Winder Power – The Winding Road
Winder Power is a specialist in the design and manufacture of power generation and electrical equipment, but its real power lies in its people and principles.
Winder Power is made up of three divisions- PMGs & Exciters, Power & Distribution Transformers, and Substation Services. Each of those divisions boasts market-leading qualities in their own sectors, but across all divisions, Winder Power’s people are specialists designing, testing, building, deploying and managing power systems from distribution transformers and switchgear for offices and factories to providing major blue-chip companies with large scale transformer applications.
“We are what I would call a traditional engineering organisation. If you come and look around, you will see people practising proper engineering skills,” says Paul Matthews, Managing Director for the firm. “We do all the engineering work on the transformer from design to manufacture to installation. We have got a team of guys who go out on-site to install the equipment, test it, commission it and hand it over.”
The company was formed over 100 years ago, moving to its current premises in 2008 to a modern factory that covers 80,000 square feet. The company’s first-class employees share a commitment to placing customers at the centre of Winder Power’s business from their facility in the heart of West Yorkshire. The Leeds-based organisation employs 74 staff and boasts a turnover of £18 million.
“Predominantly we manufacture equipment for distributing power. The larger part of our work is in high voltage transformers for power distribution,” Matthews tells us. “About 50% of our work is with the DNO (distribution network operators). The other 50% of the work comes from the industrial market. We supply to any organisation that uses a high volume of power, large organisations, chemical plants, steelworks.”
As an experienced, specialised, and locally-based provider, Winder Power can provide a level of service that puts them far ahead in the industry.
“We’re local, based in the UK, and there’s only one other organisation in the UK that can do the work we do,” Matthews says. “We’re responsible from the start of the process. We can turn inquiries round quickly and provide drawings to the right standard. We tend to deal quite closely with our customers and people like that. Then, if anything goes wrong throughout the process, we are quick to respond to customer concerns. That service package we supply right from the start is what people like.”
However, finding and nurturing the talent to make that level of service possible is a challenge in itself.
Talking with us, Matthews is honest about the fact that recruitment has always been a particular challenge, especially when it comes to hiring talented and experienced engineers.
“Getting new engineers on board and persuading them to stay in the organisation can be difficult,” Matthews says. “We recruit people through apprenticeships and that works really well for us. We have a minimum of four apprentices a year.”
Bringing in young people allows Winder Power to train them up to the standard the company requires, but Matthews points out that this transfer of knowledge isn’t only one-way.
“We come from a traditional engineering background, but we’re always looking at more modern ways of working and adapting to new methods to be more efficient,” he says. “It’s easy to fall into a pattern of ‘We always did it that way’. Fortunately, we’ve quite a few young people in middle management who are good at changing things, so we’re making progress there.”
Once it’s brought new talent into the fold, Winder Power makes sure to nurture and take care of that talent, in line with the company’s strong ethical principles.
“We pride ourselves on being a responsible, well-run organisation,” Matthews insists. “We’re a fair tax organisation, a living wage employer and have been for five years now, and we look after our employees. We run a flexitime policy, with extra time off at Christmas, and two weeks ago we had a long service day where 13 employees who worked for 25 years had a presentation. We think it’s important to look after the people who work who for us.”
It’s an approach that has created a palpable atmosphere around the company’s facilities.
“If ever you came for a walk around here, you’d get a feel for the relationships within the organisation,” Matthews tells us. “Particularly from the higher level down. It has the feel of a smaller, family-run organisation, and we try to engage with everyone. We talk to people on the shop floor, we know about the people, their families, hobbies and friends. Every three months I speak to employees in groups of five or six and that’s a real two-way conversation that lasts about an hour.”
Communication is key to Winder Power’s relationships with its staff. There are monthly newsletters that get circulated to all staff, a light-hearted regular update that includes staff birthdays and special occasions. Before the pandemic put a stop to it the company enjoyed nights out together and events as an organisation.
“Quite a few organisations miss the point in that,” Matthews says. “Everyone in the company is as important as everyone else, and everyone here does their job to the best of their ability.”
That commitment and enthusiasm are going to stand the company in good stead going forward, even through the difficult times it has faced recently.
“Short term I’m getting through the challenges that have been imposed on us with Covid. Getting through the next six months is the immediate challenge and we’ve been fortunate that in the last year we have carried on pretty much as normal,” Matthews says. “We’re lucky to have customers who supported us and helped us along. Our staff’s commitment to getting into work and doing the right things in terms of social distancing, wearing masks, everyone’s really brought into that. We’ll get through the next six months then move on into new areas, new products and growth within the organisation.”