By Chris Ford, Managing Director at Ford Aerospace.
Covid-19 placed immense pressure on all aspects of manufacturing, from supply chain challenges to unstable and unpredictable demand. It has, though, created opportunities for manufacturers that can offer agile, low-volume outputs, explains
At Ford Aerospace, the impact of the pandemic gave us the opportunity to play to some of our key strengths, such as agility, adaptability and customer care. Like other companies, we have used the slight dip in activity to make operational improvements, implementing more training and identifying areas of the business we want to improve.
For the manufacturing sector, there is now a big focus on recovery and opportunity, and we have a significant role to play in supporting businesses in these areas.
While many companies view low-quantity production runs as an unnecessary headache: many companies are just not structured to process low quantities economically and there is a widely-held belief across the industry that low-volume production of parts doesn’t generate enough of a margin to be profitable.
However, that is an area in which we have really been able to differentiate ourselves over the years. At Ford Aerospace, we are not only prepared to handle low volume manufacturing, but we have spent time to adapt our technologies to make our products more cost-effective.
Recent years have seen an increasing appetite for low-volume manufacturing (LVM) and I have every reason to believe that this is going to continue for at least the next decade.
Right now, we’re seeing demand for even more bespoke products throughout the supply chain, from OEMs to end-users. Therefore, we know we can respond to this new requirement.
Our core capabilities mean that we offer a diverse range of services to customers – no matter how big or small a job is and it has proved a powerful catalyst for growth. We can produce customer designed products to the aerospace and defence industry in quantities ranging from single items to large batches of 50,000.
We now produce a huge range of precision machined, pressed and laser-cut components as well as Ford-branded Easipeel laminated products for a range of different businesses within the supply chain. We have even developed a unique method of producing thin gauge shims through our low-cost tooling capability.
Ford Engineering has worked with many UK-based companies on this basis to produce high precision laminate shim components for OEMs. We have a tried and tested methodology that has resulted in a strong reputation in the industry for producing first-class components and mechanical assemblies at an affordable price.
It’s not just about whether we can get an OEM a part though, it’s what’s actually best for their needs. We know OEMs want what’s right for a project, so we are always searching for new ways to tackle manufacturing issues and take pride in delivering an attractive solution.
With low-volume manufacturing set to increase in importance, and as the number of businesses asking for this type of work rises, I think we’re going to see a trend towards a more high-speed bespoke supply chain in the next few years and more personalised manufacturing.
This is something we have been doing successfully for four decades because we know our customers want products that are customised and delivered to them as quickly as possible.
Manufacturing products for other markets and building alliances with new companies is nothing new to us, but in the current climate it’s more important than ever to be able to find opportunities.
Our approach has always been to simply talk to customers to identify where they have needed help as a route to finding new business. From an industry recognition standpoint, our family-run business has received several accolades over the years. The uptick in the popularity of our services always comes down to own thing – the customer relationships we have fostered.