Alan Collins, founder of Superite tools was born on the 2nd of July 1926 weighing 2 pounds 5 ounces, he was christened immediately as doctors were certain he, and his twin sister wouldn’t last the night. He is now 88, 89 this year and still maintains his fighting spirit. This spirit combined with his strength of character has been a real factor in his success.
During his early years he discovered a real talent for football, always striving to do everything to the best of his ability he pushed himself until he got a place with Walsall FC, he was known for being the quickest player on the pitch and affectionately known by team mates and friends as ‘cogger.’ Later in his life he would go on to prove that he wasn’t only a quick runner but a quick thinker, a natural business man, this was surprising as he and his sister were the youngest of seven brothers and sisters from a very poor mining family, it seemed a given that alan would follow in his father’s footsteps and go down the mines.
Alan decided that wasn’t the life for him and that there was a big wide world he wanted to explore. He used his initiative and strong personality to secure an apprenticeship with Crabtree’s engineering in Walsall. There he found he had a flare for engineering and he flourished.
Aged 19 he got the opportunity to fulfil his desire to see the world by joining the royal navy. Due to his success at Crabtree’s and because they recognised his natural ability he went straight in as a petty officer, which was a real achievement.
Being in the navy and travelling the world at a young age really broadened Alan’s horizons, it also instilled into him a strong work ethic, self-discipline and made him realise that to run anything successfully all parts had to work to optimum efficiency. This is a principal; he later applied in business and passed on to his sons Michael and Martin.
When Alan came home on leave from the navy he met Audrey, when she came to watch him play football for the team he used to play for before he went away. The attraction was immediate and mutual. Audrey was from a wealthy family, her father William Bunn, otherwise known as Billy owned Aldridge garage fondly known as ‘Billy Bunn’s’. William was extremely hard working and committed to providing his wife and daughter with the best life possible, he even used to have his Sunday dinners delivered to work so that he could keep the petrol pumps open all day. He would never buy anything unless he could comfortably afford it. He built the home that Martin currently lives in, which he paid for in cash in 1953
Audrey was the apple of her father’s eye, they had a really special bond. When she introduced Alan to him he approved of their relationship on the condition that Alan worked hard to provide for her.
Alan finished his service In the Navy and returned home to Aldridge, he began working for BRD now known as GKN in engineering. He later married Audrey. In 1955 he decided to use his experience in engineering, combined with a strong work ethic and desire to make Audrey and Billy proud, he started his own business ‘Superite Tools Ltd;’ to begin with, he continued with his day job and would work on projects for his own venture in the evenings in a wooden shed in paddock lane that his father in law let him use. His mother in law lent him £150 to purchase his first lathe. The company he worked for at the time, he had made a real impression on, so when he started out on his own they supported him and sent work his way.
Superite became very successful and he gained Billy’s respect and support which resulted in the running of Aldridge garage being handed down to Alan in 1970, it grew into ‘Aldridge Accident Repair Centre’. Today both Superite and AARC come under the umbrella of ‘Collins Group International.’
Superite expanded from the shed in paddock lane, to a bigger premises on paddock lane then due to compulsory purchase moved to a purpose built site in brickyard road in Aldridge. Amazingly it was built on the land of the former miner’s cottages where Alan’s father was born. AARC started on the Walsall road.
Both of Alan’s sons came on board with Superite and AARC from an early age and in 1991 Alan retired and let the boys take the reins. In April 2005 when the property market boomed the boys sold the Walsall road and brickyard road sites to Belway homes for development, today Superite & AARC are in a 32,000 sq. ft. purpose built premises in Vigo Place Aldridge.
During difficult trading times, Martin, Mike and the team at Superite showed how adaptable they were, when the recession hit, it hit tool making hard. Rather than bemoaning overseas competition they took advantage of it; cleverly turning the trend for importing cheap tools from overseas into an opportunity for a niche service, carrying out fast response repairs and modifications to imported tools.
Being one of the few companies in the county that can handle tools weighing up to 20 tonnes means they have very little competition and have built a sustainable client base.
It hasn’t been easy for Superite, but embracing the changes in the industry they have been bucking the trend and over the last 3-4 years have seen excellent growth and an upturn in their fortunes.
In august 2014 Mike Collins, Alan’s eldest son retired from the businesses after 39 years to help his children pursue their business ventures. Martin is now managing director of the group.
Martin is very proud to be celebrating Superite’s 60th year in business and is proud of the companies traditions and values, he attributes the positive turn around to a committed and long standing workforce, for example Sue Weaver purchasing manager who has been with Superite 25 years this year and, Tool Room Managers Steve Taylor who has been with Superite 50 years from the age of 15 and Craig Dingle who has been with Superite 22 years.
Martin is aware of a growing skill shortage which he attributes to the unwillingness of many companies in the industry to invest in training during the recession and that the time has come to start offering apprenticeships.
The company continue to move with the times and innovate by ‘Going Green’ as part of various energy saving processes, they have installed solar panels and are heating the factory by burning wood pellets.
Martin is feeling very positive about the future of Superite and Collins Group as a whole, having welcomed on board the 4th generation. His daughter Jessica who will be carrying out the marketing function for the group and William his youngest who has come on board as an apprentice with AARC.
Superite is thriving and we wish them well for the future.