TNB: Tell us a little about Interflex
Jim Griffin, Managing Director : Interflex was founded in 2003 by two former directors of international manufacturer Trelleborg Stanton, using their combined experience gained from over 40 years working in the polymer sealing solutions sector.
We’re based in Langar in Nottinghamshire, and we currently employ 45 personnel.
With more than 30 years’ experience working the automotive insulation industry, I was appointed as the company’s new MD in March, just weeks before the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
TNB: Can you explain exactly what it is that the business does?
JG: Originally the company was formed to produce automotive trim and NVH components to reduce the impact of air, water, dust and noise in vehicles.
We mainly work with OEMs and Tier 1 and 2 suppliers in the automotive sector, although the plan had also been to expand into other sectors. However, when the national lockdown halted vehicle production, we were forced to look into new markets earlier than we had planned.
So, we took stock of the company resources and how we could diversify. The shortage of PPE was making headlines, and as we already had machines that could be utilised to manufacture PPE, with skilled operators and plenty of production space, we knew that we could move into this area of production relatively simply and quickly.
As the automotive manufacturing industry opens up, we are continuing to manufacture for this sector, but have also switched some capacity to producing PPE with a new face mask machine now up and running making 3-ply face masks.
How is business? What’s the outlook for the year ahead?
The automotive manufacturing industry obviously ground to a halt for some weeks during lockdown, but demand is now steadily increasing. We ensured that we maintained communication with customers and kept our sales pipeline open throughout lockdown so that they knew we were ready for business as soon as we were able to open up again.
As a result, we have managed to keep afloat and future projections look quite optimistic. We have all our employees back working on site with our automotive business operating at 50% of its normal levels. The PPE manufacturing operation is also busy, supporting the other 50% of the business.
Although we believe that it will take 12 months for sales to return to pre-Covid levels within the automotive business, turnover projections look healthy. As we plan to keep PPE manufacturing operations running alongside the automotive side, we should see an overall increase in business, which given the current economic situation, is very encouraging.
TNB: What lies ahead in the company’s future?
JG: I have always been wary of relying too heavily on one market or on one customer – it leaves an organisation very vulnerable to market changes.
On taking over as MD, one of my aims had been to explore new markets and although this was forced upon us rather sooner than I would ideally have liked, it has been an interesting challenge. It was hard initially sourcing materials and ensuring that we had a good ongoing supply in a market that we were unfamiliar with, but as automotive supply chains tend to be complex, we already had lots of expertise in this area.
We have also set up an online shop which has enabled us to sell to new markets in different ways. Ultimately, I think the enforced diversification has given us greater flexibility and will strengthen us as company.
Jim Griffin, Managing Director, Interflex