A pattern of growth
With the company rapidly approaching the twentieth anniversary of its entry into the UK market, Datum represents a widely respected expert in the supply of Phenolic Composites into the UK Rail Industry
As a business that delivers fire resistant Composite products and turnkey solutions to some of the rail industry’s leading OEMs including Bombardier, Alstom, Siemens and Hitachi, Datum entered into the market place in 1997 in the field of pattern making and foundry work before taking advantage of its transferable skills to develop a strong composites division, which was launched during 2002. Datum offers clients a full turnkey solution in the manufacture and installation of new products for the rail market, as well as comprehensive capacity in the field of repair and refurbishment operations for existing components. Its experienced staff are able to take anything from a basic sketch, CAD design or historic part supplied by the customer and run the entire manufacturing process from the development of tooling through to the final series production and delivery of the finished part itself.
“We do not actually design formally and operate primarily as what is known as a build-to-print manufacturer, which means that clients approach us with a drawing and a packet of information that details the customer requirement and we build according to that specification. However, we do consult with our clients and are able to offer solutions that can improve the manufacturing process, which enables us to take cost out of a component’s production and manufacture the design as efficiently as possible,” elaborates Managing Director, David Taylor. “One of the unique selling points of Datum is that the roots of the business lie in the nationwide supply of Pattern and Tool making. This still forms around 50 per cent of our business but it means that we are one of perhaps a handful of companies within the UK that can take a client’s design intention and produce it from start to finish. We produce all of the required patterns, tooling and parts and are further able to undertake the component’s assembly, painting and final delivery to the rail vehicle and all from under one roof, it’s a genuine concept to reality solution.”
During February 2016 Datum announced the opening of a new factory adjacent to its existing site that enabled the firm to centralise all of its production operations into a single location. This had the effect of doubling its footprint and capacity while further improving its manufacturing efficiencies. The company was previously profiled by Railway Strategies during April 2016, when David discussed plans to install a new painting facility into the plant throughout the year to complete the site’s turnkey service offering. With the installation of new painting facility successfully completed and being rolled-out through 2017, Datum is able to offer clients a unique turnkey solution from a single site, which enables the company to oversee and monitor the quality of components throughout the entire process. “The expansion into the new facility extended our operating space from 12,000 sq ft. to 23,000 sq ft. of available space and was fuelled, not only by the fact that we wanted to get everything on one site to make the business more efficient, but also meet the need to grow the company,” David explains. “The UK rail industry is relatively buoyant at the moment, which we have interpreted as a good opportunity to expand and to raise the profile of the company. Having a new facility with everything onsite in a single factory helps us better showcase our abilities and makes us quite appealing to potential clients. This has resulted in further works being placed and the award of several new contracts for Datum. We have also been able to expand the numbers of our staff and grow accordingly and hope to achieve around 30 per cent growth within the rail industry during 2016.”
To coincide with this planned expansion Datum has conducted a major review into its own internal quality management system and now operates a very detailed ‘Parts Approval Process’ management system (PAPs). This is key to the quality aim of gaining IRIS accreditation and is seen as a natural future development.
Its proven track record, industry experience and continued investment into its manufacturing facilities has allowed Datum develop a proud history of working alongside some of the most respected names within the rail industry. The company continues to partner with Garrandale and Bombardier to supply Crossrail Cab fronts in a project that is scheduled to run into 2018, while also working with Bombardier on its new LoTrain and with Hitachi to supply spares for the company’s A395 trains. “Moving forward we hope to continue to work on the Class A395 for Hitachi, including the delivery of spares, repairs and refurbishment work. This is an interesting area for us and it is hoped we can grow with Hitachi in the longer term. We also continue to work and grow with Birley Manufacture on various projects but in particular, the supply of PRM compliant Toilet Modules for the UK market and are hopeful of great success with what is great product,” David says.
In addition to leading the rail market in the delivery of Phenolic parts Datum is at the forefront of protecting itself and the wider manufacturing industry from a growing skills shortage through a combination of a highly successful apprenticeship scheme and its own in-house training programme. These measures will allow the company to continue to meet the needs of its clients well into the future, while training the next generation of engineers. “We operate several training schemes throughout the company, on the Pattern and Tool side of the business we work with formal apprentices that are linked to the local colleges, while on the Rail and Composite side of the company we currently operate our own in-house training programme. We typically have between five or six trainees within the business at any one time and it’s the only way that we can see to meet our employment needs long-term. It’s very frustrating as a lot of our peers do not share this ethic, if every manufacturing company did just a little bit of training not only themselves, but the UK industry as a whole would benefit,” David concludes. “Regarding the future of Datum, during the next 12 months we will be focused on consolidating our growth and place within the rail industry while looking to take our first steps towards other markets, such as aerospace and to grow the company to around 70-80 people.”