Fakenham-based electrial firm sparks into new life after recession
- Credit: Matthew Usher
After tough times during the recession, exciting developments are taking place at Kings and Barnhams as the family electrical firm celebrates the green shoots of recovery. Stephen Pullinger reports.
New extra premises in Thetford and a fleet of 11 showroom-fresh vans are a statement that the good times have arrived again at Kings and Barnhams.
Operations director Stephen Everett, 53, admitted that the downturn had proved tough even for a long-established family firm with a name for reliability.
And for a company where a quarter of its staff have 20 years service or more it had been exceptionally painful to have to make seven people redundant.
However, after a difficult two years Mr Everett said: 'Last year was more positive and this year is already looking even better.
'In fact we have now started to think about taking on three more apprentices to join the three we have at the moment in their second year.'
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The firm was started in Holt in 1946 by Tony and Jean King and their son Philip remains as managing-director.
However, the business which now employs 47 people, and is proud to only use its own highly-trained staff on jobs, has come a long way from being a humble electrician's.
Its Holt premises is now a shop for electrical goods while its main office is in Fakenham where the firm's security, fire and electrical services are run from; there is also an electrical contracting base in Hingham.
A key part of the business's success has been a move into the field of automation - building sophisticated control panels to allow the remote operation of everything from farmers' irrigation systems and fountains to conveyor belts and oil tanks.
This burgeoning side of operations is the reason the firm is this week moving into a new unit in Thetford.
'It will give each engineer his own bench in a very large area to build the panels,' he said.
Mr Everett, who works alongside technical director Ian Fisher - they have a combined 30 years of service - said: 'From our new Thetford base we can design and provide complete automation solutions from control panel design and production of full CAD drawings to control panel manufacture and writing of PLC and HMI software. We can also carry out on-site installation and final commissioning.
'As a company we are proud to be a system integrator for Omron, a global leader in the field of automation, Omron has more than 35,000 employees in 36 countries working to provide products and service.'
He said while trade remained difficult in the high street shop, the other sides of the business were picking up well.
'That is why we decided the time had come to replace some of our vans, eight at the end of last year and three before that, at a cost of about £100,000.'
While annual turnover had dipped during the downturn it had returned to the £3m level and was continuing to rise.
The firm was continuing to expand its range of work, such as tackling jobs at hazardous sites, and one of its staff, fire supervisor Jonathan Betts, had just achieved accreditation allowing him to carry out fire risk assessments for clients.
Mr Everett said: 'Our large workforce offers us a real advantage in being able to respond quickly to need. When we had the recent storms it was our electricians who got the power back on for the Cromer pier show.'
The firm worked across all areas from domestic households to commercial, industrial, agricultural and local authority jobs.
'We operate a 24 hour breakdown service, fault finding on all types of machinery and plant that would otherwise put your business at risk. We currently carry this out for many local and national production companies, farmers and landfill sites,' he said.
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