New orders and returning customers have helped Hull-based manufacturer Paragon Toolmaking achieve its ‘best first quarter for many years’.
Managers of the 50-year-old business say they are also confident of maintaining momentum throughout 2021, believing there has been a ‘shift back to onshore manufacturing in the UK’, helping drive a significant increase in inquiries year on year.
Paragon Toolmaking was established in the city in 1969 and has become a world-leader in the design and manufacture of specialist press tools used in industries from aerospace and automotive to the construction, medical, food, pharmaceuticals and white goods sectors.
Its bespoke manufacturing tools are used in machines to produce essential parts for some of the world’s best known products and brands, from washing machines and boilers to cars including Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover and Ford.
It is a highly-specialist industry which has seen huge competition develop overseas in recent years – particularly the Far East – where press tools can be bought at cheaper rates.
But Kevin Batty, General Manager at Paragon Toolmaking, says he is confident his firm’s solid start to the year reflects a shift in which UK manufacturers are returning to onshore expertise and products in the wake of Brexit.
“Never has the reliability and quality of British manufacturing been more essential than now given the difficulties faced by all over the past couple of years,” he said.
“We have found that, despite all the debate around Brexit and its potential impact on UK business, demand for our products and expertise is increasing and we’ve had our best first quarter for many years.
“I think there is a collective new-found understanding that as a nation we have to compete with the low cost of the Far East through our quality and value, and that we need to support one another to do so.
“Our long-term customers have always known and appreciated the huge value we offer through our industry-leading expertise and toolmaking ability, but it has at times been difficult to establish new relationships in an environment where cost dictates so many decisions.
“Already this year we have taken orders from new customers, including some who we have actually spoken to and pitched to for business from in previous years. For them to come back to us now is really pleasing, and perhaps another indicator of manufacturers doing more business within the UK.”
Paragon places focus on customer service and support to stand out
Mr Batty says his firm has had to work ‘incredibly hard’ over the past decade to ensure it has been able to demonstrate the extra quality of its products and services to continue holding off rival companies from countries such as China, which often undercut on price.
He said: “Like many other specialist UK manufacturers, if all of our customers were to choose their suppliers on quality and price, we’d be top of the list.
“When decisions are made in boardrooms however, a quote a few thousand pounds lower from the Far East is hard to ignore. We’ve had to accept and not get into a position where we were selling ourselves short.
“It can be frustrating, but ultimately businesses take a huge risk by committing to spending thousands of pounds before tools are even produced overseas for them, and then having no technical support once tools are delivered to site.
“We have always provided a service whereby our customers are fully involved through design and production, and supported through installation and maintenance, only paying in full when the tool is in situ and operating as they want.
“Over the years we’ve refurbished and replaced many press tools for manufacturers who have bought cheap and then needed support. The tide seems to be turning now though and more people are selecting quality at the start. It is really encouraging.”
Paragon Toolmaking was bought by private investor Daniel Beaumont last year from previous owners the Pexion Group.
Mr Beaumont has experience of managing a successful UK business and was the sixth generation of his family to run Lancashire-based Beaumont Textiles, taking over the reins from his father Bill – famous for captaining England and the British Lions rugby union teams, and now Chairman of World Rugby. Daniel ran the business for eight years and eventually led it through sale.