What a difference three years make. In the depths of the recession, Coleshill pressworker Sertec announced 170 job cuts, wage reductions of 16 per cent, short-time working and job sharing to combat the downturn.
A major problem was that they were reliant on Jaguar Land Rover for 70 per cent of their turnover. And we all remember JLR’s precarious plight in the early months of 2009.
There had been voluntary redundancy programmes, an agreement on a two-year wage freeze and appeals to then Business Secretary Peter Mandelson for Government assistance.
But Sertec’s difficulties in the downturn have become solutions in the post-recessionary days of 2012. Jaguar Land Rover are born again, with export drives to China, India and Russia paying handsome dividends.
On the back of the JLR metamorphosis – and other judicious business strategies – Sertec now employs around 700 people, with three plants in the West Midlands, and other bases in Estonia and China.
The firm’s turnover has doubled since 2009. Today Sertec is the largest independent pressworker in the UK, exactly 50 years after founder Harry Mosedale launched the firm as a metal-bashing operation in Aston after borrowing half a crown.
The icing on the cake for this most durable of companies was its accolade last year as Jaguar Land Rover’s top supplier worldwide, from a total of 1,200.
But whilst Sertec goes from strength to strength, its UK toolmaking supply base has withered on the vine. In 2002, 90 per cent of its toolmaking requirements were fulfilled in the UK.
Today that percentage has switched to China, and Sertec is looking to the Far East superpower where once it looked to its own backyard. Group managing director Grant Adams says the firm would prefer to buy in the UK, but must deal with the realities of the marketplace.
The Sertec story marks a metaphor for the UK’s ever-shrinking manufacturing base. If you get your products and quality right, and you meet the demands of your customers, you can grow, even in these straitened times. Sertec aims to create 100 new jobs over the next 18 months, a figure that speaks volumes.
But there’s also a telling irony at the heart of recent Sertec history, with the firm now forced to buy Chinese in order to supply parts to its biggest customer JLR, itself the UK’s biggest exporter to.....guess where? China.