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Cleveland Cascades: “Specialist firms are the future of British engineering”

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"We all feel proud that Cleveland Cascades has achieved so much in so little time. Despite tough trading conditions, our business continues to prosper and we have been bold in our business planning.

To win one Queen’s Award is a formidable achievement. To win three for our product is a very satisfying habit. And that’s not to mention our Engineering Council Environment Award for Engineers, as well. We’re building up a fine collection of plaques to show off to visiting clients.

As I came to the ceremony today, I asked myself the question, how should the company reward the staff I read in the Financial Times that when Brompton, the bicycle company, achieved record monthly sales, the factory celebrated with fish and chips all round. The journalist said that job-seeking ex-bankers should note that is what you get in manufacturing instead of bonuses.

Let us not underestimate the difficulty of what we have achieved. We’ve had our hairy moments along the way. Like the time I invited a video cameraman to come and take a film of the dust-reducing chute in action at a potash terminal.

I was going to fill up the ship to prove how clean and effective our chutes were. This man brought along his £10,000 worth of new video recording equipment, and I had him set it all up down in the hatch of the ship. I told him he was about to witness a smooth, dustless operation.

Only I hadn’t directed the material delivery into the chute correctly, and on start up, the hatch filled with a dense, pink, salty dust. I stopped the loading as soon as I could. Then after a short time I saw a bedraggled, pink figure, emerge from the hatch. There were just two rings round his eyes, which weren’t covered in dust. All his equipment was caked in the stuff.

He came up to me and said: “Tell me, just how bad was the dust before you invented the system?”

From the six people we started with in 2004 we’ve now got 32 members of staff. We have tripled the turnover, developed new products, increased in-house specialist manufacture, renovated the facilities and achieved the highest quality award for our manufacturing processes.

We are proud to work with some of the largest engineering and operating companies. Ninety-five per cent of our work is export and we are recognised around the world as the company that now produces the industry standard for ship-loading equipment.

Our sales team has travelled as far away as Murmansk in Russia to Sydney, Australia. From the Black Sea to Los Angeles we have solved some of the most difficult loading issue on the planet.

We have created high quality jobs and we employ talented and innovative people.

Having witnessed the demise of all of our large engineering companies, I see small specialist businesses such as ours as being the future of British engineering

The challenges we face in this industry mean we have to keep up our spirits with relentless optimism and enthusiasm.

Today is an example of how from the ashes of disaster, we can grow the roses of success. The Queen’s Award for Enterprise represents a huge boost to our morale, it draws attention to us as a dynamic British company and it gives us courage to aim higher, and to firmly establish ourselves as world leaders in our field.

This is a great achievement for us, wonderful news for Thornaby, and a shot in the arm for engineering in the North East."

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