Family-run fabricators Armultra Ltd has maintained a sharp focus on spreading its contracts across sectors for nearly 40 years.

The strategy has worked well for its fabrication, engineering and personnel supply services, which started in refrigeration and petrochemicals and expanded into oil and gas, renewables and nuclear, fulfilling contracts all over the world.

Now the biggest fabricator in the area, with 140 employees, two acquisitions have swelled capacity while cutting overheads.

Director Tom Beales, whose father Colin started the Great Yarmouth business in 1985, points to adaptability as key to keeping ahead in an energy supply chain facing ever-changing demands and squeezes.

Eastern Daily Press: Tom Beales, director of ArmultraTom Beales, director of Armultra (Image: Armultra)
“Keeping in all the industries we started in and not closing doors or specialising in one sector, we have expanded in all the areas we work in.

“Any of our team can work on an oil and gas job, in renewables or nuclear. We are lucky in that respect.

“We are always moving and adapting to whatever is happening at the time. What we can do is give the client want they want in terms of price, quality and being ready to meet a client’s requirements when they need them. That hasn’t really changed.”

With oil and gas work now steady and offshore wind work moving further into the future, Tom credits “being in the right place at the right time” for winning a £3-4million contract on Hinkley Point C nuclear power station’s construction through a client, putting Armultra in prime position for work on its replica Sizewell C.

“The contract happened by chance because we have worked with a client in refrigeration for a long time who are happy with what we do – we do a lot of work with them – and Hinkley C came up. EDF inspected our premises and systems, and we ticked all the boxes.”

Its contract is for all Hinkley C’s refrigeration packages and pressure vessels, totalling 27 package units. “From Hinkley, we have the capability and experience to take to Sizewell, which is local to us.”

Other new projects in discussion could lead to the recruitment of 20 more people.

Eastern Daily Press: A refrigeration package unit similar to the units Armultra is building for Hinkley Point CA refrigeration package unit similar to the units Armultra is building for Hinkley Point C (Image: Armultra)

“We are now the biggest fabricators in the area – 15-18 years ago we were the fifth or sixth on the list.”

Challenges remain in the form of difficulty accessing materials in the Covid-Brexit fall-out, rising costs, cash flow and attracting new people into the industry.

“Cash flow is key for us like every SME. Companies talk about all the big jobs ahead, then they are delayed. This affects smaller companies a lot more than bigger companies.

“Skilled labour is a key concern and trying to future proof the company in all areas is always a key battle. We invest in apprentices every year and have for years. Staff retention is a major thing too.

“Bigger companies come in and take your staff because they can pay more. From our point of view, it is about getting good staff and looking after them.

“It is a day-to-day battle trying to juggle as much as we can while getting work in and trying to make money from that work. Anyone can win work, turning it into profit is harder.

“A business has to be adaptable to whatever comes along, review, assess capabilities and make the best judgment at the time.”

Decades of expertise offered Marex renewables opportunities

Energy and marine risk consultancy Marex is a business that has worked hard to stay flexible and nimble in a fast-changing energy environment.

This year, it’s celebrating 25 years in business and looking forward to a dynamic and exciting future – it was a different story a few years ago. 

“Back in 2020, the double whammy of an oil and gas downturn and Covid was biting hard,” said Wayne Henderson, managing director of Marex.

“Like everyone, we could see offshore wind and renewables on the horizon. We knew these emerging markets were picking up pace but how could we use the 25 years of expertise in risk and marine to move into renewables? 

“We had to find a way because that was the future for the Marex business. We spent two full months amid all the soul-searching of the pandemic researching the market in depth and it became evident that our skills and expertise were eminently transferrable. 

Eastern Daily Press: Wayne Henderson, managing director of MarexWayne Henderson, managing director of Marex (Image: Newsline Media)

“We could clearly see that there was a need for this expanding market to tap into the lessons that have been learned in the decades of offshore work in the UKCS. And more specifically, we wanted to bring a risk-based approach to offshore wind industry projects at the design and feasibility stage.

“That was when we made the decision. We decided the renewables market could and should benefit from the rigorous and conscientious approach we take to what we do.”

From that starting point, Marex won the marine consultancy contract with ScottishPower Renewables, which led to opening an office in Lowestoft.

“It’s a good base to have, as the east of England is home to 44% of the UK’s existing offshore wind farms. However, it’s also true that around 80% of potential offshore wind power is found in deeper waters, and it is floating offshore wind farms that will be best suited to those challenges.

“This is where our experience and expertise in the marine sector provided other opportunities in renewables, with our reputation allowing us to connect with other like-minded organisations.

“As well as continuing to pursue UK opportunities, we’re also working in the Middle East and further afield where we can see a growing demand for our skills.”