Welsh skills accelerate growth for international brake makers Braking systems are the business of South Wales-based Continental Teves, but, when it comes to growth, this dynamic firm has its foot firmly on the accelerator. Despite the recession, this longestablished company, located at Ebbw Vale, has continued to build its market share and win prestigious contracts to design and manufacture brake callipers for many top-of-the-range vehicles. Its client list reads like a Who’s Who of the world’s luxury car manufacturers, including names such as Bentley, BMW, Daimler, Jaguar, Land Rover and Rolls Royce. As it has refined and expanded its product range, the firm has consolidated its position among these high-profile brands. Since restructuring the business in 2009 to focus on niche and high performance products, turnover has doubled to £42m, and plans are in place to take this to £50m over the next few years. As part of this strategy, staff numbers have increased from approximately 100 in the downturn to 165, and are set to rise higher. Having set up in Wales in 1974, the business has been through many phases of development,
effectively reinventing itself on more than one occasion to reflect radical changes in the fastmoving automotive industry. Managing Director and Plant Manager at Ebbw Vale, Mark Langshaw, is in no doubt what has sustained the operation through these periods of change. He credits the capabilities, flexibility and adaptability of a highlyskilled workforce drawn from this traditional manufacturing heartland.
high-specification production, so the skill and knowledge of the workforce is key.” The company has worked hand in hand with the Welsh Government to ensure those skills are kept bang up-to-date to meet the needs of the market.
In fact the firm made excellent use of the government-backed ProAct funding programme during the early part of the recession in order to hold onto skilled He said: “South Wales is a very staff, despite market pressures, good place for niche manufacturing and to invest in upgrading because of the skill base here. their skills at the same time. We focus on low-volume,
Continental Teves, part of the worldwide Continental AG, has collaborated closely with government since first arriving in Wales 39 years ago. Initially the company received funding support for its capital investment at Ebbw Vale and, since then, has worked with the public sector in a variety of different ways to strengthen its business. As well as assistance to train its people to the highest level – including degree level qualifications – the firm has also received backing to introduce innovations to its processes and become leaner and more efficient by implementing systems such as 6 Sigma. Said Mark, who has worked at the company for the last eight years and been Plant Manager since 2009: “New skills have allowed us to move into new markets. For example we’ve converted equipment to allow for aluminium brake manufacture as well as our traditional cast iron brake callipers. That has enabled us to widen our portfolio and brought in work from major manufacturers.” He added: “The key to us being here is the high skill base which comes from this being a traditional manufacturing area. We have very high quality performance and
very low absence levels. In terms of quality we have only 2 rejects per one million parts which is best in class for the automotive sector. We’ve sustained it at that level for years, but are working hard to reduce it lower.” Continental Teves has also benefited from a good working relationship with local universities. For example, a project team from the firm worked together with MBA students from the University of South Wales at Newport to source a supplier for a new process to apply coating to brake callipers. This ultimately led to a cost saving of £100,000. The firm is located at the heart of the newly designated Enterprise Zone for the automotive industry in Wales. The Welsh Government’s strategy is to encourage other firms like Continental Teves and automotive supply chain companies of every tier to set up and flourish there.
Said Mark: “We want to continue to grow the business, and South Wales is a good place to do that. The region definitely has a role to play in the future of the automotive industry. There is a great pride in this plant.”
For more information contact the Welsh Government. Email: email@example.com Tel: +44 (0)3000 6 03000 Web: wales.com/business
WG18862 / G/MH/4833 / 1213 / © Crown copyright 2013