To get the facility up to scratch has taken £7 million of investment on machinery since 2008. The company is listed on the Alternative Investment Market, so it was able
to raise £4 million from the City to fund the move. Over the past three years, staff numbers have quadrupled to 120.
But the company’s growth is not forecast to end there. A further £6-7 million from the Regional Development Fund is in the pipeline for the opening of a new 120,000ft2facility. It will be an anchor for the Leeds health hub, a planned centre for healthcare that, it is hoped, will attract more investment and promote synergies between local industries.
“We will be the catalyst for that,” says Bowland.
High labour costs at home fail to deter Swiss company
If British manufacturers struggle to compete with low labour-cost countries such as China, spare a thought for drives and systems maker Maxon Motor, whose main factory is in the picturesque village of Sachseln, not far from Zurich in Switzerland. Maxon has resisted the temptation to shift production to the Far East, insisting that high-tech manufacturing can still thrive in wealthy parts of developed countries.
The company’s chief executive Eugen Elmiger says: “This is actually a very good environment to design and engineer high-precision products such as brushless and brushed DC motors. We enjoy low taxes, our government is very supportive and we have extremely loyal employees. People stay here because we value our staff and subsequently they love the business. It’s a great place to work.”
Maxon admits that its products are not the cheapest available. It doesn’t look to compete on price with Chinese rivals, preferring instead to sell itself on the technical capabilities of its drives and systems. Elmiger says that, by making the bulk of its products at the Sachseln site, Maxon has greater control over quality than it would it if went overseas.
One of the biggest problems the company’s idyllic location presents is access to young engineers. “Sachseln is not in the centre of the high-technology industry, whereas Zurich is home to some big companies such as ABB and Siemens,” says Elmiger. “That means we have to work hard to attract young engineers and get them to settle here with their families. Our plant has a kindergarten on-site to make things easier for those with young families, and the working environment is very pleasant.”
Maxon’s respectful attitude towards its staff has proved beneficial to the business. The company has a low staff turnover that provides for long-term business continuity. Maxon has enjoyed rapid growth in sales and profits recently, supplying its motors primarily to the medical, industrial automation and robotics sectors. It is increasingly targeting the aerospace industry where certification requirements exclude cheaper rivals. “Aerospace is still small but it will grow. I think we can triple the size of our business here, possibly in a short period.”
Maxon says it also has high hopes of cultivating a niche but lucrative market providing lightweight motors for small vehicles such as electric bikes.