For the first 25 years of Die-Pat’s existence it relied on its own manufacturing capabilities. Founded by Ben Lee and Kath Gleghorn back in 1966, the company specialises in supplying catering equipment, hardware and plumbing components.
However, the evolution of not only Die-Pat, but also the wider business world, with a rise in more cost-effective offshore manufacturing opportunities and economical transportation costs, meant that it made real business sense for the component firm to outsource its manufacturing operations.
MD Eddy Edwards said: “To ensure we remained competitive while still giving our customers the best products on the market, it was the right decision for us to outsource our manufacturing. We finished manufacturing back in 1999 and the business went from strength-to-strength, expanding our product offering and growing our very loyal customer base.”
The firm began in Coventry, making legs, inserts and brackets. Now the Die-Pat group of companies, which includes Die-Pat Divisions and Vantage Products, is based in the 48,000ft2 Die-Pat Centre in Daventry, Northamptonshire, and is one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the area.
At the heart of the group’s ethos is aiming to providing its customers with high quality products accompanied by market-leading levels of customer service. As Edwards explained: “From day one, we’ve made it our business to guarantee that we’re supplying our customers with the highest quality products on the market, something that we refuse to compromise on. And, if a customer can’t find a product amongst our range to meet their particular business requirements, we go that extra mile to design and source products to suit specific applications.”
Never a business to stand still, Die-Pat didn’t rest on its laurels, with the management team eager to find new and innovative ways to stay that one step ahead of the competition.
According to Edwards: “Product development is a key focus for the business, in particular, working very closely with our customers to quickly and efficiently design and manufacture new products. And, while outsourcing our manufacturing had proved to be a wise choice for us for the past 20 or so years, the ever-increasing pace of commerce, with more demand for quicker turnarounds and next day delivery, combined with our wish to position ourselves at the forefront of product development, meant that not having full control over our manufacturing capability was beginning to stifle our ability to provide the excellent levels of customer service for which we’re known.”
The turbulent economic climate and its effect on exchange rates and transportation costs also meant that outsourcing manufacturing wasn’t as cost-effective as it had once been. Edwards continued: “We started to look at how we could maintain our core values of quality products and quality service while protecting our business from the increasingly volatile nature of the markets, positioning ourselves to better withstand external economic pressures and changes to the international business environment for the long-term. Ultimately, we wanted greater control of our own destiny.”
After much consideration, the company’s team decided that an investment in its own manufacturing capability was needed. Edwards detailed: “Early on, we recognised that by bringing manufacturing back in-house not only would it enable us to better respond to our customers’ needs, shortening lead times and product development timescales, but it would increase our business flexibility and agility, while giving us greater control of the manufacturing process.
“We were also very keen to resurrect our long heritage of manufacturing, making the most of the skilled manufacturers we have right here in the UK.”
Following this decision, April 2017 saw the first step in a c£1m investment to bring manufacturing back in-house for Die-Pat, with the introduction of a high-speed laser cutting centre, a press brake and other ancillary equipment needed for producing the portfolio of products.
“Already our in-house manufactured products are with customers, maintaining the Die-Pat reputation for timely, efficient and quality products and services,” said Edwards. “Not only have we introduced new equipment, but we’ve new people on board too. We’re making the most of the skilled labour force we have here in the UK, creating new jobs in the process, something that we want to continue through apprenticeship schemes, enabling our 50 years of experience and expertise to be passed on to the next generation.”
He concluded: “We believe the future of our industry depends on innovative and collaborative product design, something that’s much easier to successfully achieve when you manufacture at the point of concept. In this respect, the investments in our manufacturing facilities aren’t just investments in our business, but an investment in our customers, the local community, and the industry as a whole.”