Leeds-based bus manufacturer Optare is in discussions with engineering firm WEC Group to subcontract all its bus frame production in a new contract worth several million pounds per year.
Under the new deal, WEC is to open a new 27,000 square foot factory next to Optare’s Sherburn bus assembly operation. The new site is expected to fabricate all Optare’s bus frame output, where bus frames are currently fabricated at another Optare site in Leeds.
Under the new contract, around 600 bus structures will be built in year one, but volume is expected to rise to 900-1,200 next year once extra shifts are implemented.
The WEC Group currently produces components from its Darwen and Liverpool sites only for structures for two or three Optare models. Under the new deal, the WEC Group is expected to start producing all the components of all models and fabricate accordingly.
After the new factory in Sherburn is opened, WEC will take on the Optare employees working in the fabrication plant, increasing the number of WEC staff to 350. As volume increases in the new factory, WEC has said it plans to implement a double / treble shift system, which would result in a substantial increase in skilled welder positions. As well as this, the company has reported that ten new management, supervisory and administration roles will be created.
Managing director of WEC Steve Hartley said: “This is a great deal for WEC and Optare since it allows both companies to focus on what they do best – Optare to build top quality buses and for us to fabricate the required range of structures in a controlled and highly efficient environment.”
Supply chain director at Optare Amanda McLaren said: “In planning our new Sherburn plant we had a unique opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper and re-design our entire build process – this led us to a very natural decision to outsource frame fabrication and concentrate on the much higher added value elements of the assembly process.”
Both companies expect a formal agreement to be signed by the end of this month.