Companies from the Sheffield City Region have notched up more Queen’s Awards this year than at any time since before the recession.
A third of the awards won in the Yorkshire region have gone to local firms and they dominated the Innovation Awards, winning three out of the four that have gone to Yorkshire companies.
Queen’s Awards for Innovation have been secured by Sheffield-based construction products companies Ancon and Gripple, and Doncaster-based loading bay equipment specialist Transdek.
Meanwhile, Queen’s Awards for International Trade go to Sheffield-based Diamond Dispersions and William Beckett Plastics and Rotherham-based CF Booth and Kiveton Park Steel.
Business Editor Bob Rae looks at the stories behind their success.
CF Booth was established in 1920 by Clarence Frederick Booth and has grown into one of Europe’s leading independent metals recycling companies.
The Armer Street company employs 320 people, trades in ferrous and non ferrous metals and makes copper-based ingots as well as forged parts – mainly for the marine industry.
Booth’s overseas earnings have risen by 81 per cent in the past three years and export sales now account for 56 per cent of the group’s turnover.
New business opportunities have been developed by the company throughout Scandinavia and Eastern Europe.
Director Ken Booth puts the company’s export success down to its decision to establish a dedicated export and new business team that targeted the growing marine and aerospace sectors, developing component and material solutions, attending global conferences and meeting companies around the world.
As a result it has achieved major successes internationally in both sectors, leading to its first Queen’s Award.
“We are honoured to have been given such a prestigious award, it really does endorse the fantastic team we have assembled at CF Booth and means a lot to us,” said Mr Booth.
“We are a very proud British company and are excited about the future. We are certain that this award will only serve to enhance our reputation throughout the world.”
Diamond Dispersions specialises in making raw materials used by inkjet printer cartridge manufacturers.
Although the Darnall-based company was only established five years ago with a single black ink product, it has grown into a leading brand with a range of more than 40 products and has grown by 40 per cent year on year for the last two years.
Overseas earnings have almost doubled over the last three years and the company now exports more than 85 per cent of everything it produces, with 60 per cent going to the Far East and 28 per cent going to China, where it is planning further growth.
Diamond Dispersions sells to 18 overseas markets and has recently developed new markets in Vietnam, France and Serbia.
Director Peter Callahan says that when the company launched it was competing against multi-nationals with long-established reputations, so the company differentiated itself by offering levels of service and accessibility the large companies simply couldn’t offer.
“From day one, we set out to get to know our customers personally, because we firmly believe that ‘people buy people’.
“We combined this approach with the provision of full technical information on all of our products, which enabled clients to save valuable laboratory time, and we started to win business.
“We’re growing by 40 per cent year-on-year and, as the worldwide inkjet market continues to expand, we are constantly developing new products and exploring new global markets. By focusing on our clients and their rapidly changing requirements, we intend to remain ahead of our competitors and to create even more export successes for Diamond.”
Mr Callahan said winning a Queen’s Award was a massive achievement for the six employee firm, adding: “We’re all extremely proud to be honoured in this way.”
Kiveton Park Steel
Bar and wire producer Kiveton Park Steel has boosted overseas sales to such an extent in recent years that they have doubled from 30 per cent to 60 per cent of total sales and increased by 50 per cent last year.
Growth was initially in European markets, but the 144 employee firm, which has also exported to the US and Mexico for a number of years, has opened up new markets in Brazil, India, Taiwan and Turkey in recent years and also exports to Romania and Hungary.
The company, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year puts its success in low cost areas of the world down to quality and customer service, which is vital for companies in emerging markets seeking to export to Europe and the US.
Most of the company’s output goes to top tier automotive components manufacturers and their immediate suppliers, although the company also supplies some defence and aerospace manufacturers.
Kiveton Park’s products are used to make diesel injection, steering, engine and suspension parts, fasteners, drills and components for the rail industry, amongst other things.
Managing director Bill Collington said: “The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the most prestigious corporate awards that any UK business can win and we are extremely proud to be honoured with the award for International Trade.
“We share this award with all employees, agents and distributors working together to promote our export trade.”
William Beckett Plastics
Major increases in sales to two key export markets have helped William Beckett Plastics to its second export award, just as the Tinsley Industrial Estate-based company celebrates its 40th birthday.
The company, which makes specialised plastic packaging for cutting tool manufacturers around the world has boosted sales to its most important market– the US – by 47 per cent during the last three years and sales to its second most important market – Germany – by 116 per cent over the same period.
Beckett, which hadn’t exported until 1990, now boasts export sales that are more than three times the industry sector average and have continued to grow in what is a competitive market.
The company has also succeeded in adding two new markets – Ireland and Poland – during the last three years, building on the success which earned it a Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2009.
Managing director and founder William Beckett said: “Having survived the trauma of the toughest trading period of the global recession, to bounce back so dramatically in the last three years and to be bigger and better than before is a remarkable achievement.
“Winning the award for the first time in 2009 was a memorable moment in the company’s history, but to win it for a second time in this, the company’s 40th anniversary year, is a fantastic tribute to the dedication, commitment and skills of the now 70 strong workforce.”
Ancon Building Products
Construction components specialist Ancon has gained its first ever innovation award for developing technology that radically reduces the costs, time and potential safety hazards involved in laying concrete floors in multi-storey buildings.
Post-tensioning is used worldwide to create long, column-free, concrete spans that allow for flexible, internal floor layouts.
Until Ancon’s Sheffield-based development team came up with its Queen’s Award-winning development, construction firms had to leave a metre-wide gap, called a pour strip, between slabs to allow for the concrete shrinking while dried and cured.
The strips are a hazard for construction workers and slabs have to be propped up for anything up to 12 weeks before they can be filled in.
Ancon’s creation of what it calls lockable dowels eliminates the need for pour strips, allowing floors to be laid with shrinkage gaps as small as 1mm and reducing the time the slabs need to be propped.
Once the concrete has cured, the dowels are locked into position and an epoxy resin is poured in to seal the millimeter wide gap
The dowels not only increase the speed of construction, reduce building costs and improve site safety, they also simplify construction design and improve the appearance of the finished floor.
Ancon’s managing director, Stuart Maxwell, said: “This is a fantastic innovation success story, originating in Sheffield and resonating worldwide.
“In the construction industry, new technologies usually take many years to be accepted, but the benefits of the lockable dowel are so evident, and so valuable to this recession-hit sector, that it has quickly become established both home and abroad.
“We are absolutely delighted that our innovation and commercial success has been recognised with a Queen’s Award. We are especially honoured and proud to have been rewarded for our entrepreneurialism in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year.”
As well as coming in the Diamond Jubilee year, Ancon has won the award in the 130th year since it was founded in Sheffield by George Clark as a manufacturer of agricultural tools.
Any company that generates 30 per cent of its turnover from products that are less than four years old has to have a track record for innovation – and that is probably why Gripple has now clinched its second Queen’s Award for Innovation and four Queen’s Awards in all.
Gripple’s latest award is not for one but for a series of innovations added to its range of industrial products, which is employed widely in the construction industry to suspend pipes, cable trays and equipment inside buildings.
Developments include a patented device for securing suspension wires to overhead spans, seismic bracing, which is used in areas subject to earth tremors and quakes, a universal for securing sections of pipe work without the need for special tools and its Trapeze range of Gripple wire joining and tensioning devices, for supporting rectangular ducting.
Savile Street East-based Gripple’s latest Queen’s Award comes days after the firm beat hundreds of other UK companies to secure a place alongside McLaren F1, Airbus and BAE Systems at the prestigious Make it in Great Britain exhibition in the London Science Museum.
The exhibition, which takes place during the Olympics showcases the UK’s leading innovators and their innovations and is the culmination of a campaign that aims to transform the image of modern manufacturing.
Gripple’s managing director Mark Edmonds says innovation continues to pay dividends for the company, which has just had a record first quarter.
“The company has made significant launches of new products and the investments it has made in subsidiaries in India and Brazil in the past couple of years are paying off,” says Mr Edmonds.
“Because the company will always invest in innovation it will continue to expand globally. Core markets in the UK, mainland Europe and the USA are going well and the key has been substantial sales of new products.”
Mr Edmonds said of the Queen’s Award: “We are particularly proud that Gripple has been recognised in a way which means so much to the company and its hard-working staff.”
Loading bay lifting equipment specialist Transdek has won its second Queen’s Award for Innovation after developing a platform that makes it easy to unload high capacity, double decker trailers.
Double decker trailers carry up to 67 per cent more than conventional heavy goods vehicles, which means fewer delivery runs, reducing distribution costs, fuel consumption and pollution.
Harworth-based Transdek’s double deck lift leveller not only works with conventional loading docks with different floor heights, it can also be installed and commissioned in a fraction of the time required for competing systems.
Leading retailers benefitting from Transdek’s innovation include Boots, Halfords and Tesco, which has converted its top 100 stores so that they can receive deliveries from double deck trailers.
Transdek also won the Queen’s Award for Innovation in 2003, for an internal vehicle loading system, which also helped to increase the volume of goods that could be loaded into HGVs, increasing transport efficiencies.
The company reckons that its innovations have enabled customers to save £720 million during the last 15 years, as well as producing significant environmental benefits.
Mark Adams, managing director of the 24-employee firm, said: “We are very proud to receive a Queen’s Award. It’s great news that our policy of continued investment in developing lifts and loading solutions that can deliver substantial cost savings, environmental improvements and operational benefits has been recognised with such a prestigious award.
“Over the last 15 years we have used our expertise and commercial experience together with extensive research and development to establish Transdek as a market leading innovator.
It also puts us in a strong position to capitalise on the significant growth opportunities that exist.”
Transdek was established in 1997 and moved to brand new premises in Harworth in 2010, expanding its manufacturing facilities earlier this year in response to rapidly growing demand.