30 million shuttlecocks to fly out of Barnsley factory

A company which has preserved a historic piece of Barnsley’s manufacturing past will soon see the 30 millionth badminton shuttlecock fly out of its factory.

Echelon Sport makes five million synthetic shuttlecocks every year at its base in Barugh Green and is principal supplier to the Carlton brand as well as dealing with other marques including Head.

It can lay claim to being Europe’s only shuttlecock manufacturer and now, with recent back-up from business support organisation Enterprising Barnsley, is fast approaching the 30-millionth product milestone.

Echelon has its foundations in the Dunlop Slazenger sporting goods plant which employed hundreds of local people and famously provided tennis balls to Wimbledon from the Second World War until its closure in 2001.

Directors Steve Cole and Ray Clark were former workers with half a century of combined financial and production expertise respectively. They seized the opportunity to preserve shuttlecock manufacture in Barnsley which had gone on since the 1980s, launching Echelon in 2002.

The duo maintained logistical elements, including equipment, of the former Dunlop Slazenger enterprise as well as safeguarding the jobs of six skilled local craftsmen.

Smart working practices and high-tech investment in advanced injection-moulding tools have allowed the company to fully compete with Far Eastern manufacturers. The automated assembly line produces up to four shuttlecocks every nine seconds. Between 60 and 70 per cent of all shuttlecocks produced in Barnsley are exported.

Ray explained: "Shuttlecocks must adhere to strict standards of weight and size and are very precisely engineered to give a nice smooth flight with no wobbles. In addition, the shuttlecocks we produce are highly durable making them a popular choice with many players."

Echelon also produces Bigminton sets – a version of badminton with larger racquets and shuttlecocks designed for garden and beach play. Badminton England uses the equipment to help children improve their hand-to-eye coordination while many councils supply them for use by partially-sighted players.

Echelon qualified for free assistance from marketing specialist Kevin Steel – a coach with the Enterprising Barnsley programme, which offers business support to Barnsley businesses with growth potential. Enterprising Barnsley has attracted £2.89m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of Europe’s support for the region’s economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme.

Steve said: “We had a gap in our expertise that Kevin has filled and he has been instrumental in giving us more confidence and focus to take the company forward and further harness the skills of Barnsley people.

“Born and bred in the town myself, I take great pride in the fact that we’re not only preserving the tradition of sports goods manufacturing but developing opportunities for growth in the future.”

James Herbert, marketing and networks manager with Enterprising Barnsley, said: "Specialist enterprise coaching is one of three integrated strands of support the programme offers small to medium businesses in eligible sectors. Our team can help across a wide range of areas which include manufacturing, IT and Web development, human resources, health and safety, marketing and PR and promoting innovation.

"By assessing and addressing the individual needs of Echelon, Kevin and the team have been able to provide support that is really having an impact and we’re delighted that Echelon is enjoying such success."

This article is from http://www.journalism.co.uk/66/articles/540676.php.