Kevin Ward celebrating 40 years at Brown and Holmes

It’s with great pride that many of Brown and Holmes’s employees have been with the company for the majority of their working lives. Celebrating his 40th year with the company is Joint Managing Director, Kevin Ward.

He started, like many of our team, as an engineering apprentice so we took this opportunity to discover more about his journey.

“I applied to Brown and Holmes straight out of school. There weren’t many jobs around then and only two apprenticeships were given each year. I felt very lucky to be chosen for the 5 year apprenticeship and my dad – who was a toolmaker – was very pleased I was following his footsteps into manufacturing.

“Having started as an apprentice gave me a real appreciation of all aspects of the business and the skilled people that make it successful. It’s why both myself and joint Managing Director, Carl (who also started as an apprentice) are keen to invest in the skills of local people to the benefit of the local area.

“After my five years as an apprentice, I became a full time machinist and over the next 10 years got to know all the different techniques and machines in the business. Carl and I were sent on many training courses and we became the proud operators of the first CNC machines installed by the company.

“Moving on from this period I was then promoted to production / shop foreman but I knew that I wanted to progress on from the shopfloor so took the decision in my early 30s to go back to education and took an HND in Business Management in the evenings at Tamworth College and followed this by completing a degree in Production Engineering through the open university which was a challenge in its self with two young kids at the time.”

“The business was sold in March 2001 by our boss and mentor the last family owner Mike Holmes. Carl and I continued in our existing engineering management roles for the new owners although in a much increased pressurised environment. Unfortunately this period of our history did not go well and the new owners managed to drive our thriving  business into administration in early 2003. It was a severely testing time and we learnt a huge amount from them about how not to run a business!

In March 2003, Carl and I knew that if we didn’t do something the company would very soon cease to exist so we took the huge step of buying what was left of the business from out of administration.

“One thing we had always done was put our customers first and our personal relationships with both them and our suppliers helped us recover from the mess we inherited. Our first job was to find new premises as the former owners had sold the original site to developers who kindly served us an eviction notice the day after we took ownership. We moved the business to our current Apollo site in February 2004 and gradually started rebuilding the business.

We knew that our team’s expertise in engineering and finding the best solutions for customers was our strength and so we built on that to enhance Brown and Holmes’ reputation both locally and globally.

“Our team have always been fantastic and we invest in them and their skills. The recession in 2008 was testament to their commitment to the firm. It was really hard getting through that period as it was for many at the time and financially it probably took us four years to recover. But we didn’t lose one person during that difficult year, retaining all our skills and making us stronger to move forward; We had faith that we would get through it and did everything we could to support the company and the people in it, probably mine and Carl proudest achievement looking back.

“Since then, we’ve invested massively in extra floor space, machinery and training, giving us the specialist design, engineering and machining skills that enable us to provide the best solutions for our customers. Our aim is to be seen as the best at what we do across the world as we currently enter new markets across the Middle East, Asia and the USA too.

“I can’t quite believe it’s forty years since I started at Brown and Holmes, but it’s great to see what the company has achieved in that time, keeping pace with the massive technological advancements and the constant challenges running a manufacturing business in the UK brings. With current record order book, increase in exports, the opening of our second site and a thriving apprenticeship scheme plus continued diversification, the future is bright and I’m looking forward to continuing the journey as we approach the companies 80th year in January 2019!”