Norfolk firm which improves lives around the world set for international expansion
PUBLISHED: 05:30 02 May 2018 | UPDATED: 06:12 02 May 2018
Archant Norfolk 2018
Its products are already improving lives around the world – but further international expansion is on the cards for a Norfolk medical devices manufacturer.
As a supplier to major pharmaceutical companies, Bespak’s medical valves, and respiratory and injectable devices – inhalers and syringes – are used by people in Europe, the US and the developing world.
It moulds around 2.6 billion components a year which are assembled into 500 million devices.
The King’s Lynn-based company secured the Top100 Accelerator Award at last year’s EDP Business Awards – and following its success is pursuing more international expansion.
HR director Peter Mason says the company’s near-term plan involves a greater presence in the US, with its North American sales team having identified potential opportunities there, while its longer-term plan includes expansion into Asia.
The company is also considering future acquisitions which could add capabilities, improve its product ranges, or bring it closer to its customers.
“Every minute, over 1,000 patients use one of our devices to help them breathe. That’s incredibly rewarding,” Mr Mason said.
“We are very well known in Norfolk but perhaps not so well known outside East Anglia.
“But everyone I talk to from outside the region about our track record and our plans for the future recognises the potential, and it’s fantastic to be part of a success story in terms of UK manufacturing.”
Mr Mason, who has experience in the manufacturing industry, was working at the BBC when he took the job at Bespak three years ago to get back into a “faster-paced” role.
“I took the job on the back of a conversation with the managing director about his vision for the business, his commitment to people and investing in training and development – and he has been true to his word,” he said.
“The big thing that rang a bell [with me] was the opportunity to be part of something that is growing, ambitious and which means something.
“The products we make have an impact on people’s lives. It is something we try to reinforce but is also easy to lose sight of.”
The company has been building its workforce steadily over the past few years and now employs around 1,000 people – the vast majority are based at its Bergen Way headquarters, with around 100 staff at a manufacturing facility near Blackburn and another manufacturing satellite due to open in Milton Keynes this year.
It also has a dedicated “innovation team” of 40 engineers in Cambridge, which has been operational for around eight years and is currently focused on developing Bespak’s injectables portfolio.
Mr Mason says the company is at the “sharp end” of medical innovation.
“We have a product development team in King’s Lynn, but in Cambridge they are doing that through innovation, solving a problem that does not exist or has not been solved yet,” he said.
“The investment in the Cambridge team was made because we wanted to have more than just respiratory products. It is the foundation of the business, but it is now about what else we can do.”
As well as innovating in its product ranges, the company is diversifying its training offering with a service it thinks could be unique in the UK – an in-house moulding academy.
Five staff have been through training and one is now a master moulder, which will allow the company to train apprentices and employees.
Mr Mason said: “We talk about ‘world-class manufacturing’ so having that capability on site is essential for us.”
Bespak also has a well established apprenticeship scheme, which is currently training 30 apprentices on standard and advanced programmes.
Mr Mason said its apprenticeship scheme has produced “some real success stories”, including one employee who spent a year on secondment in the US after finishing his apprenticeship and now works in programme management.
“There is a real emphasis on internal development so it’s great to see this kind of progression,” he said.
Mr Mason said the EDP Business Award win was testament to the Bespak workforce and their commitment to the company and its work.
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