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Warwick researchers transform metal bashing Birmingham SME into global high tech car window supplier

Birmingham based small manufacturer Strip Tinning celebrates its 50th Anniversary in January. For many of those 50 years it was a traditional metal bashing industry churning out high volumes of low profit copper for the roofing industry. However, with help from business and technology advisers from the University of Warwick, Strip Tinning has now been transformed into a global supplier of components for high technology car window suppliers. Just this month it has signed two new deals to supply a Chinese car manufacturer and the US military vehicles with their products.

The first new deal is with Xinyi in China to provide busbars for their heated car windows - a deal expected to be worth half a million pounds a year to Strip Tinning. This month has also brought the company a major breakthrough into the US market with a contract to supply materials to military spec for heated windows for the new US military Hummer (HMMWV). Strip Tinning's components will help create 48,000 military spec heated windows a year for this vehicle.

These latest deals are just the latest step in the company's transformation from a traditional metal bashing making large sections of copper and copper coated with tin for sale to mostly UK and German companies at very low margins - (around 15%). They prided themselves on being able to make the biggest tinned copper sections and typically produced huge rolls of copper coil for telecoms and coated copper for roofing.

The company was keen to try and branch out to more high margin, high tech products but needed direction as to how to move the business forward and they turned to Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick for help. That help was funded by the DTI in a two year Knowledge Transfer Partnership scheme led by Dr Charles Tennant at the University of Warwick's Warwick Manufacturing Group.

The scheme gave the management of the company a clear direction focusing them on: quality procedures, more automation of their processes, and encouraging them to move away from labour and materials intensive sales to UK customers at low margins to more high tech products sold at much higher margins on a global basis. They established a vision to become "the highest value added producer of hot dipped tinning". They also became one of a very few SMEs in UK to get new ISO/TS 16949 - a requirement to even get considered for business with multinationals such as Ford. The scale of transformation of the company is extraordinary:
  • Turnover up from £1 million a year to 3 million

  • Pricing up by 61%

  • Sales exports up from 19% of turnover to 86% of Turnover

  • Wastage down from 35 metric tons a month to less than 0.5 metric tones a month

  • Highly skilled and motivated wages for 18 staff up around 50% on average

  • Dropped from 150 customers to 20 high value customers

  • Dropped from 300 suppliers to 12

  • 50% of Ford's vehicles in Europe have a heated window built with Strip Tinning materials

  • Now fully automated machines with no unplanned downtime. Overtime within just 2%

The company is not content simply to rest there it has detailed plans for further manufacturing innovations. The company has just ordered new equipment to allow them to create high specification tinned copper components for photovoltaic systems (solar power cells) which is a potentially enormous market with the vast growth in interest in these technologies as an alternative to carbon emitting power generation. Strip Tinning also hope very soon to get the ISO 14001 environmental management standard as their manufacturing processes are now so clean.

For further information please contact:

Richard Barton, Managing Director Strip Tinning
0121 457 7675 Mobile 0776 8172430
Arden Business Park, Arden Road, Frankley, Birmingham B45 0JA

Dr Charles Tennant, Warwick Manufacturing Group
University of Warwick, 07930 277529

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager, Communications Office, University of Warwick,
024 76 523708 email:

PR85b PJD 30th November 2006