CEO, Richard Westley discusses how Fablink remains competitive with MEM Magazine
Fablink Group, a tier one manufacturer supplying steel and aluminium products to global OEMs, specialise in the manufacture of metal pressings, operator cab assemblies, fuel and hydraulic tanks and complex structures as well as ‘clean build’ of vehicle assemblies. They have built a strong reputation in delivering comprehensive design and manufacturing solutions to some of the world’s largest OEMs within the automotive, truck, off-highway, power generation and material handling industries. Although originally established with an Indian supply chain at its core, the firm has since grown and evolved with the market, shifting focus to the UK and evolving into one of the industry’s most respected manufacturers. At present, the firm has operations across Luton, Northampton, Brixworth, Wolverhampton, Bishop Auckland and County Durham, encompassing circa 500,000 square feet of manufacturing space and a workforce of around 600.
To remain competitive in the market, a key area of focus for the Fablink Group has been investment back into its infrastructure, its people, and its technologies; even throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the company has been resolute in the importance of continued investment. Regarding the adoption of new technologies, this investment is split between investments into core manufacturing capabilities and equipment, as well as the adoption of robotics and automation systems to complement the skills of its workforce and create opportunities elsewhere in the business.
Richard Westley, CEO of the Fablink Group explained: “We’ve been investing into our core processes. In terms of part production, we run a fleet of around 12 laser cutting machines (2D and 3D) and have invested over the last 24 months in fibre cutting technology. We have spent a lot of money, over £2m on our last 3 machines alone, in laser technology as we’re always seeking to keep our fleet up to date for what is a core process to us. We’re always investing into automation as well, such as robotic assembly systems and in the automation of our press brake capability.”
Alongside regarding increased automation as an important step for the company, the Fablink Group also gives recognition to its workers and regards them as equally important to the company’s future. In accordance with this, the firm has plans to scale up its recruitment efforts and bring new talent into the business as workloads rise, with apprenticeships constituting one of the firm’s primary strategies for developing the next generation of talent for the business. This is a strategy which has paid off for the firm to-date and one which it plans to continue evolving.
On the relationship between investments into automation and the people within the business, he added: “Automation, when deployed in the right way, increases facility efficiency and the consistency of process, therefore having a positive impact on quality and control. It is an important aspect to have a stable production environment. But the big thing for us is that we put a lot of emphasis on our apprenticeship scheme across the group and have more than 25 apprentices across the group. The team has also done very well in terms of awards and we have had very good recognition of our scheme which is something we want to continue investing in going forward.”
Alongside organic growth of the business, the Fablink Group has also expanded through acquisition as means of bringing new capabilities and expertise into the company. Acquired last year, Toolspec was one such acquisition which has since brought its 60 years of experience in tubular manipulation, robotic and manual welding of complex assemblies, and tooling design and manufacture into the Fablink Group. Not only did the acquisition reportedly broaden the group’s customer base, but it also served to enhance its manufacturing capability, enabling a broader range of client services and presenting significant opportunity for vertical integration.
Following a rebrand at the start of the year, the Fablink Group now operates under a refreshed brand, including a new corporate website to better communicate with customers and the vision of “building the future”. During the past year, the firm’s establishment of enhanced digital infrastructure has proven vital in deepening relationships with existing clients and developing new opportunities throughout the pandemic, with the firm looking to leverage this infrastructure and its new vision to take the market by storm in 2021, once market conditions begin to normalise.
In particular, the Fablink Group has its sights set on developing opportunities within the emerging EV market, where it can offer competitive solutions due to its ability to not only work with different metals such as steel and aluminium, but also a range of assembly techniques and products, particularly bonded aluminium structures. We look forward to reporting further on the company’s success within this market as demand continues to rise in line with the government’s focus on reducing carbon emissions across the country.
Article written and edited by MEM Magazine and Ciaran Jarosz Media. To view the magazine click here