Latest News | 26 May 2022

How Tioga is helping to build electronic dreams

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Derby is home to many top manufacturers, from global giants to SMEs. Among them is Tioga, one of the UK’s leading contract electronic manufacturers. Next month, the sector will be showcased during Manufacturing and Engineering Week.

Ahead of the event, which takes place from 7 to 10 June, Marketing Derby caught up with Tioga’s managing director, Warwick Adams, for a Q&A to find out more about the business.

Q. When was Tioga founded and what does it do?

A. Tioga was founded by myself and two colleagues in 1996. We have developed into one of the UK’s leading contract electronic manufacturers, offering a broad spectrum of electronic assembly. Our core competencies far exceed just manufacturing; this encompasses design, engineering support, global procurement and supply chain, manufacturing, test, configuration, warehousing and distribution. In short, we are able to take on board the management of customers’ products in their entirety. The company’s annually produced customer satisfaction survey shows that Tioga has successfully built and achieved a long-term sustainable relationship built on reliability and trust.

Q. Who are your customers?

A. Our customers trade in varying industries; environmental, medical, security, telecommunications, rail, military and many more. As well as working with major organisations we have worked with university start-ups, who have gone on to be very successful and been acquired by household names such as GE and BP. Local companies Onyx Insight and Earthsense have both been supported by Tioga and have recently been awarded the Queen’s Award.

Q. Tioga is quite an unusual name for a business. How did it get its name?

A. Tioga is named after The Tioga Pass, which is the highest point in the Yosemite National Park, in the US. I was visiting the area while attending a large exhibition in Las Vegas – and it felt like a great name for a new company.

Q. Has the business always been based in Derby?

A. Yes. We started out with eight employees at Prime Business Centre, in Spondon. After quickly running out of space Tioga, moved into St Thomas House in Mansfield Road, in 1999. We grew over the years into the rest of the building, putting in mezzanines for a second floor then bought the property in 2014. It is a beautiful, listed railway building, which has been custom converted and fully refurbished into a modern, extensive and sophisticated plant covering 48,000 sq ft, housing state of the art equipment. Tioga has also kitted out another unit nearby, giving us a total area of 60,000 sq ft of manufacturing space. And we have recently secured another 12,000 sq ft close by of warehousing and manufacturing capability to add to the portfolio.

Q. What recent successes has the business had and what are your proudest moments?

A. Tioga is going from strength to strength. We build strong relationships and create partnerships to grow our businesses together and provide the support needed to be successful. Our most recent success is working with a company called Cytiva Ltd who make cryogenic freezers. We set up our new business unit for this opportunity. We run a company gym and during the last year we have invested in a social area / canteen for our people. We called it The Tioga Lounge. We have a pool table, darts, table tennis, table football and comfortable seating to use during lunchtimes/breaks, as well as a place for meetings in a less formal setting. There is so much importance and emphasis around mental health and well-being. We employ around 150 people – and we want to look after them and make sure we work together, listen and understand their needs to make Tioga an excellent place to work.

Q. How did the business cope through the pandemic?

A. During the Covid-19 pandemic Tioga did close for the first three weeks while we tried to understand the implications of what this may bring. During this period, we soon realised that our medical customers, as well as other industries, still required their product so we re-opened with 50% of our workforce. By the end of May 2020, we were at 90% and back to 100% in September. Although it was a very challenging time, we put precautions in place and changed the manufacturing units to accommodate the rules set out at the time. Our employees were loyal and worked hard to make sure we got product to the customers, as well as respecting each other and the guidelines.

Q. What are the challenges going forward, not just for the company but the manufacturing sector in general? Have issues such as Brexit, the cost of materials and energy, or skills shortages had any impact?

A. During Covid we had our best turnover to date. Our challenge was to make sure that everybody stayed safe, as well as making sure our customers got what they needed to keep their businesses running. Having Brexit happen at the same time and the shortage of electronics parts, the supply chain is the worst we have ever seen. The perfect storm has caused manufacturing issues of electronic components, price increases and shipping problems resulting in working hand to mouth on a daily basis. Efficiencies are a thing of the past, we have no idea when parts will be delivered, our stock holding is the highest it has ever been, but we are stepping up to the challenges. It is certainly making it very hard work with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Q. If you had a wish list to help the sector, what would be on it?

A. Just to get the supply chain back on an even keel and the pricing to level out. We have a strong order book due to customers having to make a commitment, but we don’t know at what cost and no idea when parts will be delivered. Something has got to change before too many companies go out of business.

Q. What are the opportunities for the company going forward and are there plans for growth?

A. Tioga is very open to investment, with everything we have put in place regarding certification – ISO 9001, 14001, 13485, 27001 and the purchase of new equipment / systems to keep up with advanced technologies, we are in a great place to take on new customers and projects. The company is growing year on year, and we have loyal people who have stuck by us and rode the storms. The future certainly looks better than ever – providing the supply chain sorts itself out of course!

Q. Why has the company remained in Derby – and what do you think of the wider efforts to improve the city?

A. Just situated on the outskirts of the city, we are in a great location for travel. Derby is known for its forward thinking – and having large organisations, such as Rolls-Royce, Alstom, Toyota, and JCB, has has brought great talent to the city. However, for the smaller businesses this is causing some major headaches at the moment. Jobs far outweigh the people, so it does seem like a recruitment battle to fill available positions with the experience we need and the salary we can afford.

Q. What work do you do in the community, and do you collaborate with other Bondholders?

A. We do participate in charity events. Last year we raised £7,000 for Breast Cancer Awareness. We have two very special ladies who have survived this cruel disease so we will make it an annual event, this year to include prostate cancer. We have helped collect clothes/blankets and various essentials to send to Ukraine and turned clothes into cash for kids. Lastly, we have a main attraction of two Derby Ram Trail rams, which have been raising a lot of interest. They are fabulous additions to our striking, blue-lit building.

Q. Is there anything else you would like to add?

A. I am delighted with the progress we have made, from a humble handful of people in 1996 to our current 150 employees, I am very proud of our achievements. Our focus is firmly on the expansion and improvements at Tioga. The business can move forward with solid partnerships and continue to provide an excellent, quality service.

Warwick Adams

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