Widnes-based Acer Engineering, which manufactures a wide range of steel fabrications and has benefited from JLR’s major investment into its Halewood factory. Tony McDonough reports
Jaguar Land Rover’s £110m investment into its Halewood factory to upgrade it to assemble the new generation Range Rover Evoque was not just great news for the people that work there – but also other firms across the supply chain.
They include Widnes-based Acer Engineering, which manufactures a wide range of steel fabrications, including ladders, platforms, stairways, barriers, trolleys and many other items for a host of clients across a number of sectors.
JLR is one of those clients and a team of Acer engineers have been working to help the carmaker carry out the necessary work at the Halewood factory in readiness for the new model.
Acer was founded as a family firm by Alan Ewan in 2000. In 2014, the business was taken over by David Halton, now the managing director. He joined the firm in 2003 as a project manager and admits the initial learning curve was a steep one.
He said: “When I joined the business, my background was in project management and I had no experience of engineering. I went and learnt the engineering aspect through the Open University and on-the-job training.”
Acer is a growing business which currently employs 20 people. It has just recruited an additional project engineer and is currently looking for an additional design draughtsman.
According to David, one of the key factors in its ongoing growth is the diversity of its customer base. He explained: “We work across a number of sectors, they include automotive, with companies such as JLR and Bentley, the chemicals industry, with clients such as BASF and Croda, and construction with a relatively new client, Buckingham Group.
“Historically we have steered clear of the construction sector because it can be quite volatile. But we have dipped our toe in the water with Buckingham and they are a fantastic business to work with.
“When you work across a range of sectors it means you are less vulnerable when one sector suffers a downturn. We are a little worried about what the impact of Brexit might be, we don’t export, but it could affect our clients.”
David adds that Acer works in a very competitive field and one of the competitive edges they have is the specialist knowledge acquired working with companies such as JLR and Pilkington Glass.
“Within JLR we operate mainly in the paintshop part of the operation,” he said. “Working in that environment takes a lot of care, and the client needs to be confident you know what you are doing – and our people do.
“Another challenge for us is the growth in regulation and red tape. We embraced the ISO 9001 quality system back in 2004, and added the BSEN 1090 in the last few years, we also hold several Health and Safety accreditations.
“Our customer base includes large corporations and local SMEs, we work hard to give the client the flexibility they need from their supplier.”
Acer has recently joined Mersey Maritime, a move David believes will prove to be advantageous in more ways than one, he explained: “The maritime sector itself is very diverse. Obviously, we are looking to win more clients for ourselves but we also see it as an opportunity to expand our own supplier base.”