The dawn of new era

For Alpha Manufacturing (Alpha), January 2019 not only ushered in its 30th year in business, but also an entirely new chapter in the history of this privately-owned business, which for three decades has specialised in fabricating sheet metal in the UK. The exact event that marked said new chapter was the appointment of Paul Clews as the company’s Managing Director. Having joined the company in 2010, Paul has experienced a rapid career assent through Alpha, coming on-board as Manufacturing Manager before taking on the role of Operations Director and leading it to achieving record turnover and award-winning service levels.

Now, as Managing Director, Paul is working hard alongside the rest of the Alpha team to build on its recent successes, growing it as part of the Bri-Stor Group as well as developing its own sub contract customer portfolio. Central to this will be delivering Alpha’s 2020 vision of doubling its turnover as that achieved in 2015, while continuing to develop its manufacturing facilities with state-of-the-art automated equipment as a means of underpinning its position as one of the most technically advanced sheet metal facilities in the UK.

“Among the significant improvements that we are actively working on is our striving towards having a fully autonomous sheet metal facility (where feasible), achieving the offline programming of all machines to de-skill manual operations, and introducing the automated management of all strategic WIP to make all material accessible at the touch of a button,” Paul reveals. “We are presently operating at industry-leading levels in terms of our key performance indicators – quality, cost and delivery – and we continue to win large new customers, including two from within the construction sector – each of which is involved in pre-fabricated, modular assemblies – and one within the IT sector, specialising in commercial server cabinets.”

As Robin Eley, Alpha’s Commercial Manager, goes on to explain, the company will be looking to continue on from its impressive performance during 2018. “In the last 12-to-18 months, we have continued to expand our range of services, with a particular focus on value added products, as well as acquiring a number of new skill sets in complementary fields such as electrics, plumbing, glazing and testing. This now allows us to offer a full turnkey package complete with fully integrated finished product assemblies, which is something that few, if any, other sheet metal companies are capable of doing.

“In the meantime, offsite manufacturing type projects have been a very big part of our recent growth. Here, we are witnessing more and more of our customers designing factory tolerance solutions for what were traditionally products used by building site tradesmen, and we will only increase our focus on serving this part of the business going forward.”

2018 ended, rather fittingly, with the completion of Alpha’s new £800,000 modern office and welfare facility. “The biggest effect of moving into our new office has been on the morale of the team, which can in part be attributed to its bright and airy design, modern and sleek finish, furniture and fittings, and the improvement in working environment over what was an older, tired previous location,” Paul continues. “In addition, the move to the new office means that we can fully utilise factory shop floor space where the old office was located. Here we are constructing a dedicated, self-contained, stainless steel fabrication cell, which will allow us to tender for new types of work, the likes of which we previously did not possess the capabilities to do.”

An example of the above work is provided by Rob: “We will be working with one particular customer that is manufacturing food grade stainless steel parts. This will specifically require the use of a segregated stainless steel department to ensure that there is zero chance of cross contamination of iron into the finished product. To facilitate the customer’s needs, we will also be installing additional processes such as separate fold and welding areas, polishing capabilities and rolling equipment in order to curve metal components, the latter of which will be completely new to Alpha.”

One further exciting development of note, which Paul goes on to detail, is the ongoing – as time of our discussion in late March – installation of a new Salvagnini P4 Lean panel bender, at a cost of in excess of £1 million. “This new piece of equipment will replace our outgoing TBZ folding machine and bolster our existing CNC fold department,” he says.

“It will also allow us to offline programme, reduce set up times, produce batch quantities much more efficiently, and offer a wider range of components for our sister company, Bri-Stor Systems.”

With excellent sales forecast for the rest of 2019, and various planned developments in the pipeline that will see the company continuing to grow, the future looks very bright for Alpha. However, going back to a statement made by Paul at the time of his appointment to the position of Managing Director, he recognises that the key to success will be the ongoing development of engineering knowledge within his workforce. “We will further improve the training we give to our current employees and increase our intake of engineering apprentices. This will ensure we continue to have a robust engineering knowledge base to support our growth in the years to come.”

Alpha Manufacturing
Products: Sheet metal fabrications and associated engineering services