MGN Insight – Supplying the world from Newton Aycliffe

Tekmar Energy is a market leader in submarine cable protection systems, providing subsea cables and engineering services around the world. It employs over 100 people at its Newton Aycliffe site and had a turnover last year of just under £20m.

Operating in the offshore wind, oil & gas, wave, tidal and interconnector markets since 1985, it has supplied over 5,800 protection systems and has a track record of working on over 62 named Offshore Windfarm projects across the world.

All Tekmar’s products are manufactured in Newton Aycliffe – there is an engineering office in London, as well as sales operations in countries abroad but everything is made and shipped from the North East.

The company’s continuing and ambitious export growth is evidenced by the collaboration deal it signed at the start of 2018 with SBSS, China’s leading provider of subsea cable installation services and one of the key submarine cable installers in Asia. This will see Tekmar supplying export and inter-array cable protection to the Chinese Offshore Wind Market.

It is just this sort of global activity that makes Tekmar so special, according to James Ritchie, the company’s chief executive and the man spearheading the company’s export drive.

James Ritchie, ceo of Tekmar Energy talks to MGN about supplying the world from Newton Aycliffe

James Ritchie, CEOof Tekmar Energy

He explained how the company has achieved its significant market share: “One of our subsidiaries is TekLink CPS (cable protection system) which has revolutionised the way power cables are connected to offshore wind farms. We’ve very quickly been able to monopolise this market; in fact for two years we had a 100 per cent European market share.

“To grow this even further we’ve had to globalise this part of the business to make sure we were at the forefront of emerging markets. So in this last financial year we’ve exported products to China, South Korea, Taiwan, Japan and the USA as well as those European countries that are developing offshore wind.”

Tekmar has also expanded in the oil and gas sector with increased investment spend in the Middle East, where 50 per cent of the company’s oil and gas exports have been. “This is critical to our long-term growth strategy,” commented James. “We now have 72 per cent share of the global offshore wind farm market. In oil and gas we’re a smaller player but a rapidly growing one.”

Content with where the company is in terms of global footprint, the focus for James Ritchie and his team now is on expanding its market share and maintaining a competitive advantage. “And we’re doing this through technology and innovation. We don’t ever want to compete on a “me too” basis, we want to find ways of saving money for our clients by offering innovative technology.”

Achieving high levels of productivity and reducing operation times are crucial elements to Tekmar’s success. Having access to data and information is a major factor in this, as James Ritchie explained: “We’ve invested heavily in another of our subsidiaries, AgileTek Engineering, over the last eighteen months or so. And this has revolutionised our access to data which has meant we have overcome some complex engineering challenges. And this has been critical for us in our project delivery.

“The data has allowed us to look at our processes and bottlenecks. We realised that the engineering aspect of our design was dictating a lot of the lead times which meant we had a lot less flexibility and less control when it came to the manufacturing stage. So by investing in this we’ve given ourselves an abundance of data and therefore control over the engineering process. We’re now realising the benefits of this investment.”

James continued: “Getting positive engineering analysis quickly allows us to be more flexible in our scheduling so we can optimise our production. We are a projects-driven engineering business which means everything we make is done from orders from specific clients but we run a big overhead in manufacturing and this is a real conundrum for us – everything is bespoke which doesn’t actually suit manufacturing very well, particularly when you have tight engineering deadlines to meet. So bringing this service in-house using cloud computing and data management has been key to our productivity success.”

James also pointed to “good old-fashioned communication” as another key to the company’s success. “It may be a bit of a cliché but we engage with the staff.

“We are a very open and transparent business and everyone who works for us knows what the projects are and what impact they are having, not just on the business but also on the greater good of the world through the development of renewables and in bringing down costs. And they get a good sense of pride and ownership from this and makes everyone pull in the same direction.

“Someone on the shop floor said to me the other day that he couldn’t believe he was moulding plastic in Newton Aycliffe that would soon be shipped off to China! He had real personal pride in this and I know he’ll go the extra mile in helping us achieve our goals.”

Tekmar Energy is a company on the rise and, with the astute and focused leadership of James Ritchie and his management team, the future of manufacturing in Newton Aycliffe looks assured.