HCM Engineering’s Managing Director, Simon Hanson, was sent to Australia on a trade mission in 2001 to understand how the Australian automotive casting industry coped with the far eastern competition with countries such as Japan, China, Korean and Singapore.
“I found the 3-week tour invaluable and learnt from one toolmaker in Brisbane that they had formed a joint venture with highly skilled low-cost countries to assist in keeping them competitive in a global market. They are an island nation and form networks and alliances to huddle together to show a stronger image, capacity and technical working group.” Simon explained.
Simon said the thought remained with him throughout his tour around industrial India 18 months later in 2003 after he had met a trading company during a die casting visit in England. The tour resulted in finding a suitable partner in Bangalore, South India. A highly skilled and empowered workforce managed by a Harvard Educated Indian, Srikanth, who Simon instantly “clicked” with.
(Image: Ray Hanson – HCM founder – cutting the ribbon in 2008 for new plantain India)
In 2004, Simon continued: “We bought a 5-acre plot and set about forming a plan of building a world-class facility and transferring the 50 years of experience and traditions we had at HCM UK in precision high-class tooling for the aluminium casting industry. We learnt from them and vice versa. As a result, we became a more mature and diverse team and able to offer more solutions at a more competitive price.
“We bought and transferred suitable machines/equipment, trained and developed the Indian team and had regular visits to India and the UK every couple of months during the next few years. Even going over to India for a weekend when a meeting needed to be face to face.”
The team grew, the factory was complete, new work was placed and HCM began trading in India. The strategy was to complement HCM UK in supplying relevant lower cost parts to large complex tooling that is often 12 tons and £250,000 in cost. This helped them maintain the UK market and fended off foreign competition to ensure our business, people and skills remained in the UK.
(image: The vision for the new Magnesium plant plus the cleanroom for medical)
Simon added: “Our traditional UK customers were under huge pressures to buy from the far east but we could now get a lot closer on cost and also help service, maintain and develop the tooling locally to help keep UK die casting companies to stay in the UK and not have to offshore.”
This was a win-win for HCM’s UK customers and helped the Indian subsidiary provide commercial business models that worked for the premier UK industry with JLR, Aston Martin, Bentley, McLaren and with their tier 1’s such as Bosch, Borgwarner, Getrag, Magna and Yazaki in Automotive. This also included the non-automotive groups in lighting, wind supply, leisure and electronics.
HCM designs and manufactures tooling in the UK and India with tools up to 12 tons and 3 meters in size. This is supplied to industries such as Medical & Motorsport, but also IBEX India, HCM’s sister company, who are manufacturing Aluminium and Magnesium components for Military, Automotive 4 and 2-wheeler vehicles, domestic boilers, lighting and more. Simon concluded:
“What we have learnt is that team effort is key and by joining hands we are stronger and more resilient to the volatile world and markets we serve. The hybrid approach works and we have a really strong bond with our sister company. Even buying virgin jungle land and helping to build eco-lodges and resorts as a shared interest in wildlife and conservation. Even filming for the BBC’s David Attenborough programs.
An example of the joint venture success was when we had to provide parts to Nissan Japan on 1st January and due to our traditional Christmas shutdown, we couldn’t do it but used our multi-cultural team in India to manufacture as they work over Xmas and supplied a cast product for vehicle trials to Nissan Japan.
The next few years will be challenging with new trade agreements with a world coping with COVID but we have to find ways to evolve, survive and diversify.
From HCM’s perspective, we have opened up new markets in building products, wind turbines, marine and electronic infrastructure and exploring new rail programmes like HS2 to grow our customer base”.
We have lately developed a lifestyle business manufacturing high-end garden furniture and also COVID medical plastic components in this ever-changing world.