A push in the right direction

Posted on 12 Nov 2010 by The Manufacturer

Glasgow based ClydeUnion Pumps is a leader in the field of industrial pump design and manufacture. Richard Bott spoke to managing director, Frank Barrett, about the company’s global presence, extensive training and development programme and its blend of old and new manufacturing thinking.

Clyde Union Pumps, while being a relative new entity in its own right, is an amalgam of two very proud, successful, long standing and innovating manufacturing businesses from either side of the Atlantic.

For over 135 years, Glasgow based Weir Pumps built a reputation for invention and first class, high end manufacturing of pumps and valves. Founded in 1871 as G & J Weir, the business was acquired from Weir Group PLC and its diverse knowledge and expertise were used as the cornerstone for the formation of Clyde Pumps in 2007. In 2008 Clyde pumps acquired USA counterpart Union Pump, another heritage rich, century plus old success story, to create ClydeUnion Pumps.

The combination created a very fast moving organisation that has grown rapidly year on year. The last three years have seen growth of between 25% and 40% with revenue increasing 68% in 2008/2009. This has been achieved by both acquisition and by stand alone ventures.

A force to be reckoned with
As befits a truly global company, ClydeUnion Pumps has number of sites located around the world in which the innovation, knowledge and expertise they are renowned for is used to manufacture pumps for six key markets. These include: upstream and downstream oil; nuclear power; conventional power; water; industrial; and aftermarket. Most of those are well established markets and ClydeUnion Pumps sees itself as being at the higher end of the market. They continue to push the boundaries upwards for performance and capability, and downwards in terms of cost and lead time. They have a presence on every continent that is either wholly owned or is a joint venture with a local organisation.

Their biggest manufacturing plant however is still Glasgow, an impressive 76,000m2 site. The Scottish base manufacturers a range of centrifugal pumps but specialises in the upstream oil and nuclear market place. It employs some 650 people on this one site and has been there for over 120 years.

Managing director and the man responsible for heading up the Glasgow site as well as overseeing global operational development, is Frank Barrett. Barrett describes ClydeUnion Pumps as a company that while being risk averse, is a place where entrepreneurial spirit is very much alive and well. As an organisation they embrace the cultural differences of the locations in which they operate and while growth at ClydeUnion Pumps has been massive in recent times, it has been focused on one principal: being at the customer face.

All of ClydeUnion’s sites are built in areas where there is an immediate need for their products and it is a strategy that has worked extremely well for customers.

The result, alongside good operational and lean manufacturing practices, has meant that there is no lost time in responding to the needs of those customers. With industry leading lead times, Barrett confidently claims that ClydeUnion Pumps prides itself on the fact that they will never lose a job on lead time. “Nobody will do things to the high quality that we do, at the speed that we do, anywhere else in our field,” says Barrett.

Pump people
Arguably the thing that ClydeUnion Pumps is proudest of is its extensive investment in staff. The company operates its own, global academy founded on two fundamental principles that run through the very fabric of the business.

In order to be successful you need the right type of assets to be able to support your strategy and you also need the right type of human assets to back that up. Barrett explains how the ClydeUnion Academy has become almost an inhouse university. While there are no first degrees available, the academy does run a number of masters in conjunction with various universities including MSc programmes in project management, leadership and quality management as well as MBAs. Alongside that, the ClydeUnion Academy have their own stand alone program called the Alchemy High Performance Management System, aimed at developing both individuals as well as the teams in which they operate within the business. The investment in maximising the intellectual capability of the business is massive.

As Barrett explained, “For a machine tool to run 24/7 you just have to feed it with the information it needs for what you want it to work on and provide the power to do it; for people, you need to feed them with knowledge and create the environment. That is a big part of what we do.” ClydeUnion Pumps also actively avoids imposing European or UK culture on its global facilities. How each area individually manages itself, what they look like and how they deliver training is done culturally within core principals, optimising assets and people. There is no top down mandatory process. With bases in Scotland, England, France, Canada, USA, Brazil, India, China and the Middle East, the diversity of cultures is too wide for a one size fits all approach. Leadership, instruction and guidance are given but how that development occurs is up to each area as long as there is increased performance. Most of ClydeUnion’s sites manufacture but some are more service or testing led, so the needs of each are fairly unique on different levels as well.

Excluding acquisitions, ClydeUnion Pumps plans to invest upwards of £25m in factory expansion, machine tools and test equipment this year. That represents a massive complimentary increase in capability outside of the extra capacity gained in other ways.

The Glasgow facility alone is having three new production lines built as well as a new steam testing facility, one of only two in the world capable of testing nuclear steam-based systems which is about to come on line soon.

Barrett believes that at present the word entrepreneurial is thrown about too much in the business world.

What he believes makes ClydeUnion Pumps different and makes it a truly entrepreneurial company is its balance between capability, excellence, processes and people. It is these differences and the universal dedication to increased performance that has seen the company experience such high growth over the last three years, a legacy destined to continue in line with the company’s impressive investment in infrastructure and personnel.