County Durham car parts manufacturer Gestamp Tallent has invested £11m in the creation of a new press plant.
The major employer, which has more than 1,300 people at its Newton Aycliffe facility, has updated the oldest part of its huge site with a vast extension providing an extra 3,900sqm of spare, with a 250m-long press shop.
The 1.8m cubic metre space also houses two new state-of-the-art presses, costing £6.2m between them, which will improve efficiency and output.
Production within the new part of Plant 1 has already started, signalling the end of a two-year design project while also cementing Gestamp Tallent’s position on Aycliffe Business Park as the town’s biggest employer.
Plant director Peter Gallone said: “This further demonstrates how important our people are to us, and we are to them.
“This is a 30-plus-year investment. We have presses that have been on site since 1982, so that gives you an idea of how long we want these facilities to carry on producing parts here in Newton Aycliffe.
“When people drive past and they see a 17-metre tall building coming out of the ground, they can see there’s investment here and it’s great for the town and the area.
“We employ more than 1,300 people directly – and hundreds more indirectly through our supply chain – which means we’re contributing significantly to the local economy, which we feel is important.
“We also think it’s important that we communicate with both our employees but also the local community.
“It’s part of my plan to open up to the local businesses and the local community, to help them understand what we do, in the hope that we continue to attract local people as employees.”
Gestamp Tallent’s latest investment was headed up by Graham Moore, whose team oversaw the design and build of two presses which were assembled in the Basque region of Spain, Gestamp’s homeland.
Once approved they were then stripped down and shipped to Newton Aycliffe over land and sea.
The parts arrived, and two presses – a 4,000-tonne transfer press costing £4.2m and a 1,500-tonne progression press costing £2m – are now in place, sitting in seven-metre deep pits and surrounded by sound-proof “cabinets” to minimise noise.
The transfer press will produce 6.3 million strokes a year, while the progression press will do 12.7m annually.
Combined they will help Gestamp Tallent meet the needs of customers such as Jaguar, Landrover, Volvo, Ford, BMW, Nissan and Honda.
Gestamp Tallent has grown hugely in the last three years, increasing turnover, output and staff numbers to record levels.
Sales have grown substantially over that period and are expected to increase by 16% this year with a further 12% increase by 2017.
The firm has taken on 150 new people in the last eight months, increasing its workforce to 1,322, while long service statistics continue to impress, with 42 employees completing 25 years’ service this year alone.
Gestamp Tallent also develops local engineers and tool makers, with 52 Apprentices currently with the company and plans to take in 10 a year up to 2018.
The £1.3m investment in the Gestamp Tallent Training Academy has also transformed the former Sanyo site into a state-of-the-art training facility which will not only train Gestamp’s workforce of the future, but will also help them to develop their existing staff.