This month the team at SSC Laser celebrates a huge milestone. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary.
It’s hard to believe that back in September 2000, SSC Laser was just a few portacabins at Hangar 5. Fast forward to today, we are a multiskilled laser cutting sub-contractor based at our state-of-the-art headquarters and manufacturing facility in Stafford.
We are very proud of how much we’ve grown and developed into one of the UK’s leading laser cutting sub-contractors and to celebrate our big birthday, we sat down with CEO, Austin Jarrett to discuss the early days of SSC and how we’ve grown to meet the requirements of our diverse customer base.
Why did you start the company? Was there a gap in the market? Did other companies offer an inferior service?
I started SSC Laser in 2000. I have an older machinery manufacturing business, and during the 1990’s we had embraced all the design advantages we received from laser cutting sub-contractors.
Having laser profiled parts delivered to our press brake area allowed us to reduce our fabrication WIP by 50%, dispose of our guillotine, punch and notch plant and use the space these large machines occupied for other value-added operations.
We designed our sheet metal and plate work differently. Curves could be incorporated like never before, ‘tab and slotting’ reduced errors and increased productivity in the welding bay and new levels of fabrication accuracy could easily be achieved.
Because I had this deep understanding of the advantages of using sub-contract laser cutting as a small volume UK manufacturer, I decided that this was going to be a high-growth sector, and appropriate to the new era of smaller, quicker engineering businesses which SSC Laser would be able to serve and supply.
Existing suppliers (soon-to-be-competitors) did not understand the service levels which were expected, and my initial idea was that service levels needed to be higher for a sub-contract Laser cutting business to compete successfully.
When SSC Laser opened its doors 20 years ago – what was the main goal(s) for the business?
I’m passionate about British engineering and manufacturing. I believe that manufacturing activity is vital for a successful and sustainable economy.
As all big manufacturing was leaving the country to go to low-cost countries like China, I firmly believed that small, innovative engineering businesses with high service levels and speedy responses to customers’ changing needs were the future. These niche product and service businesses have different requirements to mega-manufacturing. They need to be quick and agile. They need to be able to prototype quickly.
Laser profiling is the perfect service to serve these businesses where ‘quick’ can be normal without up-front tooling costs and design changes are easy.
My main goal was to satisfy this requirement to enable these creative engineering businesses to respond rapidly without having to make massive investments in expensive machinery and infrastructure which laser machinery requires.
Working in a highly competitive industry, what can you credit to SSC Laser’s longevity and growth?
SSC Laser has always focussed on the customer and what we can do for them, which allows them to be more agile and competitive. Cutting metal is all we do, and we are very focussed on quoting very quickly, giving quick and accurate lead-times and then delivering on the promises we have made. We also believe on right first time, but should any issues arise, our number one focus is to get this sorted quickly for the customer.
What has been the key challenges SSC Laser has faced over the past 20 years?
The main change is that laser cutting machinery has got so much quicker, more accurate and easier to use. It’s quite amazing to think how laser profiling has changed the steel fabrication industry over such a short period.
Laser cutting technology and software have advanced so much since 2000 – how have SSC Laser embraced the changes?
Although lasers have got faster and faster over the years, the real challenge has been to control the flow of orders and material flows around the laser machines to keep them productive. We’ve made significant investments in business systems to put control into a business with a greater tonnage of steel per hour, processing more drawings and orders.
What have you done to grow and adapt?
The challenge to grow a business and implement greater levels of control but at the same time, maintain quick quotations and quick deliveries has allowed the company to grow. Being able to maintain this high level of service, which was the reason you gained so many customers, while at the same time implementing processes so that the business can grow in a controlled way so that you can maintain those same customers.
Where do you see the future for SSC Laser? What do the next 20 years look like for the company and the industry?
SSC Laser will continue to offer high service levels to specialised fabricators and great British manufacturers to enable them to provide high service levels to their customers. We need to digitise our offering in the future….but I can’t tell you all the plans, can I!?
Over the past 20 years, SSC Laser has provided a first-class laser cutting service for some of the UK’s leading manufacturers. We couldn’t be any prouder of the work we have carried out for these partners and hope we can continue to serve our customers with an unrivalled level of service in the future.
The team at SSC Laser would like to take the time to thank all of our customers, suppliers and our staff for working with us over the past 20 years. We are now looking forward to the next 20!