Streamlined production helping IPC aero engineering supplier take flight
Tragedy put Joanne Liddle into a leadership position in her family's manufacturing company. Ms Liddle originally joined Industrial Precision Components (IPC) in 2008 to help her brother improve the business but took over running the company four years ago when he fell terminally ill.
Now, the firm has witnessed sales increase by 40% in just three years.
IPC employs 25 people in Carrickfergus. The tool manufacturer and injection moulding company makes parts which are used in aero engineering.
Using her experiences from working in banking, Ms Liddle was able to make changes to streamline production and make the plant more efficient.
She was keen that the business would stay ahead of the competition and sought certifications before they became necessary, anticipating a move towards heightened regulations in the aerospace engineering industry.
Last year, the company turned over £1.8m, a 40% increase in turnover since 2012 and 60% increase in turnover since 2009.
Ms Liddle's father and brother founded the company in the early 1990s. The business was originally focused on tool making, but the pair bought a second-hand injection moulding machine and began to make moulded parts as a natural progression of what they already were doing.
Since Ms Liddle took over as director the company, IPC Mouldings has also increased staff from 17 to 25.
The business, whose main customer is BE Aerospace, specialises in injection moulded parts such as table trays, latches and parts for chairs.
"As BE Aerospace grew IPC grew too," Ms Liddle said.
To date, there have been over 700,000 units of one particular seat sold by the company which IPC Mouldings started to make parts for 12 years ago.
The Spectrum seat is used by several airlines across the world and uses a number of moulded plastic components made by IPC including its arm rests.
The company's specialism in tool making offers its own advantages.
"The thing which makes us unique is that nothing is out-sourced," Ms Liddle said.
"If there are ever any problems with a mould or any adaptations which need to be made a new tool can be made quickly in the workshop next door and production can continue."
However, she says the company will not start the relatively new process of 3D printing.
She said: "3D printing has its benefits. It means you can get a prototype out quickly but our tools can be used to rattle of thousands of items and is much faster for mass production.
"We looked at it but we use a local company who specialise in it if we need it.
"There's no point in us getting involved in a market that we don't know that much about."
By taking part in a focus group and the Knowledge Transfer Programme, run by Queen's University researchers, Ms Liddle hopes that she can anticipate further changes in the industry and adapt her business to suit.
She said she expected a focus on interior comfort and connectivity to be the next driver in the industry.