Norwich manufacturer takes foot off the brakes

PUBLISHED: 13:00 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 13:15 16 January 2013

Bowmonk Limited's Norwich base where they supply and service brake testing equipment. Photo: Steve Adams

Bowmonk Limited's Norwich base where they supply and service brake testing equipment. Photo: Steve Adams

A Norwich-based brake-testing manufacturer is eyeing a growth surge this year as it looks to launch pioneering technology for the motor insurance black box market.

Bowmonk Ltd is on the cusp of producing a small in-car system to help consumers drive down their insurance premiums and allow businesses to monitor the safety of their drivers.

The product, which is already attracting interest from major insurers, aims to beat competitors in its field by offering a compact device that provides a comprehensive recording of both the vehicle, and the driver’s, performance.

It comes after the firm announced that it would also be targeting the so-called BRIC economies after buying a metal-testing firm and strengthening its workforce.

Ernie Hill, sales director at Bowmonk, said the company could look to grow in a tough economic climate because of a consistent demand for the firm’s well-established decelerometers – used across the globe for testing the brakes on cars and motorbikes, and testing braking conditions for planes. He added: “As long as there’s MOT, then our decelerometers will always be a big part of our business. There are 20,000 garages that carry out MOTs across the country and we sell our products to 80pc of them.

“And because there always will be a market for supporting vehicles, there is still a demand even when the economy gets tough.”

Mr Hill aims to manufacture the new black-box device in the middle part of this year – with the ambition of providing a product that is easy to install and benefits consumers and businesses.

The device, which will cost between £100 and £200, is currently being tested in conjunction with oil and gas firms in Kuwait who are monitoring their lorry drivers by pinpointing their location on GPS and tracking the vehicles fuel consumption and speed.

But Mr Hill believes it could help drivers in the UK. “If you are a kid who is driving then people assume you are a boy racer,” he added. “But this allows insurance companies to say ‘fair enough if you install this technology then we can look at your insurance rates’.

“The product allows someone to be judged on the facts because it provides an account of the driving habits of the individual.”

Meanwhile, the company has also expanded into the metal-testing market after purchasing GB Inspection Systems near Birmingham for a six-figure sum in October, helped by the Steeles Law team, and adding four new members of staff.

The buy-out is part of a long-term growth strategy for the Sutton Coldfield firm, which aims to capitalise on its ‘made in Britain’ brand and sell to contractors carrying out vast construction projects in Brazil, India and China.

“This is another project that makes this year very exciting for us,” Mr Hill added. “GB Inspection Systems is a very reputable company that is renowned for making quality products – and we wanted to play on that. We want to take advantage of emerging markets in India, China and Brazil and keep building on that international base knowing that it is a British-made product.”

Bowmonk employs eight staff at its base on Diamond Road and is aiming for a turnover of between £3m and £5m this year.

The 40-year-old firm, which bought brake-testing company Tapley Instrumentation in 2006, is a world leader in brake-testing products, selling to the US, across Europe and to leading organisations including the US Air Force, Mercedes Benz and BMW.

Previous black-box equipment made by the company is being used by Norfolk Constabulary to record the driving habits of police officers across the county.

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