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Business of the Year 2016

Business of the Year 2016


In what’s turning out to be a bumper year for Chesterfield based lifting equipment manufacturer Penny Hydraulics, the company have picked up two awards at the East Midlands Chamber Awards on September 16th, including Business Improvement through Technology & Overall Business of the Year.

The company are now up for the National 2016 Chamber Business Awards in November held in London. This comes shortly after Penny were crowned “Family Business of the Year.”

The Chamber awards are extremely high regarded. Scott Knowles, the Chamber’s Chief Executive comments “The Chamber awards are the only ones in the region delivered purely by business, for business and are also the only awards which enable the winners to go on to compete in the British Chambers of Commerce’s regional and national awards.''

Penny Hydraulics are a UK manufacturer of lifting equipment with their own purpose built premises housing a manufacturing and assembly plant. The company carry out all the functions of a fully integrated organisation with design, manufacturing, quality control, aftersales support and nationwide service operation.

The business has grown to become the UK’s leading lorry-loader crane manufacturer, goods lift manufacturer and lighting winch manufacturer for premises from Buckingham Palace to a Guiness brewery in Nigeria! Last year, Penny Hydraulics operated in 22 countries worldwide, also providing specialist design and manufacturing services to the nuclear decommissioning, mining and tyre handling industries. Typically a customer will be a large “blue chip” organisation such as BT, Royal Mail, JD Wetherpoons or a Sellafield Nuclear Reprocessing Plant with a specific handling problem. They are partnered with industry’s leading professional and trade organisations and are approved commercial vehicle converters for vehicle mounted lifting equipment for major vehicle manufacturers including Renault, Nissan and Volkswagen. Commercial vehicle body builders worldwide from USA to Australia and Hungary to Benelux, choose to partner with Penny Hydraulics to sell lifting applications all over the world.

The company was founded in 1978 by mining engineer, John Penny. The company offered nationwide hydraulic garage equipment and mining equipment repairs. As Japanese imports started to become more common and the mining industry started to decline, the company diversified into new markets, primarily lifting equipment including cranes for commercial vehicles. Today, although the core business remains cranes for vans, the company has diversified, venturing further into the lifting equipment industry with goods lifts, winches and tyre handling equipment.

Following a record year in sales, Penny Hydraulics is set to better this again in 2016 with the end of year turnover set to exceed £8M. Large contracts for customers including BT and Royal Mail have helped to boost sales along with the introduction of a new 1000kg capacity goods lift that the company introduced in 2015. A new line of over 470 hydraulic vehicle mounted cranes added to the existing crane range in April 2015 has also played its part.

The company has been run prudently and has grown steadily through decades of hard work. The benefits of this now, are that the company has no loans or overdrafts, owns all of its premises, owns all company fleet vehicles and owns all its own plant & equipment. This is quite rare in this day and age, putting the business in a strong financial position, setting them apart from many other organizations who rely heavily on credit to run their businesses.

Penny’s board of directors often use the quote “turnover is vanity, profit is sanity, cash is reality” and always look to improve margins and increase profit. It is thanks to this constant monitoring and adjusting that profit has historically been very healthy and projections continue to be excellent. The company’s main business objective over the next three years is to obtain a greater market share of vehicle mounted crane & Goods Lift sales in the UK. The introduction of a new range of over 470 hydraulic cranes launched in 2015 will help them to achieve this. An increased product offering enables them to meet the needs of the 3 ½ to 7 ½ tonne UK commercial vehicle market. In addition, the employment of further dedicated Goods Lift sales staff in June 2016 is helping them develop their fast growing Goods Lift division.

To give Penny a competitive advantage over other lifting equipment manufacturers, it is essential for them to maintain higher product quality than their rivals. European Standards and harmonized standards between EU countries continue to help them improve safety, quality and drive innovation. ISO9001 certification assists as continuous assessment leads to improved quality and service helping them to deliver on time, get orders “right first time” & reduce product returns and complaints. Another key business objective is to offer quicker lead times than their rivals. Work has commenced on a £1.5M site development at their Clowne premises. The work that is currently underway at the site includes a new warehousing facility to allow increased levels of stock and a new production facility to allow increased production. Ten new staff members will be employed within the next two years as part of this development plan.

The company are always looking to improve processes when it comes to design and technology and it is one particular project in particular that impressed the judges enough for the company to win the coveted “Business Improvement Through Technology” award. After a record year in sales for Goods Lifts in 2015, Penny Hydraulics had an increasing demand for bespoke Goods Lifts and needed to speed up the design process. Manufacturing drawings were done in CAD design software. Following research, they found iLogic, a rules based productivity tool for engineers. Using iLogic they developed a process whereby we were able to reuse design and automate repetitive tasks in Inventor. A fast, simple interface allows the creation of smart components, design tools and configurations, enabling the team to quickly create mezzanine lift drawings by picking from various options and categories.

Chartered engineer Jocelyn Cole, is General Manager of the Penny Hydraulics Goods Lift division. Jocelyn comments on the benefits that iLogic has brought to the business as she comments "Since using this process, initial enquiry drawings have been reduced from 20 minutes, for the drawing and specification sheet, down to 2-3 minutes for configuration. The manufacturing drawings are down to 5 -10 minutes of adjustments once the parameters are imported (from 2 hours previously). Where previously decisions had been done in an “ad hoc” approach, i.e. when to split a panel or put in a cross beam for mesh support, we had to make rules to drive this which has led to standardisation, enabling us to look at ways to speed up manufacture, having parts laser cut, bent & pressed." Detailed drawings now exist for all items and they have increased the manufacturing capability by 40%. Turnover for this division has increased 60%, resulting in a nett profit increase of 140%. Nett profit for this division this year is 19.9%.

The company don’t restrict the use of the latest technologies to design automation. A commitment to innovative technology runs deep throughout the business as a whole. Jess Penny, General Manager of Sales comments “For all of the company’s parcel shipments, which are often time critical to customers, an online UPS tracking system is used that sends the customer an email once the parcel has been dispatched from the factory. The emails contain a tracking number. The customer can then track the parcel throughout its journey themselves online. This has the dual benefit of cutting down our administration time for office staff and gives customers peace of mind that their parcel is on its way.”

Technology is even used to monitor customer satisfaction. Surveymonkey customer satisfaction surveys are automatically triggered to go out to customers five days after their goods have been dispatched. Jess explains the key benefit of this “This allows us to automatically track customer satisfaction levels with no administrative input and minimal time investment from our staff.”

Order confirmation documents and other automatically generated documentation such as invoices from the company’s CRM and integrated accountancy package, mean customers have the benefit of knowing exactly when there order has been processed. Lead times and customer order numbers are automatically populated onto these documents enabling them to manage customers’ expectations and meet their administration needs.

Digital manufacturing drawings produced by TrailerWIN and AutoCad software in-house, are supplied to customers giving them complete clarity on what they will receive. Pre-manufacture sign off of these drawings gives customers peace of mind that all parties are clear on what is being made and gives them chance to double check measurements prior to manufacture. Good quality management is vital to any manufacturer. Jess explains how technology is used to help the company effectively manage quality issues “A digital Business Improvement Report is stored and managed within our CRM Prospectsoft. This helps staff manage non-conformance issues, corrective actions, preventive actions and other issues. This information facilitates continuous improvement within the business and is an important tool to help ensure issues are followed up in the correct manner with customers. This is a helpful tool during BSI audits for ISO9001 accreditation.”

The company’s CRM is used to track the sales process from point of order to delivery of the product. Sales leads are created initially and recalls are set for follow ups. The CRM also enables detailed reporting for marketing purposes. Contacts and companies are segmented by factors such as “industry” which enables them to target specific audiences for a particular marketing campaign.

Email marketing software enables the company to quickly and easily create email marketing campaigns online. Detailed reporting shows open and click through rates. They use campaigns to drive traffic to their website and encourage phone enquiries about a particular product or service. Jess comments on the success of this type of marketing for Penny Hydraulics as she comments “Open rates in 2016 go up to 45% which is extremely high and testament to knowing the market and tailoring the email content effectively to suit their needs. We have had 20 direct enquiries as a result of just one campaign.”

Google analytics is incredibly valuable to the commercial success of the business. Jess discusses four overarching business benefits of this tool as “marketing campaign optimisation, website usability improvement, target audience identification and budget allocation.” Ad Words attract new website visitors, grow the e-commerce business, increase phone enquiries and keep existing customers engaged with the business and continue using them. Jess continues, “86% of visitors coming to our Goods Lift site in April this year came to them this way.”

Social Media including Twitter and LinkedIn are updated daily with company and industry news and they use these platforms to learn about, engage with and grow their audience. Staff receive instant feedback from their customers’ perspective, get ahead of the competition and increase website traffic and search rankings. Posting testimonials & information about charitable work they are involved with and projects with local universities, schools and colleges has helped to improve community ties and corporate reputation. The company website, incorporating blogs and news pages is the most important tool they use to advertise products or services through the internet. Penny Hydraulics strong online presence has helped them to generate more customers, not just in the locality, but worldwide. This is also an important tool to build better relationships with existing customers. Having a website means our customers are always able to find them – everyday, 24/7.

Using press management software, the marketing department are able to quickly and easily create press releases online which are automatically posted onto the “news” page on their website and quickly find relevant press contacts within the system to mail to in seconds. Jess comments on the benefits of this tool, “Using this, we have gained press coverage in broadsheets such as the Sunday Times, TV coverage on the national news and even featured in articles in the international press.” Taking every possible opportunity to sell to their customers, they use on-hold marketing techniques which keeps callers engaged and informed, improves standards of service, increases enquiries and strengthens customer loyalty.

Penny Hydraulics are now up for the National 2016 Chamber Business Awards in November which are held in London, here they will find out if their application has been enough to win them the National award.

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