Stockist and Manufacturer of valves
Name: Simon Barraclough
Position in the company: Sales Director
Years with the company: over 35 years
Number of employees: 35 employees
Yearly revenue: £6.5mln (2019)
There are numerous valve manufacturers in Yorkshire: what makes Yorkshire attractive to valve manufacturers?
It does not apply exclusively to Yorkshire - there are many other examples around the world. For example, Milan in Italy has a very strong reputation and numerous valves manufacturers. Yorkshire has historically been a strong region for valves manufacturers – the British manufactures that produce the valves contribute to the strong British ‘valve’ economy focusing on bespoke valves rather than commodity valves. A lot of commodity focussed valves are going to lower cost producing countries where labour for the valve production is very competitive. Yorkshire offers and manufactures bespoke and specialised equipment. This year Harrogate hosted the CHEMUK Expo, which historically has always been held in Manchester – a conference focussed on the chemical industry that is usually attended by valve manufacturers.
Your website states “over 600 satisfied customers in 35 countries”, who are your major clients?
YPS Valves primarily commercialises to the Petrochemical and Oil & Gas markets. We supply to major end users such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP, Sasol in South Africa, Sinopec in China just to give you a flavour of the variety of clients. Although these clients have intensive vendor registration practices, the fact that YPS Valves supplies bespoke specialised valves, using high quality standard materials, we are able to supply to these companies when their need arises. Although we dispatch throughout the world, Europe and China are our largest markets currently.
If Europe is one of your biggest markets, will Brexit affect your business?
Brexit could affect YPS Valves because it is a big unknown factor to everybody. If tariffs would be imposed, it wouldn’t necessarily affect the stockist side of the business, but the department that might be more at risk would be the exports of our manufactured valves. A large number of our revenue comes from exports. It could also affect YPS Valves by making the importing of stock a little more at risk from tariffs. We already have a large stock for any client wishing to purchase off the shelves valves generally in a one-two day timeframe. With exports, it is the importing company/country that gets the tariff, so in a way we are not hampered until we know every last detail of what will happen.
Which R&D project or projects are you working on? Will we soon see a new product/service?
Since the downturn in the Oil and Gas market that started in 2015, we looked hard at product range and we have been bringing onboard new designs, using new materials to widen the scope of what we can offer.
YPS Valves is grouped into 4 departments: Manufacturing, Stock, Modification and Testing.
All these departments are run from the same site here in Leeds. We could argue that there is some independence to them, but there is also some overlap. For example Stock and Modification to some extent are combined: we can take a valve from the shelf and modify it to meet client specifications, this is usually done for fast turnaround time work. Having said this, as we also manufacture valves for hazardous environments our Testing has to be extensive and thorough.
Turnover for 2017 and 2018 for both years sat shy of £4mln. How did 2019 look and what are the objectives for 2020?
We struggled in 2017 and the turnover in 2018 was slightly higher than in the previous year. 2019 sits at a turnover of £6.5mln. By 2020 we hope to continue to build on the improvement we had in 2019 especially with our new products hitting the market for the first time. We have been trying to fill our stock with purchases in recent months as the market has seen some ‘pick-up’ that will eventually convert into revenue in the course of 2020. China is a strong market for YPS Valves and although it is slowing down a little, we will soon be liaising with our Chinese office to better understand their capabilities for 2020.
What was your hardest sale and how did you overcome the obstacle?
It would most definitely need to be attributed to one of the Chinese projects we worked on. We were a little bit at the back of the queue at the start of the project ‘bidding’ process but we managed to convince the customer through our long standing history and high quality in-line performance.
How can smaller valve manufacturers compete versus the larger companies, some with offices in Yorkshire like Score Group and WEIR.
The larger companies are primarily focussed on Manufacturing / Distributing commodity valves as they leverage their economies of scale. Although we try to compete on certain products, we do not use carbon steel for our valves thus we are not directly competing in the same markets. In brief by manufacturing bespoke or niche type products it makes us reasonably attractive.
If you were interested in joint ventures or collaborations, which companies would you like to team up with or talk to?
We are very open to joint ventures and collaborations, ideally from other companies focusing mainly on our target industries – we would aim to attract companies that have a product that would be a natural bolt-on to allow us to package better our projects.
What is your emergency management plan, i.e. managing business during covid-19
YPS has implemented safe working guidelines in accordance with the UK Government advice. Many are working from home, with a reduced Production Team helping to keep important work on track.
Thank you very much Simon, I am looking forward to an update on YPS Valves next year. Meanwhile what tips can you give someone who is keen to start a career in mechanical engineering?
Education is important and so is aligning it as quickly as possible with experience! In modern businesses maybe people have been spread a bit too thinly, so it is about getting experience as soon as someone gets into any business. A few years ago we recognised that some employees will soon be retiring and we took some steps to get new employees, hence the hiring of two apprentices at YPS valves.