Successful move for engineering firm

FIVE years ago, Ipswich based CompAir Reavell was close to collapse. A change in ownership, a new managing director and a move to fit-for-purpose premises on the Whitehouse Industrial Estate transformed the fortunes of this historical Ipswich engineering company.

FIVE years ago, Ipswich based CompAir Reavell was close to collapse.

A change in ownership, a new managing director and a move to fit-for-purpose premises on the Whitehouse Industrial Estate transformed the fortunes of this historical Ipswich engineering company.

The successful turnaround was also due in no small part to the decision to concentrate its activity at the high-skill end of the compressed air systems market - assembling and testing the systems - and give up manufacturing its own components.

“If you're going to have a UK manufacturing business you need to be focusing on the higher end - the simple things you can't do competitively in the UK,” said Malcolm Blackwell, CompAir managing director.


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The company has trebled its output since 2002, operating in three key market sectors: compressed natural gas for use in vehicles; breathing air, primarily used by fire services and for scuba diving; and industrial air and gas. Its clients are largely based abroad, and CompAir is now looking to expand into more geographical markets.

To sustain the growth, the management has established a comprehensive apprenticeship and work experience programme to attract young people into engineering, and hopefully into the CompAir business, from school leavers to undergraduates and graduates.

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Rehana Khanam is one of the current crop learning her craft at CompAir. An engineering student at the University of Cambridge, Rehana, 20, has just completed her second summer working at the Ipswich firm.

“I really enjoy working here. I think this place is quite special. I chose it for work placements because it has a factory and not many places still have the manufacturing function.

“CompAir has done a lot for me - I can call the operations director for advice throughout the academic year which is really nice.”

For the full story behind the transformation at CompAir, see today's BusinessEast supplement in the EADT

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