Interview with Charles Maltby

Charles Maltby, technical and commercial director at Shearline Precision Engineering talks engineering economics with Justin Cunningham

JC: How is engineering, as an industry, affected by the downturn? CM: We know people in regulated industries, such as oil and gas, haven't seen any downturn at all. The trigger for that clearly is the legislation requirement. Those regulated areas need new and maintained equipment to continue, regardless of the economic outlook. Also, defence and aerospace don't really budget over a short time frame, so they are not going to struggle with what might be two years of bad numbers. But, clearly the automotive industry can't run production lines at lower rates. They are either running or not running. So, it makes more sense for them to stop, suspend or mothball operations and give the market a chance to recover. JC: What advice would you give to engineering and manufacturing companies at the current time? CM: Customer focus is one of those things that is often said but not very well applied. First and foremost, talk to your customer and understand what they really need; and how you can help their business model and add value to it. JC: Are you seeing manufacturing work returning to the UK as a result of the downturn? CM: A couple of our existing customers are already pulling work back from overseas into the UK. There is a lot of money tied up in goods during shipment. If it is going to take two to three months to bring something from the Far East then that all costs someone, somewhere in the supply chain. JC: Does this signal an opportunity for UK firms? JC: Companies need to be looking for opportunities. You need to be keeping your eyes open to what might be out there. Although circumstances may not be good economically at the moment, the right opportunity probably has the right market and right justification to look at an investment. To ignore the potential of those things and what that might mean for your business is a little foolish.