A long-established North East engineering business that supplies many of the region’s leading food processing firms has achieved its best ever financial figures after expanding into new industries.
Stockton Machine Company (SMC) has exceeded turnover of £1.1m as investments in hi-tech machinery allow the firm to grasp new opportunities beyond its traditional customer base.
Turnover has trebled at SMC over the past four years as the Billingham business secures new work within the offshore renewables sector and the oil and gas industries.
Now in its 43rd year, the company has also attracted new customers within the food processing industry it has served since the early 1980s.
Specialising in bespoke, rapid turnaround engineering solutions, SMC is enjoying a boom period under the leadership of managing director Mark Smith.
From its 6,000 sq ft factory, the firm’s 14-strong team has built its reputation on its expertise in making the components that go into the complex food-making automation process.
It manufactures and supplies automated components such as rollers, shafts and gearboxes for food manufacturers producing everything from naan bread to crisps.
Smith’s father, Ivan, formerly a fitter and turner at Head Wrightson, started the business in 1971 alongside the late Ken Hugget, himself a former ICI fitter and turner.
Since moving into the top spot at the business 12 years ago, Smith is now reaping the rewards of embracing new machining technologies.
“From our humble beginnings, I’m proud we’re now producing goods worth in excess of £1m every year,” he said.
“Three or four years ago we were turning over £300,000 to £400,000 but we’re now gaining new clients by the week.
“After a downturn a few years ago, we’ve bounced back and I am so proud of what we have achieved over the past three or four years, thanks to the hard work of a loyal and talented workforce.
“We’re stealing a march on others via our service offering of always being ready to meet tight lead times.
“The business has grown up through the food processing industry. It has always been our mainstay – our bread and butter, if you like - but the oil and gas industry is now coming up at speed, while wind farms and the renewables sector generally is also growing steadily.”
Initially based in the back of Fleetham’s Garage in Skinner Street, Stockton, SMC later moved to a site alongside Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium before switching to the Billingham premises in the early 1980s.
Smith added that when the company started out, it was “very low-tech”, using manual machines to produce low-cost products for local businesses.
“With the advent of CNC machines (computer numerical control), we moved up several gears in terms of the complexity of what we could handle,” he added.
“We have recently invested in the latest computer-aided machining software, Delcam.
“We are now investing in another new vertical machining centre. Coupled with the new software, this means we can produce almost anything in a fraction of the time it used to take.”
The company’s recent projects have included providing components for the giant J-lay tower – designed to lay cables on the ocean floor - that was docked on the River Tees for much of 2012 during manufacture in Port Clarence.
Components have also been manufactured for the refurbishment of davit cranes and pipe-coiling vessels, and the firm has carried out machining work for Cleveland Bridge around the prefabricated components in a section of Stockton’s Infinity Bridge.