Ambitious plans for Hydro Group

Published on 22nd September 2007

Ambitious plans for Hydro Group

Hydro Group, comprised of Hydro Bond Engineering and Hydrocable Systems, is an Aberdeen-based specialist manufacturer of electrical cables, connectors and penetrators for subsea, topside and onshore applications. Through the combined strength of its integrated business units the Hydro Group offers a unique service and provides innovative solutions for blue-chip clients worldwide.

Hydro Bond Engineering was established in 1982 and has developed substantial expertise in the design and manufacture of electrical and optical connector systems for demanding subsea applications.

Having identified an opportunity to differentiate, in 1988 Hydro Group was formed with the introduction of Hydrocable Systems, which complemented the original business stream with the design and manufacture of a range of cables with the superior abrasion resistance, flexibility and reliability for use underwater and in harsh environments.

Hydro Group has established a diverse customer base across defence, oil and gas, renewable energy, and marine sciences with MoD and defence related business accounting for over 40% of turnover. The company has earned a solid reputation with defence markets in the UK, US, Japan, Singapore and Australia.

Total exports for last year were 42% of turnover, and projected at 45 to 50% for this year and the Hydro Group is continually expanding its international business – inroads have been made into Italy for example, where the company attended three exhibitions this year. A culturally diverse workforce has also strengthened the ability of the whole team to deal with international business.

Much of Hydro Group’s internationalisation strategy is focused on defence markets, though oil and gas is also a steadily growing market. The company is also developing its interest in aerospace, currently working with a Korean company on aerostats, a balloon platform for surveillance, and has already supplied one system with others at the development stage.

Hydro Group offers several key selling points that allow it to stand out in its chosen markets.

Said Managing Director Douglas Whyte: “We design and manufacture cables and connectors and offer bespoke assembly systems – the competition tends to focus on one aspect or the other.

“As an SME we have flexibility and agility, and unlike larger companies can easily adapt, especially in our ability to customise standard products to meet requirements.”

Hydro Group also gains strength from the way it incorporates business partners; agents effectively become partners, perceived as an extension of the team, and are involved in business planning sessions in Scotland and supported at local level in terms of technical support and at exhibitions. The value of this approach is reflected in the level of growth in export sales.

An ongoing commitment to R&D is also of strategic importance to Hydro Group, which maintains associations with several universities and research centres around the UK. Innovation comes through development of products, processes and the use of advanced proprietary materials, finding solutions to emerging technical problems in target markets.

The workforce is also key to Hydro Group’s success. A team of 75 across the two divisions provide the skills and experience to drive the company forward, and as an Investors in People accredited company the Hydro Group values its motivated and committed workforce.

“Our team is very important, they offer a great deal of knowledge and experience and for our part we must create the kind of working environment that will help us to attract and retain staff, to make our team feel that their contribution is valued and that we take their future seriously. It’s not just money that keeps people happy, though that is part of it; we are involved in a lot of training and support of individuals particularly in further education, we also look at different areas for socialising, and one of the most successful changes we have brought in is organising the working week to finish at 1pm on Fridays.

“We are always striving to be more competitive, slicker and more efficient and part of that is ensuring we have the right people on our team. These days that means a modern approach to the working environment and that has meant a lot of changes, but I find that change becomes easier once you gain momentum.”

Hydro Group is currently in negotiations to procure land on a greenfield site for a purpose built factory, a bespoke facility that would allow the company to create the ideal environment both to underline the value placed on the workforce and to accommodate a growing business. Douglas Whyte has ambitious plans for the Hydro Group in its new setting:

“Our goal is to double turnover within a three year period after we settle in to the new facility, the majority of that growth coming from export and internationalisation.”

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