East Durham Business magazine feature: Smart Manufacturing Solutions

Dec 13, 2022 | Business

Smart Manufacturing Solutions was founded by directors Pete Williams, Craig Wood, and Adam Smith at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many people called them crazy for even trying to launch a business during such challenging times. But the trio backed themselves and now, two years later, they’ve proved they were right. They chat to EDB editor Leanne Fawcett about the growth of the business and the new company they recently launched, SMS Technology Ltd…

It’s fair to say co-founders of Smart Manufacturing Solutions (SMS Ltd), Pete Williams, Craig Wood and Adam Smith are completely unique.

Their approach to business is refreshing – they love what they do, they don’t take themselves too seriously and they are more than happy to compare themselves to characters from Ricky Gervais’ hit show The Office.

But make no mistake, their relaxed persona does not mean these are guys who are happy to cruise along, having a laugh more than growing their business.
In just two short years, Pete, Craig, and Adam have built SMS Ltd up from scratch, launching during the global coronavirus pandemic, to one that today employs 24 core staff and has over 100 quality inspectors on its books.

The company also recently announced the appointment of former Engineering and Manufacturing Network operations director Ben Gilhespy as non-executive director.
Pete, who relocated from his native Birmingham to launch the business after working with Craig in previous roles, said: “The timing of our launch was incidental really and actually, was something that worked in our favour.

“Craig and I had worked together down in the Midlands and were really disillusioned with the quality of services that were on offer. With our experience and contacts, we decided to set up our own business, and although we were in the middle of pandemic lockdowns, we weren’t going to let that hold us back.

“We used the time wisely, focussing on streamlining our processes and getting the correct managerial systems in place. It also allowed us the time to gain our 9001,1401,27001 and 45001 ISO accreditations.”

And Craig believes its their collective experience which is ensuring the business goes from strength to strength.

“We fully understand our industry because we worked in it, we lived and breathed it for many many years, and we believe this gives us a real advantage.

“We’re also visible on the factory floor, we embed ourselves within the businesses we support, so we can fully understand their needs and can come up with solutions which improve their production and efficiency levels,” he said.

At the same time as Pete and Craig were looking to launch their business, entrepreneur Adam, who was at the time running his own recruitment firm within the oil and gas industry, was introduced to Craig and Pete and because of the synergy between the three, they decided to collectively launch Smart Manufacturing Solutions (SMS Ltd).

So, what is the business and what does it do?

SMS Ltd is based at Byron House at Seaham Grange Industrial Estate and provides quality and recruitment services to automotive, aerospace and rail manufacturers, utilising technology.

SMS offers expert solutions which enhance production and quality levels for its clients. This is done via an app which enables SMS to accurately record client data. This also ensures that SMS is now fully paperless with all operating processes supporting their environmental vision and Net Zero targets. The company provides a managed service of experienced team leaders and inspectors, who are integrated into companies to quality-check parts before they’re packed ready for distribution or sequenced onto line.

Through its recruitment arm, which is managed by Adam, SMS sources the very best in current and future talent and fully vet them to ensure they’re placing the right people in the right positions. The thorough process also involves internal managers from the team pre-interviewing the candidates before sending them over to their clients. The company has rapidly built up an impressive portfolio of regional clients, including Cummins, Gestamp, Marelli and BOSCH, but it was the contract secured with global sportscar superbrand Bugatti that really put it on the map.

SMS Ltd will provide highly skilled engineers to Bugatti in Croatia and Italy.

The company – known for the Veyron, Chiron and Centodieci models, all of which are famously owned by footballer Cristiano Ronaldo – is launching an electric supercar and has contracted the services of SMS to fill a gap in the skills market which it requires to produce the vehicle. The first cohort of electrical engineers have already been sent to Croatia, with a second cohort following as operations scale up in both Croatia and Italy.

Adam said: “This contract has come about through an existing relationship we have with an Operations Manager at Bugatti. Our senior management team supported him whilst he was in a previous role, and he sought out our team after the excellent service he received prior to joining Bugatti.

“Initially, we’ll be supplying a small cohort of highly skilled electrical engineers, which will then be followed by a second cohort.

“We anticipate this will lead to other projects within Bugatti as there’s a real shortage of technical expertise within the electrical engineering field overseas, however that’s one of our specialities and we know we can meet demand from Bugatti.”

It’s an impressive name to be associated with and is certainly testament to the ambition these businessman share.

It is this ambition which has seen them launch a new arm to the business, SMS Technology Ltd.

SMS Technology operates within the manufacturing sector, supporting companies to track key performance indicators at shop floor level up to group level. Using an operating system which removes the need to paper documents, it allows data to be easily configured, enabling engineers and management to deal with issues on the shop floor quickly.

Over the past couple of months both the Port of Tyne and HK International, a manufacturing company in the Midlands, have been BETA testing the system, looking for any flaws in its functionality ahead of market launch. The results were impressive with both companies reporting a potential two-fold return on their investment.

Pete said: “We’re really excited about the launch of SMS Technology Ltd and the diversification of our business.

“The early signs are very good and from the feedback and conversations we’ve had, we’re fully expecting the software to go international sooner rather than later.

“For the end user this could make a really positive difference to the way their production lines operate – currently the management systems used end at the shop floor, so the data beyond that is manually filed. Our system integrates within their existing hardware and enables data capture throughout the production process, which means a more thorough process without the need to find additional storage space for the paperwork to be filed.”

Pete, Adam, and Craig are also hugely passionate about supporting their local communities and actively sponsor a number of clubs and sportspeople, including an Under 9s football team at Doxford

Park and Twins boxing academy in Trimdon, a club for both professionals and up and coming talent.

SMS is also a corporate sponsor of Sunderland AFC and under the SMS Technology Ltd brand, has teamed up with Trees for Cities which will see the company plant a tree for every new client won, and given its support to charity Red Sky Foundation.

Adam added: “Community engagement is such a big thing for us, and we said right at the start we would support local teams and sportspeople as much as we could.

“We really believe that to be a successful business you need to integrate yourself at the heart of the community, to show people that we are an employer of choice.

“If we want to attract the best people into the business our profile within the community is just as important as our growth.”

So, what does the future hold for Smart Manufacturing Solutions and SMS Tech?

Craig added: “Our aim is to double our current turnover and continue to grow both arms of the business.

“We could not have asked for a better start to our business journey and the key now is for us to continue to build on that, securing more contracts with large Tier 1 manufacturers and growing our international portfolio.

“There’s some exciting news in the pipeline so I’d say watch this space.”