Peterborough-based Ray Smith Group - manufacturer of tail lifts and
demountable bodies for commercial vehicles - has received a series of
new contracts which has taken its forward order books to record
"We have enough work to keep us
busy for the next four or five months even if we take no new
orders," says joint managing director David Browning. "This
is a record order book for us. Orders generally tend to drop off at
this time of year."
Among the major customers which have
placed orders with the group over the past few weeks are Consignia
(formerly Royal Mail), Argos, Mothercare, Next, BMW, IKEA and Castrol.
The bulging order books are good news
for the group's 150-strong workforce at a time when much of the UK's
manufacturing industry is facing recession and job losses. Ray Smith
Group is struggling to recruit skilled workers and is running two
shifts with some shop floor operations to keep up with demand.
Mr Browning said: "We have
managed to keep a step ahead of the competition only by continuing to
invest and innovate. It is not easy to make a profit in manufacturing
industry in the UK at present, particularly when competing against
continental European firms with the current high value of
All Ray Smith Group's major
competitors are from continental Europe and, in order to cut costs,
the company has had to improve its efficiency. Last year it moved from
its former premises on Oundle Road to a new purpose-built £3 million
factory in Fengate. The relocation has enabled it to improve work flow
through the factory and bring all its operations under one roof
instead of having them spread over several buildings.
It has taken a lead in the industry by
introducing a three-year warranty on its tail lift products and a
365-day-per-year service operation, backed by 50 agents across the UK,
to maintain and service the equipment which it builds.
"We are never going to be the
cheapest manufacturer in the market, certainly not with current
exchange rates," says Mr Browning. "We therefore have to
compete on the quality of our product and the quality of our
The company uses sophisticated
computer-aided design systems to produce design innovations aimed at
reducing weight, improving safety and increasing efficiency. Many
components which it could buy from sub-contractors it manufactures for
itself in order to maintain control over quality and delivery