Fortunes revive at packaging group

Packaging firm Structure-flex has seen a turnaround in fortunes with a return to profit and increase in its workforce.

The firm, based at Melton Constable, saw a sharp decline in business in 2008-9 as the credit crisis turned into global recession.

But a restructuring programme - which saw jobs lost and the sale of some parts of the business - has been followed by an upturn in demand for the firm's core products and services.

The firm's latest results show how losses of �351,000 in 2009 were followed by pre-tax profits of �293,000 last year.

Managing director Ian Doughty added that the jobs lost in 2008-9 - when the firm dropped from operating three shifts to one - had now been taken back on.

Structure-flex, which has about 80 staff, was now back to operating a double-shift system and there was a good pipeline of work, both in the UK and export markets.

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A family business founded in 1970, Structure-flex specialises in bulk packaging and covers for commercial vehicles.

Mr Doughty said: 'It all started to get difficult for us in the last quarter of 2008.

'We were coming to the end of a major export contract at that time as well as feeling the general effect of the recession.

'We had to take some fairly drastic action in terms of where we would be placed as a business from that point on.

'We had to look at the size of our business and our capacity in the face of shrinking markets.

'So we took action in the early part of 2009 in terms of reducing operating costs and, unfortunately, our workforce.

'But as a result of that action, we were able to correct our business and position ourselves for the recovery should one appear.

'They were hard decision, but they were vital. We had good cash-flow, so we felt we had a realistic business plan in terms of survival even if it was going to take six to nine months for our market to recover.'

Mr Doughty said: 'We set about rebuilding our activity and we've sold off a couple of operations over the last 18 months or so - a lifting activity that we moved across into another part of the group, and a packaging business that we sold off.

'We're now focussed on our core businesses of bulk packaging and our curtain sided products.

'But we've also pulled out of the Czech Republic and brought the work and invested in new equipment to Melton Constable.

'Here we are now in 2011 steaming along - and we've re-recruited the jobs that were lost in early 2009, we're running a double-shift system and the business is strongly profitable again and we're having a good run currently.

'And I think we reflect quite a lot of UK manufacturing, which is having a good run too.'