The future is looking bright for contract manufacturing specialist MTL Group.
The company, which supplies the defence, renewable energy, offshore oil and gas, construction, quarrying, rail and recycling industries, sees opportunities for growth in most, if not all of those sectors.
Growth prospects are particularly significant in the energy and defence sectors, says managing director Dr Henry Shirman, who has led the company’s transformation into one of Europe’s fastest growing metals sector project manufacturing specialists.
MTL has become the leading UK supplier of secondary steelwork for offshore wind turbines – the landing decks and platforms, which maintenance engineers use to gain access to giant turbines.
Only last month the company won Government praise for securing its biggest export contract yet - a deal to supply nearly 100 landing systems for an offshore wind farm being built by the Germans in the North Sea.
While continental Europe has developed a lot of expertise with onshore wind power, the demand for offshore generators is comparatively new and MTL reckons it is in a good position to take a leading role.
“There is a big push now – both in the UK and in continental Europe – for offshore wind farms because there is a lot more wind offshore, you don’t get ‘nimbyism’ and, more importantly, the cost per kilowatt hour is lower as the generators can be so much bigger,” says Dr Shirman.
“We have developed quite a bit of expertise and we know we can be competitive. We recently won a very large order for a continental offshore project against some very stiff Polish competition because of our investment in automation.”
MTL’s leading position in the market has been bolstered by its investment in dockside facilities in Blyth, Northumberland, where it can assemble fabrications made in Sheffield to create giant components that could not be transported by road and ship them direct to the continent.
Dr Shirman also sees opportunities in the nuclear sector, for which MTL could make structural steel work.
“It is understandable that everybody is nervous, but I personally think that nuclear power has a place in our energy strategy and, therefore, I think there is an opportunity for this company in the nuclear sector,” he says.
The other sector with the potential for major growth is defence, where MTL focuses on land-based equipment for protecting troops, like armoured personnel carriers and makes the complex v-shaped armoured chassis of the new Foxhound Vehicle, destined to replace the much-criticised Snatch Land Rover, used by the Army as a light patrol vehicle.
“Unfortunately, there is a lot of conflict around the world and, at the moment, most appears to be land-based,” says Dr Shirman, whose company was the first in the UK to win approval to supply components for armoured vehicles used by Germany’s armed forces.
Dr Shirman also sees growth prospects in the manufacturing, construction, rail, quarrying, mining and recycling sectors which MTL serves and with blue chip companies such as BAE Systems, Bombardier Transportation, Caterpillar, Rheinmetall and Sandvik among its customers, there is every reason for MTL’s expansion to continue.