25 years for the Avocet Group

Nov 11, 2021 | General

October 1996 was a very different world from what we have today, 25 years later. Mobile phones were much simpler and were not a common item back then either personally or in business. They were purely  phones, no email , no internet, no cameras. Neither Google (founded 1998) nor Facebook (founded 2004) existed. In fact, office computers were relatively scarce as was communication by email. The fax machine in 1996 was the essential tool for business communication. It was into this world that Avocet Steel Strip ltd was born.

Avocet Steel was founded as a sales agency for Etilam, a cold rolled steel strip manufacturer located in Eastern France. Once independent, it had recently been absorbed into Usinor the French nationalised steel producer (now Arcelor Mittal). The new Avocet company was founded to service Etilams extensive UK customer base which included household names such as Polaroid, Kodak and Sony. It was a micro business of just 3 people made possible by the new office micro desk top computers reducing the need for clerical staff. Etilams entire product range of cold rolled mild steel, carbon steel, electro galvanized steel, copper plated, nickel plated steel, pre painted steel and tin/lead coated steel had customers throughout the UK.  Not surprising when the manufacturing sector of the UK economy at that time was at 20 (today it is 8).

This manufacturing landscape changed dramatically after the beginning of the new millennium. From year 2000 onwards manufacturing in the UK  declined as a percentage of the overall economy. Etilams UK based competitors closed as did many customers with several seeing their production off shored to Eastern Europe or to the Far East. At Christmas 2001 the gift of choice was a digital camera, a collective buying decision that closed both Kodak and Polaroids UK manufacturing of film products. These were major customers so it was necessary for Avocet to diversify.

New partners and new products were introduced and marketed by Avocet in the early 2000s. Wire, carbon steel and oil tempered wire. Carbon steel strip, hardened and tempered strip, wire rod and steel tubes for automotive manufacturing. By being nimble on its feet, adaptable to a rapidly changing market and above all customer focused Avocet not only survived the challenging and some times hostile economic conditions but actually thrived.

Avocet came through the crash of 2008-2009 relatively unscathed when some customers and many competitors fell victim to the conditions and closed never to reopen. By this time the Avocet Steel Strip had established an envied  reputation for bespoke effective sales and marketing of metal products. This reputation brought in new opportunities via 2 new supply partners. Both were seeking a dynamic customer focused partner to sell and distribute their products. Avocet’s reputation had reached not just Europe but also the USA. They brought new products in mild and carbon steel coil, and stainless steels, nickel alloys and titanium in strip and wire forms.

It is no exaggeration to say that Avocet’s partnership with Ulbrich USA was pivotal in transforming the company into  the premier UK supplier for special metals in coil strip foils wire and tubes it is today. Along with Ulbrich came the second generation of management that  has driven these changes, especially with the early focus on product diversification and later on the nascent lithium ion battery sector. The extensive research into battery materials, foils and tabs has enabled Avocet to become a key advisor to battery industry customers and the supplier of choice. Customers can be confident that Avocet’s expertise in material sourcing means that it supplies the correct specialist raw materials to the lithium ion battery R&D companies that are now scaling up to meet the demand for EVs. Now rebranded as Avocet Precision Metals the company continues to grow and further expanded the sales team in 2015 by bringing in an export specialist. From being at first a UK only supplier Avocet now earns over 30% of its revenue from exports and Avocets products can be found in Asia, Africa, North and South America and Australasia as well as the EU.

In October 2020 Avocet added a new company to the group with the formation of Avocet Battery Materials ltd. This company will be the first to market with UK /European Manufactured Battery tabs, designed and developed for the UK and European li ion pouch and solid state  cell manufacturers. At the heart of this developments is green sustainable manufacturing.

Using locally sourced raw materials, environmentally friendly chemistry and 100% recyclable packaging. ABM fully subscribes to the principles of localised short supply chains throughout the whole supply chain system.

ABM is moving quickly, the new R&D Centre opens on 4th November with an innovative and highly skilled team. Manufacturing is scheduled to commence in the first ½ of 2022 and will expand its capacity as demand increases. ABM will continue to be a centre of R&D and  innovation that can be up scaled up into manufactured products for green energy. Avocet Precision Metals also fosters close links and cooperation with Universities. Not just through supplying materials but through joint R&D projects and guest lecturing to students.

The last 25 years have seen immense changes at Avocet. With the focus on innovation the next 25 years promise to be very exciting.

What won’t change though is the culture in the companies.

– A culture that believes in people as human beings not resources.

– That trusts employees to deliver because they share the vision and want to deliver, not because they are pressured.

– That all employees have equal value and are entitled to equal respect irrespective of status within the company. Respect is always mutual.

– That all employees have a voice and everyone’s opinions and ideas are worth hearing and will be listened to.

– That diversity is not something to be tolerated but to be embraced and encouraged because diversity brings new ideas and approaches and that in turn leads to exciting innovation.

– That  all work for a common goal and the common good and share fairly  the rewards that brings.

– That work should be fun, stimulating and allow personal growth and development.

– That life exists beyond work and the realities of life vicissitudes must be recognised and respected.