Manufacturers in the city of Leeds have risen to the challenges of globalisation with a winning combination of enterprise and innovation.
In the major league, Sulzer Pumps continues to make the world?s biggest pumps as the worldwide search for oil reserves intensifies. The company?s Leeds plant is also making pumps for new-growth markets such as desalination plants.
Many of the firm?s large workforce are skilled engineers or designers and Sulzer has grown its workforce by over 100 in the last 18 months. Meanwhile, Pudsey-based Winder Power recently relocated its 80-strong workforce to new, purposebuilt premises to cope with a growing order book. The company won a £1.2m contract with Birse Process Engineering to design, build and install 55 distribution and isolation transformers as an integral part of the highspeed Eurostar link between Britain and France.
?With an advanced order book of £8m and huge sales growth over the past 12 months, the relocation and a recruitment drive were absolutely essential,? says general manager Paul Matthews.
INNOVATION AND ENTERPRISE
Despite international trends to outsourcing production to developing economies, companies in Leeds have maintained and enhanced their position globally through innovation, diversification and a shift into high-tech product solutions and processes that are difficult to replicate.
Leeds-based Glassflake Ltd, for example, is Europe?s largest producer of microscopic flaked glass particles, used for a variety of applications, from paints and plastics, to power stations. Competitors in the Far East have been unable to duplicate the unique production process and Glassflake is growing its share of emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region via its recently opened office in Perth, Australia.
Sister company Corrocoat continues to develop its operations internationally through a strategy combining exports, joint ventures and licensing deals. In a joint venture with Kirloskar Brothers Ltd, one of India?s premier engineering groups and a world leader in fluid handling systems, Corrocoat is currently delivering fresh drinking water to some of the country?s most remote areas.
PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES
Manufacturing accounts for 8% of total employment in Leeds and punches well above its weight by generating an output of £1.78bn, 11.3% of the city?s total output. Cllr Andrew Carter, joint leader of Leeds City Council and executive member for city development, says: ?The continued success of Leeds manufacturers, particularly in the current economic climate, is testimony to the spirit of enterprise on which the city?s prosperity was built.
?There are some highly innovative companies based in the city, pushing the boundaries ? and in some cases leading the world in their respective fields. Our manufacturers play a key role in the economic life of the city and ensure its fortunes no longer depend on individual industries or employees.?
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An aggressive mix of diversification, targeted niche marketing and manufacturing excellence has propelled Leeds company ATB Morley to record sales and export figures
Sales continue to grow impressively ? from £5.4m in 2002, to a current £16.5m, with some 80% attributable to exports. The majority of these are to China and the company recently received an award from MP John Prescott for its outstanding contribution in China. ATB?s core business is the manufacture of large rotating electrical motors, specialisations being flameproof and heavy-duty electric motors for bespoke applications and hazardous environments such as coal mines.
While the UK coal-mining industry has declined, elsewhere it continues to flourish, including China, Russia, Australia and the USA. ATB Morley dominates the Australian market with a 96% share of the longwall mining markets and it is also receiving substantial orders from the US, where increasingly powerful motors are contributing to greatly reduced running costs. Business is particularly brisk in China too, almost uniquely accounting for 50% of export sales and where the company is currently exploring the feasibility of establishing a separate manufacturing facility.
Commercial director Steve Kolowiecki also points out that the UK market for coal-mining motors and industrial products is still worth over £1m a year to the firm. And with signs of a mini revival in the home mining industry, more UK sales to mines are predicted. However, diversification has seen ATB Morley move into new markets, including the water, power, steel, oil exploration and petro-chemical industries. Another opportunity with massive potential is the provision of 18,000 rpm motors for starting jet engines, while the acquisition of Cheshire-based company David McClure in 2007 opened a rich seam of military contracts for the UK and overseas.
With 190 skilled staff, the Leeds factory and its satellite facility in Bradford are largely self-sufficient, sourcing the specialised copper that lies at the heart of every motor from within the £2bn parent group ATEC. The efficiency and built-in safety of flameproof motors are rigorously tested in Pudsey with facilities to test up to two Megawatt capacity ? a service recognised by approval certificates from around the world. It has earned the Morley brand a reputation for quality and reliability around the world.
Added the 27 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1