Responsive invests in staff, equipment

In our series looking at the winners of the North-East Business Awards 2006, which are organised by The Journal and the Evening Gazette on Teesside, we focus on Responsive Engineering.

In our series looking at the winners of the North-East Business Awards 2006, which are organised by The Journal and the Evening Gazette on Teesside, we focus on Responsive Engineering. The Manufacturing Company of the Year has taken great strides in recent years putting new systems and equipment in place to sustain growth. James Barton reports.

Responsive Engineering is a company with big ambitions which has already come a long way since it was formed by a management buyout in 2005.

The Gateshead-based business has grown rapidly in recent years, increasing sales by 50% between 2003/04 and 2005/06, and more growth is predicted.

And it is currently in the middle of a significant investment drive, and has ambitions to not only push its current £8.35m sales through the £10m barrier but lay the foundations for a more substantial longer-term growth.

Managing director Peter Bernard says: "If you look at what we have done to the business, you can see the systems we have in place now belong in a much larger company.

"We have ambitions to keep growing and are undergoing a continuing multi-million pound investment programme which places us at the forefront in terms of technology."

The business has recently invested half a million pounds in a new laser cutting machine for its Streamline division, and it says this is just part of a sustained £2.5m investment programme over two years.

Its factory has been extended to incorporate the new flat-bed laser-cutting equipment, which Responsive says will expand capacity and improve productivity.

The new machine, along with its five existing cutters, gives Responsive the biggest metal cutting capacity in the North-East.

Mr Bernard says: "We have been doing a tremendous amount of work with the new business, involving a lot of people in organisational development with the help of Business Link. Changing the culture and changing the way we do things have been contributing factors to achieving the success we have had so far and winning this award."

The business has gone from 95 staff last October to around 110 now with at least 10 more to come.

Mr Bernard says: "The new investment is part of a planned development programme that will improve our technical capabilities and our productivity.

"We have already seen fairly buoyant growth for engineering services from the oil and gas sector and we anticipate good opportunities in the process plant, off-highway vehicles and architectural sectors.

"It's a gradual jacking-up process, as we are winning business and have to provide the staff to support that business. We need skilled operatives, technical staff and sales people."

Besides Streamline, Responsive operates other businesses - Kingsway, Weldex and Pressex. These provide a range of precision engineering, welding, pressing and assembly services.

Mr Bernard says: "We have four businesses working independently under common ownership in close collaboration. As a result of the training and developing programmes, everyone has become more aware of sales and marketing and we have developed a group sales capability we didn't have before."

Investment in equipment has continued alongside and manufacturing techniques such as Enterprise Resource Planning have been implemented across the business to reduce waste, lead times and increase the profitability.

He says: "By equipping all of our engineering businesses with the most advanced technology available, we are better placed than ever to meet customer demands and our initial target is to break through the £10m sales mark. We have invested in all the businesses."

Some of its most high profile work has been on the Scottish Parliament, at Heathrow's T5 project and at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.

"We built the bronze cone structure for the planetarium in our capital city which is an iconic structure and something the whole of the North-East should be very proud of. We are now able to do a huge amount of work for a broad range of customers to a very high standard and this should stand us in very good stead going forward."

All our winners

Company of the Year - sponsored by One NorthEast

Winner: Wellstream International, Newcastle

Runner-up: Brulines, Stockton

Runner-up: Frank Haslam Milan, Sunderland

Small Business - sponsored by Business Link North-East

Winner: Raytec, Ashington, Northumberland

Runner-up: RS Industrial Services, Billingham

Runner-up: Induction Pipe Bending, Sunderland

Innovation - sponsored by HSBC

Winner: Citrox, Middlesbrough

Runner-up: Jade Care International, Blaydon, Gateshead

Runner-up: MJS Claims, Stabley, County Durham

Technology - sponsored GFI Consulting International

Winner: i4u, Newcastle

Runner-up: Sayu, Stokesley

Runner-up: Bede X-ray Metrology, Durham

Internet & ICT - sponsored by Durham Net

Winner: SDLT.co.uk

Runner-up: Cooks and Kitchen Kitchenware, Darlington

Runner-up: CASK Media, Sunderland

Manufacturing - sponsored by EEF

Winner: Responsive Engineering Group, Gateshead

Runner-up: E&F Composites, Hartlepool

Runner-up: Induction Pipe Bending, Sunderland

Environment - sponsored by Northumbrian Water

Winner: 3M UK, County Durham

Runner-up: Aesica Pharmaceuticals, Cramlington, Northumberland

Runner-up: Premier Waste Management, Aykley Heads, Durham

Corporate Social Responsibility - sponsored by Northern Rock

Winner: Akzo Nobel, Felling, Gateshead

Runner-up: Huntsman Polyurethanes, Redcar, Cleveland

Runner-up: Frank Haslam Milan, Sunderland

Learning, Training & Skills - sponsored by Train to Gain

Winner: Parkdean Holidays, Newcastle

Runner-up: AMEC Group, Darlington, County Durham

Runner-up: Esh Group, Bowburn, Durham

Export - sponsored by UK Trade & Investment

Winner: Gate 7, Gateshead

Runner-up: Cleveland Cascades, Thornaby, Stockton on Tees

Runner-up: Stephenson Gobin, Bishop Auckland, County Durham

Services - sponsored by Sunderland City Council

Winner: RS Industrial Services, Billingham

Runner-up: Croft Technology, Newcastle

Runner-up: MJS Claims, Stabley, County Durham

Cultural & Creative Business - sponsored by Arts Council

Winner: TH_NK, Newcastle

Runner-up: Dinamic Ceramics Northumbria, Ashington, Northumberland

Runner-up: The bgroup, Newcastle

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer