Ing. Albano Bragagni, President of European cable manufacturer Tratos, explains the company’s plans for future growth
The past five years has seen European cable manufacturer Tratos invest heavily in both its existing business and in two key acquisitions, namely North West Cables Ltd. and subsidiary Modular Wiring System Ltd. in the UK.
The deal grew the Tratos group to £30 million in the UK and €150 million with 350 employees worldwide. It provided – and continues to provide – Tratos with a strategic foundation from which to further develop both its client base and manufacturing output. The acquisition of the Modular Wiring Systems business has had the added advantage of putting Tratos at the forefront in this area which is based on a rapidly and easily installed modular sub-circuit distribution system prefabricated off-site. All this at a time when many companies are downsizing in the UK to manufacture elsewhere, often in areas with less ethical employment policies than those operating in Europe.
In line with its strategic growth plans, Tratos has continued to explore suitable electric cable companies for acquisition across the UK, but with little investment placed in UK manufacturing in recent years this option has ultimately proved to be financially unappealing.
Ing. Albano Bragagni explains: “When we purchased North West Cables in 2008, we knew the company and its facilities required modernising, which we were fully prepared for. Last year alone we invested £1 million in the Merseyside manufacturing facility, primarily on equipment, including a new £450,000 drum twister and two refurbished extrusion lines, but also on making major improvements to the aged buildings.
“Sadly this state of degeneration in UK cable manufacturing is the norm. With the ongoing financial crisis across Europe, this situation is unlikely to improve; if anything, we are seeing a further demise of companies in the manufacturing heartlands of the UK. To continue with a policy of acquisition in this climate would not be financially feasible or shrewd.”
But it’s not just the poor state of cable manufacturing the in the UK that has led Tratos to a change of strategy. “In mainland Europe it is the norm for the electrical industry to work closely with cable manufacturing companies to ensure traceability, quality product and engineering support” states Ing. Bragagni. The realisation that this is not the case in the UK came as a revelation and a disappointment. “I am dismayed at the UK industry culture of buying from the cheapest possible sources with little or no regard for quality and, ultimately, safety, despite the widely advertised Approved Cables Initiative. This practise is common knowledge and was even reported on the national BBC television programme Fake Britain which highlighted the issue of counterfeit cables.
“This is not a problem that can be overcome by one single manufacturer. We work closely with organisations such as the non-profit making Government-nominated body British Approvals Service for Cables (BASEC), which is a recognised sign of assurance of independent cable testing and approval. We continue to highlight the importance of BASEC approved cable and the dangers – some of them life threatening – of buying cheap, poorly made cables.”
“It is this combination of lack of investment in UK manufacturing and an industry culture of ‘cheap is best’ that has led us to the decision to alter our strategy away from acquisition in the UK, to instead focus on internal investment. We will look to invest in improving equipment and overall efficiency for our specialist markets and modernise existing machinery where possible for our more standard product lines.”
It’s the company’s specialist products where Tratos’ innovation and commitment to quality have seen the greatest return. These include specialist cables for the nuclear, oil and gas, defence, fusion and energy sectors. The company has won many large, prestigious orders over recent years for niche products in these areas, such as a €1 million contract to for the Daura Refinery in Baghdad and has been involved in ground breaking technology such as the development of an innovative superconducting Cable-In-Conduit, for use in the ITER reactor thermonuclear fusion project.
“This is where our real strength lies and where we see our future” explains Maurizio, “in niche markets requiring specialist, quality cabling. These products require modern, sophisticated production facilities with fully trained personnel, not patched up monolithic factories with an unskilled, de motivated labour force. We firmly believe the key to continued success is innovation and quality and we intend to fully support this with ongoing investment in our existing facilities.”
For more information, please contact Tratos on +44 (0)1515 483888 or go to www.tratosgroup.com/