Biesse UK: still going strong after 25 years: Photo 1

Biesse UK: Still going strong after 25 years

It’s 25 years since Biesse UK was founded and throughout the last quarter of a century, Steve Bulmer has remained a constant presence at the machinery manufacturer’s Daventry headquarters.

Helping to establish the firm when it was set up in 1993 as a UK subsidiary of the Italian Biesse Group, Steve began as Sales Manager then became Sales Director, before taking up the position of Managing Director in 2009, a post he still holds today. Steve’s trajectory could be said to have mirrored the fortunes of the company itself; starting with just three employees, it doubled its turnover in the first two years and now Biesse UK boasts a turnover of £30m+ and employs 100 members of staff. As Biesse UK celebrates its milestone anniversary, Steve reveals the ‘four Ps’ that have helped him to sustain a successful business – people, products, partnerships and progress.

People power

Behind every successful business is a team of great people and Biesse UK is no exception. As well as Steve, another of the original three employees is still at the heart of the firm; John Adamson is now the Service Manager for the glass and stone division. This commitment and loyalty is not unusual within Biesse. Despite its global reach – the Italian parent company has 40 subsidiaries – at its heart, it’s still a family firm and operates with a ‘one team’ mentality. “We describe ourselves as ‘glocal’ – a global company operating at a local level,” explains Steve. But like many manufacturing firms, retaining and recruiting good talent can be a struggle. “The biggest challenge facing the engineering industry today is the skills shortage,” acknowledges Steve. “Technician skills are in particularly high demand, not least because technology is moving at such a rapid pace – it’s now less about mechanical competence and more about software and electronics. To fill the gap, we recruit a regular stream of junior technicians, providing them with ongoing in-house training to enhance their skills.” Developing a team is something that Steve feels passionately about. “The thing of which I’m most proud during my 25 years at Biesse is seeing the team around me grow,” he states. “The value of our company lies not in the bricks and mortar, but in our staff. People matter.”

 

Premium products 

While good people are crucial, a good offering has also been central to Biesse’s success. The company’s product range has stood the test of time because it delivers what customers need – high quality, reliable and flexible machinery at a competitive price point. “Machinery is an expensive investment so equipment that can adapt according to demand is really important,” says Steve. “Whether the client is a nationwide manufacturer or a regional SME, it’s essential that they can offer their customers the latest industry trends, and these can change frequently.” Like people, machinery is an investment but Steve has noticed that Biesse’s clients are now less concerned with initial purchase price and are more aware of total cost of ownership. “Today’s customers understand the importance of efficiency and capability,” he reveals. “The overall quality/cost/performance ratio is now key. Our machines offer fantastic value for money – they’re high quality, well equipped, offer the latest technology and are built to last.” This is no empty statement: hundreds of their machines are still in operation in the UK more than 20 years after they were first installed. In fact, the company is so certain of the reliability of its machines that in 2011 it introduced an industry first – its Total Care five-year warranty and maintenance programme, which comes as standard on all core products. “We’re still the only company in our sector to offer this,” says Steve. “It sets us apart from our competitors and provides our customers with a clear cost of ownership.”

 

Perfect partnerships

Prioritising customers’ needs has clearly paid dividends. Biesse UK is rightly proud of the fact that four of its original clients are still with them today and Steve believes these partnerships have reaped mutual benefits. “Decorative Panels, The Richmond Cabinet Company, BA Components and Rixonway Kitchens have all been with us from the beginning,” he reveals. “They’re now major industry influencers but in the early days they were small firms, just like us. Our support has enabled them to grow and likewise, their custom has been instrumental in our success.” “Over the last 25 years, our DNA has remained the same; from day one, our focus has been on building relationships, not just selling machines,” Steve adds. “It’s a small industry and word travels fast. Despite the investment required to purchase a machine, we’ve received continuous repeat business – as companies have evolved, moved into new sectors, increased their output and diversified to meet changing consumer demands, they’ve required new solutions. Being considered a consultative supplier, we find customers continually request advice and support that they may not find elsewhere.”

 

Prioritising progress 

In fact, as their customers’ demands have altered, Biesse UK has not just followed suit but has in fact helped drive industry change. “The Biesse Group is known for innovation; over 300 people are involved in our R&D activities and customers often visit our UK Technical Centre in Daventry for trials and testing of the latest technology,” says Steve. “The fact that our parent company is Italian is also a benefit for our customers. Italian kitchen and home design is a few years in front of the UK, which means that we’re ahead of the curve domestically in terms of upcoming design trends and manufacturing methods. Over the 25 years, these insights have made an impact on the industry thanks to early adopters.” Biesse’s product range has expanded significantly in recent years. Although originally a manufacturer of Rover machining centres, Techno drilling machines and Selco beam saws that are still synonymous with Biesse today, the portfolio now includes innovations such as: Skipper, the first machine to offer simultaneous machining and drilling of two panels; a twin pusher solution available on the current range of Selco saws which delivers payback within just one year; Viet Opera R, a robotised sanding machine; and Nextstep, a flexible cutting centre which offers ‘batch one’ just in time production. No discussion around progress would be complete without mention of the 4th Industrial Revolution, however. The digital revolution has been the biggest change to happen in manufacturing during Biesse UK’s lifetime but the company has kept pace. “Our IoT platform SOPHIA connects us to our customer’s machines 24/7 so we can proactively monitor their condition, check component parts, and take preventative action as necessary to minimise downtime and faults,” explains Steve. “It also allows customers to monitor OEE and machine performance from their smartphone or tablet, and receive an alert if anything unexpected occurs. It includes an e-parts online portal too, and we’re continually expanding its functionality. We’re only at the start of the digital journey but technology is already making things easier for our customers.”

 

Promising plans

So, what do the coming years hold for Biesse UK? “Brexit may bring some challenges, but overall, I feel the market will remain buoyant,” states Steve. “Following our acquisition of boutique advanced material machine manufacturer Uniteam, we’ve industrialised their product range and now have a great offering for composite materials, such as carbon fibres and resin – this has the potential to be an even bigger market for us than wood. Our next ambitious UK business plan is well underway and we’re targeting further growth.”

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