AMONG a host of hugely-successful North East manufacturing firms, Tharsus stands out from the crowd.
The rapidly-expanding firm is today named as winner of the Ernst and Young Manufacturers League, taking top spot in both the turnover and export rankings and featuring in the top five in the efficiency table.
Tharsus Group, based in Hebburn, South Tyneside, has invested £3m investment in a new factory in Blyth, Northumberland, creating 80 jobs and bringing total headcount up to 150.
The investment was overseen by chief executive Brian Palmer, who has led the company to increase its exports massively since 2010 and is targeting turnover of £14m this year.
With a product portfolio ranging from an industrial vending system, a market-leading parts washer and a glass recycling unit, through to a hydrogen generator based on innovative electrolysis technology, the skills, versatility and responsiveness of the manufacturing team are critical to Tharsus’s continued success.
Its solution to the skills shortage affecting its peers is to encourage staff to take responsibility for their own upskilling and engage in continuous development.
Manufacturing director Mike Hutchinson spoke at the Future Factories conference in London.
He said: “Many of the team at Tharsus benefit from an automotive background where discipline, control and deadlines are second nature but it’s equally important that they have the flexibility to cope with the variety of products we make here at our factories in Blyth and Hebburn.
“We encourage everyone to take responsibility for their own development and increase the amount of training we offer year on year.
“A number of the team have progressed from apprenticeship through to degree level study. Our aim is to develop an autonomous workforce with a deep understanding of manufacturing principles and the value of learning.”
Tharsus don’t make their own products but offer an end-to-end service for customers looking for a solution to the design and manufacture of the equipment that their businesses rely on.
It’s a forward-looking service that builds on the globally-recognised strength of manufacturing know-how in the UK.
Offering benefits through late customisation, reduced inventory and response to the country-specific requirements of the European market, more customers are recognising the competitive advantage to be gained over the option of manufacture in low-cost economies.
CEO Palmer is confident the service will gain traction: “We believe that our knowledge-based approach sets us apart from the commoditised offer of traditional contract manufacturers.
“We’re already working with businesses, from global leaders and emerging start-ups, who are part of the UK’s vibrant culture of innovation. As they develop exceptional concepts, it’s essential they can tap into the knowledge and resources required to bring their products to the market.
“We describe what we do as original equipment design and manufacture – or OEDM – and it allows our customers to focus their resources on core technology and market development activities.
“We take on responsibility, and the associated overhead, for dealing with the challenges of system integration and manufacturing efficiency, but more importantly our goals are aligned with those of our customers. If they do well then so do we, so it’s in our interests to build great products.”
Hutchinson believes Tharsus will create further opportunities.
He explained: “We developed an innovative project with local youth unemployment charity Blyth Tall Ships to tap into a rich seam of talent we can bring on to the shop floor, and at the same time give some young people a second chance.”
Palmer added, “I believe the skill shortages we see today are in large part due to the failings of industry to train sufficient people in the 90s.”
“It’s down to those within the industry to identify, attract and retain talent across the region by ensuring they develop the skills they need to succeed.”§