Overcoming challenges together through a Peer Network

ABS Precision Ltd was founded in 2004 by Maurice Atherton, Brian Brooks and Dave Stott as a fast-turnaround precision machine shop. 15 years later, and the Newcastle-based business now employs more than 30 people, has grown from its original 5,000 square foot facility to nearly 20,000 square feet, and manufactures components for customers including Siemens and PowerGen.

Managing Director, Dr Chris Ainsley, explains how being part of a Peer Network has given him a place to learn from other business leaders.

Did the COVID-19 pandemic bring any new challenges to your business?

We serve customers in key areas like the power generation, aerospace and medical sectors, so it was critical that we continued to supply them with the products they needed. As an engineering business, we already had PPE on site but we put in place additional safety measures, altered the layout of staff areas to allow for distancing, and we closed the site to everyone but essential visitors. Since the business started we’ve had a really strong apprenticeship programme – we’ve had more than 10 apprentices over the years and they all still work here – and that continued in 2020 with our latest apprentice, Dan. The right thing to do was to stick by our commitment to him and to our customers. Our aim now is to return the business to its pre-COVID status.

What did you hope joining a Peer Network would bring to your organisation?

I was appointed as MD of ABS Precision a couple of years ago, and I wanted to be able to network with other growing businesses – not only in the engineering field but other types of business as well – to see if we were facing similar challenges, and learn from each other’s experiences.

What has your experience of the Peer Network programme been like to far, and what have you gained?

It’s all been done online via Teams and the sessions have worked really well – hats off to Karl McCracken from the North East Growth Hub, who has facilitated them. It felt like an arena where you could share issues in a confidential and non-judgemental environment. Each person has the chance to present an issue they’d like to discuss and the chances are that someone else in the group will be facing something similar, even if we’re in different industries.

Would you recommend joining a Peer Network to others?

Absolutely. Sometimes you can be ‘locked in’ to your own business and this gives you the chance to connect with others, which is really beneficial.

There are 26 Peer Networks in the North East LEP region, for businesses in a range of sectors from retail and hospitality through to offshore energy and advanced manufacturing. Part of the North East’s COVID-19 economic response, Peer Networks enable businesses to come together to address common issues and challenges, and support one another to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Find out more about joining a Peer Network.