Case study

Fowler and Holden Ltd

Enabling significant increase in capacity to meet additional demand exacerbated by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine.

Based in Grimsby and founded in 1919, Fowler and Holden provides foundry and engineering services to clients around the world. It primarily makes iron products for civil infrastructure, particularly the rail and road network, in addition to producing cast iron products for industrial clients.

Why did they engage with Invest to Grow?

Limited capacity within Fowler and Holden’s foundry and machine shop, in terms of overall scale, equipment and configuration, was constraining its growth. In particular, the business was having to both sub-contract and decline a significant amount of work. These circumstances were subsequently exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, which increased the demand for Fowler and Holden’s services as many customers sought to onshore their supply chain due to delays accessing products from India and China. More recently, the war in Ukraine further strengthened this onshore demand due to Indian and Chinese suppliers utilising raw materials from Russia.

Fowler and Holden therefore approached the University of Derby and was awarded Invest to Grow grant and loan funding towards increasing its capacity whilst simultaneously improving environmental efficiency with the business’ processes. The funding enabled an expansion of the foundry building together with new and upgraded equipment.

Following the successful delivery of its initial project to increase capacity, Fowler and Holden has recently been awarded additional funding from Invest to Grow to improve the efficiency of its processes by replacing its current rotating production track with several linear conveyers.

The inside of a engineering workshop at Fowler and Holden Ltd.
The yard at Fowler and Holden containing two diggers.

What has the impact been of Invest to Grow?

The initial impact of the Invest to Grow funding, across both projects, will be to increase Fowler and Holden’s capacity by 80 per cent so it can meet additional demand created by recent global events. Director Tim Brooksbank commented:

“The significant increase in capacity will enable us to bring work in-house that we were previously sub-contracting, and to take on work that we had been declining. It will support an increase in turnover and market share, whilst the second project will increase efficiency and profit.”

Even at this early stage, the project funded through Invest to Grow has enabled the creation of six additional jobs, with at least another seven to be created by early 2023 when the business introduces an evening shift. The expected increase in turnover is significant, with Tim Brooksbank commenting:

“As a rough and generally conservative estimate, we expect our turnover to increase from £3m in 2021 to around £4.5m in 2023 as a result of the increased capacity and efficiency.”

The benefit of increased capacity also relates to major recent increases in the cost of pig iron, a raw material used within Fowler and Holden’s production process. Due to this increase, the business adapted its processes to reduce the level of pig iron required, but the result was a lengthier manufacturing cycle. This put further pressure on the need to increase capacity within the foundry, which the Invest to Grow funding has enabled.

A further benefit of the Invest to Grow funding has been to reduce Fowler and Holden’s environmental impact. This has been enabled by upgrading its sand reclamation plant and introducing a sand recycling facility, which has significantly reduced the amount of new sand required in the production process. Whilst this requires additional energy on-site, it is more than offset by a major reduction in energy and carbon emissions associated with quarrying, transporting and disposing of the new sand – at a time of significant energy price rises. Tim Brooksbank commented:

“The production process previously used around 30% new sand, which with the increased capacity would have meant around 2,500 tonnes per year being quarried, transported from Cheshire and disposed of via landfill. Our new equipment has reduced the percentage of new sand used to around 10%, meaning significant energy savings even when compared to the previously lower capacity levels.”

The project supported by Invest to Grow has also enabled Fowler and Holden to improve the layout of its site to create an improved working environment for its staff. For example, a new plant room was built, reducing noise and dust levels within the foundry itself. The second project will remove the need for staff to load and unload cranes and eliminate health and safety risks associated with their use.

In addition to its direct benefit, Tim Brooksbank also commented on the importance of the Invest to Grow funding from a de-risking perspective, in terms of enabling additional and more innovative activity to be funded:

“Invest to Grow funding de-risked the project from a commercial perspective allowing us to be more innovative with our project, creating additional benefits as a result.”

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