Hill doubles workforce thanks to an award-winning invention
A Newry company has won an award for excellence in business enterprise after designing, developing and manufacturing a new product which has helped transform health and safety on construction sites.
Hill Engineering was awarded the 2014 Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation for TEFRA – a double-locking hydraulic coupler for excavator machines, which connects the arm of a digger to a bucket.
The system, which is patented by the company and exported across three continents, has helped the firm double its workforce to 70.
The TEFRA has led to 30% year on year growth and an additional 30 jobs are expected to be created this year.
Since launching the product in 2011, Hill Engineering has achieved phenomenal sales in Europe, Australia and the USA, with around 7,000 global sales so far in 2014.
Safety is a huge issue on construction sites, with numerous fatalities and many serious accidents attributed to the incorrect use of semi-automatic couplers.
In 2010 alone there were around 12 deaths in Ireland and UK related to manual couplers.
Hill Engineering managing director Ian Hill said that TEFRA, which is fully automatic, has been designed to eliminate such accidents.
"The innovation behind TEFRA is the clever and uncomplicated design of the product, which has improved the safety of excavator machines on construction sites and, with only three moving parts, has made this coupler the most reliable and robust on the market," he said.
"The innovative technical features of the product have raised the safety benchmark for the industry and TEFRA will ultimately help prevent unsafe working practices."
Hill Engineering, which is celebrating two decades in operation, operates from a 85,000 sq ft building in Newry which has received over £4.5m of investment since 2006.
The Queen's Awards for Enterprise recognise outstanding achievements by UK companies in three categories: international trade, innovation and sustainable development.
Hill Engineering was the only winner from Northern Ireland in the innovation category.
Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable said: "Companies that are growing, innovating and championing UK business overseas deserve the recognition that these awards bestow.
"With more than 100 international trade winners this year, it is clear that Britain is emerging as a leader in selling its quality services and products throughout the world."