How Pickersgill-Kaye’s products held the key to unlocking success in overseas markets

26 October 2016


AN advertisement in the Official Journal of The European Communities during Margaret Thatcher’s premiership made lock designers and manufacturers, Pickersgill-Kaye Ltd, realise the time had come to consider exporting.

The company, founded by Joseph Kaye, had been manufacturing ‘slam-locks’ for British-made trains since 1854 but now there was evidence of an overseas manufacturing network.

Business development director, Harry Griffiths, says: “The advertisement was the first we had seen seeking overseas tenders to build trains for the UK. We realised that what had been the province of British manufacturers was changing. Trains were being assembled from components rather than manufactured and we had an opportunity to export our products to lead contractors in Europe.”

Pickersgill-Kaye, Hunslet, Leeds, which also designs and manufacturers locks for the high security and custodial sectors, including prisons and police stations, had already exported to The Republic of Ireland, but now looked at continental Europe and targeted global engineering and assembly companies such as Bombardier & Siemens.

Pickersgill-Kaye initially set its sights on Germany, appointing a German-speaking European agent, and won the first of a series of export contracts that have continued over the years ranging from £600,000 to £1.2m per annum.         

Today Pickersgill Kaye, which was acquired by ASSA ABLOY, the global leader in door opening solutions, in October 2016, has 50 staff and, last year achieved a turnover of c. £3.5M of which £1.1m is global exports, up from £638,300 in 2014.

The company’s services for the railway sector include designing and manufacturing standard and customised door locks and security systems, including external LED train door status indicators, internal and external cab door locks and internal egress and external access devices.

In building its exports Pickersgill-Kaye has also attended overseas trade missions, used UKTI Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) reports and benefited from a range of export training from Chamber International at its own offices.

Harry Griffiths, a Chamber International export ambassador, says the business has been fortunate as, once its products become known by the global railway assembly companies, they ‘sold themselves’ through their reputation for quality.

“One of our successful export products is passenger alarm units integrated with a microphone so that, when the cord is pulled, the driver can speak with the passenger to ascertain the problem and advise when the train can be brought to a halt.

“A business involved with one of our German contracts saw these and said that they would be ideal for Toronto Transit ‘Rocket’ subway cars which they were working on. We won the order and a significant proportion of our exports grew in this way.”

Pickersgill-Kaye’s locks became the products of choice and the company’s customers now include Siemens, Bombardier, Alstom, Irish Rail, CAF, Jiwon Tech, Rotem, Ocean Eagle and DB Schenker.       

One of Pickersgill-Kaye’s largest orders was for emergency door handle devices for the Class 800 and 801 trains supplied by Hitachi Rail Europe for the multi-billion pound Intercity Express Programme (IEP), then one of the biggest rail projects in the world.

In another breakthrough, 2014 saw Pickersgill-Kaye supply its eight-lever Kaye Class 1 custodial cell lock for the custodial suite of the first railway satellite police station on the Hong Kong-China Express Rail Link route.

As well as also supplying the same locks to the Garda in Ireland and to Malaysia, sales growth has continued across continental Europe & beyond.

The company has manufactured WC door switch units for EVAC in Germany; emergency hammer boxes for a new-build tram project in Belgium; emergency break access panels for trains in Austria; budget locks and break panels for Siemens’ Desiro trains and a continuing supply of loco door locks for Bombardier Traxx locos.

What is Harry Griffiths’s advice to  novice exporters? “If you have an export vision for your business, engage with your local chamber of commerce and share it with them. Organisations such as Chamber International are excellent at export protocol and have a wide range of services. Their training is first rate.

“Access periodical market reports from Government departments and, if you can, visit your target markets and set up meetings. Being able to speak with foreign companies in their own language is often a matter of etiquette rather than communication. In Europe, once you have a relationship, they usually speak in English.

“However, being able to speak their language at the start shows politeness and that you are prepared to make an effort to work with them and probably counts most from that point of view.”


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Chamber International - Pickersgill-Kaye
Chamber International - Pickersgill-Kaye