The following article is printed courtesy of the Gloucestershire Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo.
Try telling 100-year-old Gloucester business Helipebs that British manufacturing is dead and they may point you to their turnover figures – up 34 per cent to a predicted £7m.
Turnover for the year ending March 2014 was £5.2 million – a figure expected to also produce the Longlevens-based business a record profit.
Its staggering growth is put down to some clever manoeuvring, shrewd investment decisions, its own good name world-wide and its staff – described as “brilliant” by Managing Director Geoff Davis.
Oh, and the respect given to British manufacturing by overseas customers.
“Eighty per cent of what we make we also design. The biggest of our sectors is off-shore oil and gas, but we have customers who rely on us for stress-testing products who make helicopters, we do work for Mercedes Benz F1 team,” said Ron Tyler, Director of Manufacturing and Finance at Helipebs.
Its Sisson Road Victorian factory buildings, metal machining workshops, and middle-aged male management are smoke and mirrors to a dynamic, forward-thinking, change-embracing hard peddling clever business developing markets across the world.
“Some of our products are designed to work 3,000 metres down on the sea bed. We have to make sure we are selling a quality product. They don’t want to be having to bring it up to the surface if it breaks. That would be very expensive,” added Mr Tyler.
Two female engineers are on the books and they are determined to take on more.
Acutely aware of the value of its existing engineers’ skills and the desperate shortage of new blood a move to new purpose built premises to shed its old industrial skin will be a commitment to Gloucester and its 70 staff.
“The biggest problem in engineering is a shortage of skilled labour,” said Mr Davis.
Expansion on a previously unprecedented scale has been possible because the sale of part of its business allowed for huge investment in equipment to support its drive for quality while increasing its capacity.
“In 2011 we sold the mining part of the business,” added Mr Davis. “That was the catalyst that allowed us to invest in the machine shop.”
As the recession put paid to some competitors and potential customers started spending the Helipebs name – recognised and established throughout the Oil and gas industry – was top of the list and the Gloucester company able to satisfy demand.
Ever since the very beginnings of Helipebs – June 1914 – the company’s outlook has been global, but overseas markets have been hard won.
Harry Anderton, Commercial Director, is currently in Singapore at a major trade exhibition.
“We have had huge support in the past from the UKTI. The UKTI has been good for us. We are also currently looking at Australia.”
The bottom line being ‘if you do not adapt and look for new markets you will not survive’, said Mr Anderton.
“Our whole ethos remains competing on quality and time. We do not compete on price,” said Mr Tyler.
A feature-length history of Helipebs will follow in Business in the Gloucester Citizen and Gloucestershire Echo.