Manchester-based P&B overcame a lack of visibility in the international market with a new approach to marketing supported by a Manufacturing Growth Fund grant.
Manchester-based P&B (PBSI Group) is a leading designer and manufacturer of electrical protection, safety and control technologies for critical infrastructure. Exports make up around 80 per cent of sales, but these were mostly through existing customers and contacts. The business recognised an opportunity to expand its customer base overseas with a new approach to marketing.
It’s been so successful that we’re working on another project with Geoff to expand the use of 3D technology internally in our design and production process. If we carry on that journey, it will be harder for our competitors to keep up.Phil York, Managing Director
P&B’s work involves helping its clients to manage ageing power equipment, which means it often manufactures bespoke solutions to replace old parts. Over the years, it has become common for P&B to not only help customers replace older versions of its own products, but also provide solutions for equipment made by other manufacturers.
Managing Director Phil York recognised that this was a valuable opportunity to broaden P&B’s scope beyond its existing customer base. However, a lack of visibility in the market was blocking progress.
“We knew that the products we were putting forward to our existing customers were striking a chord with their needs, which was a good indicator that there was a wider market out there. But these other companies wouldn’t necessarily know that we have a solution for them,” Phil explains.
“Marketing didn’t really exist for us. Traditionally we’ve been very customer-led; customers usually came to us. That worked fine for a long time, but it did narrow our reach. We realised we needed a better platform to make ourselves more visible.”
Following a business diagnostic by Senior Manufacturing Advisor Geoff Crossley, the Hub’s manufacturing team helped P&B to secure a £3761.75 grant from the Manufacturing Growth Fund to procure the services of an independent marketing expert.
The marketing consultant helped P&B to identify key sectors, analyse the UK and rest of world markets more thoroughly, and create a modern marketing plan and new website.
“Our website was very sector orientated,” Phil says. “It initially felt like a good strategy, but we realised that it was more important to get the product in front of people straight away. We’re now in the process of turning the website around so that it’s more product-orientated.”
“There is a bit of an educational programme as well, because customers don’t necessarily know that retrofitting their old equipment, rather than build new, is a viable way forward for them.”
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the new approach to marketing has contributed to increased revenue in both the UK and rest of world markets. A number of jobs have also been created, including one in marketing and others in engineering and production.
“Recruiting in the midst of a pandemic was quite unusual, but the need was there across all disciplines in the business,” Phil says.
P&B has also been forced to adopt innovative new technologies during the pandemic, which the Hub’s manufacturing team are helping to embed within the business.
“The equipment that we’re replacing is from the 50s, 60s and 70s and was often hand-fitted, so each part tends to be slightly different. Previously, we wouldn’t know whether the dimensions were slightly out until we’d gone onsite to fit the replacement.
“We now rely on 3D laser scanning techniques to build a perfect digital map of original equipment. This resulted in a first-time fit for newly designed circuit breakers for a client who was more than 10,000 miles away, under lockdown measures.
“It’s been so successful that we’re working on another project with Geoff to expand the use of 3D technology internally in our design and production process. If we carry on that journey, it will be harder for our competitors to keep up.”
On the impact of the Hub’s overall support, Phil adds: “We’ve found over the past year that we’ve needed a lot more help. We’ve had to become experts in more things, so I’m very grateful of the help we’ve had from Geoff and his team.”
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