A flow of success
Mark Water Pumps is proving that industry experience and strong branding is key to growing a business in today’s climate
Originally founded in 1948 by Sir Quinton Hazell, the Welsh company that is now known as Mark Water Pumps Ltd, has experienced a dramatic journey to get to where it is today, having been passed around under a number of different owners. 2013 saw the then owner go into administration forcing the site to shut down, but six months later, Indian company Mark Exhaust Systems bought the company, renaming it Mark Water Pumps. The site remained, as did the machinery, but all staff and customers had been lost, save the Plant Manager David Lewis. With intelligent foresight, David maintained contact with previous customers and key employees in the hope that the company would be saved. With these contacts the team at Mark Water Pumps was put back together and important OEM customers in Volvo, General Motors, Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin were quickly brought back on board.
With OE sales steadily growing, the attention of the company turned towards creating an aftermarket brand. As David expresses: “That’s where we see our quickest return. It takes a lot of time and investment to get the OE side working, so we need to use the aftermarket side to get us back to this point.” All branding was discussed in-house, and the team established the ‘Proflow’ brand to take to the aftermarket industry. “The key thing was our strategy at this stage,” explains David Lewis. “We wanted to remain as a UK manufacturer so our strategy was to supply high quality parts very quickly. Where we’ve beaten a lot of our competitors is in that we can respond quickly to demand.” The brand appealed to a market of customers who traditionally looked to low cost, international manufacturers whose quality could be poor and lead times were long.
In September 2014, the company represented itself at the Automechanika exhibition in Frankfurt with the view to market ‘Proflow’ as effectively as possible. “We wanted to be different so we marketed the product on something people would remember,” recalls David. Against a backdrop of the Welsh flag and a number of traditional Welsh products, the company’s presence at the fair turned out to be a successful launch pad for Proflow, generating over 120 enquiries.
Still being in the early stages of establishing the company, marketing is a crucial tool in order to grow the brand. David comments on the market conditions and challenges that the company faces when marketing the brand: “There is a good market there, but the biggest problem is pricing. Trying to get the message across that its worth paying a little bit more for quality, that its manufactured in the UK and that the customer can get it when they need it, is tough. Particularly so in the UK market where customers are driven by price.” However, by being able to provide short lead times Mark Water Pumps is able to overcome these challenges. “From our point-of-view one of our main successes is helping some of our customers increase their product availability. They can get it from us when they want it, where as their usual low cost supplier would take too much time, which could result in a loss in sales.”
Part of being able to offer this fast service to its clients is its relationship with its suppliers. “One of our local suppliers, Vixen CNC, is well aware of our ability to respond quickly to customer orders and works with us as it knows it’s key to our business. Our main supplier, Kinex, is based in Slovakia. It is very flexible when it comes to ordering and although we are far from its biggest customer it does provide us with great service. It’s this sort of supplier relationship that helps us be ahead of the competition.”
The strengths of the business also lays in its people. Despite being a very young company in official terms, Mark Water Pumps has a wealth of experience and expertise in the industry, which allows the company to look outwards from the automotive industry for other opportunities. With the use of its high-pressure die-casting foundry, the firm secured its first non-automotive contract in December last year, with production of the cast aluminium product beginning in April 2015. “A lot of the processes we have here mean we can cast a range of aluminium products, so it doesn’t really matter what they are,” explains David.
The majority of people at Mark Water Pumps have been there over 20 years. “We have really experienced people,” says David. “We are like a family in that everybody knows what needs to be done. There is a real passion to get the business going again. This is where our strength lays, it’s the level of quality and passion that our people can deliver.” This passion and experience translates not only into high quality products and good customer service, but also into a powerful driving force behind the company’s growth strategy.
Looking ahead, the focus for Mark Water Pumps is set on growth, both in terms of developing the Proflow brand and establishing a larger OE market. By working with the parent company in India to set up a similar oil pump facility in Asia the company is expanding its global footprint, which can enhance its international image. Careful management has enabled the company to grow rapidly in the first couple of years trading, and continued focus on quality and brand marketing looks set to reward the Welsh firm with future success.
Mark Water Pumps Ltd
Products: Water pumps for OEM and aftermarket automotive industry