Hadleigh/Debenham/Lowestoft: Queen’s Award honours for Plant Parts, Seers Medical and Pipeshield

Brothers Robert and Richard Finch of Plant Parts Ltd, Hadleigh

Brothers Robert and Richard Finch of Plant Parts Ltd, Hadleigh

A SUFFOLK business which supplies spare parts for construction machinery around the globe is today recognised in the Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for the third year running.

Keith Chittock and Simon Rees of Seers Medical in Debenham

Keith Chittock and Simon Rees of Seers Medical in Debenham - Credit: Archant

Plant Parts Ltd, which is based in Hadleigh, is one of three firms from the county to be honoured in the International Trade section of the 2013 Queen’s Awards, which are announced each year on April 21, HM The Queen’s birthday.

Also among this year’s recipients are Seers Medical Ltd, from Debenham, which designs and manufacturers a range of medical treatment couches, and Pipeshield International Ltd of Lowestoft, which provides subsea protection systems for the offshore oil, gas and renewables industries.

Although Queen’s Awards remain current for five years, recipients are entitled to apply afresh each year. However, it is extremely unusual for a business to be successful in the same category in each of three successive years, which is what Plant Parts has now achieved.

The business, which employs 15 people and supplies customers in more than 100 countries, was launched in 1991 and moved to its present base, off Crockatt Road, Hadleigh, in 1994.

Having started out as a specialist in supplying spare parts for Komatsu machines, it has also developed a niche in supplying final drive assemblies, a major component in track-laying machines, through its own Final Drive Centre (FDC) brand.

Its success in the International Trade section of this year’s Queen’s Awards reflects a 76% increase in overseas sales over the last three years.

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During this time, it has responded to competitors selling inferior, low-cost products by offering customer warranties and support services that are beyond its competitors’ capabilities.

Its main export markets are Scandinavia, the United States, Ireland, France and the Baltic States, which together represent 72% of export sales.

“Many of our customers call us for parts in a breakdown situation and they need to know ‘when can I have it and how much?’,” said Robert Finch, IT director at Plant Parts. “We have equipped our sales and support staff with the tools to answer those questions at once. We believe good customer service is the key to success.”

Plant Parts has also enlarged its warehouse to accommodate an ever-expanding product range. “We have to move with the times,” said Richard Finch, managing director. “It is imperative that we continually monitor our enquiries to be sure we stock current model parts in demand from our customers.”

Of the latest Queen’s Award success, he added: “I am delighted for the whole team; to win three time is testament to the motivation, hard work and commitment of everyone at Plant Parts.”

Seers Medical, based in Kenton Road, Debenham, designs and manufacturers a range of specialist medical examination and treatment couches tailored to specific clinical environments, together with a range of medical trolleys and general medical furniture.

The company, which employs 25 people, is a major supplier to the NHS and also has sales and distribution arrangements covering more than 40 other countries worldwide.

After sales service and product development is also a large part of the company’s success, ensuring that its offer can be constantly adjusted to meet market demand.

“Seers ongoing drive and commitment to the design and manufacture of quality medical products has been a key factor in producing the impressive growth in worldwide sales within the global healthcare market, a major factor in helping us to achieve this prestigious award” said Keith Chittock, sales director.

Managing director Simon Rees added: “We are all delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award. Not only does it represent our export sales success, but it also recognises the dedication and effort by all those employed in the company who play a very large part in ensuring Seers continually meets its customer requirements and needs.

“The team has worked hard to achieve success and it has been recognised with this highest accolade.”

Pipeshield International, which is based on the Quay View Business Park, off Barnards Way in Lowestoft, is a third-time winner, having previously won Queen’s Awards in 2005 in both the International Trade and Innovation categories.

The company, which is headed by managing director Steven Howlett and has a workforce of 15, was established in 1999 to design and manufacture subsea protection and stabilisation systems for the oil, gas and renewables industries.

It has increased its overseas sales by 56% over the last three years, through a strategy to develop markets through manufacturing arrangements utilising local resources and expertise. Its main export markets are Australia, the Far East, South Africa and Europe.

It manufactures at two UK sites with a third on the way and has a permanent facility in Johor, Malaysia, to supply South East Asia.

It also operates temporary “project manufacturing sites” at Stavanger in Norway, Cuxhaven in Germany, Baku in Azerbaijan, Mesaieed in Qatar and others in Albania, Australia, Brunei, Singapore and South Africa.

Kevin May, operations manager at Pipeshield, said: “We have seen an upturn in our overseas operations over the past three years which has significantly contributed to our overall group success.

“We are continuing to make progress and currently exploring new geographical territories as well as increasing our product and service portfolio.

“We have invested also in the UK with new manufacturing sites strategically positioned throughout the country.”