It is often overlooked that over 7,500 small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s) supply direct to the UK Ministry of Defence and that many engage in direct UK exports. Often ignored too is that no fewer than 30,000 research, development and design jobs depend on the UK defence industry. Indeed, according to trade association ADS, the UK aerospace, defence, security and space sectors employs a total of 363,000 jobs of which 11,000 are apprentices and the turnover value for the industry as a whole is put at £72 billion.
Given that collating the above figures relies to a great extent on surveys of company members I can have no idea as to their absolute accuracy but they certainly match what I imagine to be true. Those jobs support a great many other indirect jobs – maybe as many as one million overall, and their importance in maintaining and sustaining manufacturing capability, engineering technical and other technology related skills and through that, providing future growth opportunities, should never be lost.
I write frequently on subsidiary of large defence companies that I have been fortunate to visit but rather less-so on small and medium sized enterprises which I also do my best to visit whenever time allows.
Over the past two year I have managed to personally visit around ten small and medium sized defence and aerospace companies around the UK and that supply into the larger defence companies, nationally and internationally. As part of an extensive and understandably demanding supply chain, a great many SME’s are involved in supplying aerospace and defence companies such as BAE Systems, Thales, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, Raytheon and other large high,ly invested companies that are involved in the larger supply chain of this very exciting and very valuable industry.
Two extremely interesting SME’s that I have visited over the past two years really have stood out to me – the first is Weymouth FGP Systems, a ‘build-to-print’ precision engineering company offering high-end engineered and manufactured solutions for the aerospace industry and other sectors which I visited earlier this month and the second, Aldershot based Cam Lock Ltd, which designs and manufactures personal protection life support systems and whose customer base included the US Department of Defense.
With customers including Thales, Leonardo, UTC Aerospace Systems, Honeywell, Zodiac, Safran, Martin Baker and Curtiss Wright, FGP is no slouch when it comes to playing a very important role as a UK component supplier within the aerospace and defence industry and, of course, as a UK exporter.
A Cyrus investee company (Cyrus Investment Management invests in tier-1 British precision engineering businesses on a very interesting basis of ‘buy and build’ assisting companies to grow) and having been at the forefront of precision engineering for over 45 years, FGP had been bought out of administration in 2015. Suffice to say that since Cyrus made its original investment in FGP the recovery and growth of the Weymouth based company has been nothing short of spectacular.
With Lord Hain and former Chief of the General Staff, Sir Peter Wall on its advisory board, the Managing Director of FGP is Nigel Pitman. With 126 employees of whom 82 are direct, 29 indirect and 15 apprentices, the company operates from a 77,000 square foot factory in Weymouth, Dorset. An ISO9001 and AS9100 certified manufacturer and approved supplier for a range of leading aerospace related companies, FGP is very well invested in respect of capital equipment. To that end the company uses the latest and most advanced technology to deliver innovative high quality precision engineering and turnkey engineering solutions to its customers. Importantly FGP works with its customers all the way through and has built its reputation of being flexible. Having walked around all parts of the factory I was extremely impressed with the automated CAD/CAM based machining, milling and turning capability, inspection and quality aspects and particularly with the range of metrology equipment.
The UK used to have many thousands of precision engineering companies but today it has but a handful of really successful, well invested engineering companies that are doing well because they provide customers with high quality engineered products when they need them and that are competitively priced.
Cam Lock Ltd
Brilliantly run and yet a company that by its own preference operates on a fairly low profile basis, while Cam Lock is not untypical of being one of many highly specialist small and medium sized manufacturing enterprises in the UK, this one has a range of end products produced in the UK on its own manufacturing site that are sold all over the world.
Producing a highly specialist range of aerospace life support products and given that aviation medicine has long been one of my personal specialist areas of expertise, having visited Cam Lock as long ago as the summer of 2016 it is clearly remiss of me not to have written on the company since then.
Established in 1986, Cam Lock forms part of the Camberley Group of which Camberley Rubber Mouldings has been a producer of complex assemblies and bespoke rubber moulded products for the past 46 years. Based at a facility in Aldershot, Hampshire, the company is an ISO9001 accredited facility that has an in-house team of more than one hundred staff working on the design, development and manufacture of some of the most exciting personal protective equipment available on the market.
With an impressive range of products including aircrew oxygen masks and breathing systems, CBRN Respirators, industrial working respirators, emergency escape sets and fire fighter breathing apparatus, Cam Lock leads the industry in respiratory life support. That is not just a statement that comes from the company blurb – they really do lead the industry and having tested some of their products it is not hard to see why.
With a genuine presence throughout the world, including multiple additional facilities in the USA and the Middle East, Cam Lock is well positioned to supply and support its full product range in the global marketplace. The company has a proven track record in delivering a world class service from dedicated product support centres strategically located to support our existing and future customer base.
As an established supplier to both government defence programmes and multi-national corporations, Cam Lock continues to deliver some of the most impressive products on the market with a level of after sales support to match. Aircrew Oxygen masks, CBRN tactical mask/respirator system, fast-mask escape sets, fast-mask high protections sets, rig-walker Airline Escape Breathing Apparatus, SCBA Breathing Apparatus, Fast resQ Emergency Breathing Apparatus are the made products produced.
Defence apart, Cam Lock respiratory equipment is also supplied to the oil industry and the company pride itself on service and support including maintenance of customer respiratory equipment in order to ensure maximum reliability and performance. With sales offices, service centres and facilities located in the USA. UAE, Oman, Malaysia, Iraq and Kazakhstan the company is well place to support its product and customer.
In my work I have had the very good fortune to visit many very fine companies of all shapes and sizes. Cam Lock is one that when I first became aware of the company I was quite shocked that I had no previous idea that a UK company was still producing a range of vital highly specialist equipment. It was a pleasure to see then and a pleasure to know that the success has continued to this day.
CHW (London – 25th January 2018)
Howard Wheeldon FRAeS
Wheeldon Strategic Advisory Ltd,
M: +44 7710 779785