Scotland’s only employee-owned foundry, which was taken over by its workers last year, has reported a difficult 12 months following the downturn in the gas and oil industries.
Specialised Castings in Denny, near Falkirk, produces bespoke metal casts for engineering and architecture – including the cast iron railings for Buckingham Palace and pipes that suck up sea water to fight oil rig fires.
The transfer to employee ownership coincided with a drop in orders – mainly as a result of the falling cost of oil, which had a knock-on effect on manufacturing. As a result, the new employee-owners issued redundancies, reducing the workforce to 25 employees, 19 of whom work on the shop floor.
The business returned to profit earlier this year. “Now we are snowed under with orders and finding skilled staff is becoming a problem,” said operations director Ian Walker.
As the firm returns to profit, cash-flow has been helped with a loan from Co-operative & Community Finance.
Non-executive finance director Catherine Maciocia said: “The loan is very welcome indeed. We have been living hand to mouth and as we return to profitability we have been relying on the goodwill of our suppliers.
“The loan means we can concentrate on the day job rather than juggling the cash.”
Ian Rothwell, investment manager at Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “It’s great that we have been able to support yet another employee-owned business in Scotland.
“In fact we have heard that the former owner was inspired to sell to his staff by the example of Clansman Dynamics, who we also helped a few years ago.”
The firm – one of just two iron foundries left in central Scotland – dates back nearly 200 years. The current company was established in 2001 following a management buyout from a larger group. In 2015, retiring managing director Steve Waring sold the business to the workforce.
“I couldn’t be responsible for allowing the last foundry in the district to go,” said Mr Waring at the time of the sale.
“By selling to the employees, Specialised Castings will stay in Denny for the foreseeable future, keeping the foundry tradition alive and providing real employment for generations to come.”