SMT’s faster circuit to growth

In 2000, Phil Rowley was faced with a problem. He couldn’t source the type of electrical assembly work that he required from within the UK. So he started a business to do it himself.

Since then, SMT Developments has grown into a 32-employee, £3m business with customers stretching from the USA to the Ukraine.

Based on the outskirts of Warwick – it has occupied five different buildings on the same industrial estate – SMT Developments populates printed circuit boards (PCBs) and asssembles electronic products for industries from robotics to automotive to environmental monitoring. Their PCBs are found in coffee vending machines to high end access gates used by banks all around the world.

The smart manufacturer

The more complex the requirement, the better. “We are winning against eastern European competitors, because we build smarter,” says Phil’s son, and fellow director John Rowley.

John Rowley SMT (story not yet published)

John had been thinking of a career as a sound engineer before he joined his parents’ business. He then took an Open University MBA in 2006 to help him understand the business better. And that desire to learn and improve suffuses the company.

SMT has been working with the Manufacturing Advisory Service for some time.

“We’re not flawless,” says Rowley, “you have to improve at what you’re good at in order to become world-class.

“The advice that we have taken from MAS has trained our engineers, taken waste out of our system and improved quality and downtimes.”

But this is not just about receiving good advice and training; it’s also about how SMT applies its approach to learning to change the company at a profound level.

“Two years ago, we all went through adult apprenticeships up to level 2/3 NVQ on business improvement techniques, including my Mum.

As a result, we all understand the business better, communicate better and understand each other’s jobs. It was fully funded by Government; all it cost was our time. And it has altered the culture of the company, and that is something that you can’t achieve overnight.”

Pressing ahead with Growth Accelerator

Now Rowley has signed SMT onto the Growth Accelerator programme as it presses ahead with fitting out a new facility with the equipment to make a revolutionary new product for the telecoms market. Funding for this expansion has been achieved through a grant from the Growing Places Fund.

“Obviously, there is some risk involved in this project and we need access to secure and cheap working capital,” says Rowley, “so we are working with Growth Accelerator to help us with our business planning and to find and secure the right financial options.”

The Business Growth Service is now closed to new customers. Contractual commitments to existing customers will be honoured, as long as all support and related activity is completed by 31 March 2016. If you’re looking to find what business support is available in your area, your local Growth Hub may be able to help.