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Training push for company to meet new challenges.

A wind of change is sweeping through a Midland hardware manufacturer which is diversifying into the renewable energy sector.

Weston Body Hardware in Redditch says it has transformed its fortunes by diversification, becoming an awardwinning business in the process. The turnaround at the Worcestershire firm has seen its entire 60-strong workforce retrained and reskilled over the past 20 months to meet the demands of new opportunities.

While continuing to design and manufacture access control systems, WBH - part of the Metalrax Group - has expanded into the renewable energy sector, securing a major contract from Evance to make wind turbine assemblies for the Evance Iskra R9000, a small wind turbine designed to capture more energy at lower wind speeds.

Roy Sims, chief executive of WBH, said: "We contacted Evance and impressed them with our light mechanical assembly skills and how, through our robust and diversified supply chain, we could source and assemble parts of the wind turbine system.

"A key element in winning the business was demonstrating how we could achieve substantial cost savings and deliver the product into the marketplace far quicker than previously."

The Evance Iskra R9000 model is helping schools, farms, businesses and homes around the world to become independent green energy producers, and reduce their bills.

WBH is also breaking into the medical sector with a new antimicrobial and high visibility hardware range for medical equipment and emergency vehicles. Its success in diversifying during this recession has been recognised by a national awards programme launched earlier this year by the EEF, the manufacturers' organisation.

The EEF Future Manufacturing Awards 2009 were created to reward enterprise, innovation, environmental performance and skills development among the UK's 130,000 manufacturing businesses.

The Midlands' regional awards, staged at the National Space Centre in Leicester in November, saw WBH become a regional runner-up in the Westfield Heath Skills Award category and also receive a Highly Commended in the British Gas Climate Change Opportunity section.

Martin Wassell, Midlands region director for EEF, said: "Manufacturers make a valuable contribution to the economy of the Midlands and of the UK. WBH are proof that there are companies right here in the Midlands that are breaking down barriers, reinventing the rules and reaching out for new opportunities to create a manufacturing industry we can all be proud of."

Jon Richards, WBH Commercial Manager, said: "The judging panel were impressed with our commitment to upskill our entire workforce."

Automotive sector blogs: birminghampost.net/davidbailey
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jan 7, 2010
Words:406
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