Poeton & Sharing in Growth: Their journey together

Poeton Industries’ sales director James Cooke, explains to The Manufacturer how the aerospace supplier passed through a process of business transformation with the help of Sharing in Growth

Poeton Industries passed through a process of business transformation with the help of SiG.

Poeton Industries passed through a process of business transformation with the help of SiG.

The company was established in 1898; the company has been working for 120 years in surface treatment and coating.

The privately owned business, managed to successfully adopt new business strategies over the years. And has more recently seen a real transformation with the help of Sharing in Growth.

Six years before Poeton started its collaboration with SiG, the company experienced a period of substantial growth; at the same time UK’s aerospace industry showed a significant increase in turnover.

Many growing companies share the same fate, they don’t grow the organisational infrastructure at the same rate as turnover. In January 2016, Poeton Industries started its business transformation process with Sharing in Growth to better prepare for its future success.

The diagnostic assessment

During the ‘diagnostic assessment’, the aerospace supplier shared three intense and energetic months with the SiG team members. Cooke said, they came into the company and ‘looked under every rock’ to identify Poeton Industries’ business strengths and weaknesses.

Directors and senior leaders came together in several strategic planning sessions to talk about the future, the visions and ambitions of Poeton. After a while, the walls around them were covered with post-it notes teeming with ideas about business processes.

Then, the employees started to build Poeton Industries’ vision, mission and values; the aerospace supplier passed the three months ‘diagnostic assessment’. Everyone, Cooke said, was fully energized and ready to kick off the transformation process.

In 2016, Poeton Industries started its business transformation process with Sharing in Growth – image courtesy of Poeton.

The ‘diagnostic assessment’ was followed by a challenging six to nine months, Cooke said, where Poeton Industries struggled to gain traction on its transformation journey.

The company was ambitious, had visions, targets and values, but struggled to deploy its ideas and define project owners.

At the end of 2016, Poeton had an annual review. Cooke said: “Annual reviews with Sharing in Growth are always challenging, especially when they see that you’re not making the expected progress.”

Although Sharing in Growth believed that Poeton Industries had a vast potential for further development, the Gloucester based aerospace supplier had concerns about the progress they were making on their journey with SiG.

There were many open questions at that time, Cooke said: “Are we taking on too much, is this the right time for SiG at Poeton, can we fulfil the requirements?”

At that point, it was necessary that the senior leadership teams and directors were sure the company was absolutely on the right path, and the company needed to understand how to achieve the self-imposed growth objectives.

One of the reasons why Poeton Industries’ progress slowed down was that the company had not identified clear owners of the pillars of the strategy: ‘We needed a key set of group leaders’.

Poeton Industries has two separate operating sites, a Gloucester and a Cardiff division; both parts were brought closer together in terms of ‘group leaders and processes’ in the first step of the company’s transformation.

“For the sales division, I then started to forecast the sales figures for the next four years. I have analysed our products, such as, anodising, nickel, chrome, plasma and our market groups, such as different aerospace groups and our Proprietary Apticote product range.”

Urged to find a new product strategy

Poeton Industries needed to adjust its product strategy due to the ‘European Union regulation concerning the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and restriction of Chemicals’ (REACH).

In the future, Cooke said, certain areas of Poeton’s business are going to decline, and part of the company’s transformation process was to find alternative replacement products to continue to grow with new REACH approved processes.

The company applied the same business processes to both facilities in Gloucester and Cardiff – image courtesy of Poeton.

Cooke said: “The chemical compound hexavalent chrome is going to be banned due to REACH regulations. The aerospace industry currently uses many different surface treatments, which rely on the hexavalent chrome to give them their properties, such as corrosion protection and hardness.”

He said, that Poeton Industries have been leading the way in the testing and evaluation of the alternative treatments, which are available to the market.

The challenge for surface treatment companies like Poeton Industries, is to ensure to remain ahead of the game with regard to both advising the OEMs on the advantages and disadvantages of the alternative treatments and productionising these processes ready for the market demand.

The ‘five-W-document’

To achieve the targeted turnover goal for 2020 , the company needed to operate more cross functional and involve a strategy team.

This was the moment when SiG helped Poeton to deploy more efficient strategies based on the ‘Five-W’ document.  “The questions ‘Who, What, Where, Why and hoW’ helped the company to form the objectives the leadership group needed to achieve the 2020 vision.

“We came up with 117 objectives, which was prioritised down to 40, and with the help of SiG, we formed the X-matrix-model for the group leaders and the projects and defined the KPI. We formed a four-year strategy and presented it to our board. It contained all the necessary details and explanations of how we were going to achieve it.

“At last, the business transformation kicked off, we saw progress and realised that we were on the right path.”

Relaunching the brand

James Cooke’s objective was to look at the company from a customer’s point of view. “Does the customer associate our brand with the idea of excellence? Does the factory outlet, the company’s website and the marketing material still reflect the new journey the company was on?” Cooke said that the answer to all these questions was: “No”. There were still goals to achieve.

The 120-year-old firm had not relaunched the brand in decades, therefore it was a challenge to determine the right brand identity, especially as a family owned company.

The company needed to change its product strategy due to REACH regulation. image courtesy of Poeton.
The company needed to change its product strategy due to REACH regulation – image courtesy of Poeton.

Poeton Industries had already committed to showcase its products at Paris Air Show, therefore the company had about four months to complete the relaunch to present its ‘fresh’ brand in Paris.

Poeton developed a new visual concept, relaunched the website and came up with a completely new branded concept for its exhibition area at the Paris Air Show.

“With our final concept we managed to emphasize our new modern branding without neglecting the company’s rich heritage.”

Poeton Industries then defined what product market groups were most suitable for future business activities; the company determined its sweet spots to help the sales engineers to find the customer range which was most desirable for the company.

“We put all the quotes on the dash board, took an overview of monthly performances, turnover times, growth/success rates and helped the sales engineers to achieve their goals.”

Cross-functional teams

Sean Needham, operations manager, said: “When we realised we could not reach our targets, we put together a cross-functional team and set up a four-year plan for both facilities in Gloucester and Cardiff to achieve the turnover goal for 2020.”

Thanks to the cross-functional strategy, Poeton brought in new clients. It applied the same business processes to both facilities in Gloucester and Cardiff, secured £1.7m capital investments and developed a brand-new customer approach.

At that time, Airbus offered Poeton 100% of a certain business line, on the premise that Poeton can deliver high-quality products on time for competitive costs.

Poeton set up a capacity plan, proved the company’s performance in the past two years, presented it to Airbus, and decided to dedicate a production cell at the Cardiff branch entirely to the airplane manufacturer.

Cooke said: “It has enabled us to reduce the turnover time from 15 days to eight. When Airbus needed a rapid rate increase, they needed to set up a recovery plan and suddenly trebled the amount of parts they wanted Poeton to deliver. Despite the new order situation, we could still stick to the agreed timetable.”

“The outcome was, that Poeton won the £15m Airbus contract over five years, which is a great achievement, and it is only one case study showing how Sharing in Growth helped us to improve our business.”