Business focus: Avon Metals
PUBLISHED: 11:27 22 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:09 22 January 2018
Copyright © 2007 Antony Thompson Photography (ATP) Ltd
Avon Metals is a multi award-winning, privately-owned manufacturer of specification aluminium and copper alloy ingots and a physical processor and trader of scrap aluminium, copper, nickel and cobalt revert alloys
You’ll have heard of these, no doubt, but what about tantalum, niobium, molybdenum, tungsten and rhenium?
They’re integral to smart phones, laptops, MRI scanners, automotive catalysts and even CERN’s Large Hadron Collider - and they’re bread and butter to Avon Metals and its subsidiary, Avon Speciality Metals.
Launched more than 60 years ago as a scrap metal business, the company, based in Gloucester’s Ashville Road, now turns over in excess of £60m with its subsidiary and is a key global trader in both on and off-exchange metals.
It operates in accordance with stringent international specifications laid down by key governing bodies and offers strategic stocks, pre and after-sales technical support, toll conversion, metal processing, certifiied confidential destruction and relevant price index-related purchase/sales from its county base.
Avon metals is one of only a handful of companies in the world to be AS9100 Aerospace and ISO 14001 environmentally approved.
With BAe Systems as a key customer - it recycles jet engine parts - and three Queen’s Awards for International Trade and Sustainable Development under its belt, it’s an ethically sound, socically-responsible organisation and is the go-to supplier for blue chip metal companies across the world.
Between Avon Metals and Avon Speciality Metals, the group employs 70 staff. But in May 2016, the whole business was almost lost when a massive fire ripped through its HQ.
Not to be defeated, CEO Steven Munnoch famously declared “business as usual” the very next day. Is it this spirit that keeps it at the top of its game?
Name: Steven Munnoch
How long have you worked at the company?
19 years. After leaving St Peter’s Roman Catholic High School in Gloucester I did an HND at the old GlosCat college in Cheltenham and, through a part-time job, got talking to the directors of Avon Metals. They brought me in and I spent six months working in every department and when I could do the job as well as the person training me, I was allowed to progress to the next task. I bailed incoming scrap metal, worked days and nights in the foundry, hand-stacked the ingots and accompanied our drivers delivering product to UK customers. At the age of 28, thanks to a buy-out by a London scrap metal dealer and property magnate Walter Reid, I was promoted to CEO.
What’s your style of leadership?
I have a top down, bottom up approach. It’s really important that everyone has buy-in with what’s happening in the company.
What motivates you?
Three things drive me. Making money, building a strong team and building a reputation as a world-class company. I never turn my phone off, even when I go on holiday. It would be more stressful for me to come back and deal with hundreds of unanswered emails.
What keeps Avon Metals at the top of its game? And how do you drive its success?
We are constantly diversifying – we never stand still for too long. Success is driven by hard work and determination and keeping an eye out for “the next big thing”. We travel extensively around the world to visit both existing and potential customers and suppliers and it’s our mission to continue to attract and retain competent people.
Explain the company’s vision.
It’s really simple: to be the best specialty metals company in the world.
Any successes you’re particularly proud of?
We are proud of all our staff, and we’re honoured to have won three Queen’s Awards over the past few years. The first in 2007, the second in 2009 for Sustainable Development, the third in 2012 for International Trade.
We were also named Gloucestershire Business of the Year in 2012 and routinely appear on the list of the Top 100 Businesses in Gloucestershire.
What’s the most challenging thing about your role - or the company itself?
The biggest thing is prioritising opportunities and managing personalities and expectations. Dealing with legislation is also a big deal. A lot of minor metals are verging on precious, and with several mined in African war zones, there’s an ever-present threat of them being sold, like blood diamonds, to finance warfare. Companies such as Hewlett Packard, Intel and Apple can’t afford to have their reputations damaged the association, so all US companies of a certain size must submit a report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission detailing where they bought their metals from and confirming they are ‘conflict-free’. For example, we’re already certified conflict-free for tantalum and tungsten. So where companies can buy recycled metals, they will, because the more you recycle, the less is dug out of the ground.
How do you recruit new staff? How do you know when they’re right for the business?
We recruit through agencies or we attract people directly from within our industry. It usually takes six months before we know if someone is a keeper.
If you could give me one top tip for business success, what would it be?
You have to travel to meet people. Most of the people we have great business relationships with are the ones where we have taken the time to visit them. Emails and phone calls are great up to a point, but they can never replace the human touch of a handshake and eyeballing someone.
What does the future hold?
The company is in an exciting transitional stage right now and following large investment in plant and equipment is moving into new, more exotic alloys which will hopefully lay the foundations for the next generation of “Avonites”. We’re also building a major new warehouse and are investing heavily into cleaner mealting technology.
Name: George Lord
Position: Commercial Trader
How long have you worked at the company?
Briefly tell me about your job role
My job is to make the sales for the foundry for the aluminium products we produce.
I have to manage current customer accounts for existing business as well as find and develop new business on an ongoing basis.
What attracted you to work at Avon Metals? And what keeps you there?
I have a background from a young age of buying and selling as this is one of the cores of Avon Metals that attracted me to begin with.
The company is doing well and there was an opportunity to grow.
Also, I knew being in a small team working with senior members of staff would help me learn quickly and gain valuable skills for this industry.
I enjoy my job as I work with good people and there’s always an opportunity to bring in new business and learn new skills.
What would you say are the best things about working here?
The people are great that I work and are highly motivated to move the company forward.
I also like the fact there is an environment where I can grow and help the business grow.
What opportunities have you been given in your role?
Being new into the industry there was a lot to learn but my managers Steven and Richard both taught me about all the different alloys and have given me the opportunity to travel to see customers as well as the responsibility to handle a lot of the customers Avon Metals currently supplies.
What changes have you seen in the business - or in your job - since you started here?
We have installed new technology that has allowed us to develop new products as well as a drive for building more for the future with these new products as a long-term strategy.
What motivates you?
Making money. The thrill of making the sale as well as working with good people.
Tell me about the relationship between staff and management.
There is a flat structure at Avon Metals and staff and management work well together.
Would you make any changes at the company, in terms of efficiency or anything else?
No – I think the new products we are introducing will give a lot of change to the company that will hopefully help the company progress further.
What does the future hold for you?
I hope a lot at Avon Metals. I hope I can progress within the company and become a key part of the business.