Historic Sheffield manufacturer DavyMarkham is likely to break even this financial year after a period of hardship, thanks to a recovery plan under an enthusiastic new owner.
Industrial group Hughes-Armstrong took on the company in 2014, when it was struggling after years of losing money, and facing the risk of administration.
But today the firm is looking forward to a big future – literally. It is currently bidding for the contract for a machine more than 26ft in diameter and 328ft long for a new sewer under the Thames and is angling for tunnelling work for the high- speed rail network HS2.
A tour of the DavyMarkham workshop in Darnall reveals a 300 tonne casting, from down the road at Forgemasters, that is in for machining; a 20-year old first generation wind turbine in for refurbishment; parts from a steel mill at Port Talbot and giant reinforced concrete boxes that could one day hold nuclear waste. The firm is also working on a 60,000 tonne press for aircraft construction in the US. Overhead are cranes capable of lifting 350 tonnes,
Chief executive Bill Clark is an industry veteran who was working for Tata Steel when he realised the extent of DavyMarkham’s woes. He put together a team that led to a takeover by Hughes-Armstrong in October 2014. A year later he was hired as boss. “I had no intention of joining the business, I just thought it was too important to fail,” he said.
“It’s the most enjoyable job I’ve had. It feels as if there’s a willingness to try new things. My interest is to try to convert the investor’s passion and energy and make it work for the workforce and for customers.
“I think what I bring works differently to my predecessors in that I’m not afraid to take on large projects in the UK and overseas that link R&D, manufacturing and engineering.”
The planned £55bn HS2 rail network presents a big opportunity for the company. “We are doing our best to influence HS2 and about using UK-based contractors,” said Bill. “If we can’t convince we would be disappointed. We think the Government is keen to see UK manufacturing thrive.”
But it is nuclear waste that could transform the company. DavyMarkham is working with firms, including Forgemasters on 100 tonne steel spent fuel casks for underground disposal.
The UK has arguably the biggest pile of nuclear waste in the world and the market is worth £5bn-a-year globally. Bill Clark believes it could one day be worth 50 per cent of business at DavyMarkham.
He added: “It would be a big change in direction, but Sheffield has the skills.”