Working together to survive the storm – Crossfield Excalibur
As the start of pandemic in 2020 impacted Crossfield Excalibur’s business, they decided to adapt to the changes with the help of GC Business Growth Hub
“The support network provided by GC Business Growth Hub is vast, diversified, and highly skilled. The team has much knowledge across various fields, including manufacturing, staff management, finance, and operational efficiency. The experts at BGH are capable of providing assistance in numerous areas.”
- Steve Davies, Managing Director of Crossfield Excalibur
As one of the pioneers of the rotational moulding industry, Maurice Berry spent many years developing a robust sheet metal tooling solution for the industry, principles of which are still used today. Inspired by the Legend of King Arthur, he named the company he founded in the 1970s “Crossfield Excalibur”. Showcasing his pride in the quality of his company’s metalwork, comparable to the forging of the Excalibur, the legendary sword of the king.
As Maurice retired in the 2010s, Steve Davies took over the company and continued to invest in manufacturing techniques to ensure it was cutting-edge. diversifying from sheet metal work to general fabrications and powder coatings, the company enjoyed stable and healthy growth, and a great client base from the UK and Europe - working on projects in Australia, Tanzania, and Peru.
But at the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the powder coating division’s business was devastated in the first two weeks of the outbreak as the number of contracts from general fabricators throughout the Northwest dropped massively. Then, the company started to see significant adverse effects of the pandemic on the steel tool-making side of the business as the influx of new orders suddenly slowed down. Steve saw a combined 47% drop in sales in March 2020.
With such a massive blow it would have been easy to abandon it all but with the persistence of the Northerner, the hard work of the crew, and support from GC Business Growth Hub, Crossfield Excalibur, withstood the storm. They even managed to further equip themselves by upgrading the technology and methods in the manufacturing process and upskilling their workforce and management. Now, Crossfield Excalibur stands much stronger and in a much better position to capture the opportunities ahead.
We have the chance to talk with Steve Davies on Crossfield Excalibur and his team’s journey through the wilderness that was the pandemic.
Crossfield Excalibur and GC Business Growth Hub have a long working relationship, isn’t that right?
As far as I remember, we started working with the Business Growth Hub (BGH) in 2018. Martin Hyman, a BGH business advisor, came in at that early stage of our expansion, offering his expertise and experience in setting up a fast-moving and functional workflow system. Martin is fabulous in this job as he has a solid aerospace background. He offered a fresh pair of eyes as an outsider, examined the system we are working on, and provided advice to help us further improve the system. Putting a system in place helped us standardise our procedure in handling different materials, allowed us to achieve good repeatability and consistency by reducing the potential for error.
Setting up a system is all about listening to your workforce on their requirements and barriers that affect their performance. It is very easy for us to sit in the office, presume everything is OK on the shop floor, and think everything will work and flow smoothly.
What you should do is ensure those procedures are in place and your staff are fully armed with the required tools. So, we rely on our staff’s feedback to continuously improve our system. Martin not only helped us set up the system, but he also taught us the necessary company culture to improve the system according to our own needs and adapt to the changing environment, which is critical for us to prepare for the upcoming challenge in the pandemic.
Prior to 2020 Crossfield Excalibur was on track for expansion, how did Crossfield Excalibur survive what could have been a devastating first blow?
We saw the devastating effect of the pandemic in March 2020, with the powder coating division seeing a quick reduction in demand, like a block of melting ice, as most of the general fabricators throughout the north stopped operating in the lockdown. Then, the adverse effects of the pandemic spread further, with the influx of new orders for the steel tools-making side of the business slowing down significantly. The combined drop in sales in March 2020 was 47%, which is just the beginning.
Such a massive drop in sales puts excessive pressure on the company’s cash flow, which might affect our ability to retain our skilled workforce, the team that helped us build our system for many years. And the effect can be fatal as our system is a product of the collaboration of our workforce.
This is where Martin Hyman reached out to offer BGH assistance and quickly brought in Tracy Eyres, our account manager at BGH at that time, whose support came into play. Tracy basically held our hands through the pandemic and given us financial guidance and moral support through probably the biggest challenges this company has ever faced.
Tracy has constantly been at the end of the phone to guide us through grant applications and assure us that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Without Tracy’s brilliant knowledge and people skills, we would not have started to recover from Covid this quickly.
With the financial guidance of Tracy, and further support from Martin, we have successfully secured funding from the Bury Council and the government’s furlough scheme. Utilising the combined funding from those support schemes, we have successfully mitigated the immediate threat of redundancies from our current staffing levels.
Tracy had seen several business struggles during the 2008 financial crisis when she was a business owner herself. Her firsthand experience and comprehensive knowledge of the challenges faced by companies during tough times have enabled her to offer valuable advice to us, helping us get back on our feet and grow again.