Senior figures in the business have begun to notice that, over the years, there has been a significant fall in the number of young people looking at attaining the skills required to work in sheet metal fabrication. This has gradually led to a widespread skills shortage within the industry.
“Add to that the nationwide uncertainty over Brexit and there’s a general doubt on the horizon for many businesses like ourselves,” explained Peter.
“That level of reservation throughout the industry is leaving firms like ourselves with an inability to fill order books.”
Anticipating a need to steer Hitherbest through what may be a difficult environment ahead, the look towards savings turned the management team’s focus upon efficiencies within the business particularly in terms of energy use.
Assisted by an advisor attached to Worcestershire County Council’s Business Energy Efficiency Programme (BEEP), Hitherbest received a grant of £17,000 to modify their powder ovens. The grant is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
The ovens, within the existing powder coating manufacturing line, now deliver an annual saving of £7,350 in energy bills, together with a cut of £7,400 in raw material costs.
The modifications included updating gas burners and variable speed combustion, improvements to the processes of the conveyors and paint application systems.
BEEP is a partnership between Worcestershire Councils, Herefordshire Council, Telford & Wrekin Council, Shropshire Council, Shropshire Chamber of Commerce and Herefordshire & Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce.
With support from BEEP, Hitherbest MD Peter Grant said the cash injections have made a real difference.
“The modifications have also reduced our impact from greenhouse gases by some 41.8 tonnes per year, but the difference hasn’t just been made financially or environmentally – we can see a noticeable improvement in product quality too,” he said.
“We’ve been very pleased to have been part of the BEEP project – it’s been very successful for us, and the improvements to our powder coating line allow us to be more efficient environmentally, both competitively and in terms of greater confidence in expanding our workforce.”
The reduction in raw material costs is a 20% reduction in powder usage from the improvements, resulting from the new processes.
The Business Energy Efficiency Programme offers free advice and up to 40% grant funding to businesses in Worcestershire and The Marches. It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.