In an industry decimated by foreign competition, a Black Country manufacturer has increased its quality levels to lead the region's fightback.
Heat Treatment 2000, which has been backed by supply chain initiative Accelerate and business consult-ants Vital EU, is on course to secure another period of growth after landing an additional £200,000 of contracts for the automotive, structural engineering and leisure markets.
Meanwhile the firm, which employs 35 people at its site in Brandon Way, West Bromwich, has become the first company in its sector to secure the global TS16949 quality accreditation.
John Walsh, quality director at the company, said: "Our industry has endured widespread changes in recent years and a lot of our competitors have fallen by the wayside as a result of low-cost countries and rising energy and tax bills. We have always tried to be that little bit different by taking on the more complex jobs and embarking on a continuous improvement drive that has seen us invest in working processes and one of the largest furnaces ever acquired in the UK."
Mr Walsh said achieving the TS16949 standard had already helped reduce rejects by ten per cent and opened up new doors that previously were firmly shut.
Heat Treatment 2000, which was established in 1992, currently has annual sales of £2.2 million. Following a large-scale investment drive, the company specialises in the heat treatment of ferrous and non-ferrous components, with many of its treated parts used by Aston Martin, Honda, BMW and a number of theme park venues across the UK.
On one occasion, a batch of its high-performance fastener products was shipped out for use in a multi-billion pound monorail project in Hong Kong.
Commercial director Paul Barber said: "In our line of operation, we have found that one of the main ways of remaining competitive is through the skills of our people and we are taking this approach one step further through an Accelerate-backed Supply Chain Improvement Network with our customer Barton Cold Form.
"Working with manufacturing consultants Vital, we are looking at ways of improving joint performance and have embarked on a specialist employee survey that is designed to give us feedback from every member of the company.
He added: "The questionnaires unearthed some excellent changes in business practice and interesting plans to increase sales and quality performance."
Peter Grant, director of Vital, said: "Manufacturers are continually told to look at bottom line performance and this can sometimes lead to them ignoring the 'softer' aspects of the company, such as employee involvement.
"This is something we have looked at with ten companies and the results have been amazing, none more so than at HT 2000, who are already securing cost savings from the findings."
Managed by Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, Accelerate has recently entered its tenth year.
It provides a range of financial and strategic support, including business development grants, Technology Transfer Centres, Networks for Change and the popular promotional brand 'Made in the West Midlands.