Applied Automation (UK) Ltd's new £2.5m factory will boost sales growth

Friday, Aug 14, 2015

Plymouth's Applied Automation (UK) Ltd is one of the city's manufacturing success stories, with a new division, new £2.5million base – and a Herald Business Award – all achieved in 2015.

The company is now in its new 140,000sq ft factory at Langage Industrial Estate, dubbed Concept House.

It bought the former St Ives printing premises for £2million and spent another £500,000 on the fit-out.

It needed to move to the larger site, which had been vacant for two and a half years, due to all-round growth which has seen it increase staff and business and launch new divisions.

The expansion contributed to managing director David Rowe (left) being named Entrepreneur of the Year in the Herald Business Awards earlier this year.

It came 12 months after the business landed the Medium-sized Business of the Year honour.

And the firm is ambitious for more glory, with the new factory, within seven acres of land, big enough to house future expansion.

The move enables Applied Automation to further develop its innovative automation equipment and industrial control systems.

The business is installing new machine tools and developing its paint shop capacity in the new factory.

Its previous site, split over two buildings, had 60,000sq ft of room.

"The new building is quite a bit bigger," Mr Rowe said. "It's specifically to do with growth and change.

"We have run out of space, but we haven't just moved to gain more room, but to grow the business.

"We now have 50 per cent extra capacity per department."

The firm has increased its workforce to about 130 people and expects to have 160 within three years.

In May it launched a new division: Applied Industrial Systems, which will focus on supplying factory equipment such as trolleys, workbenches and conveyors.

The firm is already looking at adding product lines to achieve growth and the extra factory floor space is key.

That part of the business saw a 34 per cent growth in 2014/15 but Mr Rowe stressed: "Everything has been growing. Part of the strength of this business is the various divisions.

"We had £15.5million in sales for 2014/15 – that's up from £13.2million, a big step.

"The inquiry book is as full as it's ever been. If you're good at what you do customers come and find you."

Last year the firm unveiled a high-tech showroom for its marine arm and another to give the public a glimpse of the smart technology they'll soon have in their homes.

Meanwhile, the company continues to design and build all manner of complex, bespoke equipment, even single machines for just one purpose, one client.

"We have built on the marine side, to supply Princess Yachts with control equipment," Mr Rowe said.

"We have diversified but with a common theme, which is automation.

"That kept us strong when the recession hit in 2008/9.

"We didn't grow the business that year, but didn't fall back either because we were diverse.

"Plus the South West has a good mix of industry types; it's not dependent on automotive, for example, like the Midlands."

That's an area of the UK where Mr Rowe is looking to pick up growth.

He said the firm is eyeing geographical expansion – it already has a presence in Cardiff and is eyeing Southampton – not necessarily growth through acquisition, though he doesn't rule this out.

But he insisted: "We would not move the key engineering business from Plymouth, but having sales and distribution around the country, that would be good.

"We intend to have a national presence. As a machine building and automation company we are already nationally known, but if we had a distribution network we could fit into the Plymouth operation."

He said a move into Europe, for its tube technology division, is possible too, but said: "We'd have the core team here in Plymouth."

Other News