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Kirkstall Precision lays out post-pandemic plans for success

2020 has been a tough year for Kirkstall Precision Engineering, but a meticulous approach for the future aims to build and enhance critical infrastructure.

Since they were established over 30 years ago, Kirkstall Precision Engineering has committed its skilled workforce to solving tomorrow’s problems today.

The Leeds-based company specialises in crafting high-quality products in fields ranging from medical and veterinary to aerospace and motorsports.

Once a small family-run business, Kirkstall Precision has since progressed to become a player on a global level following the appointments of Adam Thornton as Managing Director and Iqbal Bahia as Operations Director in 2018.

Explaining the progress of his five-year strategy to expedite Kirkstall Precision’s success, Iqbal said: “We had an excellent 2018, achieving near 30% growth, almost all of which came from the medical sector.

“We targeted a more conservative 10% growth in 2019, which we achieved, and the same for 2020. Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck.”

Challenges of COVID
The COVID-19 pandemic has had rippling effects across businesses in all sectors, and the impact on Kirkstall Engineering has been severe. With the majority of its manufacturing related to elective surgery procedures, many of which have been delayed due to social distancing measures, the company’s orders dropped by 50% almost overnight.

In response, Iqbal and his team made a revised 12-month plan and focused their efforts on supporting the government’s call for ventilator components, as well as securing work in other sectors such as general engineering and food and beverage.

“We were targeting double-digit growth in 2020,” said Iqbal. “But our primary goal was to create the infrastructure, the systems, the processes, the people and the technology to ensure our growth would continue long into the future.
“You can sit there and see your glass as half empty, or you can take a more positive view and embrace the opportunity to focus 100% of your efforts on improvement, rather than the 30% to 40% you’re typically able to give when the operation is at peak volume.”

Part of the company’s improvements to management systems and infrastructure has involved adopting award-winning material requirement planning (MRP) system Access FactoryMaster, made by The Access Group.

Making Improvements
Access FactoryMaster is designed specifically with small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) like Kirkstall Precision in mind. Whereas other systems can be too unwieldy and expensive, FactoryMaster provides greater visibility, predictability and control by improving production, inventory management, stock control, quality assurance and traceability.
“FactoryMaster is perfectly suited to the type of work we want to win, i.e. complex, highly regulated, in hard to penetrate markets that require a high degree of traceability,” Iqbal explained. “Furthermore, the system can scale in tandem with our operation as we continue to grow.”

Kirkstall Precision has already started rigorously testing the system prior to it going live at the end of this year.
Iqbal said: “Too often, businesses only scratch the surface of what these systems can do; we want to be different. We are determined to get the most out of FactoryMaster and then some.

“You’ll never find another business that is pushing this system as hard as we are. Indeed, we’ve paid for additional features to be added and we’ve a long list of ideas for future development and functionality.”

Optimism for the Future
As the world navigates out of the COVID-19 pandemic, Kirkstall Precision is confident that their efforts will help encourage recovery and growth for the company.

Iqbal hopes FactoryMaster will greatly increase the business’ productivity and efficiency, ready for the global market.
“The secret to winning new business is providing a potential customer with confidence,” he explained. “They already know you can manufacture the product, what they want to know is whether your processes and systems can deliver it on time, to the required level of quality, with no issues and with full traceability. That confidence is ultimately what FactoryMaster enables us to sell.”

As some local businesses have closed down, and others have been forced to make redundancies, Iqbal stressed how he hopes the new systems in place will reassure his workforce.

“It is also giving our employees confidence. This is a time of worry and uncertainty for everybody, so it’s fantastic to be able to offer our workers a reason to be optimistic for the future.

“The journey we’re on means that whatever the future may bring, be that opportunity or disruption, we’ll be in a stronger position to address it.”