Manufacturing businesses in the UK have a strong future, according to Midlands MEP, Malcolm Harbour, but the industry needs more practical measures to safeguard the sector in the region.
During a site visit to Birmingham-based manufacturer, Evac+Chair, which produces hi-tech evacuation chair systems for export in more than 32 countries, Malcolm Harbour, MEP said, “We need more practical initiatives to support manufacturing companies. For instance, to help small business access new markets by facilitating trade missions and by helping to prepare companies to meet the demands of export. Other support such as innovation vouchers to encourage collaboration and mutually beneficial partnerships with universities can also support businesses to develop globally competitive products.”
Harbour’s visit coincided with news that Evac+Chair, the country’s leading supplier of emergency escape equipment specially designed to provide assistance to people who have difficulty or are incapable of independently descending staircases, has acquired the assets and staff of a Telford-based company which produces straps, harnesses and load restraints.
Mark Wallace, managing director of Evac+Chair, said, “Our acquisition will mean that every element of our innovative products will be produced in-house, helping us to ensure the highest standard of quality control.”
Despite the recession affecting sales in the US, Evac"Chair and its sister company ParAid, which manufactures bespoke medical handling and transportation solutions for organisations such as ambulance and neo-natal transport services, have seen a combined growth in exports of 20% and recruitment levels have risen by 27% in the last two years.
Mark Wallace said, “In the last year, we secured a number of significant contracts which helped us ride out the recession. One of the most exciting contracts outside of the UK has been to supply Evac+Chairs to the Yas Marina motorsport circuit in Abu Dhabi in time for its first F1 grand prix last year. The chairs are also in some well known retail stores and leisure outlets including Gap stores, Cotswold Outdoor and Odeon Cinemas.”
ParAid has also been successful with its bespoke solutions for medical transport teams, including incubator trolleys and the launch of the ACR (ambulance child restraint) and the neo-restraint design for the safe transportation of young people and babies.
Mark Wallace added, “The past 12 months has seen an increasing demand for custom-built solutions to patient handling and transportation needs. Recent work for ParAid has included supplying the West Midlands Ambulance Service and air-ambulance services.”
Malcolm Harbour concluded, “Historically, the Midlands manufacturing sector has not been good at taking products to market. Evac+Chair is a key example of where a product has been marketed on its strengths, combining strong innovation with quality manufacture.
Companies like Evac+Chair are crucial to the West Midlands as this is where job growth is coming from. We need more pioneering businesses like this.