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Moving on: Goss Springs heads toward a 60-year landmark

04 December 2013

The family run business, Goss Springs, has been manufacturing springs, wire forms and metal pressings since its formation in 1954 by Thomas and Edward Goss. Next year will see the company celebrating 60 years in business. 

Daniel Goss (left) with his father, Nicholas Goss
Daniel Goss (left) with his father, Nicholas Goss

Until recently, Goss Springs had been operating from a factory in Walthamstow in North East London, a site it first occupied in 1968. That 45 year tenure is now at an end and DPA caught up with present directors, Nicholas and Daniel Goss as they set about re-establishing a new base in Epping, some eleven miles distant from the old site.

Moving a factory lock, stock and barrel to a new location is not something to be undertaken lightly. Goss Springs’ proprietor and managing director, Nicholas Goss had, for several years, been considering such a move in order to accommodate new machine acquisitions, but the issue took on greater urgency when – out of the blue – a noise abatement notice was served on the Walthamstow site by Waltham Forest Council.

The factory had been operating alongside residential housing for decades but a single complaint was all that was needed to seal the fate of a manufacturing operation that had hitherto secured not only employment for local people (some 450 at its peak), but also a steady revenue stream for the local authority by way of business rates. The site has since been earmarked for housing development.

With the long term plan to move now sharply brought into focus by events, the problem of how to maintain supplies to Goss’ many customers during the relocation loomed large. The decision was taken to ramp up production in the months leading up to the move in order to build stocks to unprecedented levels.

Nicholas and his son, Daniel Goss, the company’s business improvement director, calculated the necessary volumes based on current order levels, with contingencies in place to meet unforeseen demand – particularly from key, high-volume account customers. According to Nicholas Goss, this strategy paid off, as at least one customer’s order quantity rose by almost 50 percent during the production hiatus.

Meanwhile, the not insignificant task of relocating scores of machines, including a number of presses – one of 250 tonnes capacity – had to be tackled. With the new site acquired and vacated, the problems of logistics and manpower resources had to be addressed. While employment levels at Goss have steadily declined over recent years - largely as the result of automation - the company has bucked a common industry trend to outsource engineering support by keeping on an in-house maintenance team. Apart from anything else, as far as the move went, the tactic paid off handsomely.

Back in March 2013, this five-strong team began stripping out vital services such as cable trunking and compressed air lines from the Walthamstow site, transferring it to the Epping facility. By the time of DPA’s visit in October, the bulk of the re-installation work had been completed, and at a fraction of the cost had it been contracted out.

The relocation has been somewhat complicated by the fact that the Epping site - though larger in overall area than that at Walthamstow - comprises several separate buildings, the combined floor area of which is greater than the manufacturing area at Walthamstow. With the urgency to get production up and running as soon as possible, both Nicholas and Daniel Goss concede that their services layout planning was, more or less done on the hoof!

As far as the logistics went, again this was very much an internally managed task, with employees turning their hands to moving the machines from the old to the new site. Even the transport was arranged internally, as the outright purchase of a 7-tonne truck proved to be a more economical proposition than hiring!

A competitive business
Clearly, a contract manufacturing business such as Goss Springs operates in an intensely competitive environment. Large by any standard – the company produces something in the region of 600 million items annually - Goss confronts the competitive pressures faced by many UK SMEs – namely, that from large global manufacturers with favourable economies of scale. Nonetheless, Nicholas Goss believes the tide is changing and work is beginning to drift back home due to a variety of factors - product quality, customer relations and soaring labour costs for Asian manufacturers among them.

And it is product quality that Goss believes will be the key to its future prosperity. Serving the defence, aerospace and automotive markets has entailed a good deal of work in terms of quality systems development and Daniel Goss, who has been overseeing progress in this area, says that the company’s achievement of ISO/TS16949 automotive and AS9100 Aerospace accreditation, clearly mark Goss out as a supplier led by quality.

Indeed, Daniel Goss is keen to maintain both the company’s investment in quality systems and its engineering design support for customers, including niche services such as prototyping and customisation for customers in the automotive, aerospace, defence and medical device industries.

Recent investments include a new MicroStudio vision based spring measuring system, which is capable of providing full statistical process control of parameters such as spring diameter and squareness. Ultimately, Daniel Goss wants to see the implementation of full traceability reporting for his company’s more demanding clients.

Volume markets
While developing its services for these technically demanding sectors may be firmly on the agenda, Goss is also proud of its ability to serve high-volume markets with the same attention to product quality and customer service. Indeed, the importance of volume markets to its business is unquestioned, as the recent necessary hike in inventory levels ahead of the relocation amply demonstrates

In terms of volume, the electrical sector is the largest by far, with 50 million pieces manufactured annually and demanding as much as 20 percent of Goss’ total machine capacity. By way of illustration, the company manufactures a particular spring destined for a kettle switch at the rate of 400,000 pieces per month.

And it’s not all for domestic consumption. Between 30 and 40 percent of Goss’ current output goes to export; the company even has customers in China!

Nicholas Goss is optimistic about the future of UK manufacturing, despite the example of negative attitudes that precipitated his company’s recent, largely unplanned move into new premises. He is confident that the attention to product quality, faster turnaround, geographical advantages, competitive pricing and willingness to engage in the design process that characterise his and many other UK-based manufacturing operations will ultimately provide a winning streak for UK PLC.

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