It has taken some time but manufacturing seems to have finally reclaimed its rightful spot as one of the economy’s key drivers.
In fact, you could be forgiven for feeling slightly overwhelmed by expert commentators extolling the virtues of the sector, so much so you’ve probably long since forgot it used to be the poor relation to finance and professional services.
So making things is now ‘popular’ and long may it continue. This is certainly the feeling at Advanced Chemical Etching (ACE) in Telford, a company that is continually stretching the boundaries of innovation.
The firm, which employs 35 people, specialises in the manufacture of precision photo-etched metal components for blue-chip customers in aerospace, automotive, electronics, medical, telecoms and, increasingly, fuel-cell development.
Its ability to undertake demanding prototype and low-volume work has seen it enjoy rapid growth across all of its markets, with annual sales touching £3.5m for the first time in its 12-year history.
The recent success has seen ACE secure the Record Turnover award from Made in the Midlands – the body championing world-class manufacturing in the region – beating off competition from more than 20 rivals.
Alan Rollason, managing director, explains: “After the tough times of 2009, it is excellent to be sitting here and seeing investments in new processes and technologies pay off across virtually every industry we operate in.
“It illustrates we are moving in the right direction and also highlights the outstanding work of our staff, many of whom have been with us since the start.
“This is just the beginning, and we’ve got ambitious plans to capitalise on the recent £1m investment in two nearby buildings to extend capacity and the acquisition of state-of-the-art machinery.”
Located in the centre of the UK’s manufacturing heartland, ACE specialises in prototype components, pre-production and small-volume fulfillment.
The scope of its activities is wide and can include anything from safety-critical components for aircraft and Formula 1 to meshes and connectors for cars and even frames for designer glasses.
All parts are designed and manufactured in Shropshire or at the company’s sister business, ACE Forming Limited in Kingswinford.
Latest production machinery, a dedicated laboratory and cutting-edge measuring capability ensures the company works to the most exacting tolerances and can manufacture components in materials, such as copper, brass and stainless steel. The introduction of new processes has also seen it offer customers the ability to etch titanium and aluminium.
Ian Wiles, sales director says: “Our record year has been supported by what can only be described as a buoyant export market, with more than 30 per cent of our turnover now going overseas.
“This includes established markets like Germany and the Benelux countries and, increasingly, new opportunities in China and the US where other rivals simply can’t match the level of innovation we continually achieve.”
Advanced Chemical Etching is part of the Midlands Assembly Network, a collective of nine subcontract manufacturers which work together to share best practice and pitch for new work.
The group, which has won £10m of orders in 2011, includes Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, FW Cables, Lightning Aerospace, PP Electrical Systems, SMT Developments and Westley Engineering.
• ACE will be exhibiting at the forthcoming Micro Machining Live event at the NEC in Birmingham on September 25–26. Visit the company on stand K24.
You can also follow ACE on twitter: @ace_chemetching. Midlands Assembly Network’s website is www.man-group.co.uk
Below: A CNC optical measurement system.