A Black Country manufacturer has secured new contracts in the aerospace industry after relocating and investing £1.1 million in new state-of-the-art machinery.
Hockley Pattern & Tool moved to a new 20,000 sq ft base in Lodgefield Road, Halesowen, last November, since when it has secured substantial new business.
The company, run by Jim Williams, aged 62, and sons Neil, aged 37, and Gareth, aged 34, relocated from Church Lane, West Bromwich, doubling in size in the process.
It has also hired a further 14 employees to help it fulfill its new orders. The new equipment includes a MTE CNC milling machine and has been part-funded by a £195,000 Selective Finance For Investment for England (SFIE) grant from regional development agency Advantage West Midlands.
Mr Williams, who founded the company in his garage in 1979, said: "The factory move was the result of a determination to sell current core expertise to new customers in an expanding aerospace industry.
"The rapid conversion from aluminium to carbon fibre composite as the leading airframe material has triggered a new growth opportunity where Hockley’s core automotive pattern making skills can be refined and reused, at a time when the automotive tooling sector is in decline.
Our success with BAE Systems supplying tooling manufactured using casting techniques has enabled our business to supply tools in far less time than traditional 'machined from billet’ methods and at far less cost through reduction in material consumption and machining times."
The firm has set out to take full advantage of the whole range of tooling required to mould and trim composite parts and has set up an exclusive cooperation agreement with a major US tooling company to support the biggest Invar Tools.
Hockley, which employs 41 people, has the expertise to work from a variety of input media such as hard copy drawings, CAD surface and solid models or from existing physical models or patterns.
Customers include Airbus, GKN Aerospace and Bombardier, while jigs and fixtures have been made for some of the world’s best known car companies, such as Aston Martin, BMW and Land Rover.
The company predicts by 2010 sales will be £3.5 million – a 75 per cent increase over two years, and returning a net profit of £400,000. The prediction is based on the boom in the aerospace industry continuing, discussions with customers and reports from market intelligence provider Mintel.
In addition, another 14 jobs are due to be created by 2010.
Phil Langford, grants case officer at AWM, said: "The company is one of a select band of tool makers that remain in the West Midlands and the UK as a whole.
"One of AWM’s key priorities is to make sure such companies have access to appropriate finance for growth and SFIE funding can often be the last piece in the financial jigsaw to trigger capital expenditure that leads to long-term improvements in productivity, skills and employment.
"We recognise the value of companies such as Hockley Pattern & Tool to the overall prosperity of the region, but equally understand the increasing pressures to compete in a global knowledge-based economy where the latest in equipment and a highly skilled workforce are key to maintaining a competitive edge."