Oxford: Unipart grows sales and profits as it invests in new technologies

Unipart Group has announced its financial results for the year ended December 31, 2016. Turnover was £747.7m (£722.5m in 2015); profit before interest, tax and exceptional items was £28.3m (£27.5m in 2015). The Group ended the year with a net cash balance of £15.2m (2015 £7.1m).

Commenting on the results, Unipart chairman and group chief executive John Neill said that the group continued to deliver strong performance despite a slowdown in some markets due to Brexit and other factors.

“2016 was a strong year for Unipart in which we continued with the development of our digital transformation across all parts of the Group. Brexit may have caused many companies to pause in their investments, but one of the greatest challenges that companies face today is the disruptive and dislocating pace of change that will come from the integration of intelligent technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, billions of sensors and massive low cost computing power,” he said.

“The speed of current breakthroughs has no historical precedent. For the first time in history, technology is changing faster than the human ability to adapt to it. We are devoting significant resources to equip our organisation to be among the leaders in our sector at embracing and deploying these technologies.

“During the past 30 years we have invested in developing our people to solve problems, eradicate waste and to develop innovative new products and services to meet the real and perceived needs of their customers. Now, combining that creativity and motivation with the best technologies available, we will be able to enter new markets and provide innovative products and services for existing markets at a pace that we could not have dreamed of 30 years ago.”

Digital investments

Key achievements from across the group in 2016 included a number of digital investments such as developments in its Unipart Business System, an innovative IT system that enables global fingertip control of inventory while integrating with dealer, distribution centre and financial systems.

Unipart Rail acquired a controlling stake in one of the UK’s leading technology companies, Instrumentel, which is a leader in the design and manufacture of telemetry systems. Instrumentel has successfully applied sensors in F1 and other combustion engines enabling accurate data collection at extreme temperatures. The application of Instrumentel technology will help to drive the digital modernisation of railways. For instance, ‘real time’ monitoring and diagnostics for remote locations can bring cost savings and efficiencies through applications such as predictive maintenance and energy metering.

Unipart also launched a new Digital Enterprise Management System providing a leading premium automotive manufacturer with a powerful sequencing and distribution centre management capability that has been deployed with speed and agility. This new system can now be rapidly customised for clients in multiple sectors. Unipart is also extending the provision of its Retailer Inventory Management System to Jaguar Land Rover retailers in a number of key markets.

MetLase, a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Unipart, has continued to innovate with its patented tooling techniques to create solutions to engineering problems. This has included creating “smart enabled tooling” which demonstrates MetLase’s Industry 4.0 capability to speed processes, reduce cycle time and provide predictive maintenance facilities.

International growth

Building on its partnership with McLaren Automotive, Unipart began the implementation of a new distribution hub in North America. Meanwhile, working with retailer Pro-Direct Sport, Unipart is providing logistics services from a new European fulfilment centre based in the Czech Republic.

Unipart secured a seven-year contract to supply engine components for Ford cars being produced in China creating around 40 new jobs in Coventry. Unipart is now one of only a small number of companies in Europe to produce gasoline fuel rails for Ford and other car manufacturers.