By Adam Steel
Stockton Machine Company is back amongst the big numbers – thanks to the expertise of its highly-trained staff and continued investment in the latest technology.
Specialising in bespoke, rapid turnaround engineering solutions, the Billingham-based firm works within the offshore, renewables, oil and gas, and food processing sectors.
Turnover exceeded £1.1 million in 2014 but dipped below seven figures due to the well-documented downturn in the oil and gas sector combined with the decline of steelmaking in the region.
Now things are firmly on the up again after the recent purchase of a new four-axis CNC Vertical Machining Centre, which followed the acquisition of an even higher-tech five-axis version a year ago, enabling SMC to sub-contract and attract new business.
SMC’s diverse portfolio has seen their work bound for far-flung places such as Brazil and even the Antarctic, as well as to many local clients across Teesside and the wider North East.
Mark Smith, the firm’s managing director, reflects: “A few years ago we were flying, but over the last two years we’ve had five businesses go bust on us. In the 30 years prior to that we could count on one hand the amount that had gone under.
“We had to batten down the hatches but managed to maintain all of our staff and, as things started to pick up, we started investing in new machinery. The five-axis machine has proven to be a great springboard for us.
“Now we’ve got the latest technology and new machines which bring faster cycle times, higher accuracy and greater repeatability.
“It’s been a year of hard graft, but it has heralded results.
“If we can repeat the year that we’ve just had then we’ll have not only weathered the storm but will have come out the other side with newer machinery and a greater skillset.”
Now in its 46th year, SMC prides itself on a willingness to turn around urgent jobs in double-quick time.
“We’ve always been a company that has taken on the jobs that our competitors just wouldn’t touch due to short lead-times,” Mark explains. “We have a can-do attitude and a good team of dedicated, flexible guys here.”
That flexible workforce is 15-strong and operates out of a compact but constantly-buzzing base on Cowpen Bewley Industrial Estate.
“Some lads have been with us for over 30 years,” says Mark. “And I don’t have a high turnover of staff, which speaks for itself.
“It’s not a glamorous job and we’re not in glamorous surroundings, but what matters is the technology, the expertise and the experience of our dedicated staff.
“Inside our modest building we’ve got some impressive kit and a lot of expertise. We’d invite our clients and potential customers to come and take a look and see the engineering DNA that we’ve got coursing through our veins.”
Mark is proud to give opportunities to apprentices such as Rob Easby, who is now honing and developing his skills on the new machines.
Whilst being proud of his company and workers, Mark gets a lot of satisfaction out of helping to keep Teesside on the business map.
“I’m a born and bred Teessider,” he says with passion. “I get annoyed when people knock the area. There’s a lot of good people and a lot of good skillsets in the region.
“The fact that a little factory in Teesside can be shipping out goods around the world is fantastic and I’m proud of all that’s associated with that.”
And he is excited about what the future holds, with 2018 promising to be an exciting 12 months.
“There appears to be a bit of buoyancy in and around the North East for next year,” he adds.
“With the government announcing they are going to invest a significant amount of money into developing the old SSI site, I’m hopeful that’s going to attract further investment and then things can start building from there. There’s every reason to be positive.”
For more details on SMC’s capabilities, visit www.stocktonmachine.co.uk