Specialised symbiosis

Posted on 7 Oct 2010 by The Manufacturer

Founded in 1979, Sims Engineering has developed a reputation as the supplier of choice for important sections of the automotive and pharmaceutical industries.

Specialising in automation equipment such as ultrasonic welding machines, the family run company has relied on experience and word of mouth to forge longstanding partnerships with its customers, supplying the likes of Toyota, GSK, Pfizer and the automotive supplier Magner.

“In the automotive field, engineers frequently leave one company and go to another,” says company director Keith Sims. Our business relies a great deal on word of mouth” “Maintaining a good reputation with our client’s engineers is the most important thing for us: if you supply your customer with a good solution, always deliver on time and to spec you can not only keep existing customers, but expand your business too.” Timing is crucial in the automotive industry, with a trend over the past few years towards ever-shorter lead times and ever-more complex demands. “We have a core staff of 17 people based in Harlow, Essex, but we’ve been so busy in the last couple of years we have found it necessary to farm out a lot of machining to other companies rather than expanding ourselves, choosing instead to focus on assembly. This gives us a great deal of flexibility,” says Keith Sims. When the company’s business drops a little between the end of one project and the beginning of another, Sims Engineering machines and assembles all the parts itself.

“That way we can expand and contract whenever necessary and ensure that we don’t commit to significant and unmanageable overheads.”

Finding the right solution
Sims Engineering does a great deal of work for the plastics industry, including processing plastic components – such as car bumpers and dashboards – after injection moulding. These parts have become increasingly complex over the last decade: A car bumper might now include options to fit parking sensors, fog lamps, headlamp washers or even different types of wiring depending on the country of destination.

Customers work collaboratively with the Sims Engineering’s design team to develop the best and most cost-effective solution, supplying technical specifications and quantity and quality requirements. Sims engineers then propose a solution and the customer makes final modifications prior to approval.

“We carefully go through the design and see if there’s anything our customer wants to change,” says Keith Sims.

“Once they’ve approved the design we produce the machine. Throughout the entire process we remain completely focussed on providing the cheapest and most efficient technical solution we can. We’ve been doing this for over 30 years, so we do have a lot of expertise in developing the appropriate product.”

Impact of the recession
Sims Engineering has bucked the recent recessionary trend and is currently seeing record levels of turnover. This has been due in part to its pricecompetitiveness, as well as underlying structural factors. “During a recession, we usually get more work because new models are frequently rolled out earlier if current models aren’t selling well. Over the past couple of years especially, many car companies have launched new vehicles, which has been very beneficial for us,” explains Keith Sims.

“We’ve done a great deal of work with Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) through their tier one and tier two suppliers over the recession,” says Keith Sims.

In addition, Sims Engineering supplies directly to Toyota – one of the few remaining automotive companies to manufacture most of their parts in-house.

Long-term relationships Delivering in short time frames and specification is absolutely crucial in the automotive industry, but Sims Engineering resists the temptation to promise more than they can deliver.

“We never say it’ll take us ten weeks to do a job when we know it’s going to take us 12 weeks,” says Sims. “Our focus is on gaining trust and a good reputation among the people that matter – the engineers. That means establishing relationships based on a proven track record of delivering exactly what we say we will when we say we will, and doing it fast. We have always strived to make our processes as efficient as possible. In that regard, we have found that the flexibility we gain from being able to subcontract work to other companies if and when we need it is vital to ensuring that we always meet our delivery targets.” Sims Engineering’s management team believes that good relations within the company are also extremely important in ensuring a smooth production process. Many Sims Engineering workers have been with the company for a very long time – some for over 30 years. “It’s a very friendly working environment and we make sure that the workforce receives fair wages as befits their skills. As a general rule, everyone gets to see the work from start to finish. I think it’s important to be able to see the fruits of your labour at the end, and it does make it more enjoyable.”