2015 marks 50 years for Whiteley Brooks Engineering - Whiteley Brooks

2015 marks 50 years for Whiteley Brooks Engineering

50YearsImgKen Whiteley and Stan Brooks became business partners in 1965 and Whiteley Brooks Engineering Ltd opened for business on April 2nd in a small unit in the village of Wolston on the outskirts of Coventry. They had both been employees of Coventry Gauge as centre lathe turners when they took the decision to ‘Go it alone’; they purchased two lathes and set up shop. For the first few years both of them worked as machinists as well as doing all of the day to day administration of the business. Ken Whiteley, recently married, actually lived in a flat above the factory while the business found its feet. Early customers at this time were Leslie Hartridge Ltd, AP Lockheed and Marwin Tools. It was several years before they had enough work to take on an employee to help with the machining and some time after that that they could afford a secretary to look after the paperwork. Both Ken and Stan wanted to work in a clean environment and right from the start introduced an ethic of cleanliness and tidiness that remains to this day.

Whiteleybrooks-1970s-b&wThe business eventually grew too big for the Wolston Unit and in the January of 1972 Whiteley Brooks Engineering moved to the current site on the then new Industrial Estate in Binley, Coventry. In the spring of that year the current Managing Director, Gear Purewal started work with the Company as a Trainee Machinist. Gear was at that time studying at Henley Technical College and was chosen by Ken and Stan from a number of hopefuls because he had taken the trouble to wear a suit and tie. The business continued to grow throughout the 1970s allowing Ken and Stan to acquire more machines, recruit more machinists and spend their time managing the company.

In the early 1980s the work started to become increasingly difficult to produce on manual lathes and milling machines and they decided to invest in a small CNC Milling Machine. This was a huge investment at the time and even with a Government Grant introduced to assist small businesses to invest in new technology there was a financial risk. The new machine was used mainly for producing the profile on prototype clutch plates and hubs for AP Lockheed, it was not an easy transition but eventually the investment started to show a return and in 1983 a second machine was installed. In July of 1984 Joe Reynolds joined the company as a CNC programmer and Production Engineer and Gear Purewal was asked to take on the duties of Shop Foreman. Towards the end of 1984 work from AP Lockheed started to slow down and eventually dried up all together. Whiteley Brooks Engineering had for some years been modifying cast iron brake discs for the fledgling AP Racing department and they started to offer more work, so after a difficult winter, the company started to get back on its feet producing clutch and brake parts for the Motor Sport industry. It was around this period that Whiteley Brooks purchased its first CNC Lathe and CMM machine.

In 1987 Gear Purewal was promoted to become a director and In 1988 Stan Brooks retired due to failing health and Eirinn Turner started as an apprentice. The company was now progressing rapidly with the acquisition of a new CNC machine tool every year. The first DNC links were installed in order that programs, written on BBC computers, could be downloaded straight to the machine tools. The relationship with AP Racing was becoming more important to both companies as Whiteley Brooks started to get more involved with the manufacture of their clutch parts and started to develop methods for machining the carbon friction plates for the new clutches. AP Racing were about to become an autonomous business and move to Coventry.

IMG_2317In 1991 Stan Brooks passed away. The Company continued to grow replacing conventional machinery with new CNC machines. By 1996 the existing factory unit was proving too small so the workshop area was extended back to the boundary fence to create more room. In 1997 Joe Reynolds became a director and Eirinn Turner became Shop Manager. By the beginning of the new millennium it was clear that more space would be required for machining and the front offices were extended upwards allowing for a dedicated Inspection Room.

The new millennium bought in more work and in 2002 Ken Whiteley retired but continued in a consultancy role. In the same year Jat Purewal joined the company, the factory unit to the right came up for sale and Whiteley Brooks purchased the freehold with a view to future expansion. This was required sooner than expected with the building work to join the two units not fully finished before machines were purchased to start cutting in the new work area. This allowed for a purpose built Metrology Department and a new CMM machine.

Whiteley Brooks Engineering was now machining all of the components for AP Racing’s formula one clutches and a large proportion of their other race clutches. Both companies were enjoying considerable success when the 2008 recession hit. Cut backs were required and unfortunately the company had to lay off five members of staff. The remaining staff took cuts and Whiteley Brooks Engineering realised that to get through the recession it would need a larger and more diverse customer base. A campaign to win new customers was started and the company started to market itself, in 2008 Jat Purewal and Eirinn Turner were added to the board and as the recession lifted several new customers were on the books. By 2012 the new factory area was filling up and Whiteley Brooks Engineering had the opportunity to purchase the unit on the left side of the original building. Once again the building work was still in progress when it became necessary to put machines into the building and it was at this point that the company introduced a night shift to cover its busier periods.

In 2013 Ken Whiteley passed away. Whiteley Brooks Engineering is continuing to grow as a business, it now has a much broader customer base and although the majority of its work is still in motor sport, new customers and new technologies are helping to keep the business strong.