Birmingham-based Advanced Engineering has earned its place as a leading provider of multi-axis precision engineering solutions. Since 1978 it has provided quality cost-effective machining services to the automotive, motorsport, aerospace, defence business sectors. Managing Director Terry Pedley reflects on the last four decades and anticipates the next stage of growth.
How was the business established and what were those early years like?
I completed my apprenticeship but was very disillusioned with the prospect of spending decades working in the same tool room. I qualified for a ticket to Australia to embark on a new adventure. Six weeks before leaving, a friend told me he was setting up his own business and wanted me to join him.
We used another manufacturer’s premises in Hockley and I worked 7 nights a week. We eventually moved into our own premises, but those days were tough. We spent 25 years working hard for very little money as a third-tier manufacturer mostly working within automotive industry.
The business has survived two recessions over that period and has faced numerous challenges. Yet we’ve prospered by cutting our cloth accordingly when required , working hard to exploit new opportunities and continuing to invest.
What were the highlights of the last 40 years?
In 2000 a property developer offered to swap premises with us and we were able to move into our current larger and more modern facility.
Three years later, I bought out my partner which marked a real turning point. I was able to make my own decisions and steer the business in the right direction.
Up to this point we had been running a simple CNC machine’s and in 2005 I made the decision to purchase our first 5 Axis machine. That allowed the business to stand out from the competition and enabled us to really go up a gear. We could then handle much more complex work, more accurately and easily. There were very few small companies who had this type of equipment and it taught me the value of investing in plant, processes & people.
What have been some of the most interesting projects you’ve been involved with?
Around 2000 we began manufacturing walking frames for children with cerebral palsy which allowed them to stand and walk short distances. That was very satisfying work.
We’ve been lucky to form strong relationships with several key customers over the years. In 2003, for instance, we began working with Aston Martin and in the ensuing years have worked on their prototype cars, providing a variety of features for their show cars, from wheels to interior trim.
These days we’re helping several customers reduce the weight of their vehicles, this is essential now as this has a direct impact on efficiency and is especially important to improve the range of electric vehicles. We produce lightweight prototype & production parts such as Body in White aluminium castings, these include Suspension shock towers, battery trays and other key structural components. On the electric vehicle side we have also worked on numerous energy recovery systems. Along the more conventional automotive theme we also machine Cylinder Heads & Blocks, Turbo Housings, suspension arms, Oil & Fuel Pumps etc. both from castings and from solid. We are capable of machining most materials including aluminium, cast iron, stainless steel, titanium, engineering plastics and sintered components.
How has the world of engineering changed since the business was set up?
Things are totally different now. When I started it was all handles and spanners and today you use your brain and your finger to program computers. The industry has evolved into a much better art form, with better outcomes and cleaner environment. Engineering is now far more rewarding, both in terms of job satisfaction and pay.
What will it take to survive the next four decades?
My philosophy has always been to keep investing in Technology, Processes and People and that will be key to our future success. We now have 20 5-Axis machines and we can’t fit any more into the facility. It’s now a case of replacing older equipment with new. We’ve just taken delivery of a Mazak i-700 and another Mazak lathe which between them cost £400,000. We’ve spent over £3m on new machinery in the last 5 years and that momentum needs to continue.
Other recent investments include replacing all our lighting with LED lights which reduced our carbon footprint by 29 tonnes of CO2 per year and choosing a new ERP system which goes live in November.
Also, over the last 12 months I’ve put a lot of time into succession planning. I’ve got a management team in place who are in their early 40s, as well as my two children who also work within the Company. I’m now acting more as a mentor. We have grown to 35 employees and to address the skills shortage across the industry, we’re investing in the next generation, training up young apprentices to maintain a skilled workforce in the future.
The business will continue to evolve and search out new opportunities. We aim to grow by 10 to 15% a year & that would stand us in very good stead.