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Ray Smith Group order books at record levels



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 levels.

"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 sterling."

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 service."

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 schedules.

August 2001

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