Black Country union sparks reshoring success

A partnership made in the Black Country is helping bring castings for a crucial transport locking device back from the Far East as the reshoring drive continues to gather pace.

Tipton-based Multi-Stroke, provider of metal components, has been working with reps at Thomas Dudley to come up with a new approach that will see the ‘Twistlock’ made completely in the UK once again.

Using support from the Business Growth Service and funding from Reshore UK, the two companies have successfully developed new tooling that allows the product to be manufactured and delivered more core effectively than from the previous supplier in China.

(L to R) Ross Steadman (Thomas Dudley), Ian Wright (Multi-Stroke) & Alison Phillips (Business Growth Service).
(L to R) Ross Steadman (Thomas Dudley), Ian Wright (Multi-Stroke) & Alison Phillips (Business Growth Service).

Improved quality, reduced lead times and flexible production are other benefits gleaned from the local collaboration.

“The ‘Twistlock’ is used to secure containers on to the bed of a trailer and is used in road freight transport across the world,” explained Ian Wright, managing director of Multi-Stroke.

“It was always manufactured in the UK until rising steel prices in the early 2000s saw the final part price increase by nearly 50%…this forced our hand and we needed to look at the emerging markets to achieve the cost downs expected by our client base.”

He continued: “To be fair to the Chinese supplier, it has done a good job. However, we recognised the need to have greater control of exchange rate fluctuations and the end product…plus manufacturing in the UK is now more competitive through innovative design and investment in new technology.

“We approached our original UK supplier but they couldn’t meet the price so we gave Thomas Dudley the chance to offer us a solution for reshoring the product back to the Black Country.”

Wright has worked closely with Foundry Development Manager, Adrian Knowles to look at alternative manufacturing methods and it wasn’t long until the Dudley company’s impressive casting techniques were offering a possible answer.

Truck Lorry Driving Down Highway Road
The ‘Twistlock’ is used to secure containers on to the bed of a trailer and is used in road freight transport across the world.

This is where the Business Growth Service came into its own, working with the two firms to explore the production method and ensure its viability.

The Government support organisation, which incorporates the Manufacturing Advisory Service, provided Multi-Stroke with access to £5,000 of funding from Reshore UK to help with the initial tooling costs and has continued to provide assistance on entering into volume production.

“On average, we produce around 40,000 ‘Twistlocks’ every year and these get supplied all over the world to some of the biggest names in trailer manufacture, including clients such as Dennison, SDC and Montracon” added Wright.

“This new supplier partnership gives us the stability and quality to be able to go after new work in this area and to add to our existing £3.8m annual sales.”

Thomas Dudley’s Adrian Knowles was delighted to be part of a truly Black Country product: “We have invested heavily in the skills of our people and new technology to make sure we are able to deliver new casting solutions to customers such as Multi-Stroke.

“Both companies have worked extremely closely on the register casting to come up with a cost effective and world class product. We are just about to press the button on the first volume production run and look forward to developing the relationship for many more years to come.”

Business Growth Manager at the Business Growth Service, Paul Killeen concluded: “This is a perfect example of how reshoring is happening on our shop floors and what we can do to help boost this growing trend.

“A small, but important amount of funding unlocked a potential bottleneck in the set-up phase and is now contributing to a true Black Country success story that is safeguarding jobs and generating new sales for local firms.”

Established in 1968, Multi-Stroke has developed a reputation for offering a flexible, cost effective approach to engineering, providing world class forgings, presswork, fabrications, ‘Twistlocks’ and handbrakes.

The company employs 55 people at its facility in Tipton and lists a customer base spanning automotive, aerospace, construction, transportation and increasingly the nuclear sector.