Profile – Andrew Sims – AJS Technical Services
Growing up in Kettering, Northamptonshire, far removed from the sea, a career in the marine industry was never on Andrew Sims’ radar. He had no coastal connections and completed an engineering apprenticeship straight from school.
His love of engineering, which Andrew says was realised after some high-jinx in a French lesson, set the path for what later prompted the launch of AJS Technical Services. “I was thrown out of French at school after working out that by changing the headset plug settings in the audio lab everyone could talk to each other rather than listen to a French tape - I still believe I invented the first chat room. After three strokes of the cane I was sent to woodwork and metalwork, which I loved.”
Aged 15, this led to a four-year apprenticeship with Timsons Engineering - printing press manufacturers mainly catering for the US market in Kettering. Andrew learnt imperial and metric measurements - which he says is ‘useful for the marine sector’ - and worked in all business areas, including the foundry, machine shop, inspection area and office.
At the end of his apprenticeship in 1984, Andrew moved to a local engineering company as production controller. This led to jobs in production engineering, running a design office and quality control - setting up BS5750 - and roles as production manager, general manager and operations director. The latter were in the marine manufacturing sector.
In 2013, Andrew used his marine engineering, manufacturing, process management and logistical experience to set up AJS Technical Services. “I realised very early in my engineering working life - particularly when experiencing the downturns of the 80s/90s - that you can be the best in the world, but if no one knows about it, you have a problem.
“In every role I’ve had, I’ve tried to ensure the business marketed itself and created awareness in whatever way it could. Engineering and supply chain promotion was therefore the foundation for my business.”
Having relocated to Hythe Marina near Southampton, Andrew likens his role to that of a reputation/project manager, working behind the scenes to ensure all supply chain elements are assessed and risk managed so the business runs smoothly.
“I advise on everything that interacts within a business; from managing company-driven projects and logistics, looking at equipment supply and manufacturing solutions, to resolving engineering issues and supporting business development, sales and marketing. It’s a mixture of business organisation and engineering review while protecting a company’s reputation.”
Firms keen to improve their basic engineering processes and business profiles keenly embraced this concept and many remain with Andrew today. Clients include Quick, Prop Deflector, Bucklers Hard and HP Watermakers and in order to maintain service levels, Andrew keeps client numbers low. “I view customers as partners and focus on the key areas where our team can make a difference.”
Four people work at AJS, including MD Andrew and although based in the south, they spend time with customers around the country, bringing in extra staff for events such as boat shows.
There’s also an online shop, launched two years ago. “This is still work in progress, but a natural extension of key products that customers want to view online then discuss the technical aspects before purchasing.”
Andrew ran the Marine Manufacturing Showcase (MMS) from 2010 to 2017 and with support, would like to re-establish it in 2020.
“The concept grew from a meeting at the Dubai International Boat Show with Sunseeker’s Robert Braithwaite who suggested smaller suppliers could use the space under his exhibited boats to market their companies.
“I developed the idea further and booked a stand at the London Boat Show with six companies seizing the opportunity to promote their products and services.
“It’s key for companies without the size, skills or budget to be able to promote themselves without spending the time and incurring the high costs this would otherwise entail.”
Coming from a family of motorbike lovers (Andrew’s initials AJS are the name of a bike), it’s no surprise that outside work, two wheels are his passion. For the past 25 years Andrew has supported the charity Riders for Health/Two Wheels for Life, which provides motorcycles to African medics and he’s off to Lesotho, South Africa, in November for another charity event. “We service the bikes so they don’t breakdown which means medical treatment gets to where it’s needed.”
Andrew’s nickname among the biking fraternity is ‘Gaffer’. In 2007 he broke his neck and sustained serious injuries affecting his collarbone, ribs, pelvis, feet and arm. “I was in Africa and with ten days’ riding to go, was given morphine and gaffer-taped together. I didn’t realise I’d broken my neck until afterwards.”
His philosophy ‘don’t wait for your ship to come in, swim out and meet it’ is a quote from Andrew’s hero, world motorcycle racing champion Barry Sheene.”
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