Finding an opportunity in the face of adversity
The early months of 2020 were some of the most challenging in Brandauer’s 159-year history. The adverse effects of Brexit and the developing pandemic saw the precision engineering company’s sales plummet. Faced with enormous uncertainty, the Brandauer team quickly adapted their strategy. After receiving support from the government’s Coronavirus Interruption Loan Scheme, Brandauer reinvented the way it did business, not only surviving the pandemic, but excelling, innovating and breaking into new markets. Here, CEO Rowan Crozier reveals more.
Tell us about Brandauer...
Brandauer is a 159-year-old precision engineering business that supplies a variety of metal components to 22 countries all over the world. Our main business is two-fold, we manufacture high speed progression tooling and use it to stamp metal parts, both flat and formed. Brandauer currently employs around 60 people and supplies to 11 different sectors including construction, automotive, pharmaceuticals, telecommunications and renewables.
How did the coronavirus pandemic affect the business?
It had a massive impact. Prior to the pandemic hitting, we had already taken a significant blow when our biggest customers went into administration in February 2020 due to Brexit. Four weeks, we went into lockdown. Our sales dropped from around £750,000 per month to just £250,000.
How did you manage in those early stages of the pandemic?
It was difficult trying to work out the right thing to do. Obviously, nobody had gone through this before so there was very little guidance. We set out our own strategy and decided to take a multifaceted approach to the situation.
Our primary focus was the health and welfare of our staff. After that, it was our operating capacity. We supply the medical and pharmaceutical sector with various components we knew would be vital in the efforts to tackle COVID-19 (one being metal clips which go on the front of PPE face masks). We knew we had a responsibility to keep our operations running enough to continue supplying these vital elements. The last thing was cash preservation. We didn’t know how long the pandemic was going to affect us and we wanted to give ourselves the best chance of getting through it.
Did you access any government support?
We looked at every element of government support that was available to us and applied to everything we were eligible for. Given the approach we decided to take, the furlough scheme was a key part in allowing us to work the way we did. Because of our role in the production of PPE, we were able to secure some Innovation Grants. We also secured a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which gave us a cash injection that allowed us to start rethinking our way of doing business, looking for opportunities in the challenges we were facing.
What benefit did you see from the support you received?
Brandauer is a cash rich business, so we like to have a buffer in the bank that will essentially cover a year’s worth of wages. When the pandemic hit and we lost our biggest client, that buffer became substantially challenged. The CBILS loan allowed us to get some cash back in the bank so we could take the time to take stock and start pivoting the business.
Through the pandemic, my operations manager and I decided that he would oversee the factory while I worked from home. Being at home, I totally reinvented Brandauer’s sales and marketing strategy, and focused on opportunities that would impact the business in the short to medium term. From May to September, we went from £250,000 in sales to £400,000. This meant we had a workable infrastructure of income, so we upped our efforts and invested in things like social media marketing and a new website. Our efforts paid off. October, November and December 2020 were record-breaking months for order intake and new business. When the latest lockdown was announced at the beginning of 2021, we quickly secured key worker status for our medical production work. Our recovery rate has increased since everything began to reopen, and I’m pleased to say we’re back up to around £700,000 sales per month.
What are the future plans for Brandauer?
The events at the beginning of 2020 were the worst in our company’s history since World War II. What we learned was that the various markets we supply were affected in different ways at different times, which meant we had to diversify our offering to remain operational. This diversification is definitely something we are going to continue moving forwards.
We’ve also made a move into the electrified vehicle market and have secured a number of R&D grants from Innovate UK to support with this. Currently, there are no other companies in the UK capable of delivering what is being asked of us, so we hope in the next two to three years, we’ll be dominating that market. We’re also going to continue our growth within pharmaceuticals and construction, both of which are booming at the moment.
- Founded in 1862, Brandauer is one of the largest contract precision presswork companies in Europe.
- Following the loss of its biggest customer and the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, Brandauer faced significant challenges that meant the company had to realign its priorities.
- While working from home, CEO Rowan Crozier reinvented the company’s sales and marketing strategy, and focused on driving diversification.
- Brandauer received government support in the form of Innovation grants (https://www.gov.uk/apply-funding-innovation) and the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils-2/).
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