The agency that builds the agency that builds your automobile

Land Rover, a B&P shopper, lately opened a brand new manufacturing facility for the Discovery in Slovakia
Behind the scenes at Beck & Holitzer - essentially the most profitable British automotive enterprise you’ve by no means heard of

If you wish to know what state the world’s automotive business is in, ask the boss of the corporate that installs lots of its manufacturing traces and strikes its factories across the globe. 

“Since 2014, our annual turnover has doubled: from £60 million in 2014 to £120m in 2018,” says Andrew Hodgson, CEO of Beck & Pollitzer. “Half of that progress has come from the automotive sector. The UK is our greatest single market however, inspired by the nation’s booming financial system and the prospect of commerce tariffs, we’re increasing our operations from the Carolinas and Nevada within the US, and likewise throughout Europe, and into Turkey and India.” 

Beck & Pollitzer? You'll have seen its title on the perimeters of these large cellular cranes which can be drafted in for significantly heavy lifting. For instance, it was a B&P crane that, in 2011, put the masts again onto the Cutty Sark throughout its restoration and, in 2005, a fleet of B&P cranes that hoisted the escalators and lifts into Heathrow Terminal 5. 

It’s been lifting, transferring and storing issues for 155 years; since 1863, the truth is, when the corporate was based by Sigismund Pollitzer and John Beck. Over the course of the following 100 years, its cranes, wharfs and warehouses got here to dominate the banks of the Thames in Southwark, London. 

B&P was on the coronary heart of the UK’s post-war rebuilding effort, making certain machines and supplies obtained to the place they wanted to be. In 1985, it moved into automotive, putting in the brand new physique and press outlets at Nissan UK. 4 years later, it put in a 5000-tonne Hitachi Zosen press at Rover Group’s Longbridge plant. Over the course of the following 20 years, it labored with most of Europe and Japan’s automobile makers, together with with Toyota on the development of its new Burnaston plant, and with BMW at Hams Corridor and when the agency relocated its Mini and Rover 75 physique outlets. 

Extra lately, in 2013, it put in a significant new meeting line for Jaguar Land Rover and an EV battery manufacturing line within the north-east. Within the US, it’s putting in a brand new battery line for a significant EV producer. Through the subsequent few years, the corporate plans to increase its automotive operations globally. 

“Facelifts and mannequin adjustments are our bread and butter however, within the coming years, it will likely be electrification and the brand new fashions, drivelines, battery vegetation and supplies which comply with that can assist drive our enterprise,” says Hodgson. 

“The entire provide chain might be reworked by the journey from the inner combustion engine to electrification and we’ll be there, finding and putting in.” 

After all of the gloom and doom being generated by Brexit, it’s heartwarming to be within the presence of such an ideal British success story. B&P employs 800 folks plus 1000 contractors throughout 23 workplaces in 18 nations, from the US to Russia. It has long-established relationships with most of the world’s automobile makers. With their suppliers, too, hauling and putting in manufacturing line equipment for the likes of Comau (manufacturing line techniques), Komatsu (presses, and milling and sheet steel machines) and Aida (stamping presses). 

“Putting in the 150-tonne ‘crown’ on the highest of a press, 10 metres excessive, requires the talent and tools only some corporations reminiscent of ourselves possess,” says Hodgson. “We’re doing precisely that job in Russia in the meanwhile, solely it’s sophisticated by the truth that we’re having to take away the outdated crown first…” 

That is the second time I’ve met B&P’s boss. The primary was just a few weeks in the past at South Mimms service station on the M25 after I was reporting on the Tesla Superchargers situated there. Hodgson had arrived in his Tesla Mannequin S, contemporary from Heathrow and the US the place he had simply clinched a cope with a significant European automobile maker to put in its new meeting line at its plant within the Carolinas. 

Intrigued, I promised I’d meet up with him to listen to extra about what should certainly be one of many greatest and most vital UK automotive companies you’ve by no means heard of. 

“It’s irritating,” he tells me when ultimately we meet at B&P’s Dartford HQ. “Automotive producers do prefer to hold their playing cards near their chest, so we don’t speak about particular contracts and prospects.” 

Such is the aggressive nature of the auto business; one which features on paper-thin margins, split-second timing and shock. 

“It’s a high-pressure world and we’re proper in the midst of it, between provider and contractor,” says Hodgson. “If we’re as little as one hour late commissioning a manufacturing line, there’s an enormous price implication. 

“As soon as the road is up and operating, a B&P staff will usually stay completely on web site, making certain that any adjustments to manufacturing equipment will be made with as little interruption as doable.” 

Set up begins with the corporate’s surveyors figuring out the exact location of equipment fixings on the manufacturing facility ground with a laser positioning instrument. The result's an correct set up template that, if essential, will be duplicated at one other web site, presumably on the opposite facet of the world, ought to the manufacturing facility must be relocated. 

“Naturally, we like factories with a lot of doorways,” says Hodgson. “Getting the transferring and set up sequence proper is essential – you don’t need to be lifting an enormous press excessive of an meeting line – and having quite a few entry factors provides us larger flexibility.” 

B&P might have sturdy world connections however there are nonetheless some locations it fears to tread. “Industrial practices in some components of the world will be difficult,” says Hodgson. 

A few of these practices can embrace leaning on B&P’s challenge managers to trim their well being and security budgets. 

“Doing the type of work we do, we received’t take possibilities with well being and security, and push again on any shopper who asks us to,” says Hodgson. “One harm is one too many.” 

I couldn’t agree extra. The considered that 150-tonne crown touchdown on my toe makes my hair curl.

JOHN EVANS

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