Construction industry fuels Laystall Engineering revival

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The revival of the construction industry has helped transform the fortunes of Wolverhampton-based Laystall Engineering. The company, which dates back to 1903, expects its turnover to return to pre-recession levels in the current financial year. Laystall in Dixon Street is continuing to win new orders and is stepping up recruitment again.

The company, which has been at its present site since the 1950s, is now one of the largest privately-owned hydraulics businesses in the UK specialising in the manufacturing of hydraulic cylinders and cylinder linings. Laystall was originally founded in Laystall Street in London and has had an operation in Wolverhampton since 1940. It was originally best known for making crankshafts and engine cylinder liners and it moved into hydraulics in the late 1970s when it bought the former Trucoze Engineering business in Old Hill. Hydraulic cylinders, which it makes in a wide range of bore sizes and up to 5.5 metres in length, now make up more than 90 per cent of its orders.

Managing director Martin Bowers, who has been with the business for 28 years and has been MD since 2002, said that Laystall valued its dedicated, skilled and committed workforce. The current 63-strong team at its 85,000 sq ft factory has more than 700 years service in total and 14 have worked for the company for more than 20 years. “We have a lot of people who have contributed massively to the company and put in many years,” he said, The company’s longest-serving employee George Wall, who was team leader in assembly, retired last month after 41 years service. He joined Laystall at its old Bilston site in 1972 and moved to Dixon Street in the early 1980s. Long service awards were also made this month to production manager Lee Haden, who has completed 30 years, and divisional accountant Eddie Flood with 25.

Laystall has taken on six more staff in the last two months and is now planning to take on another four experienced staff, including machinist setters and welders, and is looking at recruiting apprentices as well. “We have now come out of the doldrums,” said Mr Bowers. The company’s biggest customer is Staffordshire digger giant JCB for which Laystall supplies the cylinders for the boom on its loadall vehicles and some ancillary parts. “The recovery of JCB so strongly on the back of exports has helped us. We are integral to what they do and when they grow we grow,” added Mr Bowers. Laystall also supplies Caterpillar, Niftylift, Versalift, Wolverhampton-based Oldbury and Ingimex, Telford. “Most of our business is in the lifting gear and construction equipment sector and the future is looking very strong now. We are extremely busy at the moment and that looks to be sustained to the end of the year,” said Mr Bowers. He said that the pic up in the construction industry in the UK and around the world was at the core of Laystall’s return to growth.

“When the construction industry takes a dive it takes everyone with it. We are now seeing growth in construction which is following increasing GDP. Providing GDP continues to rise we can be optimistic about the future. “In the recession we saw our turnover halved in two years and it fell to as low as £3.3 million in 2009. “We began to recover and by 2013-2014 had reached £7.7m. We are now on course to top £10m in 2014-2015 – back to the pre-recession level,” explained Mr Bowers. Despite the downturn Laystall continued to invest at an average of £250,000 a year. Last year it added twin machining centres and other new equipment has included a seven-axis CNC lathe and a co-ordinate measuring machine.

Sales and marketing executive John Miller said that Laystall has also invested in equipment including test rigs and filters to ensure that its cylinders met major customers JCB and Caterpillar’s expectations for cleanliness. Each cylinder now undergoes continuous monitoring and testing to ensure there is no particle contamination and is delivered in pristine condition. Laystall has also brought in a continuous improvement engineer with the brief of improving both efficiency and quality. “We now have the best standard of cleanliness in the hydraulics industry,” added Mr Miller.

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