Small business can: Creightons of Finaghy and CCP Gransden
It’s the perfect illustration of how companies have to evolve to keep pace with technological change. CCP Gransden can trace its roots back to 1894 and the era of the great ocean-going liners that were once built in Belfast.
It started life as a ship-repair outfit in the heart of Belfast’s dockland, but has evolved over the course of its 123-year existence into a flexible and dynamic SME specialising in the design, development and manufacture of advanced composites and thermoplastics.
According to managing director Jim Erskine, the company started life at Prince’s Dock Street, in a building next door to the old Rotterdam Bar.
“They would have repaired wooden and steel ships, and they were very busy during the two war periods,” he says.
But for the last 40 years, CCP has been using its knowledge of advanced materials such as carbon fibre, Kevlar, glass fibre, resins and thermoplastics to make components of various sizes, shapes and complexities for their clients.
In the last five years, CCP-Gransden has taken a major shift in direction, now operating within High Value-Added Sectors, for example, the competitive aerospace and transportation sectors, where consumption of lightweight composite components is increasing.
The move was partly spurred by the collapse of the building sector, and the contraction of that market.
“We made a positive decision to invest in R&D and develop a new capability. Our aim is clear — to work in partnership with our clients and help them to achieve performance improvements in their products through the intelligent use of advanced lightweight composites, manufactured using our world-class technology and expertise at our facility in Ballygowan.”
The company, which employs around 25 staff, now concentrates on the aerospace and transportation sectors where high strength, high quality and low weight are key.
“In those industries, you need things to be of a light weight, because extra weight costs money,” Jim says.
“The transportation sector, and in particular the automotive side of this sector, is being driven by emissions and reducing emissions. There’s only so much you can do by having a more efficient engine, and the only alternative is to have a lighter vehicle.”
To increase their national and international profile and expand their portfolio of globally recognised clients, CCP has recently made a range of strategic investments in new technology.
“Making any investment, especially when you’re an SME and may have limited resources, is a decision that shouldn’t be rushed,” Jim says.
“We have spent a considerable period of time defining our business strategy, assessing the market opportunities and consulting with our clients to determine their future needs, so we are confident that the investments we have made and continue to make in new technology and R&D will support CCP in an ever-challenging global economy.”
Within the past year, CCP has invested in new technologies, including a new Waterjet Cutter, a 5-axis CNC and a new state-of-the-art automated high-volume composite manufacturing cell that is able to produce thousands of high quality components repeatedly and with full process traceability on a daily basis.
“The high-volume cell is potentially the most advanced of its kind within the UK and further afield,” Jim says.
He points out that most composite manufacturing companies can only manufacture composites via two or three methods at their facilities.
But thanks to its new cutting-edge cell, CCP can manufacture advanced composites through 10 different methods.
“This provides us the flexibility needed to meet the ever-changing needs of our varied clients,” he says.
CCP-Gransden has also joined the Northern Ireland Advanced Composites and Engineering Centre (NIACE), an organisation in which member companies take part in collaborative research projects to develop new products and support economic growth in Northern Ireland.
The company hasn’t just evolved in terms of technology — its staff have readily adapted to new directions and new technologies.
“We recognise that our people are one of the strongest assets we have available and the company also invests in their development,” Jim says. The company has supported retraining of staff through organisations like Belfast Met and has also facilitated a selection of staff to go on training courses in England and Austria. CCP says it now beginning to reap the benefits of their business strategy and investments.
“Previously the name CCP Gransden would not have been known outside of Ireland, but now we are getting regular enquiries from companies based across the globe and are being nominated for a variety of manufacturing awards,” Jim says.