Xtrac’s notable 30th anniversary achievements include the company being crowned Manufacturer of the Year and its director, Peter Digby recognised as Entrepreneur of the Year.
Xtrac, the UK’s developer of motorsport transmissions and drive-train technology, has celebrated its most successful year ever, reaching significant milestones throughout its 30th anniversary, with increasing business in Argentina, Brazil and China, and exports approaching 70% of its total sales revenue.
Xtrac’s anniversary got off to a great start last year, when the company welcomed its first ever Royal visitor to its Berkshire headquarters, where HRH Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, met some of the 280 employees, including managing director Peter Digby, who had just been named as the Institute of Directors’ Global Director of the Year. The Duke of Kent was visiting Xtrac to recognise its ongoing export achievements and acknowledge its accomplishments in apprentice and undergraduate training.
Fast forward 12 months and the company simultaneously took home three major TM Awards: the Manufacturer of the Year award, as well as the Leadership and Strategy and Medium Sized Enterprise of the Year awards. Peter Digby is also listed in The Manufacturer’s inaugural Top 100 Most Influential People in UK Manufacturing, which shines a light on the inspirational people making a valued contribution to the UK manufacturing sector. Meanwhile, at the CBI supported Growing Business Awards, Peter Digby is proclaimed ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’.
“I was deeply honoured to receive these awards on behalf of each and every employee,” said Digby. “Everyone at Xtrac is a shareholder so everyone has a vested interest in seeing the company succeed. I just wish it had been possible for everyone to join me – though we did manage to get 10 of us onto the stage to receive The Manufacturer of the Year award.”
For the prestigious manufacturing awards, established 16 years ago, Xtrac was competing with finalists from nearly every sector of the UK’s flourishing manufacturing industries; comprising automotive, food and drink, engineering, defence contractors, speciality steel, aerospace, beauty products, medical technology, precision components and more besides.
“Receiving the manufacturing awards is a significant achievement,” says Xtrac’s technical director Adrian Moore, who also attended the ceremony. “The 80 companies nominated were all world class businesses located in the UK, including household names such as BAE Systems, Siemens, Rolls-Royce aero engines, Babcock and GE. Xtrac is a smaller company, but representative of the SMEs that generate a significant proportion of the UK’s economic revenue and employment opportunities.”
“The judges were looking for businesses that truly represent British manufacturing achievements,” says Xtrac’s development director Cliff Hawkins. “Our ongoing investment in new machines and training, our award winning apprenticeship and undergraduate schemes, our employee share ownership scheme, as well as our full order book and strong product range, clearly impressed them.”
Winning the UK’s top manufacturing award, underscores yet again Peter Digby’s business leadership qualities, further emphasised when he was also named Entrepreneur of the Year at the 16th Growing Business Awards. These similarly prominent longstanding awards, supported by the CBI in association with Lloyds Bank, secure more recognition for Peter Digby’s efforts in taking Xtrac to a global market.
“The judges particularly commended our employee share ownership scheme, and the fact that we are a British manufacturing business with significant offshoots in the USA, with our global exports consistently approaching 70% of total sales revenue,” commented Digby, who again dedicated his award to all Xtrac staff on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Growing Business Awards were judged by 25 business leaders ranging from serial entrepreneur Alex Chesterman, who set up Zoopla and Lovefilm, to Stephen Welton, chief executive of the bank-backed £2.5bn Business Growth Fund.
“Receiving these awards is testament to the hard work and dedication of everyone at Xtrac, and our success as a company is a direct result of these efforts by every employee,” says Xtrac’s financial director Stephen Lane. “We have been judged against the best British manufacturing companies, and should be justifiably proud. With this recognition, our loyal customers and, most importantly, everybody working together, we are set to have another great year in 2015.”
Visits to 10 Downing Street
Other highlights of 2014 include Peter Digby being invited recently to 10 Downing Street to meet Prime Minister David Cameron, as part of a group organised by the Institute of Directors. Coming just prior to the Chancellor making his Autumn Statement, Digby used the opportunity to suggest that it would help to grow the SME sector, and its contribution to the economy, if the government could ease the administrative burden of employee-owned companies.
“I believe something will happen soon,” said Digby. “Meanwhile, I’m pleased to see that the government is supporting businesses that employ apprentices, especially young apprentices, by abolishing national insurance payments. Moreover, the new government-backed student loans of up to £10,000 for young people undertaking a post-graduate Master’s degree will also be helpful, as this higher qualification is set to become a new benchmark for the high calibre professional engineers we need in our hi-tech industry.”
Peter Digby wasn’t the only Xtrac employee to meet the Prime Minister this year. Xtrac apprentices, Chris Burn, Tim Plows and Jamie Rusbridge, were invited to join former motor racing champions Sir Stirling Moss OBE and Sir Jackie Stewart OBE at a reception to celebrate Britain’s highly successful motorsport industry. They joined students undertaking apprenticeships with Lotus F1 and Williams F1, alongside other motorsport teams from the UK’s ‘Motorsport Valley’.
“British motorsport is leading the world, and Lewis Hamilton’s F1 Championship success is just the latest example,” said Cameron. “Backing this £9bn a year industry, which supports many thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs, is a crucial part of our long term economic plan to rebalance the economy. That is why I am delighted to celebrate the success of British motorsports and its contribution to the economy at 10 Downing Street, including meeting some of the apprentices who will design and build the cars that will be driven by more British F1 winners in the future.”
Other Xtrac apprentices meanwhile had the opportunity to meet HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO, who visited Newbury College in Berkshire, where they study for their engineering qualifications. Automotive companies exhibiting alongside Xtrac for this Royal visit included the Oxfordshire-based Williams F1 team, which also works closely with Newbury College on its apprenticeship programme.
Over the years, Xtrac has mentored almost one hundred apprentices, trainees and undergraduates to successfully enter the world of high performance, world class engineering. It has other close links to the Berkshire community, especially the local schools, who regularly bring along schoolchildren to visit the company, which helps encourage them into a career of engineering and technology.
Major capital expenditure enhances manufacturing performance
Xtrac’s annus mirabilis is underscored by an investment of £3.5m in new machinery, as part of its ongoing capital investment programme. This includes an Ipsen vacuum bright temper furnace, while a Kapp VX59P gear grinder substantially increases Xtrac’s capacity for internal and external gear grinding, complementing the four existing machines that are the backbone of its precision gear manufacturing capability.
Other manufacturing investments include an Okuma LM300 Lathe, Studer S31C and Jones & Shipman Ultramat universal grinders, Xtrem and Xtec polishing machines, and a Pfauter P400 gear hobber. Enhancements to the factory layout, to improve product throughput and machine utilisation have been implemented, and in parallel with the machine tool procurements, more than 20 additional staff positions, mostly highly qualified machinists, have been created this year, with nine more positions anticipated for the shop floor in 2015.