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Forty years in business and Barnshaw Section Benders is still going strong

Barnshaw Section Benders

The Birmingham-based company’s services include section bending, tube bending, plate rolling, submerged arc welding, press braking and tee splitting as well as profiling and shearing.

Commercial director Greg North says that demand for its services is down on last year but work on several large construction projects will help it to achieve a turnover in line with expectation.

“We have been doing quite a lot of work on various venues for the Olympics,” North said. “There has been a lot of opportunity there so that has been quite good for us. Schools and colleges and hospitals have been the main area of growth on the structural side.”

Surviving numerous tough markets over the past four decades can be hard, but not if you have the right approach and attitude to the market. “This year we are 40-yearsold and the business has changed so much over that time that we look at ourselves as innovators rather than followers,” North said. “We have innovated differently and allowed certain structures to grow, certainly with the innovations that we have developed.

“So we tend to look for new markets rather than let them find us. That has been our real success story.”

Barnshaw’s growth has been impressive since 1969 but North and his team do not underestimate the problems that the current climate the company is operating in can bring.

“Of course it is tough now and everyone has to batten down the hatches and look after the costs. You have got to do that in business anyway. We are certainly a company that if we see a need for anything that needs investing we will do that.”

One particular area that Barnshaw has invested heavily in recently to help fight its way through the recession has been in new machines and technologies. During the past year it has not only focused on updating its equipment but to also provide the business with more capacity.

“We are always looking for extra capacity,” North said. “We are finding that, especially in structures, everything is getting bigger and larger. This new facility that we have got has boosted our capacity.”

One reason for this is that there was a time when engineering companies told architects what their limitations were, but now it is the other way around.

“We used to tell them what we can do but now if they can draw it then we have got to look at trying to bend it somehow. That is what we have done, invested in bending bigger, larger, tighter sections than ever before. So it gives the architect a little more licence.”

This investment in machinery has been funded by the company alongside a grant from Advantage West Midlands. “They are a big supporter of Midlands manufacturing and have given us substantial levels of support.”

Barnshaws has sites spread throughout the UK with branches in the West Midlands, Manchester and Hamilton. Each site has different bending facilities to meet the needs of its local markets.

The company has around 150 staff with 80 based in the West Midlands at its branches in Oldbury and Coseley.

The technology that Barnshaw uses for bending is the most advanced of its kind in the world. Its capacity in each of its specialist services covers the whole range from very small sections and thin plate up to huge sections 1000mm in size and plates up to 100mm thick. Its production system is modern and efficient so that small orders for two rings can run along side large multi million-pound call off orders.

Barnshaw meets all current environmental legislation and holds the ISO 9001 – 2000 standard. Almost all waste is re-cycled and absolutely no hazardous materials are used in its processes, which are continuously reviewed at board level.

Its objectives are set to continuously improve lead times, efficiency and reliability. Its current quality achievement is 99.6 percent accurate, a rate that far exceeds other suppliers of curved steel in the UK.

As North and his fellow directors look to the future they will be following the same path that the company has taken for the past forty years by looking to develop its methods of bending to help industry in general.

“When we first started the company a lot of business we had was for heating and ventilating, pressure vessels and general engineering,” North said. “Those sorts of things are still made in the UK, but at a far reduced level. Imports have increased from companies with lower manufacturing costs.

“So we needed to look at what our market is in this country and with structures being difficult to import that is where we have concentrated our efforts. Not forgetting manufacturing, of course you can’t. We are investing in new machines and key technology on that score.”

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