Interview with Ray Hall

Ray Hall, managing director, HepcoMotion talks with Justin Cunningham

JC: What is the secret of keeping a successful business going in the face of changing market conditions? RH: In the 26 years that I've been at HepcoMotion, I have learned that It's not about knee jerk reactions. Of course it's only natural that manufacturers focus more attention on house-keeping issues when anticipating difficult times. HepcoMotion is no different in that regard. Rather than commit to a year long investment programme, we're now making continuous improvements based on quarterly performance and anticipated demand. It's prudent management. But continued investment in our processes, our products and our people is very much the priority here; and especially now. It's what brought us safely through the last recession and will continue to underpin our business. JC: What about the unit cost of a product? RH: Of course this is especially critical when business is tight. Indeed, for that very reason, many OEMs outsource the manufacture of their products to low labour cost countries. HepcoMotion, however, remains steadfastly committed to its 'local' British manufacturing base and there are several important reasons for this. First and foremost is the depth of skills of our people in both manufacturing and applications engineering. JC: What do you see as the key growth area for HepcoMotion? RH: Although the elements of linear motion remain the dominant part of our business, the growth area for us is the use of our linear products in gantry systems and special assemblies. Indeed, systems' build now accounts for between 10 to 15% of our total output and almost a fifth of our shop floor space is devoted to system assembly. We have anticipated and encouraged this demand and invested accordingly so that we have the flexibility even to accommodate last minute changes to customer specification. And it is the quality of our people that allow us to do this. As a result we remain fully committed to our apprentice scheme that grows year on year; currently we have eighteen. Speed of turn round is not just important at the manufacturing phase. The sales department's ability to create system layouts and transfer CAD drawings in minutes is now expected. It's all about making sure customers have everything they need to make decisions. These small differences can make a big impact. HepcoMotion has also actively grown its overseas markets and this diversity has certainly enhanced our strength, and will be a key factor in sustaining turnover in the coming months. For example, our commitment to 'local' manufacturing has now been replicated in Korea so that the dedicated engineering service we provide in the UK is also available to our Asian customers. Market diversity is another stabilising factor for us. As well as growing our business in the traditional automation, pharmaceutical and food processing sectors we continue to develop new markets. The burgeoning renewable energy market is an important new addition for us. Assessing and re-assessing your company's strengths against changing market demands is crucial to providing the momentum for business growth and the flexibility to ride the economic tide. It has always stood us in good stead and I am delighted to report that 2008 has been another record for us. Our business has grown by a further 10%. The culture of continued investment is certainly working at HepcoMotion.