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Atec: engineering specialist on a roll with defence and energy contracts | City & Business | Finance


Atec Engineering Solutions a defence manufacturer

Ambitious engineering solutions specialist Atec is gaining ground within the UK defence market with Challenger tank projects and now a multi-million-pound order for work on development of a latest infantry vehicle.

The contract over eight years is one among the largest for the firm, based in Worsley, Manchester, whose bespoke services cover a large technical span, primarily for safety critical environments within the defence, nuclear and oil and gas sectors.

“We’re one among the few UK-based engineers with capabilities that include obsolescence and antiquated part repair, design, manufacture and complete maintenance and overhaul,” explains managing director John Bowden.

“We support larger businesses and third-party equipment, all the time start with a ‘yes’ and tailor our knowledge to our customers’ exact specifications.

“Our cyber security approval is the very best and we construct and repair our products using a portfolio of reliable suppliers. Where we are able to, we extend life relatively than waste.”

Apprenticeships true believer: Atec co-owner and MD John Bowden (Image: Atec)

Recent international upheavals corresponding to the war in Ukraine have increased governments’ focus and investment on defence.

For Atec which means more opportunities within the UK market especially with land-based vehicles and it’s forecasting a £7million turnover in 2025.

Originally a part of aircraft veteran Hawker Siddeley, two management buyouts – the newest in 2021 – saw mechanical and electrical engineer Bowden plus fellow directors Stephen Atherton and Mark Poole take over with former owner Andrea Hough remaining a stakeholder.

The corporate’s most successful product to this point has been its digital engine control unit found on the Chinook helicopter.

“Nonetheless our people and our culture are a very powerful,” says Bowden who heads a team of 42 that features five apprentices.


 New and future capabilities: John Bowden, right, at the defence industry exhibition DVD

Latest and future capabilities: John Bowden, right, on the defence industry exhibition DVD (Image: Atec)

An apprentice once like Hough, Atec has a deep commitment to skills training, he explains.

“We decided to reintroduce apprentices nine years ago, and tackle two latest starters every 12 months.

Our goal is to employ greater than 50 people and we create a continuous improvement environment where everyone can thrive of their job and develop.

“We support this by getting out into our area people, colleges, charities and most of all schools, actively engaging with 10 and 11-year-olds – a key time for them – and getting girls interested, showing how manufacturing may be just as much a profession for them too.”

As a substitute of furloughing during lockdown, Atec used the time to extend training and speed up digitisation, “a raffle that has paid off,” adds Bowden who also flags the “good trade support” the corporate has received from its bank RBS, a part of the NatWest group.

Atec Engineering Solutions manufacturing facility in Manchester

“All of it helps as we contend with price volatility and rises of 30 percent,” he points out. “Once things go up they don’t come down.

“As a business operating within the manufacturing sector, we’re currently challenged with the prolonged lead times of parts required to fabricate and support our products.

“It’s well publicised that there’s a “chip shortage” but the truth is that there was an impact, post Covid of unavailability of a wide selection of components and lots of of those parts at the moment are on prolonged manufacturing lead times of 12 months plus.

“Coupled with a volatile market of fabric pricing and short validity of pricing being suppled, that is causing challenges in each bidding for brand spanking new work and the chance it entails, in addition to completing the manufacture of products in a timely manner.

No waste: repairing a PCB for a frigate's chilled water unit

No waste: repairing a PCB for a frigate’s chilled water unit (Image: Atec)

“At Atec we use experience of the market to take a risk-based approach to pricing and look to secure strategic stock of parts to forestall the impact of lead times, in delivering on our customer needs.”

Atec’s digital technology shop floor project was backed with funding from Made Smarter, a business and government network harnessing the ability of business digital innovation, and a latest digital lead position has been created inside the business.

A staunch supporter of producing organisation Make UK, “this provides us a voice into government and inside Make UK Defence we’ve got direct access to prime contractors inside the defence industry,” says Bowden.

“We gain a wider awareness of what is going on on within the industry and it allows us to be part of various groups, events and is an amazing networking opportunity. Overall it allows us to tug together a superb picture of what the manufacturing industry is like within the UK.”

 Increased productivity: engineer with bespoke digital shop floor app

Increased productivity: engineer with bespoke digital shop floor app (Image: Atec)

Development of a clean room now enables the business to tackle precision projects corresponding to constructing gyroscopes, steering instruments for the aerospace industry.

One other latest area on the horizon is developing smaller-scale, modular nuclear reactors.

For Bowden the MBO has been a private journey fulfilling his commitment “to guard people”, he says.

“We aim to be the UK’s go-to engineer and manufacturer that’s a viable business for the generations to return.”

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