Falmouth pump manufacturer Watson-Marlow has announced a £7.3 million expansion having secured £1 million of investment from the Convergence Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and the South West RDA.
The company, which has annual sales of £25 million, is building a new silicone tubing plant to support its core pump business and a growing global market for food and beverage and biopharm tubing.
The new plant will more than treble tube production, cementing the company’s position as a leading producer of silicone tubing, much of it destined for the bio-pharmaceutical market across Europe and North America. Sales increased by 25% last year alone.
Watson-Marlow, which is part of the Cheltenham-based Spirax-Sarco Engineering Group, employs 174 staff including 34 graduates on its 11-acre site on Bickland Water Road, and the expansion will create or safeguard 32 jobs.
The project is being supported by £769,000 of ERDF Convergence investment and £256,000 from the South West RDA, with the balance coming from the company’s own funds.
The new high-tech plant will include a manufacturing ISO 14644-1 class 7 ‘cleanroom’, with 25 air changes an hour and temperature and humidity controls to create the optimum conditions for silicone tubing extrusion; two floors of offices and 550m of pallet racking. It has been designed as a low carbon building with an ‘Excellent’ environmental rating.
Christopher Gadsden, managing director of Watson-Marlow, said: “This investment will see a major expansion of our tubing businesses which now accounts for 28% of sales and will underpin our core pumps business which is also seeing double digit growth.
“We will be recruiting new staff including design engineers and product managers and continue to invest in research and development to maintain our position as Europe’s number one positive displacement pump brand.”
Carleen Kelemen, Director of the Convergence Partnership Office for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “Convergence investment will drive a more competitive and knowledge-based economy. It will encourage research, development and business innovation to create more sustainable higher value business growth, higher paid jobs and a skilled workforce.”
Stephen Bohane, head of business development for the South West RDA in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “Our role is to invest to unlock business potential and lead the development of a low carbon economy and this investment meets both those aims.
“This new low carbon facility will allow for continued growth and cement Watson-Marlow’s global reputation for quality and innovation. With 20% of the workforce made up of graduates it is a shining example of the type of company we want to attract and retain in our region.”
Watson-Marlow was founded in Marlow in Buckinghamshire in 1956 and moved to Falmouth in 1969 with 12 key employees producing mainly medical pumps.
In 1977 the company became part of the Smith & Nephew healthcare group and in 1988 the factory was extended to accommodate the expansion of the business into industrial and scientific markets.
In 1990 the company was acquired by the Spirax-Sarco Engineering Group and this resulted in further expansion in 1995.
Watson-Marlow specialises in producing peristaltic pumps which use the natural process of moving liquid by squeezing a fluid filled tube, so the only contact is between the tube and the fluid and not the pump itself.
They are used in a wide range of applications including the chemical, pharmaceutical, food, beverage, medical, paint, agriculture, ceramics, water and waste sectors. With no seals or valves they are easy to maintain and the simple changing of the tube is the only maintenance required.
The company produces around 100,000 pumps a year and 80% of its production is exported to more than 60 countries around the world, supported by 12 separate sales divisions.
It operates a ‘just in time’ manufacturing process with a lead time from order to component in just two days. The company holds no stock and every pump is built to order, with orders sent electronically directly to the assembly area.
In 2001 Watson Marlow invested £1.2 million in a state-of-the-art silicone tubing plant, initially to meet tubing demand for its own pumps so that it was not over-reliant on other suppliers.
Since then it has supplied other companies with tubing products, and global demand has grown significantly, with bio-pharmaceuticals a core market.
The new tubing plant will be housed in a separate building to provide security of supply and provide 2,400 sq metres (26,000 sq ft) of workspace.
With high levels of insulation, rain water recovery and air locks to all external doors to minimise heat loss and keep the atmosphere clean, the building is expected to achieve an ‘Excellent’; rating under the Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method (BREEAM).
Work on the new plant, which has already been given planning permission, is expected to start next month, with production starting before the end of next year.