INTERVIEW: Precision Technology Supplies

Priding itself on quality of product and service, Precision Technology Supplies is following a rigorous programme of Improvement. Torque gets the inside story from Sales Director Andy Knight…

It’s just over one year since Torque last visited Precision Technology Supplies. Back then, the company had recently moved into new premises and it’s a sign of how busy the past 12 months have been for PTS – and how much its stock holding has increased and broadened – that it has virtually filled the new warehouse already.

“When we moved to our current site there was plenty of empty space but now we’re close to full up,” Andy Knight, Sales Director, tells Torque Magazine. “We’ve having to modify the space to fit more stock in.”

Precision Technology Supplies’ new digs are located just down the road from its old home, which now plays host to East Grinstead’s Screwfix branch. Back when PTS was established in the late 1980s, the firm served the fast moving computer sector – so fast moving, in fact, that the part they supplied soon became obsolete. With staff experienced in the fastener world, the company used the opportunity to refocus on that market and it hasn’t looked back since.

After initially renting, PTS went on to buy its first unit before then expanding into the neighbouring plot. After installing a mezzanine, PTS eventually ran out of ways to squeeze more space out of the site, leading it to its 2015 move.

Larger premises have been accompanied by a growth in workforce, to around 30: “We’ve taken on more staff this year and we grew in personnel terms by 15 to 20%. If things continue the way they are then we’ll be looking to take more staff on again.

“We like to develop people – some of the guys started out in the warehouse and then moved into sales positions. They know the product, they know the systems, they know how things are done and it makes a difference.”

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For now, Precision Technology Supplies is focused on a rigorous programme of improvement and enhancement, not least through investment in internal infrastructure and testing. Andy explains: “We are striving to improve in what we do, to be more efficient and we’re working hard on quality – it’s our number one priority.

“We’ve made a significant investment in our testing facilities. We check what comes in and we can now send test reports out to our customers. We don’t just rely on material certificates – this is something our customers are asking for. Now we have the facility to test the product that comes in and it gives our customer an extra level of confidence.”

One of the ways that Precision Technology Supplies undertakes Positive Material Identification (PMI) is through Electron Beam Radiation scanners – a significant investment for the firm.

“We hear lots of stories in the marketplace that some companies are not accepting material certificates,” Andy reveals. “We’ve gone down the route of checking the certificates in-house.”

Range development

Precision Technology Supplies specialises in stainless steel, metric and unified threaded fasteners, including a comprehensive range of Metric and Unified Stainless Steel fasteners in A2 and A4 materials. The firm also supplies Micro screws in stainless steel.

“The trade know us best for Micro fasteners. There can be a lot of pigeon holing in the market and we have been working hard to change the perception that that’s all we do,” says Andy. “The message is getting there slowly and you get it across through marketing at shows, in magazines and of course speaking to people.”

PTS has been expanding its product line-up: “It has been about filling in areas – the in-between sectors with products like thumb screws, shoulder screws, unusual wood screws with large heads, self-drilling screws… we have expanded the range into a wider area.”

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Was the reason for that diversification so that PTS could become more of a onestop-shop for customers? “There was an element of that, but the depth of product we range will always be in our core areas. The motivation came from our customers coming to us and asking us for certain additional products. Much of what we do is customer-led, although we do get ahead of what they want!”

Another key focus has been getting the business ready for the latest iteration of the ISO 9001 Certified Quality Management System. “We have just achieved the ISO 9001 2015 certification. It is quite a gear change from 2008. We had the option to wait to upgrade, but we wanted to get in there early.”

Understandably, Brexit has been a dominant conversation in the industry – is PTS concerned? Andy is pragmatic. “It’s the same for everybody in the industry in the UK – we do supply EU customers and we buy from abroad – but we’re all in the same boat. I don’t think it will have a big impact.

“In my personal opinion, I think the country will do better than we expect. I’ve been in the business a long time and we dealt direct with the world before we joined the EU and will do so again. It will be the same for everyone. No one can buy the Euro at a better price, no one will be able to get away without paying dumping duties. We’re all in the same boat.”

Customers did voice their concerns in the first days following the landmark vote. “We did have a few calls from concerned customers who were worried about how it will affect us, but three months down the line here we all still are, continuing to do business together.”

What about expectations of distributors in the marketplace – has that changed over the years? “Everyone wants product quicker and they expect you to have the depth of range and product. We offer express deliveries now and that’s just the way it is. It happens everywhere and the world as a whole is quicker – you can order on Amazon and they can get deliveries to you within two to three hours. People see that and say ‘why not for us too?’ We’ve had a lot of couriers over the years and we’re currently working with UPS.”

Precision Technology Systems’ webshop is growing and a direct feed is available for customers – “to make it as easy as possible for them” – and there is a new website in the works, expected in early 2017. The new site will be more user friendly with a better search facility and will be responsive too, primed for mobile and tablet users. The firm also has a new catalogue in its sights. “We tend to get through them much quicker than we expect. They have lots of technical data, so that makes them very useful for customers.”

Andy concludes: “We’ve been here just over a year so the dust is settling. There’s been lots of change and we’ve been assessing how we can improve it further. It is a continual process and we involve everyone in the business. We ask them what they think we should change and improve – we’re not imposing changes from the top of the business. In my role I see what the customers want, so we go back to the warehouse team and then we work out how to implement it.”

“We are still growing and customers are happy with us. High quality, top of the range product ties in with our quality focus and that’s what we pride ourselves on – quality of product and of service, we have the whole package.”

www.pts-uk.com