Atherstone firm with proud history looks to exciting future

"Our ageing kit had become a barrier to growth. That barrier is now removed and we can look ahead to the next 55 years."

A longstanding family firm in North Warwickshire is targeting further growth after receiving "vital" business support from Warwickshire County Council.

Athag Ltd was set up by Ray Sharpe in Atherstone 55 years ago as a metalworking company dealing largely in agricultural products.

But it was when Ray decided to specialise in in-vehicle dog cages and guards that the business really took off. Now run by Ray's son Nick and fellow director Sean Davies, it is still going strong, employing 30 at its base in the Carlyon Road Industrial Estate.

Athag trades heavily in Europe with many customers in Sweden and Norway as well as in Germany, France and Netherlands. In the UK their customers include many of the major car-makers - JLR, Mitsubishi, Bentley, Hyundai, Kia and Vauxhall - as well as the Dogs Trust and Guide Dogs for the Blind.

But last year, some machinery integral to their very specialist manufacturing work was starting to show its age. Without replacement kit, Athag would be hard-pressed to continue its expansion - and that is where the business support, including a £35,000 small capital grant, from Warwickshire County Council came in.

An initial 12-hour business assist from WCC business support advisor Jagdish Soor pinpointed exactly what the firm needed to do in order to continue to grow. Jagdish pointed them in the right directions and the grant was soon secured, meaning that productivity could increase, customers need not be turned away and further growth could follow. Four new staff have been employed this year.

"The council support was absolutely vital," said Sean. "Our factory is very busy and two of our tube-manipulators were simply wearing out. The grant enabled us to replace them which meant that we could bring the process completely in-house. That is brilliant because it means that we are more efficient and not reliant on anyone from outside.

"Every year in engineering the specifications get tighter and tighter and that it essential that we meet them so our ageing kit had become a barrier to growth. That barrier is now removed and we can look ahead to the next 55 years."

Jag Soor commented: "Athag operate within the highly competitive automotive engineering sector where the OEM’s are constantly seeking cost-reductions. To remain profitable, they are implementing more efficient, automated manufacturing techniques and, through the support of the WCC grant scheme, have now installed a new state-of-the-art CNC pipe-bending machine. This has enabled them to be more productive and will allow them to successfully continue through the next growth phase."

 * The advice for the company was delivered as part of the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and Warwickshire County Council. 

  • To find out more about the range of support available to grow your business, please contact the Growth Hub on 0300 060 3747.
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