The story of Assembly Solutions Ltd (ASL) starts with founder Graham Balshaw and continues today with the Balshaw siblings. Established nearly 30 years ago by Graham, the company has since risen to success as one of the UK’s foremost manufacturers of cable assemblies. Manufacturing Today speaks to Gareth Balshaw, the current Managing Director at ASL and son of Graham, who begins by introducing some more details about the business. “ASL is a family-owned sub-contract manufacturing company, based in Bolton, which specializes in cable assemblies, wiring harnesses, and control panels.
“My father set up ASL in 1995, and we’ve stayed true to our roots as a family business. Nearly 30 years on, me, my sister Sophie and my brother Oliver, all work for the company, and I think this approach has been the key to our success.”
In 2020, at the age of 60, Graham made the decision to retire. “It was really important for him that the business remained in the family,” highlights Gareth, “so it was passed down to me, Sophie, and Oliver. Building on the foundations established by my father, we now have a great team of 90 staff, and a strong turnover of £8 million.”
Under the experienced guidance of Graham, ASL accrued years of knowledge around the manufacture of electrical wiring, and using that as a base, Gareth and his siblings expanded the business’ offering with a range of other electrical services and products. “Today we work across four main product areas – wire preparation, cable assembly, wiring harnesses, and control panels,” explains Gareth. “We are also a distributor of GEM terminals and connectors.”
He elaborates further on the product range. “Wire preparation is typically a piece of wire, cut to length and terminated at both ends. We produce over one million per month and supply to many blue-chip companies, including Siemens, Stanley and Vodafone.”
Cable assemblies are more complex products involving groups of cables arranged into a single unit for a particular purpose. “These vary from using multicore cable to large, heavy-duty cable supplied on one-ton reels,” adds Gareth. “Our cable assemblies are used in many applications ranging from large digital advertising screens to medical cleaning equipment.”
Cable assembly products require expertise in a variety of processes including crimping, soldering and tinning, as well as understanding acceptable tolerances set by the customer. To guarantee the utmost quality, ASL ensures that every cable assembly batch passes through a precise quality inspection and 100 percent electrical test to ensure accuracy and reliability before being packed and dispatched.
Moving onto wiring harnesses, Gareth highlights that this segment also includes wire looms, and involves the manufacture of large, complex wiring systems. ASL supplies these to world leading companies, with recognizable names such as Aston Martin, Ford and Rolls Royce appearing on its order books. “I would say that in this area we are best known for our work in the automotive industry. We supply wiring systems for buses, trucks, ambulances, fire engines and many other commercial vehicles.
“Finally, we build control panels. Our manufacturing capabilities in this area are quite varied, so we supply anything from simple fuse boxes to large, fully assembled, double-door cabinets.”
Gareth’s narrative illustrates how ASL has evolved from a simple cable manufacturing outfit to a respected, turnkey electrical service solutions provider for dozens of major customers across the UK. But the story is far from over. Sustainability missions and supporting longtime staff will be big priorities for Gareth and his team going into the future, alongside the standard business ambitions of continued growth and increasing efficiency. “We’ve recently invested £100,000 in solar panels, which is helping reduce our carbon footprint and significantly reduce energy costs,” he states. “There are already a lot of exciting projects in the pipeline for 2024, including a new barcode stocking system that will improve traceability and accuracy, and a new electronic works order system, which will help monitor and track real efficiencies.
“There have been staff evolutions too – I’ve been delighted to witness many internal promotions over the past 18 months, including Gareth Edwards who was promoted to Sales and Commercial Director. Gareth is the first non-family staff member to be appointed Director, and it’s been a pleasure to see him progress throughout his 17 years with the company. I’m also looking forward to seeing more apprenticeships coming through this year and hope to see further internal promotions. This is how we maintain the ethos of a family business, even as we continue to grow.”
Thanks to the vision and direction of Gareth and his siblings, ASL has been able to thrive in a variety of new markets. Staying true to family ties seems to be the secret to success for the business, as Gareth concurs: “We have a fantastic team with a great work ethic and being a family business helps us stand out from the crowd.” ■