Clear growth trajectory

New product releases and a continued growth in orders and quotes for its windscreen wiper systems marked 2019 for B Hepworth & Co

Over the course of the past few years, B Hepworth & Co has been actively trying to diversify its offering. Known predominantly as a manufacturer of windscreen wiper systems, washing equipment, and associated control systems for the marine, rail, and automotive industries, the company has made concerted efforts to develop new capabilities and, as its Head of Sales & Marketing, Bert Thijsen, points out, “the first step in that process was the focus on fabrication.”

Working within a wide range of business sectors, B Hepworth’s Fabrications division manufactures a vast array of products, such as heavy duty brackets, space frames, enclosures and control box housings, and precision-engineered, mirror-polished superyacht deck fittings. Owing to the comprehensive variety of in-house skills and services it possesses, the division is capable of turning the majority of fabrications quotes around within 48 hours, demonstrating extremely favourable standard lead times. This self-imposed standard for speed and quality is being maintained at all times via continuous investment, and in 2019, B Hepworth concentrated on shortening delivery times further, improving On Time In Full (OTIF) delivery, and reducing costs.

“The year, in general, was quite challenging. Speaking of the Fabrications division, in particular, it had a bit of a slow start, but we were very pleased with its performance in the second half of 2019, and we now have very high expectations for the new year,” Bert discusses. “We can also report growth in marine and rail, which are our two largest markets.”

He goes on: “The Marine division was just slightly up in new orders, but the large increase in new quotes was a promising sign. The marine market as a whole had its difficulties and investments remain fairly low. Due to the trade wars between China and the USA, there has been a drop in new build orders for cargo vessels, but, on the other hand, this has been compensated by an increase in new builds for ferries, cruise vessels, and Navy vessels.

“In contrast to the marine segment, our Rail division experienced a significant increase in both new orders and new quotes. In addition, it has been a couple of years since we started designing wiper systems for optical measurement devices mainly for military purposes. It is a market that has continued to grow in recent times and we have a very positive outlook for its development in the coming years,” Bert adds.

The last 12 months have also borne witness to the release of two new products by B Hepworth. First, a co-operation with Parvalux – a Birmingham-based manufacturer of electric and geared motors – resulted in the design of a new motor for the rail market, which offers the end users a considerable reduction in repair and maintenance cost. Bert presents the range in greater detail: “The motors are available in 24, 48, and 110 VDC, and are all two-speed, self-park, and fully compliant with the environmental and EMC specifications for the rail industry. Their development once more highlights our commitment to designing and manufacturing products that are reliable and of the highest quality all the while being cost-effective and efficient.”

With the ongoing growth of window size in vessels and the ensuing increased demand for a greater coverage of the glass area from a wiper system, B Hepworth launched a completely new marine wiper arm in combination with a stronger motor and a special dual-blade configuration in October last year. The Wynn Straight Line wiper arm has been designed for blades of a length of up to 1500mm and the dual- blade configuration allows their range to be expanded to 1950mm. Among the benefits it offers, are an aesthetical and ergonomic improvement on previous systems, an integrated anti-lift assembly, as well as the aforementioned superior wiper area coverage.

Another noteworthy highlight of 2019 for B Hepworth was the company’s certifying to the ISO 9001:2015 and ISO/TS 22163:2017 standards, which occurred in the second half of the year. The new certificates joined the multitude of other industry standards previously acquired by the manufacturer.

“To give you an example, we are also IRIS-certified for the rail market,” Bert remarks. “On top of that, our welders are all coded and we comply with EN 15085. Last but not least, the wiper systems for the marine market are DNV/GL, ABS, and RMRS-certified, and fully compliant with the MIL specifications. Having obtained the ISO certifications, we can now give our customers extra peace of mind that our products meet the highest standards available.”

In Bert’s opinion, business conditions in 2020 are looking reasonably favourable for B Hepworth and the company’s growth ambitions. He remains cautious, though, that changes in the global political status quo might have an impact on the business’ activities. Nevertheless, B Hepworth continues to confidently implement its long-term strategy, part of which is formed by the organisation’s intention to acquire smaller companies, thus adding on to its own expertise.

“The first acquisition we made, was of an entity operating in the yachting industry. Monitor Marine – as the business in question is known – designs and manufactures stainless steel fittings and deck hardware for global customers, many of which are builders of superyachts,” Bert reveals. “The company’s innovative products create new standards in visual appearance, design function, and quality of stainless steel marine fittings. Some of its best sellers include helicopter tiedowns for superyachts, lift points for the tender boat industry, as well as door and hatch handles. Following our acquisition of Monitor Marine and the renewed marketing strategy we have put in place, sales figures have gone up by more than 20 per cent and we are confident that we have set up a strong platform to build upon this initial success.”

To recap, it appears that B Hepworth has entered a period of diversifying and growing its market proposition, at the same time as probing new segments where its products can bring added value. As orders continue to grow steadily, no doubt is left that the manufacturer’s approach of seeking continual innovation driven by quality, efficiency, and cost reduction considerations, is paying dividends. Having also identified company acquisitions as another means of growth, expansion is definitely on the cards for the organisation.

B Hepworth & Co
Products: Windscreen wiper systems, washing equipment, and associated control systems