New husband-and-wife owners of Swaffham engineering firm set to grow the business to keep pace with rising demand

Ashill Precision Engineering has new owners of husband and wife team Justin and Karen Helmann. Pictu

Ashill Precision Engineering has new owners of husband and wife team Justin and Karen Helmann. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

The new owners of a Norfolk-based engineering firm have unveiled fresh plans to grow the business and invest in new machinery to keep up with rising demand.

Husband and wife team Justin and Karen Heimann have bought specialist component manufacturer from owner John Puddephatt.

The firm makes parts for a range or industries from scientific instruments, specialist automotive, aerospace, and power generation, to defence and general industrial.

Under the deal Mr Puddephatt will stay on part-time at the £500,000-a-year business, which is now in its 35th year, as he heads towards retirement. Mr Heimann, a trained chartered engineer, said the firm which employs seven staff was already trying to recruit two more workers, as well as buying a new CNC machine.

'We've got seven staff and we want to take that to nine and to grow after that,' he said. 'We are in a very happy position as our customers really want to give us a lot more work than we can handle, which from a British manufacturing point of view is a nice success story.

The couple have moved to Norfolk from Lancashire, although Mrs Heimann was born in Rackheath and her mother lives in Fakenham, where they are staying.

Mr Heimann, a chartered mechanical engineer, said he pursued the new venture with his wife, who will be the new finance director, after giving up a corporate role with a Japanese automotive firm.

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'We had 17,000 people in the company and it got to the point where I was responsible for people I had never even met,' he said. 'It was getting so frustrating with the bureaucracy that my wife Karen and I said what we really wanted to do was something about British manufacturing and products. We looked about to find a company, and it took about a year when we stumbled across this one, and then another year to buy it.'

He said the couple planned to take their time getting to know the new business and were working to a five-year timescale. 'It is vital to preserve the good while exposing opportunities for improvement,' he added. 'But that can only come about by truly understanding all areas of the business first, and so we will be shadowing John closely for the first few months. Our aim is then to make changes that enhance the capability of the company, rather than damage it by changing things that we do not understand.'