Reflecting on 2018 my first thought was “hard work, a year best left behind”. However, as I looked back through my notes I realised how wrong my first reflection was. True, we did have to work hard and there were some setbacks but actually there were some spectacular successes as well. This is how the year went.
We hit the ground running with people travelling all over the world. Neill was in India for the official opening of the “Ian Brodey Technology Centre”. This is a training centre from which our Indian company will offer training both to our distributors and end users and helps to position Norbar India as the leader in torque expertise in the country. We also had staff in the Middle East, Canada and Australia for Norbar Australia’s annual sales conference. Through a visit to Japan, we studied leading companies in the world of kaizen with the aim of bringing some of the best practices back to Banbury.
Talking of kaizen, January saw the first of three “rapid continuous improvement events” to be held in 2018 with massive support from our consultant from Japan and colleagues from our parent group.
On 1st February the Monte Carlo Historic Rally visited Banbury for the first time in many years. Smelling an opportunity to talk to numerous “petrol heads”, Norbar took a small space in the paddock from which to promote our products. It was perhaps not quite the success that we had hoped for but good enough for us to commit again when the rally comes through in 2019.
We held our annual Careers Open Evening on 8th February. This is our chance to talk to children in their final school years and persuade them of the career opportunities in an engineering business. Norbar has a strong history of taking on apprentices and, in this, we compete with other businesses in the Banbury area. Our open evening is a fantastic opportunity to promote Norbar as a great place to work and to win-over some of the most talented young people in the area.
At the end of February and into early March we experienced disruptive levels of snow fall. Directors in Chicago for a conference struggled to get back due to flight cancellations.
4th to 7th March was the Cologne International Hardware Fair – the biggest marketing event in our calendar. The continuing snow turned the journey to Cologne for set-up into a major challenge and for a while it looked possible that the set-up team would not arrive on time. However, by virtue of some smart travel timing decisions they all got there and the exhibition stand was looking fabulous for the Sunday start. The show, back to its original four-day format, was a success with Norbar’s new Automated Torque Wrench Calibrator creating a constant stream of interested visitors.
March was busy for exhibitions because we also supported distributors at OGWA in Oman and the Maintenance Fair in Gothenburg.
In a momentous month all in all, our UKAS accredited laboratory had its reassessment visit and the lab staff should be rightfully proud of the glowing praise that they received from the assessors. We also became the first laboratory in the country to be accredited to the revised BS 7882 standard (Method for Calibration and Classification of Torque Measuring Devices), BS 7882:2017.
Continuing the theme of assessments, our staff restaurant was assessed by Environmental Health and maintained their 5 Star Award for food hygiene, the highest level.
April and May
April was another month that saw staff all over the world drumming up business. There was lots of focus on the Middle East and I was in India looking at opportunities for us in the rail industry in particular. We exhibited at the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston at the beginning of May with good results.
Preparations for GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) were in full flow in advance of the 25th May launch.
8th May was the 75th anniversary of our incorporation. On 9th December 1942 Bill Brodey wrote in his diary “we can no longer rely on America as our source of tools for aero engine manufacturing”. The result of this thought led Bill and his friend Ernest Thornitt to set up the North Bar Tool Company with a licence from the Ministry of Supply to manufacture torque wrenches.
On 22nd and 23rd May we had our assessment to ISO 9001 (quality management systems) resulting in no non-conformities.
Norbar was proud to become the exclusive torque wrench supplier to Gulf Racing and their Porsche 911 RTR endurance car now carries our name.
June saw the celebration of our 75th Anniversary. We booked the hospitality marquee at Bicester Heritage and offered staff and their families front row seats at the “Flywheel” event, the annual celebration of vintage cars and aircraft. We were blessed with beautiful weather which helped to make a great day and a fitting celebration of our anniversary.