#[email protected] Dudley Ltd, Birmingham Ladywood

Frank Dudley Ltd manufacture a range of metal stampings and pressings along with welded assemblies of the highest standard including -- metal pressings / stampings, stainless steel pressings, aluminium pressings and deep drawn pressings largely used in automotive. 

The business turns over £6m annually, employing 67 people, including 17 apprentices and three new apprentice starters who have recently joined, having either come through an FDL apprenticeship or who are currently on an FDL apprenticeship.

Josh Dudley-Toole, fourth generation family member in the business, also started as an apprentice, as did Alex their Production Manager.

End user OEM customers include Jaguar Land Rover, Bentley, Nissan, London Taxi, Tier 1’s include, Sertec, GKN, Covpress Assembly, Stadco, Ricardo.

The company has a long family history, having started in 1948 as a result of Frank Dudley’s entrepreneurship and desire for a better future for his family. A qualified toolmaker, he founded the business in his garden shed in Handsworth Wood, just after the end of World War II. Armed with only a small supply of hand presses, Frank set to work on supplying high quality washers for the automotive business.

The company has been built on strong family values, employing local people over generations, nurturing teamwork, investing in its people, in new technologies, and building on decades of experience with Frank’s five children helping him every day after school transporting the washers to the local platers. 

In the 1970s, as the economy sank into recession, the business moved from a premises in the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, renting a converted section of a previous Women’s Prison, and were based there for the next seven years.

Sadly, Frank died in 1966 at the age of 53, but his legacy continues with Josh Dudley-Toole, fourth generation involved in business development.

In 1995 the company moved to Ladywood, developing new capabilities installing 150-200T presses, then expanding to include 300T presses with two 500T presses. In early 2000 they invested in a new site which included, 600T Tandem and Progression Presses, Robot Welding and new Resistance Welding Machines. They have invested heavily in new equipment, including two new robots with a focus on specialist medium to high volumes of around 20-100k runs. Continuous improvement is a feature of day to day activity with a focus on developing tool room, engineering and sales excellence.

Beverley Nielsen visited the business in October 2016 and put the following questions to Josh Dudley-Toole, Graham Foxall, Operations Director, and the team to find out more about key issues affecting competitiveness.

Q: You have a strong focus on employing young people and training them into management positions through the in-company apprenticeship route. Do you feel this route can be further developed?

A: Yes, we are very focussed on the skills gap in the West Midlands – certainly as it affects us. The apprentices we’re hiring are coming to us straight from school. I can’t help wondering about the support levels available to people who’re perhaps 27 years old and have been out of education for say 10 years or so. Extending ideas and schemes such as the Sandwell Guarantee started by former Councillor and Leader, Darren Cooper, is something that we should be looking to do.

Q: Do you think local schools are doing enough to help young people understand the opportunities in local businesses?

A: I go into schools regularly to give talks and presentations to try to improve young people’s understanding of local industry. Live projects are one way that school children can get insights into what really happens in industry. Universities also have an important role to play. Helping young people to understand more about real life opportunities is really important, for example as lorry drivers, in distribution and storage, and in technical aspects of engineering.

Q: Do you worry about being overly dependent on car / automotive customer base?

A: We are not overly dependent on automotive. We have, in recent years, moved away from a high dependence on auto by bringing in new customers and markets. Project examples would be, Shelving Systems, Fascia plates for plug sockets and electricity outlets, lighting holders, Lawn Mower Products and Brightware Products

Q: Do you meet quality thresholds required by OEMs?

A: We work on the basis of rejection rates at 42 parts per million. Honda requires rejection rates at under 75 parts per million. We are now looking to get into rail, wind turbines, GEC, other advanced services. We see many opportunities opening up with our focus on continuous improvement, innovation and ongoing performance excellence.

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