Bernard Holmes: The story of a real sub-contract engineering company

Russell Thackray (director), Kay Pryszlak (managing director) and Simon Hudson (production manager) of Bernard Holmes - image courtesy of Bernard Holmes.

Just over twenty years ago, Bernard Holmes Precision engineers moved in to a purpose built facility, after trading out of what amounted to a tin shed in the back garden of the managing director since WW2.

Once in new modern premises the Bernard Holmes directors then invested as much as possible in machinery and in people to encourage growth at every opportunity.

Every so many years new technology becomes affordable and therefore more accessible to SMEs. After many years of success with CNC s the company found that buying machine after machine, as the work called for it, kept the turnover growing.

In more recent years this gradually became less and less of an increase as machinery, once only afforded by established companies, had now become accessible to every Fred in a shed.

Once again the company found itself being pushed towards the search for the next big thing in their industry in order to survive another two decades and to keep profits up where they needed to be. Bernard Holmes had always strived to invest as much a possible at every opportunity but this simple strategy alone was now not enough.

Bernard Holmes invests in the future of engineering

The management team decided three years ago, that in a bid to find new customers in new industries, they had to up their game on quality, invest even more in its people than ever before and start to automate everything from the IT systems through to the machining processes.

Firstly it was decided that in order to approach new customers, a known quality system should be obtained. In preparation the company invested in a MRP system incorporating shop floor data collection to monitor efficiency, employed a full time inspector with a fully refurbished inspection room, and then went on to achieve ISO 9001 accreditation within 6 months, achieving it with zero noncompliance.

Next Bernard Holmes signed up to the Growth Accelerator scheme, which helped management have a better understanding of sales and marketing. This was an area that had been neglected as most of the work pre-recession had just come through word of mouth or established customers.

Although the company had always employed young

The new Matsuura 5 pallet horizontal milling machine installed at the Bernard Holmes - image courtesy of Bernard Holmes
The new Matsuura 5 pallet horizontal milling machine installed at Bernard Holmes – image courtesy of Bernard Holmes.

trainees, the first official apprentice was taken on in over ten years and a much more proactive approach towards getting younger employees engaged in engineering to prepare for the future of the company was taken.

New CAD/CAM software was bought in to enable the company to take on more complex components. Training was undertaken so that it could be used to win over new customers mainly in the autosport sector. This work was found using the principles learned from Growth Accelerator training.

Lean manufacturing principles were implemented after key employees attended MAS workshops. At the end of this 3 year program of updating the business, the plan for the future is beginning to bear fruit.

After winning a large amount of production work, the largest investment by far was made. The company took its first step into unmanned automated CNC machining with the purchase of a high end five pallet horizontal machining center.

After such a journey, with their noses firmly at the grindstone, this striving ambitious company, which has transformed itself from top management all the way down to deliveries, is ready for more success.