Zwick on a Roell

Testing machine manufacturer Zwick Roell moved into its new £1.4m technical centre in Brierley Hill, West Midlands last June. John Piller, managing director of Indentec, Zwick Roell’s hardness testing division, talks to The Manufacturer's James Pozzi about the move and the potential of the new facility.

The new facility opened in early June. What were the primary drivers behind moving?

John Piller, managing director of Indentec, Zwick Roell’s hardness testing division

Our existing facility couldn’t meet the requirements of where we wanted to be. We’d often show big customers around the site and did so with a hint of embarrassment, but not now. We purchased the building in the middle of February after an 18 month-two year exhaustive search of local premises. This was due to a lot of the real estate in the area being old and unsuitable for our requirements. We needed a facility where the proportion of office workshop was about one third office and two third workshop. We couldn’t find this. We could either find office units on a business park, or 90% workshop in a small 10% space for office. We then found the facility which was previously used by a construction company and after just a short time of looking around I felt we could really do something with it.

Where there many modifications required for the building, given it was inhabited previously by a construction firm?

After buying it we worked at two places so we were renovating this and putting the infrastructure in. It had a good existing IT and phone system in so we spent the months making it look clean. When the removal men arrived it took 10 working days to set up, purely down to the staff being very supportive. They knew what we were trying to achieve with bigger premises and product developments.

Talk us through the manufacturing processes at Brierley Hill and how you engage with suppliers in the region.

What we’re very good at is motivating local suppliers to give us good quality, delivery and prices. Anyone who tries to get work, whether in casting or machinery, needs to match these three parameters. We have 10-15 local companies that we’ve had good relationships with over many years, where they trust us and we trust them. We pay well and they deliver on us. Some of the parts and some of the prices we get, I don’t know how they do it. We put our faith in a number of local suppliers and let them do their work.

Are there any areas earmarked to improvement now the move has taken place?

Stock control is something we’re trying to learn more about. Now we are compartmentalised, where by different sections so all the stocks there, I feel we’re getting a much better control of our stock. This is from the value to item by item. We have a good stock control system, but it’s only as good as the information we put in. I don’t feel we are doing that very efficiently right now. But generally speaking, we are improving because of this facility giving us better visual visibility of our stock levels. We can see straight away where we are short of parts and address this.

The new facility also exists on a site with potential for expansion. Can you foresee this happening in the near future?

In the next year certainly. But for this to happen, new product development is key. We have new and existing competitors always delivering new products. We’ve also got them but that process is escalating, so our competition is both price, technology and reputation. We have to have new products, and we’re looking at doubling the business here by 2016, and two and a half times by 2018. Given our links to suppliers in the region, it’s a simple case of if we grow, they will grow. If we had stayed where we were, we had no room for growth, taking people on, stock or product development. Now we have plenty of room within this building and expansion across the site.

An overview of The Manufacturer’s recent visit to the site will be available in the October issue of the magazine.