From pig-feeders to plane parts – a Kilrea company is expanding into the lucrative aerospace sector with a £1.5m investment and a new site in Antrim.
Established in 1971, Hutchinson Engineering started life as an agricultural fabrication firm and is now one of Northern Ireland's leading laser-cutting manufacturing companies and is also moving into the ever-growing offshore renewables market.
The company, which employs around 80 people, has secured a 10,000sq ft site in Antrim and has invested £1.5m in the machining and supply of stainless steel and titanium parts.
The expansion has been driven as the business has grown by 51% over the last two years and six new members of staff have been taken on.
Among new machinery purchased is the Trumpf Trumatic 6000, one of only three in the world and the only one in the UK which allows materials to be cut with zero 'splatter', resulting in a higher quality processed edge than traditional laser systems can provide.
Hutchinson is already a key supplier of components for wind turbines in Ireland and has now created a new division, Hutchinson Aerotech, which is working with a number of academic institutes and aerospace companies to research the effects of processing aerospace materials using a laser.
The UK aerospace sector, second only to the USA, generates over £24bn of UK revenues and Northern Ireland contributes nearly £1bn to this total, making it one of the top regions in scale.
In Northern Ireland there are over 8,000 people employed directly in the sector, which contributes to 20% of the province's annual exports.
David Raymond, from ADS, the aerospace, defence, security and space trade body in Northern Ireland, has worked for a number of aerospace companies here and recently founded Magna Aerospace to bring together supply chain firms and take advantage of the expanding opportunities presented by the sector.
"I think Hutchinson Engineering is an excellent company, with a pro-active and go-ahead attitude, investing in this sector at such an important time," he said.
"Aerospace is one of the fastest growing business areas worldwide and it is important that Northern Ireland is not left behind and is at the front of the race, competing for business from the big names, all of whom are under pressure and stretched to capacity.
"It says a lot for the reputation of Northern Ireland engineering that so many major brands continue to do good business with us and all the indications are that those brands are keen to expand this work further."
Earlier this month Bangor-based plastic moulding manufacturer Denroy Plastics announced it is to make parts for GKN Aerospace's two plants in England where it is assembling components for Airbus's single-aisle aircraft.
The five-year deal will see Denroy supply plastic parts used to mount fuel pipes, hydraulic pipes and electrical cables used inside the wings.
Denroy is also in "advanced talks" with another aircraft manufacturer to supply parts for the manufacture of Airbus aircraft in both the UK and Asia. The value of that contract will be around £1.8m and is expected to be announced in the near future.
And in July the Environment Minister Mark Durkan said he was to approve plans for an aircraft component manufacturing facility in Co Antrim.
The 3,000 square metre facility will allow Isle of Man company RLC (UK) Ltd to expand its business here and take on more engineering workers to complement the 250 it already employs at the Langford Lodge site in Crumlin, Co Antrim.
Hutchinson Engineering's growth in the last two years
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