Speedboard is in the business of supplying prototype printed circuit boards to electronics companies. Few factories have to meet such a demanding timetable. 'The first we know of an order might be a motorcycle courier arriving with the drawings,' says technical and manufacturing director Glyn Thurston. The finished circuit boards produced from those drawings could have to be on their way back to the customer 48 hours later.
The company was founded by Thurston and co-director John Verity in 1984, following the closure of the business that employed them. 'Not having a job to go to on Monday morning rather focused the mind,' remarks Verity. Speedboard itself is nothing if not focused. Thurston concentrates wholly on producing circuit boards - from simple single-sided ones to complex 24-layer 'sandwiches' whose copper tracks are built up through repeated photo-etching. Verity is the strategist and finance man who ensures that the money is there to supply Thurston's considerable equipment needs.
Capital expenditure is budgeted at 25% of turnover. The founders vacated their original 2,500 sq.ft premises in 1989, when they moved into the present 10,000 sq.ft industrial unit in Windsor. Last year this was extended by a further 6,500 sq.ft, yet it is scarcely big enough to accommodate all the fruits of past investment. A lot of machinery is duplicated, because 'in this business you can't suffer a breakdown'. Key pieces of handling equipment were designed in-house. So was the software which guides the manufacture of boards from the estimating stage right through to machine-by-machine routing around the factory.
Speedboard is still a small company by any standard - the payroll has only 37 names - yet it has been growing at 30% a year. It has never made a loss and has never had an overdraft. And the customer base is deliberately held at a broad - and safe - 160. Management knows that it is exceptional service that keeps customers coming back. 'The factory is our marketing tool,' says Verity.
Regional Award: London and South East
MSPL is the ICL company which provides UK manufacturing industry with integrated solutions. Its mission is to provide consultancy and products to manufacturing companies to assist them to improve their business efficiency.
MSPL has some 200 staff, based throughout the UK; the majority are business consultants specialising in various aspects of manufacturing. A wide portfolio of application software is available, covering the business functions of commercial, engineering, production and financial management.
Activity: Printed circuit board manufacture
Task: To turn customers' drawings into circuit boards on a tight timescale
Size: 37 employees
Outstanding Features: Space utilisation, commitment to service, process technology.