VOLT on opening its new UK manufacturing facility during COVID-19

VOLT recently opened the doors to a new UK manufacturing facility in Milton Keynes, a move which represents a significant investment by the firm and centralises its production within a new facility. Rebecca Morley catches up with James Metcalfe to find out more

Earlier this year, VOLT officially opened the doors to its new UK manufacturing facility – a project that was several months in the making. “We’ve been planning it for a long time,” explains VOLT founder and owner James Metcalfe. “We started the ball rolling just over a year ago, and then by the time lockdown and COVID had kicked in, we were already in development. We’d already found premises, we’d already been investing in machinery.”

But despite the challenges COVID-19 brought, the company pressed on. “A lot of it became harder because the suppliers we were dealing with were shut. We also had to overcome the issues of setting up a factory with social distancing rules and no clarity within how they worked as well. We pressed on and moved forward and now we’re physically producing already up there. Bikes are coming off the assembly line – it’s going well.”

At approximately 20,000 square feet, the new factory has the capacity to build up to 25,000 e-bikes per year and create 30 new jobs in the local area. The Milton Keynes location was selected due to its transport links and position as a growing innovation hub that is home to over 10,000 businesses.

It centralises the firm’s manufacturing process to the UK, and the new manufacturing base positions the brand for accelerated growth and reinforces its commitment to British manufacturing and high-quality production.

“We wanted a long term secure base with the support of our own country, rather than looking outside,” says Metcalfe. “Where we may have increased costs on certain aspects, we gained on keeping everything under one roof in the UK. We’re saving money on transport. It worked very well for us because we already had part of our logistics up in Milton Keynes.”

As with the rest of the industry, VOLT experienced some challenges when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. “When it first happened, there was quite a lot of uncertainty because we didn’t see an immediate uplift on sales – in fact, we saw the opposite,” says Metcalfe. “Back in March, we had a big dip. We saw our big uplift happen a month and a half after people had been in lockdown, which made a lot more sense to me.”

But this increase in cycling has come at a time when e-bikes were growing as a market already, with VOLT seeing year-on-year growth since it’s started. “But this has really elevated it. E-bikes are just becoming more normal now. Sales are increasing, we’ve seen a huge uplift ourselves in the last few months. I see that continuing throughout this year.”

With this increase in demand, the new base will allow the company to increase its output in response. And in addition to increased production capacity, the investment will also enable VOLT to have localised control of production, allowing it to operate more fluidly across the manufacturing cycle.

Read the August issue of BikeBiz below:

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