Privately owned and managed group of surface treatment companies established in 1931 with a well respected history of providing class leading surface finishing services.

South West Metal Finishing

Originally operating from a single site based in Exeter the business now encompasses four treatment sites in Exeter, Yeovil and Chippenham servicing customers in the United Kingdom, Europe and Internationally in a variety of quality critical sectors and applications.

Our comprehensive manufacturing capability and extensive knowledge is complemented by strategic partnerships with our customers and investing in our people to develop their skills and expertise which allows us to deliver high quality services to meet our customer’s specific requirements.

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Get in touch today to speak to a member of our team for further advice on our processes, coatings, or to make an enquiry.

The History of South West Metal Finsihing

The Beginning

South West Metal Finishing as it is today, began its life as Exeter Ignition Company (or E.I.C) in 1931 in Summerland Street in Exeter. At that time the business concentrated solely on rewinding dynamos and starters, overhauling magnetos and manufacturing batteries. It was founded by Kenneth Jacobs (grandfather of current directors) and two other colleagues.


Cost of a litre of
fuel £0.01p

Company Note:

By 1937 – 10 staff
Turnover £3468

The War Years

In 1937 EIC built new premises in Summerland Street Exeter with an eye to expansion though as war broke out the firm was stripped of its staff. By 1940 because of the increasing amount of work for the military the company trained girls and men over military age in the trade. Disaster struck however in the May 1942 when Exeter was a victim of the Luftwaffe bombing (otherwise known as the Baedeker raid) and the new premises was devastated and turned to a heap of rubble. EIC quickly relocated to a series of small huts (pictured) and gradually rebuilt the business and the company continued to do significant work for the war effort.

Company Note:

Staff 16 in 1946 (after having rebuilt after losing men to the war effort)
Turnover £10770


Exeter becomes the first target of the so-called
“Baedeker Blitz”, a campaign to attack targets of cultural
and historical, rather than military or strategic, value,
causing the death of 265 people and injuries to 687

Company Note:

£2000 owing at the time of the bombing, all paperwork
destroyed, but only £6 left outstanding

Post War

Having spotted an opportunity, in 1950 Ken Jacobs added the electroplating department, predominantly repairing and chrome plating bumper bars and silver plating headlamp reflectors and took on new larger premises in Exeter. The electrical repairs business continued from strength to strength but the electroplating also started to contribute to its success. Ken and Mary Jacobs had three growing sons at this point and worked tirelessly to grow the business.


In 1950 the United Kingdom accounted
for a quarter of world trade in manufacturing

Company Note:

By 1950 – staff 36
Turnover 1957: £57,601


Average cost of a car £315

The Next Generation

This era saw the rise of the new generation Richard and Clive Jacobs, two of Ken and Marys’ three sons coming through, as well as economic changes and the start of a different direction for the business.

Kens’ faltering health meant that the sons took greater responsibility and Clive eventually steered the company into a period of acquisition of other local electroplating firms and further investment into plant, equipment and people. Richard meanwhile continued in the automotive trade for some time until eventually selling this arm of the business as it became more globally competitive to begin concentrating on commercial property investment and animal feed storage. During this time the current premises was purchased and modified for use as an electroplating factory.

Company Note:

Turnover in 1965 £115,498


The average house price is £2,530, a pint
of beer costs 8p and a loaf of bread is 5p

1970 – 1990
Commercial Growth

During this period the electroplating company worked principally in the Agricultural industry and the Electrical Industry but during the latter part of the period both industries began to expect lower and lower prices as they started to explore global markets and eventually the Company began to specialise in more advanced technical finishing and other services such as paint, non-destructive testing and ancillary services that would be attractive to the more specialist markets. Commercial Property continued to grow and enhance the stability of the company. By the end of the period South West Metal Finishing had 3 finishing factories across the South West and a first foothold within the Aerospace Sector with several accreditations and approvals to support growth. At this time Bob Williams and Charles Thomson were amongst the many key staff who helped steer the direction and enable growth.

Company Note:

Turnover in 1979

Company Note:

Cost of an average
car is £9,000

Company Note:

Loaf of bread cost
65p in 1989

1990 – 2000
The Move to Aerospace

During this time the third generation, Paul, Matthew and Jackie Jacobs alongside long serving staff member Kevin Baker took on more responsibility to eventually become directors and pushed ahead with securing business to enable advancement in the Aerospace Sector as well as supporting many other sectors such as Defence and General Engineering. Many other prime approvals followed to such point that South West Metal Finishing could confidently state its position as one of the foremost finishing companies in the UK with a large array of processes and techniques and growing overseas business.


1995 represented an upward swerve in design and portability,
with mobile devices gradually starting to appear in the hands
of average consumers for the first time

Company Note:

By 1998 – staff 71
Turnover £2,541,524


Average cost of a car
£11400 in 1998

2000 – Now
The Present

South West Metal Finishing continued to succeed and grow. In early 2004 the securing of a major contract with the then named Westland Helicopters helped to enhance the companies reputation and the business received a series of supplier awards. In 2008 the Company acquired a new finishing factory in Corsham, Wiltshire and In 2015 the Company embraced the challenge of the Sharing in Growth 4 year program to drive our growth ambitions and now goes from strength to strength, continuing to invest and striving for improvement.

Legislative challenges and the gradual reduction of the use of chrome and cadmium has required the company to invest in new, more environmentally friendly processes such as Tartaric Acid Anodising and Zinc Nickel Alloy Plating. With the rise of Additive Layer Manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing, the company introduced an R & D department focusing on supporting the treatment of the products manufactured using these methods and other innovative engineering techniques.

Company Note:

Staff 150
Turnover £7,205,425


Cost of a litre of fuel
£0.86p in 2000

Company Note:

Overall growth from 1937 – 2017 (80 years)
207,669% (inflation same period 6,658%)


Entry-level cost of an average small SUV
ranges from £19,000 to £24,000 in 2018

Leading the way…

Our Mission

  • Provide industry leading surface engineering services for our customers.
  • Continually grow through operational excellence and progressive innovation.
  • Safeguard the environment and ensure a rewarding future for our employees.

South West Metal Finishings’ overall vision for the future is to continue on a path of ambitious and sustainable growth, to identify and engage in strong strategic partnerships, offer a full complement of processes and services with appropriate prime approvals and to diversify into other sectors such as Nuclear, Rail and Oil and Gas

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