Three years after the employees bought the business, there is plenty of work at one of the last traditional foundries in Scotland. Co-op Loan Fund is helping it adapt to the challenges of growth.
Specialised Castings in Denny, near Falkirk, is one of just two iron foundries left in central Scotland, which was once the heart of this industry. The ironworks dates back nearly 200 years. Nowadays it produces a high-quality bespoke casts in a wide range of metals for both engineering and architectural use. It has, for example, supplied the cast iron railings for Buckingham Palace. It also supplies the pipes that suck up sea water for firefighting pumps on oil rigs.
In 2015 the retiring managing director, Steve Waring, sold the business to the workforce, saying: “I couldn’t be responsible for allowing the last foundry in the district to go. By selling to the employees, Specialised Castings will stay in Denny for the foreseeable future, keeping the foundry tradition alive and providing real employment for generations to come.”
Unfortunately, the transfer to employee ownership coincided with a drop in orders mainly as a result of the downturn in the oil and gas industry and the knock-on effect on manufacturing. The new employee-owners took the difficult decision to issue some redundancies. This was painful and expensive. But three years on business is booming. There are now 27 employees, 21 of whom work on the shop floor.
“Now we have almost more work than we can handle,” said Operations Director Ian Walker. “Finding skilled staff, especially moulders and pattern makers, is a big problem. Part of the new loan will be used for training. We will also be renewing some of our kit and kaboodle.”
Asked what difference employee ownership had made Ian replied: “By working closely with the lads on the shop floor we have managed to turn things around and we are now making a profit. We have introduced new working arrangements that everyone is very pleased with.”
Ian Rothwell, Investment Manager at Co-operative & Community Finance which manages Co-op Loan Fund, said: “This is the second loan we have made to Specialised Castings and it is wonderful to see how things have improved since shortly after the employee buyout.”