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Manufacturer plots 90 new jobs

Thursday 31 January 2013 1:00

Tyneside manufacturer Ford hopes to create 90 new jobs this year on the back of £1.5m of investment aimed at targeting new markets across the world.

The automotive parts maker officially opened its new 30,000 sq ft high-volume plant at North Shields yesterday, which will mainly supply German firm Freudenberg Technical Products with components for use in rubber seals used in the automotive industry.

Work at the Ford Component Manufacturing plant started earlier this month and saw production of high-volume parts switch from the firm’s Hebburn factory.

However, the £1m invested in the new plant and the 15 new jobs created there, form just a part of the company’s growth plans this year.

The group also plans to invest a further £200,000 this year in installing a new line at the North Tyneside factory for the treatment of aerospace parts. This will include specialist treatments which are currently outsourced by Ford, with the company aiming to cater for its fellow prime suppliers to the aerospace market that also outsource elsewhere.

The group will also invest £350,000 over the next 12 months at its Hebburn facility to install new equipment to help take the company into new markets.

Such machinery includes break presses which would enable to the group to produce bent as well as flat components – something which would grow its appeal in several of its core markets including earth-moving vehicles and automotives.

Having had its high volume work moved to North Tyneside, the Hebburn facility will now concentrate on low to medium volume manufacture and laser.

“We plan to widen the capability in Hebburn by investing in new equipment with capabilities for things we don’t do at the moment,” owner Geoff Ford told BQ. “It’s the classic one-stop shop idea. The more we have to offer, the more they’ll buy from us,” he added.

Meanwhile, changes are also afoot at the group’s aerospace HQ at Tyne Dock, South Shields. Having moved certain presses from there to Hebburn to fill the void created by the North Tyneside plant, the company will use this site to form the basis of a major new apprenticeship scheme.

A collaboration between Ford, South Tyneside College and training firm TDR (Training & Development Resource) will see the Tyne Dock plant become a training academy which Geoff Ford believes will put up to 50 apprentices on the path to a career each year.

“The final piece of the jigsaw is to establish a Ford engineering academy at Tyne Dock which will be run by our good friends South Tyneside College and TDR to train engineering apprentices for the foreseeable future,” he told assembled business leaders yesterday. “We at Ford are utterly determined to play our role to the full in helping the North East to lead the UK out of recession which I believe we can do through manufacturing export.”

In all, Ford expects the company to add 90 new staff to its 160-strong workforce this year – 15 initially at the North Tyneside plant and a further 75 across the group through its various expansion plans.

Opportunities overseas are also growing. The company will soon appoint its fourth agent in China and has recently appointed new agents in Italy, Brazil and South Africa while it is also keen to tap into the Turkish market. “It’s a market well worth looking at,” said Ford. “Turkish industry is very similar to the UK and it’s emerging, which really gives us something to go at.”

Initially 25 staff will work at the North Tyneside site at Silver Fox Way, New York Industrial Estate, producing an estimated 40 million parts per year.

Precision pressing and metal treatments, including components made durable and anti-corrosive using a phosphating treatments line – a first for the company – will be carried out there.

It will largely supply Freudenberg, which develops and manufactures seals, vibration control technology components, filters, non-wovens, surface treatment products and other technologies.

A key feature of the new plant is a sophisticated phosphate treatment line where precision pressed parts are given a final chemical finish and seal.

“The borough represents some of the best opportunities for inward investment and development in the UK,” Elected Mayor Linda Arkley said at the plant’s official launch yesterday. “Ford’s investment of up to £1m in this factory reinforces the appetite for businesses to do business here,” she added.

Ford specialises in presswork, from washers to complex parts, requiring the latest in progression tooling. Its products are used in railway rolling stock, heavy earth-moving equipment, HGVs, power generation, construction, mining, material handling, electronics and agricultural equipment.