Investment paying at city engineering firm

AET directors (from left) Stephen Woollen, David Birch and Andy Richards.
AET directors (from left) Stephen Woollen, David Birch and Andy Richards.
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A Sheffield engineering company celebrating its 25th anniversary has more than doubled turnover since the recession, to £10m, and doubled employee numbers.

Advanced Engineering Techniques has seen head count grow from 73 in 2008 to 150 today - and hopes to add 40 more in the next five years.

The firm, based on Holbrook Industrial Estate, Halfway, manufactures 600,000 components a year and has supplied parts for the retractable roof over Wimbledon’s Centre Court.

AET managing director David Birch said: “Success hasn’t come by accident. When the bottom fell out of engineering, we didn’t panic. We sat down and planned what we were going to do. That meant being bold and exciting and investing in the latest technology and techniques, and expanding factory space to increase capacity.

“One of our greatest strengths has been that we’ve diversified and can offer the total range of engineering services, which puts us into a very small group of companies. We’ve also invested in apprenticeships and staff training to maintain the competitive edge in terms of skills. Everything we set out to achieve we’ve excelled at and that’s down to the great team we have here.”

David founded AET with brothers Jack and Reg Copeland. Operations started with one laser-cutting machine in a 1,000 square feet unit.

Following purchase of the building next door, factory space has grown to 70,000 square feet. The company mostly works with steels. Laser-cutting allows for production of complex parts quickly. Other services include press-braking – a process of folding metal - milling, sawing, specialist fabrications and finishing and assembly operations. The company is supported by Creative Sheffield- the council’s business arm.

It helped AET buy the freehold of part of its site from the council, which allowed it to secure funding for expansion.

It also helped the company secure a Regional Growth Fund grant from Sheffield City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership for new machines, and to UK Trade & Investment for export support.

David added: “The support we’ve had from Creative Sheffield has been very helpful. They bring to our attention opportunities we might not otherwise have known about, and there’s always someone at the end of the phone.”

Creative Sheffield’s sector growth manager, Steve Wainwright, said: “We’re delighted to be able to support the expert team at AET as the company goes from strength to strength.”