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    NAA Event Review: Celebrating 50 years at Mini Gears

    Every NAA factory tour and networking meeting is unique and fascinating for its own reasons, but the recent visit to Mini Gears was all the more memorable due to the family-owned business having its 50th Birthday party on the same day as our event…

    Mini Gears Chairman Paul Darwent welcomed the NAA contingent to the company’s Stockport factory and gave one of his characteristically engaging and entertaining presentations which looked back at 50 years of highs and lows of growing a sub-contracting business.

    Paul traced the birth of the company back to 1966 when it made small gears for machines in the textile industry when they broke down. Over the years textile machines went electronic, dispensing with gears, but in the meantime the company had its first ‘break’ in the automotive industry when it won a contract with Cosworth. Mini Gears beat a number of multi-national companies to the work, and it even ended up with a starring role on TV as a result. Thanks to its track record of success with Cosworth it now started working for car makers such as Rolls Royce and Lotus.

    The company became wholly-owned by the Darwent family in 1993 when turnover was just over £1 million. Things were going well and then in 2000 a key customer of Mini Gears said that the company had to reduce its costs by 40% to retain a contract. This could have been the end for Mini Gears, but instead the company set up a lower cost manufacturing base in China. This worked well, and the same model was subsequently rolled out in the Czech Republic and India. Then came the 2008 economic meltdown, resulting in the factory in the Czech Republic being closed down.

    The company recovered and resumed growth, and it had its best year ever up until April 2015. By this point, in addition to the automotive industry, Mini Gears was working in the oil and gas sector – a sector which then proceeded to collapse. However the company continues to win automotive and aerospace contracts – and for a range of lower volume, more specialised components manufactured on CNC machines, not just ‘mini gears’. After 50 years the company has 80 staff and a turnover of around £10 million.

    So once again it’s all going well, but then the presentation ended with somewhat of a bombshell, as Paul announced that after 34 years he was stepping down from his role – with immediate effect – in order to pursue his passion in the area of classic cars. The NAA wishes him well and we’re sure he will be equally successful in his new career.

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