UK-based parts maker shows off new facility

Charleston Post and Courier
Warren Wise
September 19, 2008

David Clegg, Chris Elliott and Bruno Jouan of the United Kingdom like the Charleston area for its golf and seafood.

But the partners in British-based VTL Group aren’t here just for recreation. They see it as a place to make money, too.

On Thursday, they opened to the public the doors of their new 21,000-square-foot TWL Precision Inc. automotive parts manufacturing plant in Landmark Business Park in North Charleston.

David Clegg and Chris Elliott talk about some of the equipment in their new TWL Precision Inc. automotive parts plant on Palmetto Commerce Parkway in North Charleston on Thursday.
It’s one of five VTL facilities around the globe that will generate $90 million in combined sales this year for the company from the automotive and trucking industry and an expected $200 million by 2012, said Clegg, VTL Group’s sales and technical group director.

In production since November, the $5 million plant on Palmetto Commerce Parkway makes nozzle rings and collector housing units to fit inside turbochargers.

Tidy and neat with precision instruments, TWL has room to expand into a third product line and even add another building if market conditions allow. They have seen a slight slowdown in the past six months, following broader trends in the auto industry, but say their customer base is good.

“The growth isn’t where we projected,” Clegg said.

Still, TWL talks of plans to boost its work force to 70 employees from its current 34 within the next year.

They believe expected growth in the trucking industry in the U.S., Europe and Asia bodes well for the company.

TWL is considering a second phase of expansion by next summer, but plans have not been finalized, Elliott said.

Altogether, the parent company has 278 employees, with three plants in England and one under construction in India that will open in 2009.

“One of our strategies is to be in close proximity to our customers,” said Elliott, VTL Group operations director. “We felt there were a lot of opportunities here. There was a lot of manufacturing, but not a lot of suppliers.”

TWL Precision churns out about 1,500 nozzle rings and 500 collector housing units each week. Those numbers are expected to grow as the business expands.

The products don’t have far to go: They are sold to Cummins Inc., an Indiana-based motor-builder for trucks of all sizes that has two manufacturing plants in the Charleston area.

Company leaders also like the work environment of the U.S.

“It’s quite different from doing business in the U.K.,” Elliott said. “It’s more open and honest.”

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