How an auto manufacturer bucked the 2020 trend with investments in technology and staff


A company that manufactures parts for the automotive industry has started 2021 on an optimistic note after investing in new equipment and taking on more staff during 2020.

Bucking the all-too common industry trend of staff redundancies, long furloughs and falling turnover, Nottinghamshire, UK-based automotive manufacturer, Interflex, was able to re-open its 38,000 sq.ft factory in May before the end of the first UK lockdown, bringing back most of its workers at that point, as well as investing £140,000 in new equipment, taking on new staff and turning a profit during the year.

The company achieved this by diversifying into personal protective equipment (PPE) production when automotive manufacturing temporarily shut down in the UK during spring 2020. Interflex now manufactures masks, face shields and aprons alongside its regular work of making a range of NVH and sealing solutions for vehicles, including door seals, interior trim, under carpet and boot seals.

As part of the plan to expand services, Interflex purchased specialised machinery in the latter half of 2020, which enabled it to manufacture up to 500,000 three-ply surgical-style face masks every week. The company also invested in a new packaging machine to ensure it has capacity to cope with demand along all aspects of the production and supply process.

As a result, Interflex was able to take on two new staff at the end of 2020 and is also looking to appoint a trainee project engineer and a trainee process engineer via the Kickstart programme, a UK Government-funded initiative to support businesses in employing young people.

Interflex recruited additional staff to work on the new PPE production lines

One of the new appointments was commercial director Paul Neale, who has extensive experience working in the automotive manufacturing industry and has been brought in to help Interflex continue with its drive for expansion. The company is also planning to take on its first apprentice during 2021, as well as up to four additional staff to help meet demand.

Managing director Jim Griffin came into the post just two weeks before the first national lockdown and oversaw the investment and diversification project, which included the creation of a subsidiary company, Pinnacle PPE, to manage PPE operations and production.

“No one can deny that 2020 was a tough year for manufacturers, with the automotive industry hit pretty hard,” Griffin comments. “So, when the first national lockdown was announced, we decided to take a proactive approach rather than sit around waiting for things to improve – which is why we invested in PPE production. It was a good fit for our current site, staff skills set and equipment.”

Ten months after the first national lockdown, Griffin is optimistic about the company’s prospects in 2021. “We are delighted to have been able to make profit and to actually take on staff during 2020, despite periods of enforced closure and the significant investment required to set up completely new production lines,” he says. “As we enter 2021, we have new processes and operations set up and are able to plan for the coming year rather than reacting to circumstances, which means we can build on the foundations put in place during the last year.”

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Adam divides his time as an editor between the worlds of aviation and motoring. These worlds may seem a little diverse today, but autonomous technology and future urban mobility is bringing them ever-closer. Adam is also chairman of the Vehicle Dynamics International Awards.

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