and stability."
Management and marketing consultancy projects have significantly changed the company and its prospects for the future.
He said: "As a supplier to the automotive trade, we have always employed Japanese cellular manufacturing ideology in the operating principles of our machines.
"We also embrace many lean and agile techniques into our own operations and as a consequence are totally 'market price' orientated."
Mechatronic now works in partnership with its customers from initial concept and design to the delivery of a robust manufacturing process and after sales service.
Mr Evans added: "We work a lot leaner and smarter than before and have adopted continuous improvement techniques.
"In addition to identifying new markets such as food processing, electronics, pharmaceutical and medical devices, the marketing consultancy has also helped us promote ourselves more effectively to our existing customers, such as first tier sup-pliers to motor manufacturers like Ford, Toyota, Renault and Honda.
"Business Link is also providing consultancy support to help with our accreditation to ISO 9001 2000, which is essential to meet the demands of our diverse markets, particularly the medical device sector."
The diversification strategy is already paying off, with Mechatronic recently completing the design and manufacture of bespoke production machinery to Morgan Advanced Ceramics in Stourport on Severn.
This development, for instance, has enabled the company to increase production of ceramic components for GPS antennas by more than 50 per cent.
Mr Dunton said: "It's clear that Richard and his whole team have embraced the concept of diversification over the last two years and are now beginning to reap the rewards."