As the rail industry rolls into town for Railtex 2017 at The National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Birmingham based exhibitor, Solo Rail Solutions, celebrates twenty-five years designing and manufacturing key components, rail interiors and doors for the sector.
Solo was formed in 1992 one year before Railtex was first staged in 1993. For Solo the last twenty-five years have been a remarkable journey and a testimony to the resilience and skills of Midlands engineering. Rob Swadkin, Solo Production Director comments, “Solo Rail Solutions offers a truly global product, one that has its roots in Birmingham. We are proud to promote the Made in Britain campaign.”
Now a multi million pound operation, Solo has come a long way since three local lads formed the company twenty-five years ago. Dave Hunt from Solihull, Rob Swadkin and Mark Hughes, both from Sutton Coldfield, were all young engineers who had served their apprenticeships with bus and train manufacturers. When their respective employers went out of business they took the bold step to form Solo.
Operating out of an old tram depot in Tiverton Road Selly Oak with a workforce of just four, they worked on small contracts for London Underground and Alstom Transport, building components for class 455 rolling stock. As the business grew, Solo earnt a reputation for manufacturing litter bins, sand hoppers and brackets for new build, refurbishment and retro- fit rail clients.
In 2002 Solo moved to 25,000 sq. ft. premises on Landor Street and gained its IS09001 accreditation. Solo Procurement & Quality Director Mark Hughes said, “We empower our people to make the vitality important quality checks and go beyond compliance standards, which help builds client confidence in our products.”
Business was very positive until in 2005 Solo’s main client Alstom decided to close its operations. This led to a change in strategy, from one of component supplier to complete solutions provider, enabling clients to fit components directly into the carriages.
Commercial Director, Rob Pugh, comments, “All businesses need to adapt and change strategy as new opportunities present themselves. Solo’s had the flexibility and vision to do just that. We realised that long term sustainability is based on adding value to the products you design and manufacture.”
Solo now employs over 100 staff from its two centrally located Birmingham operations, with support divisions around the UK and an extensive network of local supply chain sub-contractors. Clients include Bombardier, where they supply complete ceilings and heater kits and Hitachi, where as a preferred supplier they design and build ready to fit carriage cubicles.
The next time you travel by rail you could be sitting in a carriage that’s made in Birmingham.