McKechnie has been an engineering force in the UK in each of the last three centuries. It built its factory in Middlemore Lane, Aldridge, in 1954. At one stage branches of the company were established in South Africa and New Zealand. It came to specialise in round rod, shaped rod, turned parts and stampings for the water, gas and electrical industries.
McKechnie Brass, which was bought out of administration with the backing of West Midlands-based industrial conglomerate Grove… Industries in September 2011, has a history stretching back to 1871, when it was founded by Duncan McKechnie in St Helens. It moved to Birmingham in 1894 and became an early pioneer of brass and copper extrusion.
The company went into administration in January 2014 with a loss of around 60 jobs. The fundamental problem with the business was the tightening of scrap material prices throughout 2013. This led to substantial losses, despite a growing order book, significant operational improvements and the establishment of a strong local management team.
The Aldridge factory employed around 1,000 people between 1979 and 1987 whilst producing approximately 1,000 tonnes per week, with about 4 extrusion presses in use at any one time, producing around 480,000 extrusions per annum. These presses produced extruded rod, hollow bar & section, in various shapes, sizes & specifications of brass. It supplied the building industry, the military, amongst others, & in the later years produced specialist wire for the railway industry. Raw material, such as swarf, brass in various forms, was bought from merchants, alongside all metal that was produced as scrap, during the factory process stage. This was all mixed into batches, ready to go into the foundry, starting the process all over again. The profitable wire mill, produced brass, bronze & copper wire to many customers, including the car industry. The wire mill was closed around 2005, & work transferred to another UK plant. The factory had it’s own ballroom, medical surgery, conference facilities, clubhouse & sports facilities. Lots of heat & noise was generated and serious accidents were evident, including sadly, one fatality, severed digits, molten metal burns.
In 2011, there were only two presses running, one producing Standard Brass Rod, & the other extruding rod in ‘section’ form (specialist shapes, sizes & metal specifications. Trying to live with the ever upward spiral of scrap prices, lack of substantial investment, & excessive amounts of scrap created during the production process – made it difficult to break even, let alone make decent profits. To the very end, staff had not been given a pay rise in 8 years.
Some of Mckechnie Brass’s owners within the last few years with approximate takeover dates:
Boliden (Swedish) – 1991Outokumphu (Finnish) – Early 2000’s.
The company also purchased Cerro metals (formerly Delta metals) of West Bromwich, closed the plant and transferred work & interested employees, over to Aldridge.
Bolton Brass (British) – 2005/2006Two British Former Directors – 2010 (ish) – who reverted back to it’s synonymous name of McKechnie Brass, and strived to take the company forward again. Unfortunately, in 2011, they were forced to call in the receivers.Grove Industries (British) – 2011Administration – January 2014