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    NAA Event Review: Business Excellence Members Networking Meeting, Sigmatex, 1 October 2014

    One of the benefits of being a member of the NAA or the Business Excellence programme is the unique opportunity to visit world-class company sites and learn how the companies have grown. The recent Business Excellence visit to Sigmatex was one of the most fascinating yet, as BE members were able to see how carbon fibre materials are made, and hear about the impressive growth of the company… Read more

    The NAA tour started with a presentation from Scott Tolson, CEO of the Sigmatex Group. Scott explained that Sigmatex is a textile company, but one that produces carbon fibre for structural applications; it’s in the business of advanced composites. Sigmatex is therefore an interesting combination of a high tech company that still carries out traditional manufacturing processes.

    Sigmatex supplies mainly into aerospace and automotive – both have similar shares of the business. However there are also other business sectors such as sports, leisure and marine.

    The key benefit that Sigmatex offers is the ability to take out weight, while maintaining strength, compared to metals. This is an offering that is particularly in demand in the automotive industry, where Sigmatex supplies carbon fibre fabrics for end use by many major OEMs.

    However carbon fibre doesn’t just go into cars, you can also make planes and ships from it – yes, complete ferries can be constructed from a material made in a similar way to the clothes we wear.

    One of the most interesting aspects of the presentation was the dramatic growth of the company. Sigmatex was formed in 1986, and by 1996 was turning over £2.7m with just 12 staff. Since then the company continued to grow and moved into its current purpose-built premises in 2008. Turnover improved from £27m to £38m, and this year Sigmatex is turning over £60m. As impressive as these figures are, the company is aiming for over £75m turnover in 2015, and £100m in 2016.

    Following the presentation there was a factory tour, which did indeed show that the manufacturing techniques are based on traditional textile weaving, but the large numbers of machines producing materials for various supercars showed that Sigmatex has transferred this skill to modern high tech applications very successfully.

    Following the tour there were presentations from different companies that had benefited from NAA Business Excellence projects, the most impressive of which was Bentley. The company undertook what it called the ‘Basecamp’ programme, which took 4,000 employees through a process to identify where the gaps were in the plant’s efforts to raise its game and win the contract to build the new Bentley SUV. In summary, the outcome of the programme was that productivity at the factory improved by an amazing 25%, as well as staff satisfaction improving significantly within the Volkswagen Audi Group. And Crewe won the contract to build the new SUV.

    The Business Excellence visit to Sigmatex showed that the NAA offers valuable opportunities and insights to member companies that are unique and only available through the organisation.

    Feedback about the event was excellent. Stuart Eustace, Autoliv Quality Director for Global Textiles, said “Networking through NAA events is becoming an increasingly more important part of our business and we were encouraged to see parts of our supply chain and customer base attend the event. Competition within the automotive sector has never been greater and therefore these events are crucial in terms of sparking innovation, sharing best in class manufacturing, and continuing to develop our business in the North West. The day itself was seamlessly organised and pitched at a perfect level and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the NAA and the Sigmatex team for an excellent event. I look forward to attending further events and working with the NAA team.

    European Regional Development Fund Northern Powerhouse
    Partners Department for Business Innovation and Skills Finance Birmingham