Driving ahead towards fresh success

January 5, 2022

After a challenging 2021, Hartlepool-based brake pad maker TMD Friction is looking ahead to this year being one of growth and expansion, boosted by significant investment across its plant.

LinkedIn: TMD Friction

What a difference 12 months can make. After starting 2021 in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year it’s business as usual and all about positivity – with investment and expansion the buzzwords at TMD Friction.

Like so many businesses, the global automotive manufacturer has faced its fair share of challenges caused by the pandemic. But, thanks to multi-million-pound investment committed by the Hartlepool-based company’s parent group, TMD Friction is looking ahead to a year of stability, growth and continued recruitment to support the large-scale production of brake pads.

Tom Russell, UK operations manager, says: “There’s no doubt 2021 was a year of highs and lows, with many of the lows the result of circumstances beyond our control. “The coronavirus pandemic had a massive impact on our business last year, mainly because of the number of staff who were forced to isolate. “At one point, we were around 25 per cent down on numbers which, for a business like ours that relies on shift outputs to maintain production levels, has a huge knock-on effect. “However, the changes to isolation rules, which brought an end to the ‘pingdemic’, was a game-changer for us, and really did help us get back on track in terms of staffing numbers and results.

“Now, as we start 2022, we’re in a strong position to maintain global growth and are looking ahead to this year with renewed optimism.” TMD Friction, which is based at Oakesway Trading Estate and employs more than 500 people, makes brake pads for 95 per cent of the models for Europe’s aftermarket, including emergency service vehicles and many of the major distribution small trucks and vans.

Since the start of 2021, the company has benefited from more than £3 million of investment across its plant, with the most recent boost coming from a £1 million spend on a new paint line, which will improve the quality of brake pad products and reduce energy consumption.

Further investment supported the purchase of new state-of-the-art air compressors, while TMD’s IT capabilities were also boosted with new software and equipment, which has radically improved how the company communicates with its workforce. This expenditure resulted in the promotion of former apprentice Stuart Gallagher into a more senior role within the IT department, and the recruitment of apprentice Ethan Robson – testament to the company’s commitment to investing in young talent and giving existing staff members the chance to move up the career ladder. Further highlights from the past 12 months include the launch of a TMD Friction global learning and development academy, which enables plants around the world to virtually share examples of best practice; and the launch of a new dedicated health, safety and environment team, headed by Shaun Wilson.

The Hartlepool plant also won two international Kaizen awards for continuous improvements – for best use of tools and the top award, best Kaizen project. It is the second time in four years that the Hartlepool factory has picked up the most prestigious accolade. Tom adds: “Our business has achieved so much in recent times and thanks to the investment secured from our parent company, which reinforces the group’s commitment in our facility, we are on track for a successful 2022.

“That includes working towards achieving our goal of producing 120,000 parts per week, which was our target at the start of last year. The investment in the new paint lines will certainly help that. “Investment in machinery and equipment is one thing, however, investing in our workforce is just as important to us – we know it’s our people that are the key to our continued growth. “That is evident in our recruitment of apprentices, who are employed in various areas of the business. “They’re a key part of our talent attraction programme, which continues to support the company’s global growth and enhance our position as Europe’s leading manufacturer of brake pads for the aftermarket.

“It is also backed up by our willingness to promote internally – talent retention is another key element of our business strategy, and we always instil in our staff that if they prove themselves, there will be chances to progress.” He adds: “I must also recognise the hard work and commitment of our dedicated team at Hartlepool. “In difficult times, everybody has shown themselves to be team players and helped us continue to satisfy customer orders, doing so safely. “We reduced accidents by 28 per cent in 2021, which is a massive achievement and was only done with everybody’s focus on safety. “There are so many reasons to be positive about the future.

“Yes, it’s been a tough 21 months or so, and COVID-19 hasn’t gone away, but we have adapted and found a way to live and work with it. “Not just that, but we are seeing many signs that we’ve turned a corner for good – investment, job creation and expansion are evident throughout the area, and the businesspeople I speak to on a daily basis seem genuinely optimistic that 2022 will be a great year.

“I have to agree.”