Diversification is in the pipeline for Wymondham steelwork manufacturer

Alan Pruce, left, operations director, and Graham Newman, managing director, of Pruce Newman at Wymo

Alan Pruce, left, operations director, and Graham Newman, managing director, of Pruce Newman at Wymondham, in the workshop with a prefabricated pipe. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2017

A pipework manufacturer is showing steely determination as it plans to double its revenue in the next decade.

Pruce Newman, which makes, installs and maintains industrial pipework and steelwork, is embarking on an ambitious ten-year plan to increase its market share in a broad range of industries, boosted by a workforce expansion and heavy investment in new prefabrication equipment.

The Wymondham company aims to double turnover – which reached £9.25m in the year to May 31, 2017 – and also hopes to increase its profit margins to support further investment.

It has identified six target markets to aid expansion: the onshore and offshore oil and gas industries; nuclear power and other power plants; chemicals and pharmaceuticals; and the food and drink industry.

To facilitate, since February this year its team of site-based staff has risen by 60% from 66 to 108 – bringing the company's total number of employees to 131.

Managing director Graham Newman said the company, which counts British Sugar and Britvic among its customers, was 'small enough and flexible enough' to respond to the market.

'Things are more buoyant now than they have been in many years, and clients are spending more money,' he said.

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'The reason we work in so many industries is deliberate – if one drops off, we can move our workload. The vast majority of what we do is regional. We know where our strengths lie, and we see there is a strong market place in East Anglia for all these industries.'

He added: 'We are looking to partner with similar-minded businesses – design, construction and electrical and control contractors – to provide a complete turnkey solution.'

The collapse of the British steel industry has led to problems sourcing raw materials, but Mr Newman and operations director Alan Pruce said they are opposed to using suppliers in the Far East due to the steel's lower quality.

Mr Newman said: 'We are having to import more foreign materials, but these are mainly from the EU. We are having problems with prices fluctuating with fluctuations of the pound.'

With on-site assembly and installation making up more than 90% of the business' workload, the vast majority of staff work on-site rather than at its Ayton Road headquarters and workshop.

Mr Newman said the firm's order books are almost filled up to the first quarter of 2018, with staff working on up to 12 sites in any given month.

The next generation

Current skills shortages in the manufacturing sector are well documented, and Pruce Newman has not escaped this industry woe.

Mr Newman said: 'We are finding it difficult to recruit people with the correct craft level. We have a rigorous testing process and we are lucky if we can get one in four applicants through it.

'We have been successful with people we have taken on as youngsters, but finding the right recruits in the wider world is proving difficult.'

To tackle the shortage, the company – a member of the Engineering Construction Industry Training Board – has taken on six apprentices in the last year including two in its office, and for the first time this year has taken two engineering graduates from UEA on work experience placements, with plans to offer placements to business graduates too.

It also prides itself on its progression opportunities for staff, almost 50% of whom have been with the company for at least 10 years.