Inal Metals is an EEF member based in Manchester, where they have a 9,000 square metre manufacturing facility, 20 employees (expected to grow by 20% in 2018) and a turnover of £2.5 million, mainly supplying aluminium extrusions and machine components.
The company was started in 1986 by Lynn Nicklin, who at the time was working for a multinational company in the sales department, after she decided that she could do the job herself. Lynn took a loan from the bank to start her own operation and initially commenced trading by reselling material, but soon decided to add value by doing further operations to it. They started off with just a single machine and grew from there. Since then, Inal Metals have been investing substantially in machinery (all CNC-based) and trying to buy a new machine every year to adapt to the rate in which technology and the market are advancing.
In an industry that employs over 20k people and contributes over £3.5 billion to the treasury coffers Inal Metals are proudly the only company with a majority female board.
Their clients range from industrial lighting (their biggest customer is Thorn Lighting) to construction companies working on projects as diverse as football grounds to Power Stations to the automotive industry; (Aston Martin) and everything in between. Inal Metals have a very fast turnover, and the nature of their business requires them to be very responsive to be able to accommodate different requirements using different machines, processes and programming.
Inal Metals' biggest challenge is to find the right programmers, because good programming is key to flexibility on the shop floor.
Inal Metals MD Lynn Nicklin
Women in Engineering
Lynn Nicklin was the first woman on the sales team at her previous employer. This was unusual at the time and she says that she thinks it hasn’t really changed very much in 30 years. She thinks the perception of women in manufacturing is still very old fashioned.
“I can still see it today”, says Lynn, “when we meet with customers and they usually automatically speak to the men in our group instead of me, at least until a bit later in the conversation when they realise their mistake.”
Lynn’s attitude, however, is positive and she is using this old-fashioned perception as a motivator.
“If someone approaches us requesting something that they have been told by other companies isn’t possible to do”, says Lynn, “then my response would be “watch me”, and we would find a way to do it. We view our perceived disadvantage [of being a manufacturing company led by women] as a competitive advantage.”
Lynn Nicklin (left) with Shadow Cabinet Minister Barbara Keeley (right)
Although Brexit will no doubt have an impact on business, Lynn prefers to stay optimistic having steered the company through past recessions. The closure of their biggest customer in the 90’s whilst a serious blow at the time, was just another challenge to overcome and another opportunity to regroup and reposition.
“We don’t view Brexit with fear, says Nicklin, “we view it as an opportunity. With 30 years in engineering we have pretty much seen it all, the good the bad and the ugly…and we’re still here loving it.”
To find out more about Inal Metals extrusion capabilities, check them out at www.inal.com