|Headquarters||Cowley, Oxfordshire, England|
|Products||Logisitics, supply chain, consultancy|
|Revenue||£747.7 million (2016)|
|£28.3 million (2016)|
Number of employees
|Parent||British Leyland/Rover Group (1974–1987)|
Independent Unipart Group (1987–present)
Unipart Group is a multinational logistics, supply chain, manufacturing and consultancy company headquartered in Cowley, Oxfordshire, England. It has operations in Europe, North America, Australia and Japan and works across a variety of sectors that include automotive, retail, technology and rail.
Originally part of the state-owned conglomerate British Leyland (BL), Unipart was a distributor of service parts for BL (and later, Austin Rover) vehicles. It was demerged from BL in 1987 in a management buyout and is a partially employee-owned and is one of the largest privately owned companies in the UK. For the year ending 2016, the company had a turnover of £747.7 million.
Unipart as it operates its business today was formed in 1974 by John Egan. State-controlled British Leyland put him in charge of their Unipart parts and service division, let him make it independent and brand it Unipart. The use of the Unipart brand to market service parts for British Leyland vehicles was similar in concept to Ford's Motorcraft brand. The next year British Leyland was nationalised. Egan left in 1976 to join Massey Ferguson.
Then 29-year-old John Neill replaced Egan and he continued Egan's policy of providing the same logistical services to its parent's competitors as well as to British Leyland. In 1987, shortly after British Leyland had been re-privatised as the Rover Group, Neill led a management buyout of Unipart, in part financed by a wider employee buy-in. Unipart is now 70% owned by its workforce and pension fund, the other 30% is held by sympathetic institutions. After the buyout, Unipart's main business stream was in distribution and logistics, including the marketing and distribution of automotive products, but included two manufacturing sites. In 1988, the company secured a contract to produce parts for a car Honda was building at its Swindon manufacturing site.
In 1997, Unipart backed a management-led buyout team at the National Railway Supplies, a servicer and distributor of signaling and telecom equipment for the rail industry and acquired a minority shareholding in the newly privatised company. The company purchased 100 percent of the firm in 2001, along with its York, Brighton and Crewe locations.
Unipart purchased the Partco network which consisted of branches largely located on industrial estates providing parts into the automotive aftermarket in 1999. Partco was renamed Unipart Automotive.
In 2011, 51% of the Unipart Automotive parts business was sold to H2 Equity Partners. The remaining 49% of Unipart Automotive was retained by Unipart Group. A condition of the sale was that Unipart Group exercised no control over the business. Under its new ownership, Unipart Automotive was granted a restricted licence by Unipart Group to use the Unipart brand on a limited range of wholesale outlets and a tightly controlled range of automotive car parts in the UK.
In April 2013, H2 sold Sator Holding to Unipart Automotive's main rival Euro Car parts for £176 million. In July 2014, Unipart Automotive entered into administration with the loss of more than 1200 jobs. Some branches and 361 staff were moved to Andrew Page and the Parts Alliance.
In 2014, Unipart Group began working with Andrew Page and the UK Parts Alliance to ensure that British used car owners were would continue to be supported via Unipart Car Care Centres, which are based in towns across the UK, and delivered the same standard of service to their customers. In December 2014, Unipart announced a joint venture with Lucchini RS Group, the venture was named LUR Limited and produced railway wheel, wheelsets and other activities.
In March 2015, the company announced that it was launching a new high-tech engineering and manufacturing business called Unipart Powertrain Applications.
In May 2015 Unipart announced its biggest rise in profits for 10 years, said to be due to continued productivity improvements. That same year, Unipart launched a joint venture with Rolls-Royce called MetLase Limited. MetLase uses high precision, laser cutting technology, and patented assembly and joining systems, to enable engineers to produce prototypes rapidly.
In 2016, Unipart Rail acquired Park Signalling, a firm specialising in the design and build of signalling, telecoms, control and monitoring equipment on rail networks. In 2017, Unipart Rail acquired Key Fasteners, a supplier of rail industry materials, and a controlling share Instrumental Ltd., one of the UK's leading technology companies. In 2018, Unipart Logistics and Waterstones agreed to extend their long-term partnership for an additional five years.
At the 2013 European Supply Chain Excellence Awards, Unipart was awarded Overall Winner for its management of aftermarket support of 1.2 million Jaguar Cars globally. That same year, Unipart also received the Aftermarket Parts logistics trophy at the Automotive Supply Chain Global Awards. Unipart was one of seven organisations worldwide to be awarded both the Sword of Honour and the Globe of Honour by the British Safety Council in 2013 for the second year in a row for its Oxford distribution centre. That year six Unipart sites received the Sword of Honor award.
In January 2014, Unipart announced the development of two new manufacturing facilities, one at the Coventry site focused on high-tech fuel system components and one at Kautex Unipart Ltd as part of its partnership with German company Kautex Textron.
In 2014, Vince Cable, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills and the APC (Advanced Propulsion Centre) launched the ACTIVE (Advanced Combustion Turbocharge Inline Variable Valvetrain Engine) project supported by the Automotive Council at Ford’s Dunton Technical Centre focused on the advancement of propulsion development and production. The project included work at eleven partner locations, including Unipart Eberspacher Exhaust Systems. That same year, Unipart worked with University of Huddersfield's Institute of Railway Research to develop The Centre for Innovation in Rail.
In April 2014, Unipart announced a five-year logistics contract with Qoros Automotive Co. LTD based in Changshu, China. That same year, Unipart signed a distribution contract with Toyota in India. The contract covered distribution operations in Kolkata, and was Unipart's second logistics contract with Toyota in India, following a 2012 contract at the Bangalore site.
In 2014, the British Safety Council awarded Unipart the International Safety Award for its contribution to health and safety in the transport, distribution and motor trade sector. In 2015, three Unipart divisions won both the Sword of Honour and the Globe of Honour from the British Safety Council.
Unipart's traditional promotion of its services was by motorsports sponsorship, from 1978 with the Triumph Dolomite Formula 3 team, and from 1980 in Formula One, first with Ensign and then with McLaren until 1983. Once Unipart was completely independent they returned to Formula One sponsorship, with Tyrrell and later with Jordan Grand Prix.
Unipart has strong links with the local community and education, supporting many community initiatives and organisations. Unipart has a traditionally strong affiliation with motorsport. In 2006, the company teamed up with Nigel Mansell and his sons, Greg and Leo, in a sponsorship deal in support of Nigel's sons' careers in Formula BMW.
In 2015, Unipart was one of a handful of companies to receive a five star rating in the Business in the Community 2015 Corporate Responsibility (CR) Index—the UK's leading benchmark of responsible business. The following year, Unipart Group scored 100% in the 2016 Corporate Responsibility Index.
In 2017, the company won The Fujitsu Award for Responsible Business in the Digital age at the Responsible Business Awards. The company received an additional 18 awards from the British Safety Council.
The Unipart Way
"The Unipart Way" is a system of lean manufacturing tools and techniques, with a guiding philosophy to reduce waste or activities which do not add value. Based on the companies learning from Honda and study into the Toyota Production System, it is the name the company has given to its methodology. It involves a process of continuous measurement which is designed to lead to a reduction of wasteful activity, thereby ensuring the best deployment of time and resources.
The methodology has been implemented in public institutions, including Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust where a partnership with Unipart helped the healthcare provider earn an award as the most improved healthcare employer in the UK.
In 1993, the company founded Unipart U to provide training to shop floor workers and managers. By 1998, Unipart U offered 180 courses for employees and had two main facilities, Learning Curve, a resource centre and Leading Edge, a training centre for new technologies. In 2000, the company invested £1.5 million to create a computerized training courses named 'Virtual U' and available on shop floors for its employees.
In 2014, Unipart announced a £32m joint venture with Coventry University called The Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering, located at Unipart's manufacturing site in Coventry. The program received £7.9 million in funding from the Higher Education Funding Council and was also backed by George Osborne. Construction began on the Institute in April 2014.
The Institute opened in 2015. As part of the partnership, 60 students at Coventry University divide their time between lecture halls and Unipart's manufacturing site.
There are three main operating divisions within the Unipart Group, these main operating divisions are Unipart Logistics, Unipart Manufacturing and Unipart Consultancy and within these are various business units.
- Unipart Logistics: This division manages end-to-end supply chains while providing a variety of other services including warehousing, fulfillment and reverse logistics in Europe, Asia Pacific and North America. Through its supply chain consulting arm, the company provides supply chain optimisation. It won a five year £730 million contract in September 2018 for transporting medical equipment to NHS trusts in September 2018 after a legal challenge from DHL Supply Chain, the incumbent supplier.
- Unipart International: With operations based in mainland Europe, the Gulf and the USA, Unipart International provides services and products to the truck and bus aftermarket, the collision parts industry and the industrial and automotive heat exchange markets.
- Unipart Rail: This division is located in the North of England with sites in Crewe, Doncaster and York and provides engineering and logistic solutions to the rail supply chain. The company also has several other brands which it has acquired and trades under such as Dorman who specialise in LED Lighting. In 2015, the division was recognised as the best in the industry for collaborative working at the UK Rail Industry Awards.
- Unipart Manufacturing: This division produces original equipment components and is a first-tier supplier to the automotive industry, supplying a customer base which includes British, European and Japanese vehicle manufacturers. It also designs, manufactures and services heat exchangers. In 2016, Unipart Manufacturing announced a 7-year contract supplying engine components for Ford cars being manufactured in China.
- Unipart Expert Practices: This division provides services to external clients in the form of management and supply chain consultancy. UEP has worked with business in the sectors including Health, Government and Finance.
Unipart also supported an initiative to inspire young people who were struggling at school. They attended classes within Unipart daily and are supported through work experience. By being treated as trainees rather than pupils their attendance records and academic progress have been transformed. The programme is called Unipart Inspires, and it brings together work experience with training in job hunting skills such as interview practice, CV writing and using social media to search for jobs. Unipart has also supported an initiative to give homeless people supported and paid employment.
Unipart has also instituted community programmes that send its engineers into nearby schools to teach problem-solving techniques and its consultants to job centres to increase employability potential. The company has also worked with the long-term unemployed to help find work.
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