UK: Dennis Mendoros - the unorthodox Greek. (3 of 4)

UK: Dennis Mendoros - the unorthodox Greek. (3 of 4) - Mendoros went to work straight away. The first task was to open communications with customers - frequently people whom he had previously known in the defence ministries and air forces. Starting from

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Mendoros went to work straight away. The first task was to open communications with customers - frequently people whom he had previously known in the defence ministries and air forces. Starting from point zero, and with no capital to speak of, all he could afford to offer them were spares. He became the local agent of US manufacturers and engine parts stockists, and at one time represented as many as 15 companies. From the same ministry contracts he was able to elicit official references - on departmental letter-heading and addressed "to whom it may concern" - to bolster his standing with the suppliers and with other customers. "Establishing a level of confidence is quite important when you are trying to start a new business" - especially in a sector like aerospace.

Spare parts, says Mendoros, "helped me back into the market". They are still a significant constituent of Euravia's business. Apart from their contribution to cash flow and profits, spares can be useful providers of market intelligence: a demand for particular items may say a lot about a customer's problems. At the outset the gross margin on spares must have been slender indeed, since Mendoros aimed to put his own business on the map by deeply undercutting any competition. But as a one-man band, his overheads were similarly negligible.

Overheads continued to be minimal when, after four months, he moved from Cheshire, where he had temporarily alighted for personal reasons, to Barnoldswick in Lancashire. The location was carefully chosen: Barnoldswick contains a Rolls-Royce factory and supplied the B in RB211, as everyone in the vicinity is proud to proclaim. That meant a reservoir of skilled engineers, some of whom might have accumulated 15 or more years' experience before being made redundant or taking early retirement.

But before he could think of engaging skilled workers, Mendoros had to have something for them to do - beyond sending out a few spare parts. "I was determined to take a calculated risk," he says. "Perhaps in a few years I wouldn't have done."

The opportunity arose late in 1988 when the MoD had an urgent need for an RB211 engine - of a specific configuration - for fitting to an RAF transport. Mendoros undertook to supply it. He found an engine core of the right type in the Middle East, obtained various components from the US, Hong Kong and elsewhere, and had the engine assembled, tested and delivered all within three months. He was not able to do it all by himself, of course, but he assumed the responsibility, arranged the shipment and testing, recruited consultants (from among retired engineers) and certified the work. The exercise went far to establish his credentials in the right quarters.

The revenues that it generated - well over £2 million - were what enabled him to bid for the factory at Earby, only a couple of miles over the hill from Barnoldswick. With further financing and other assistance from the Rural Development Commission and the local authority (the borough of Pendle encompasses both towns), the building was expensively adapted to fulfil his second major contract, which followed hard upon the first.

"The customer had a requirement for a stock of components but it also had a lot of outdated engines." Thus Euravia secured the job of completely dismantling several dozen Conway engines, of identifying all of the parts that could be re-used (or repaired - in which case the machining was put out to subcontractors, mainly local firms) and of returning the salvaged parts to source.

This RTP (reduce to products) contract was expected to last two and a half years, and has just about come to an end after less than two. Mendoros has won several minor orders in the meantime: for special tools designed to extract parts, for example, which are also being manufactured outside. He is "diversifying" into modification of nacels (engine housings) and into thrust reversers (which slow down an aircraft after landing), which will further help to keep his little team of engineers occupied.

But having shown how, when it comes to flexibility and speed of response, the small firm can far outdo big business, Euravia is paradoxically just beginning to feel some of the pressures that weigh upon the latter. For it does rather need a constant stream of work to get full value from the investment in girders, gantries, hoists and related hardware that were installed for manipulating (and originally for dismantling) huge aero-engines.

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