Going with the flow

Posted on 26 Feb 2009 by The Manufacturer

From its roots as a trawler repairer, Broady Flow Control has grown and adapted to the changing world, finding itself now as a key supplier to the defence industry. Louise Hoffman speaks with production director Paul Liddle

Broady Flow Control began life in 1902 as a marine pipework repair and installation firm based in Kingston upon-Hull. At that time the Hull Docks were thriving, with the local trawler fleet providing ample work opportunities for the company. Then in the 1930s, Broady moved into making valves – initially for trawler boilers – and has remained loyal to this product market ever since.

“The core products we produce are mechanically operated valves, pressure-reducing, sustaining and safety relief valves,” said production director Paul Liddle. “Broady has sold into many and varied markets around the world but has remained in the high integrity, low volume sector, concentrating on added value activities throughout the range.”

These “varied markets” have come to include chemical, petrochemical, oil and gas, pharmaceutical, mining and, perhaps most proudly for Broady, defence.

As one of only a few chosen firms to have been awarded the Partners in Pursuit of Excellence certificate, Broady is a key supplier to both the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and to BAE Systems Marine limited. Indeed, BAE is recorded to have rated the firm among its top suppliers (out of the total 3,000) on the basis of quality, performance and loyalty – certainly an impressive accolade.

In order to serve such demanding and varied markets, and to fulfil both standardand bespoke needs, the company has had to keep itself at the forefront of technology and service offering. The drawing office therefore operates using the latest computer aided design (CAD) equipment, which is also linked through to the production area, and the site boasts a robust QMS system and skilled quality assurance team, “ensuring full material and testing traceability when required.”

There are onsite pattern making and foundry facilities, conventional and CNC machining facilities, fitting and testing facilities, and inspection services including surface flaw detection. In addition, the company also offers a comprehensive after sales support service, covering overhaul and refurbishment, through-life product support, maintenance, spares and repairs.

“Always looking to the future, we have invested in a focused and cautious way, specifically with XYZ machines, a new bar saw, a new spray booth, and we’ve just invested in a new test rig,” explained Liddle.

“Our managing director is also a highly skilled technical engineer who provides leadership into new and exciting products to strengthen our product range. And we are constantly reviewing the profile of the product range through replacing outdated valve technology with new products to better support our customers’ requirements,” he added.

The most recent development at the site has been the introduction of the EFACS IT solution. “This has revolutionised the way we receive and process orders, greatly reducing lead times,” said Liddle. “Everything that we have on site is now run through EFACS – it’s far better now because we’ve got history, which we never had in the past.

Since the implementation of the system, the firm has enjoyed a reduction in lead time from order receipt to goods dispatch of, on average, 15 per cent, and is able to cost new work quickly and accurately based on current and completed job profitability.

“When I first started with the company in July of last year and the system had been in for seven months, there was a lot of resistance to it because to a lot of the workforce, the old way is best. People resist change. But now they wouldn’t be without it! It has taken time but we are now certainly reaping the benefits.”

Broady boasts a loyal and skilled workforce, and recognises the part it plays in the long-term success of the business. “We have a full five-year apprenticeship scheme, bringing in the next generation of engineers to learn from our existing employees. We have got people who have been here for 40-plus years, but while we have people going out at the top end, we’re also fetching people in from the bottom end and developing their skills as well. This commitment has lead to a very stable workforce over many years and strength in all areas for the future,” Liddle explained.

So, no risk of a skills gap in this organisation then? “No, we’re certainly not looking at that.”

And with this balance of sense and ambition, Broady Flow Control looks sure to go from strength to strength, as Liddle concluded: “The future for Broady is very positive. Always remaining positive on development and never being complacent about what we offer to the marketplace, we will continue in the same vein for many years to come. Watch this space!”