Boneham and Turner is a precision engineering company based in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire. The company was founded in 1918 by John Boneham and is the great grandfather of cousins Charles and Peter Boneham, the company’s current directors. The previous directors of the company were of course Charles and Peter’s fathers, John and Nick Boneham.
Boneham and Turner’s main markets are aerospace, composites and Formula 1, as well as the automotive industry. The company employs 40 people in the UK and 10 people in the US. Currently, about 60% of its business is the UK market while the US makes up the rest. In the past, the automotive industry was its main target market, but that has changed and aerospace is now the biggest focus.
Boneham and Turner serve around 5,000 active customers, which is comprised of a wide mixture from customers that occasionally buy parts online to major companies that make sizeable orders on a monthly basis.
During WWII the company contributed considerably to the war effort. It supplied parts, including the Perspex dome, for the Lancaster bomber, parts of the Wellington bomber, as well as the gearbox for the Spitfire fighter aircraft. Following the war, Boneham and Turner started to get involved with component products, in particular the jig bushes, which is a core product today. These products were in very high demand after the war, which allowed the company to prosper.
The company is currently enjoying a 22% growth rate, up from 17% last year.
“What we’ve learned and what matters today”, said Charles, “especially with the aerospace industry, is speed. Boneham and Turner’s selling point has always been quality, but that’s not enough today. To compete today you also need to deliver the fastest. A lot of our focus now is improving our lead times and processes.”
Boneham and Turner has one apprentice and is also running an apprenticeship scheme, in which currently six people are studying business improvement tools, with more people from the business joining in the coming months.
Charles is not very concerned about Brexit as their main focus remains the UK and the US.
“If there is a worry it is a situation in which a company like Airbus withdrew from the UK”, said Charles, “so hopefully aircraft companies will remain the country. There’s a demand for an aerospace industry in the UK and I think western companies are struggling to find manufacturers for this sector, so it isn’t a main concern for us.”
According to Peter, even before Brexit they had made a conscious decision to focus heavily on the UK and US markets.
“The US is a huge growth area for us”, said Peter, “and we’ve established a great network of representatives, distributers, catalogue houses – everything is positioned for growth – so we hadn’t really considered Europe anyway because it’s a flooded market for our standard parts.”
Charles and Peter are also not concerned with the impact of Brexit on the workforce, since their area has always had a good pool of people that we could train and employ.
“Since we are traditional in some areas of our operations”, said Peter, “we’re dealing with the loss of skills, due to retirement and other factors, with investment in new machinery. So we’ve been semi-deskilling some of the roles we have and using machines to do the work instead.”
According to Peter, Boneham and Turner focusses its innovation efforts on the methods and processes they use to manufacture the parts.
“We’re working on improving our speed,” said Peter, “We’re finding better methods of ensuring reliability. Our latest investment is a machine that can remove swarf so it is able to run constantly and more reliably overnight and have parts ready when you come in the morning.”
While there’s a lot they can do with automation, a lot of the innovation has to be about people and processes.
Sales Manager Stacy Denton-Beaumont said that when she first came to work for Boneham and Turner less than a year ago her favourite word was Why - why are they doing things in a certain way.
“So we’ve been trying to put processes in place”, said Stacy, “clean and clear things up, make everything work more efficiently and getting accountability as well. People need to understand what they have to do, why they are doing it and what are the benefits. Also creating awareness so people understand the full picture of the business, their role within it and how they affect performance. Being informative and transparent allows our people to see the business from a wider angle and that helps to focus and hopefully also to motivate them further.”
Boneham and Turner’s apprenticeship training covers Lean methodology. After the current six employees finish, the next group of six will kick off in August and this is intended to be an ongoing programme. Management is starting to see change and a lot more buy-in from staff who are getting more involved.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution
While Boneham and Turner obviously has an awareness of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, their primary focus is the customers.
“Ultimately, having customer focus will drive us towards more and better automation,” said Charles, “getting our systems to talk to the machines and increasing efficiency in that way so we can get products faster to customers. We’re trying not to lose sight of customer focus and the rest will come from that.”
Part of the company’s efforts to adapt to changes in technology and processes is changing their software system.
“SAGE, The system we’ve been using in the past five years has been very problematic and didn’t fit us at all and we are now moving to SAP, said Peter. “Once we complete the first phase, the second phase would be to move our website as well, to provide our customers full access and transparency in their accounts, check stock, pricing and more. The next phase is to try and get our expedited deliveries transparent on the shop floor with real-time locations and the manufacturing process.”
“One exciting project we’ve recently worked on was developing tooling products for the composite market,” said Charles, “evolving some of our standard parts, made from different materials, and modified and refocused them towards this market.”
“Instead of just focussing on competitors”, added Peter, “we’re trying to focus our strategy on making the UK industry competitive. One of the big markets is composites, which has now become a global industry and there are companies in the UK who are dealing with competitors, wastage and other issues, so we’re working alongside them.”
Speaking with many companies, Boneham and Turner realised that companies are wasting money and time by ordering components from sub-contractors that they designed in-house or using legacy components that were designed in the 1950s. This causes problems and having to scrap composite moulds. According to Charles and Peter, companies are trying to make components for Formula 1, aerospace and automotive industries on tighter margins due to the competition from China, Europe and America. Boneham and Tuner designed a range of components to hopefully mitigate those issues and reduce a lot of costs, scrappage and wastage.
Goals and values
Charles and Peter consider themselves as custodians of the company and their main goal is to move the company forward, improve their operation and provide a better service and products to customers. “We inherited it from our fathers, said Charles, “so we want to grow this company and pass it on to the next generation in a better condition than we inherited it.”
Peter said: “We work a lot with the composites industry now and our objectives are to expand in these industries, develop new solutions, standardise them, bring them to market and try to reduce the costs to allow these industries to be more competitive on a global scale.”