TMD Friction

North East Business Insider Q&A with Tom Russell from TMD Friction

How was 2021 for the company? Did it perform as expected, above expectations or did the challenges brought by the pandemic hamper performance?

There’s no doubt 2021 was a year of highs and lows, with many of the lows the result of circumstances beyond our control.

The coronavirus pandemic had a massive impact on our business in 2021, mainly because of the number of staff who were forced to isolate. At one point we were around 25 per cent down on numbers which, for a business like ours which relies on shift outputs to maintain production levels, has a huge knock-on effect.

However, the changes to isolation rules, which brought an end to the ‘pingdemic’, was a game-changer for us, and really did help us get back on track in terms if staffing numbers and results.

As we look back on the year as a whole, we’re happy with what we have achieved and thankful for the team effort. We are nearing our weekly production output targets that we set at the start of 2021, and are confident these will be achieved at the start of 2022.

What kind of momentum is the company ending the year with? Will it start 2022 in a strong position?

The final few months have been busier than ever for the business, so much so that the traditional festive shutdown we normally have in place was cancelled because the demand for brake pad production is so great. We’re basically working around the clock to achieve output levels that our clients require, and of course, we must thank our staff for their willingness to work the increased hours needed to ensure we fulfil orders.

This unprecedented demand means 2021 will roll into 2022 seamlessly, and guarantees we’re starting the year in a strong position. Not only that but current client orders mean the first six months of the year are going to be tremendously busy and it’s likely that will remain the case throughout 2022.

What kind of challenges – either in industry or on a wider national scale – might the company come up against in 2022?

The main challenge we are currently facing is access to the right people. The labour market doesn’t seem to be in a particularly strong position with many manufacturers including TMD Friction struggling to recruit the people we need. It’s crazy that we have the jobs there and want to recruit, but can’t because we can’t find the people.

There’s no getting away from the fact that the coronavirus pandemic is still with us, and the new Omicron variant is causing significant problems globally. But as an employer that made vast changes to our way of working to ensure our environment is clean and Covid-safe for every member of our staff, we will continue to operate in a ‘business as usual’ way and of course, review the position on a regular basis.

Do you have any plans moving forward to expand the team?

Yes, absolutely. As I’ve said we need to increase staff numbers to meet client demand, so that’s our number one priority and something we are actively looking at.

In 2021, our workforce increased from 460 to 508, which is a significant increase, particularly in the current climate.

What would it like to achieve over the next 12 months? What would you want to have achieved if we had this chat next year?

Well, first and foremost to continue to perform safely and successfully, meeting international demand for our products which increases year on year.

We’re close to having the building blocks in place to enable us to hit our output targets of manufacturing 120,000 parts per week which is fantastic and testament to the hard work and commitment of our workforce who continuously go above and beyond what’s expected of them.

In 2021 we secured over £3m of investment across the plant, so we’ll be working closely with our parent group to secure further financial commitment that will support our continued growth in Hartlepool.

On a personal level, I’m also supporting the recruitment of young talent into the business. Our apprentices are key members of our team and with a proven track record in promoting them once they’re fully qualified, TMD Friction is the perfect business for people looking to secure long-term careers with an employer that will reward potential with the chance to move into more senior positions.

TMD Friction secures additional £1m investment to end 2021 on a high

Automotive manufacturer TMD Friction is ending 2021 with the confirmation of a further £1m of investment in a new paint line.

The commitment from the Hartlepool-based company’s global group takes the total money secured this year to over £3m and has supported the creation of 48 new jobs – taking the total number employed to 508.

The investment comes on the back of a challenging year for the company, mainly due to circumstances beyond their control.

The coronavirus pandemic meant TMD Friction had to make many changes to operations to adhere to social distancing guidelines, while the isolation rules which were in place until September meant at one point the firm had 25 per cent of its staff at home.

However, the group gave the company its full backing, and earlier this year announced over £2m was being spent across the plant, including in a new paint line, air compressors and equipment and software to significantly improve how the company communicates with its staff.

Now, this additional £1m of investment on a second new paint line means TMD is well placed to hit its production output target of 120,000 parts per week – all in a more energy efficient way.

UK Operations Manager Tom Russell said: “When we look back over the past 12 months, it’s clear to see our business has achieved so much in what’s been a very challenging global climate.

“The investment secured from our parent company throughout the year has been welcomed and reinforces the group’s commitment in our facility.

“And now, to be able to announce a further £1m for the introduction of another new paint line, which will significantly boost output, quality, and carbon emissions, means we’re ending 2021 striving towards achieving our goal of 120,000 parts per week, which was our target at the start of the year.

“Of course, investment in machinery and equipment is one thing, however, investing in our workforce is just as important to us – we know it’s our people that are the key to our continued growth and I really want to thank them for their efforts as we know it’s been a tough year for many.”

Tom added: “We’re ending the year on a real high and it’s a tremendous boost to our loyal and dedicated workforce to know that further significant investment is being committed in Hartlepool.

“At times it’s been hard but we’re now ideally placed to continue on this positive trajectory into 2022, achieving the ambitious targets we put in place at the start of this year.”

TMD Friction is a global manufacturer of brake pads, with the Hartlepool plant producing pads for 95 per cent of the models for Europe’s aftermarket, including emergency services vehicles and many of the major distribution small trucks and vans.

TMD Friction, which has its only UK production facility in Hartlepool, has been making parts for the passenger car aftermarket since 1974 and now employs 508 people in the North East.

TMD Friction creates new Environment, Health and Safety team

THREE new appointments have been made to form a new dedicated Environment, Health and Safety team at TMD Friction in Hartlepool.

The team is spearheaded by manager Shaun Wilson, who joins the global automotive manufacturer from Caterpillar in Peterlee.

He was brought in to drive forward TMD Friction’s commitment to creating a safe and healthy environment for staff and to reduce the number of accidents on site which lead to lost time on the production line.

Shaun was also given the opportunity to cherry pick his own support, which led to the appointments of Rob Nicholson, whom Shaun worked with at Caterpillar, and Leanne Jones, who brings with her a wealth of industry experience and knowledge, having previously worked at KP Snacks.

The team will also support TMD Friction’s sites across the UK.

Shaun said: “I was brought into the business because TMD Friction wanted its UK sites to go on a journey across the health and safety spectrum. They wanted to create a team dedicated to this area, that could engage the workforce and ultimately make the plants a safer place to work for everyone.

“What we have initially focussed on is speaking with all teams within the business to get them bought into our aims and objectives. It really is about ownership and although my team is leading on this, we need the buy-in of everyone to achieve what we want to.

“We have also developed a three-year strategy, looking at preventing accidents through risk reduction with our main focus on critical life risks such as work at height, lock out tag out and mobile equipment and pedestrian interaction. Our slogan is ‘Say No To Risk’ and we want everyone to understand this – if any member of staff sees risk anywhere we want them to speak up.”

Since the team was launched, they have already reduced accidents across the Oakesway Industrial Estate plant by 29 per cent and cut the number of accidents which resulted in lost time from four to one.

TMD Friction manufactures brake pads for 95 per cent of the models of Europe’s aftermarket, including emergency services vehicles and many of the major distribution small trucks and vans.

The past 18 months have seen 52 new products introduced at Hartlepool and two new flagship customers added to TMD Friction’s portfolio of automotive manufacturers.

The company’s other UK sites in Elvington, Warrington and Cleckheaton have also benefited from investment to support operations at Hartlepool.

Tom Russell, UK Operations Manager, said: “Environment, Health and Safety has always been at the front and centre of everything we do at TMD Friction, however with the appointment of a dedicated team led by Shaun Wilson, we feel that we’re very much building for the future, our continued growth here in Hartlepool and working towards an accident-free site.

“We want every member of the team to feel completely safe when they come to work, but also feel confident enough to speak up if there is something they aren’t comfortable with. Because, ultimately, the safer the plant is the more productive we are and the happier our staff are when they come to work.”

TMD Friction apprentices on the right track for permanent careers

THREE young apprentices are working towards potential careers with TMD Friction after being given the opportunity to learn while they earn.

The global automotive manufacturer, which has its only UK production facility in Hartlepool, has been making parts for the passenger car aftermarket since 1974 and now employs 449 people in the North East.

The recruitment of apprentices is a key element of the company’s succession planning strategy and through its close working partnership with Hartlepool College of Further Education, regularly looks to bring fresh new talent into the business.

The current tranche of maintenance apprentices are Jonny Davison, Jack Fallow and Stephen Smailes, with the later joining the company in February.

Jonny Davison, from Seaton Carew, spent time on work experience with the Oakesway Trading Estate employer before being offered a position on a Level 4 mechatronic engineering apprenticeship. The 20-year-old recently completed the qualification and is now undertaking a NVQ Level 2 in electrical and mechanical engineering, after which he will complete a year of on-the-job training to learn all the skills needed to secure a permanent position with the company.

Jonny said: “I am really enjoying my job. I love getting up every day and feel like I am learning so many different things. I am determined to do well and take the chances that come my way.”

Jack Fallow, 19, from Castle Eden is halfway through his four-year apprenticeship after which he will undertake a HNC qualification to equip him with the educational skills he needs to secure a future with TMD Friction.

He said: “I have been given a great opportunity with TMD and I am working so hard to prove myself. It’s a great company to work for and I feel everyone has really supported me during my apprenticeship.”

Stephen is the newest of the three to join the maintenance team. He was studying at Hartlepool College when they put him forward for a Level 3 engineering apprenticeship, which he started in February.

The 19-year-old, who lives in Hartlepool said: “I still feel very new to the business, so I am constantly learning and know there is so much to take on board. I love it though and really like the people I work with, who have helped me settle in so quickly.”

TMD Friction, which manufactures brake pads for 95 per cent of the models of Europe’s aftermarket, including emergency services vehicles and many of the major distribution small trucks and vans, moved to its current base on Oakesway Trading Estate in 1998.

The past 15 months have seen 52 new products introduced at Hartlepool and two new flagship customers added to TMD Friction’s portfolio of automotive manufacturers.

The company’s other UK sites in Elvington, Warrington and Cleckheaton have also benefited from investment to support operations at Hartlepool.

Jenny Wright, UK HR Manager at TMD Friction, said: “Attracting a mix of young talent and experienced personnel are absolutely critical to our long-terms plans for growth.

“We are delighted with the progress that Jack, Jonny and Stephen are making with us. I am certain they will prove themselves during their apprenticeships and training periods and there is no reason why they cannot go on to secure permanent positions with the company.”

TMD Friction employs a number of apprentices across the business.

TMD Friction donates £1,000 to Warrington hospice to mark H&S milestone

TMD Friction in Warrington has donated £1,000 to St Rocco’s Hospice as it marks a major health and safety milestone.

The site has recorded 1,000 days without any time being lost to accidents and as a thank you the company agreed to make the cash donation to a charity chosen by the employees on site.

They chose the hospice, which provides round the clock care to patients who have incurable and terminal illnesses, as many have had direct or indirect support from the facility.

Colin Andrews, Logistics Manager at TMD Friction’s Warrington facility, believes the site’s success in achieving the health and safety milestone is down to the commitment and work ethic of the 34 staff who work there.

Colin, who has been with the company for 38 years, said: “It really is a fantastic achievement to reach 1,000 days without losing any time due to accidents and the credit has to go to the team on site, who pride themselves on their high standards and organisation throughout the site.

“Health and safety is something we take incredibly seriously – for us it’s not just about what needs to be done, but the added extras that we can introduce which ensure that this site maintains our impeccable health and safety record – for example we’ve added safety features onto our fleet of forklift trucks, which isn’t a legal requirement, and our supplier tells us we’re the only customer in the UK that has done this. That’s something we’re so very proud of.

“When we reached the 1,000 days milestone and the company said they would recognise this achievement with a £1,000 donation to a charity of our choice, the guys straight away chose St Rocco’s Hospice in Warrington.

“It’s a charity we have supported in the past and one which not only provides a fantastic service to people across our community but one which means so much to the staff here – many of whom have friends or family members that have received care from the dedicated team there.”

A spokeswoman for St Rocco’s Hospice welcomed the donation from TMD Friction, as the hospice relies in large part to donations and fundraising campaigns. She said: “We are incredibly grateful to TMD Friction for their very generous donation.

“Donations like this are vital in us maintaining the high quality of care we are able to provide to our patients, and the support we can offer to their families. Thank you to the staff at TMD for choosing to support St Rocco’s Hospice, and we congratulate them on the health and safety milestone they’ve achieved.”

TMD Friction’s Warrington warehouse opened in 1993, originally supplying parts to depots around the country. Today it is a central distribution hub for the UK, servicing around 400 customers.

Tom Russell, UK Operations Manager at TMD Friction, said: “The guys at Warrington have worked so hard to ensure they maintain incredibly high health and safety standards, going over and above what’s required and expected to introduce systems and processes which are being highlighted across the group as models of best practice.”