Kimber Drop Forgings – Forging the future

After a £1m investment, Kimber Drop Forgings consistently enhanced its production capabilities. Federico Ercoli reports.

The Black Country has played a vital role in UK manufacturing throughout history. It’s roots in metal working date back as early as the 16th century. From the Civil War, through the Industrial Revolution and the 20th century, the area has played – and still plays – a pivotal part in driving UK industry.

So, when visiting Kimber Drop Forgings, I expected tales from the past to help me understand the present – and possibly learn about the future.

“Kimber was founded in 1936 on a site, probably about three miles from where it is now. It was founded by Mr. Kimber, would you believe?” explains Larry Joyce, chairman of Kimber Drop Forgings.

But what used to be then is no longer.  Joyce told me the business has significantly changed throughout the years, “As manufacturing parts go, we make totally different parts now than what we used to back then.

“We manufacture a range of pipe clamps, which are used in all sorts of applications: from NASA to deep sea, from oil rigs to facilities in desert conditions. We also manufacture for vehicles such as JCB.”

Change is not the only thing that has happened to Kimber Drop Forgings lately. The company has gone through a major round of investment to develop its facilities and boost productivity.

Kimber Drop Forgings employee working with new forge.
Kimber Drop Forgings employee working with new forge.

“On the site, as a total over the last two years, we spent well in excess of a £1m. We refurbished throughout, but the most important thing was the introduction of an improved production facility,” Joyce tells me.

After filming the newly acquired forge in action I couldn’t help but think about Twin Peaks’ opening credits and its iconic North American, local milling factory images.

Watching employees shaping metal with such imposing and powerful devices, had me wondering for a few seconds, until I acknowledged I was still in Cradley Heath and not in David Lynch’s surreal tale.

As a consequence of the investments Kimber Drop has also been able to re-shore some of its production to the UK. “We had several products that we had to make in Poland because of its size, but having the new facility has enabled us to pull some of that work back into the UK and provide jobs here,” he explains.

The main focus for Kimber Drop Forgings is the future. Joyce said the company has room on site to expand and to double production, “That’s what we plan to do. We’re a privately owned company, which means that we can make the decisions on how we use the profits we make, and that decision has always been to put the money back into the company to develop it and employ more people.”

This boisterous enthusiasm is testament that the black country’s reputation in manufacturing is stronger than ever.