A maker of gear knobs is revving up for future success after being recognised by Japanese motoring giant Toyota with its top-supplier award.
In less than 20 years, W H Smith & Sons Tools has grown from producing no gear knobs at all to a point where drivers in more than ten-million vehicles worldwide use those supplied by the Birmingham company.
The firm, which employs 400 people at its factory in Minworth, was the only UK business to be honoured by Toyota in its annual supplier awards.
The car maker's four European factories recognised the excellence of its delivery system, following its achievement of 100 per cent delivery targets over the last 18 months.
Managing director Colin Sarson said: "This is a fantastic achievement for the company and is the best accolade we have ever received from a customer.
"To be recognised as a leading supplier by one of the world's biggest motor manufacturers is a real coup and I would like to thank all of our staff for the contribution they have made."
Not one component produced by W H Smith missed the ten-minute delivery window when trucks from Toyota's factories arrived, and not one was mislabelled, Mr Sarson said.
The purchasing team from Toyota UK met staff at WH Smith & Sons Tools yesterday to present them with the top supplier award for 2004.
The honour was officially presented to the company in Brussels last month at Toyota's annual European supplier awards.
In the 1980s, the company began making plastic gear knobs but it was just eight years ago when directors spotted a gap in the market and began making bespoke, hand-crafted and leathercovered gear knobs.
W H Smithis now a major producer of gear knobs for Toyota and other motor manufacturers.
Notable successes include supplying 100 per cent of gear knobs for Toyota's Europeanbuilt cars including the UK, France, Turkey and the Czech Republic. Under the contract, which was worth £1.8 million last year, the company builds a leather-covered gear knob for Toyota every 13 seconds of every day.
It now supplies some 70 per cent of the vehicles built in the UK of all makes and 15 per cent of the total Western Europe market, including the UK.
The workforce at WH Smith & Sons Tools is assisted by robots in the production process in order to keep labour costs competitive.
Established in 1933, WH Smith & Sons Tools was originally a maker of tooling before switching to become a supplier of plastic- injection moulded components and assemblies.
The firm has a turnover of £22 million, which it is hoping to expand to £25 million over the next two years.
Mr Sarson said the award could help W H Smith win further orders in addition to the work it also carries out for Nissan, Honda, BMW, MG Rover, Land Rover and Bentley.
He said: "It's hard to believe that we began producing leather-covered gear knobs less than a decade ago and we now supply nearly three per cent of the global market.
"This award could help us win future work because it recognises our ability to meet the delivery targets of our customers."