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A growing melting pot

Ongoing high levels of orders, increased customer investment in new equipment and upgrades and a planned site expansion are keeping pulses racing at leading induction melting specialist Inductotherm Europe Ltd.

The current rate of investment from customers across both the UK and Europe has resulted in the Droitwich-based company needing to design and manufacture the same number of furnaces in the next five months as it would normally produce in a year. An extraordinary situation, surely? Not so, says managing director Steve Hill FICME: “Actually we have seen this level of orders for some time now. Last year was very good and the commitment from our customers has continued since the beginning of this year. We have 50 VIPâ systems to build in the next five months and we can see this trend continuing as more and more companies are looking for melting solutions that offer the latest in efficiency improvements and performance criteria.”

Rather than bemoan the situation Hill and the team at Inductotherm have responded with enthusiasm and are keen to maintain their position as a ‘supplier of choice’ for many foundries in Europe and beyond. What Hill calls “really good business levels” have enabled the company to go on the recruitment hunt with a 25 per cent increase in personnel, spread across all parts of the business, from engineers to shopfloor to management, in the past six months. “Having trained and competent personnel is vital for us and we have been focussed in our approach to ensuring we maintain the calibre of people who work for Inductotherm,” he tells Foundry Trade Journal.

Known for being able to satisfy melting solutions for a wide range of requirements, from small furnaces to larger, high power fully integrated melting systems, the current trend witnessed by the company includes an increase in the demand for large-scale vacuum furnaces for various OEMs and a large order for 13 furnaces for one customer in the solar industry.

The trend towards such large-scale requirements and an ever-present dilemma of space constraints has led to a planned expansion at the Droitwich headquarters. Acquiring the adjacent site, the company is now looking to expand the facilities over the next 18 months, to achieve a 30 per cent increase in size and to better facilitate the assembly of larger furnaces. “We achieve a great deal on our existing shopfloor but it is important to look to the future,” Hill says. “The new facility will enable us to include two 40t cranes and will make life much easier.”

The expansion is not confined to the UK, extra service engineers have been employed in Germany and the German facility has also moved to a new fully equipped workshop to enable the five engineers working there to undertake more projects.

A date with destiny for one man

A notable change at Droitwich is the welcoming of a Director of Operations to help steer the company. Ironically the man for the job already had a career-long relationship with Inductotherm and was quite simply, the ideal candidate. Having joined Inductotherm in the 1980s as an apprentice service engineer, John Allcock soon became acquainted with various forms of heating technologies, including induction of course. There was little chance that Allcock would do anything else from an early age, with his parents, his brother and his uncle all being engineers. Staying at the furnace manufacturer for five years and travelling the length and breadth of the UK and around Europe, Allcock made the not so distant move to Doncasters Precision Castings as a works engineer who progressed to senior roles where he became responsible for growing the organisation and putting in a great deal of investment over an 18-year period – including the installation of Inductotherm equipment.

Allcock’s career at Doncasters was interrupted for a three-year stint at Inductotherm group company Consarc as a service and installation manager before returning to Doncasters to continue his role to develop the company.

The road to a senior position at Inductotherm was surely destiny but it was an opportunity that Allcock was faced with at the start of 2018, following a life-affirming brush with illness. “I have spent my life in and around this company – on both sides of the fence, as an employee and a customer – so I feel that in many ways I am in a unique position,” he says. Clearly the advantages of his expertise and ability to see the company in many different guises is a skill that will help shape the future of Inductotherm Europe, especially at this crucial time of expansion and further development.

Not content to rest on his impressive pedigree, Allcock is fully aware of what he can bring to the table but also what is needed to stand the test of time in a dynamic industry. “We have to respond to growth rate as a manufacturing facility. I have extensive experience in lean manufacturing and managing change requires skill but it is a very important aspect of business life,” he says. “I have built a lot of facilities and completed many layout processes – this time of expansion is an ideal opportunity for us to improve efficiency and develop the business.”

The beauty for Inductotherm is there’s no need to teach Allcock the technological aspects of the business and the industry, he has lived and breathed it his whole life. “As I know the business I can focus my effort on what I can bring to the business.”

He is clear on what his intentions are: “I would like to bring my higher volume experience to the shopfloor at Inductotherm.”

Of course, the other bonus is that Allcock has spent much of his working life in and round the same location as Inductotherm and he has dealt with the same local authorities and utilities providers so he already has an insight into the inner sanctums of planning permission etc. and already has working relationships with local contractors and others in the vicinity. He is an ideal local man for a senior role in a global company.

More new faces

To help with ongoing recruitment drives and staff HR issues and manage the new data protection laws for Inductotherm, experienced supply chain manufacturing human relations specialist Andrea Popham joined the team early this year. “It is always challenging finding the right people,” she told Foundry Trade Journal. “Especially at a company like Inductotherm, where applicants might not have the exact skillset you require as this is a ‘learned’ one but we are focused on spotting potential and training new recruits to fit into our very experienced workforce.”

Popham is conscious that succession planning is important and that apprenticeships offer an opportunity to enable mentoring and knowledge transfer from the existing workforce to the next generation. However, she is also mindful of treading gently. “It is testament to this company that there are so many long service employees and this is something we are very proud of and are keen to encourage into the future.”

Following 31 years in industry in foundries and the supply sector, Benan Betik joined Inductotherm in December 2017 as an area sales manager. Responsible for sales in Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia and southern UK, Betik’s experience as a metallurgical and foundry engineer are serving him well. “I spent several years on the shopfloor so I have learned to look at what the customer expects,” he says. “I believe it is a privilege to come from industry, it enables me to understand the customers’ needs and their projections for future requirements. I value my background from the foundry and from sales. I believe it is the salesperson’s responsibility to understand the customer’s technical needs – I want to sell the solution and the right equipment is fundamental to this.”

Betik says he is “delighted” with the company culture at his new workplace. “I am very happy here and the customers are very complimentary. Investment is good in many of my regions and there is still plenty of scope. Most recently I have been particularly impressed with how sophisticated British foundries are.”

Contact: Inductotherm Europe Ltd. The Furlong, Berry Hill, Droitwich, Worcestershire WR9 9AH United Kingdom. Tel: +44 (0) 1905 795100, email: sales@inductotherm.co.uk web: www.inductotherm.co.uk