Hone-All Precision: company investments and government petitions

It’s been a busy time for Hone-All director, Andrea Wilson. Not only has she helped steer the business through the ravages of COVID-19 and coordinated its ongoing participation in the Sharing in Growth programme; she’s also managed, as LinkedIn users will testify, to find time to launch a passionate campaign to lobby the UK Government towards appointing a dedicated Manufacturing Minister. Oh and alongside all this frenetic activity, Hone-All has also invested in some new equipment. Dave Tudor reports.

As with most manufacturing companies, COVID made a sizeable impact on Hone-All’s business, however a four-to-five-month buffer of existing work helped instil at least a degree of operational stability and continuity.

Some firms were forced to diversify into new markets to offset the effects of COVID-19 but Hone-All remained in pretty good shape because it serves a broad span of industry sectors including aerospace, defence, motorsport, oil and gas, medical, and hydraulics. Over reliance on one particular market is never a good idea and this proves the point. Hone-All has 4,000 live customers across multiple industries.

The business invests regularly in its plant and staff and 2022 has seen a new Pinacho ST285 turning centre, a used Biglia B545YS mill/turn centre with 51mm (2”) diameter bar capacity and a used, bespoke designed and built 3-axis CNC gun drill find their way onto the plant list.     

“We purchased the Pinacho from Dugard and the whole process went very smoothly,” enthuses Hone-All director Andrea Wilson. “The machine has a 570mm swing over the bed, a direct drive headstock with servomotor and 2m distance between centres. At 3,640kg it’s a very substantial and robust machine.” 

As an optional extra however, Hone-All specified a C-axis. “It makes the machine so much more versatile,” Mrs Wilson adds. “It’s really useful for carrying out things like drilling and tapping operations on PCDs and milling flats for example. Previously we could only offer conventional 2-axis turning; now we can undertake basic milling tasks as well.”

The new gun drill bed machine also offers more flexibility for Hone-All with the ability to accommodate double the billet weight of its existing Mollart machine. It can also handle a wider range of gun drill diameters from 3mm up to 32mm.

“The new investments are all about increasing capacity,” she affirms. “The Biglia B545YS, being a twin-spindle model, is a totally new ballgame for us because it means we can machine components complete from start to finish and can go after higher volume work. With the current supply chain challenges, our customers appreciate the extra capacity we can offer.”

Overall, Hone-All has invested around £150,000 in new equipment since the beginning of 2022, but two COVID recovery grants, a development improvement grant and a £5K low carbon workspace grant for a factory voltage optimiser unit certainly helped offset the financial outlay. Funding is clearly available – if you know where to look.

So while the company has its roots firmly entrenched in deep hole boring, honing and deep hole drilling, Hone-All goes the extra mile for its customers by offering a range of complementary services – like turning and milling. Its plant list spans everything from Tibo deep hole borers, Eldorado gun drills and Sunnen honing machines through to Tuscan and Pinacho lathes, and XYZ mills.

“Our core competency is the manufacture of complex tubular components but it’s all about adding value,” Mrs Wilson explains. “Every investment we make is driven by a desire to serve our customers better.”  

And things are clearly paying off for the business. Despite the aforementioned supply chain woes that everyone is experiencing – particularly with ridiculously volatile raw material pricing and supply – the company is reporting its highest ever order book, exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

Sharing in Growth

The not for profit Sharing in Growth scheme is a three-year business transformation programme designed to help companies run more efficiently, productively and collaboratively at all levels. The Sharing in Growth team comprises around 100 experts who integrate and work closely with companies to help streamline and optimise their operations. The ultimate aim is to make UK supply chains more efficient.

It’s all about ongoing coaching, training, mentoring and continuous improvement, helping businesses develop strategies, staff culture, best practices and better communication channels to realise their absolute true potential. It looks at strengths and weaknesses and takes in every department operationally within an organisation – sales, marketing, production, business development, finance – and everything in between.

Originally the programme was only available to companies with turnovers of £10m and above, but now, smaller businesses – like Hone-All – are being assessed for their suitability.  

“We’ve successfully completed a number of evaluations and should receive sign off to enrol on the program officially any time now,” Mrs Wilson enthuses. “I really like the scheme because it’s fully funded – all we have to provide is our time and commitment – and it’s totally holistic in its approach looking at every single person and process within the business.

“The team of people that are assigned to you also have access to external experts that can help with a specific subjects – funding for example. We’ve submitted a full training and development plan to the Sharing in Growth board detailing our priorities and should receive full sign off to properly embark on the programme in the next month or so. We’ll be kicking things off with team leadership and management training.

“Two of our targets for example are to hit £5m turnover in three years and secure more longer term contracts so we have a better visibility of workload and can plan better.”

Your industry needs you

Regular users of LinkedIn who are connected with Andrea Wilson will know that she’s been campaigning tirelessly and passionately for the appointment of a dedicated Manufacturing Minister at Cabinet level. Actually, this is something that’s been close to her heart for years. I interviewed her about a decade ago when Vince Cable was Business Minister and it came up as a topic of conversation then.

The campaign is called Support UK Manufacturing (SUM) and it started as an idea during the darkest depths of the COVID pandemic. “I think we all had a little more time to think about things during the various lockdowns, but what really resonated with me was how brilliantly the industry rallied together in the country’s hour of need – everyone just wanted to help,” Mrs Wilson recalls.

“What also became apparent was that although there were various funding and support schemes available to help companies, how to access it was an absolute minefield and difficult to navigate through.

“I remember thinking, this is unprecedented: this was a time when more people were on LinkedIn than ever before and more people were collaborating together rather than competing against each other so I put up a poll – and an overwhelming number – 96% – said having a dedicated Manufacturing Minster to represent SMEs, from OEMs to subcontractors like us was a great idea. From that point around 18 of us formed the nucleus of the campaign.

“The problem here seems to be that SMEs in many cases just don’t get to hear about the funding and support available,” she explains. “Chancellor Rishi Sunak in a conversation with Make UK CEO Stephen Phipson said ‘what’s the point of us offering support because there’s no take-up?’ and that’s the rub: SMEs don’t get to hear about the support that may be available, and when they try to find out, it’s very complicated.

“The irony here is that the Government is constantly telling us to improve our productivity, but the only way they’ll give us funding is if we employ more people. It’s a chicken and egg situation.” Mrs Wilson continues.  

“The other problem is that all manufacturers are definitely not created equally. A large OEM for example has different needs than a small subcontractor employing say three people. We desperately need a voice within government to represent all areas of manufacturing irrespective of size or turnover. And I believe the support is there – it’s the delivery mechanisms that are failing badly.”

This seems like a no brainer to me. SUM needs 10,000 people to sign the petition for it to be raised in parliament and it’s got six months to hit that number. “It certainly is moving in the right direction but we need to up the ante massively here,” Andrea Wilson concludes.

“There are 2.5 million people involved in manufacturing in the UK and we really do need as many people as possible to sign the petition – and it’s easy to do. Just go to the SUM website and follow the link. And follow me – Andrea Wilson – on LinkedIn for regular updates.”

Support UK Manufacturing

Hone-All Precision

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