Aberdeen based Hydro Bond Engineering is marking 25 years in business on the crest of a wave, with turnover increasing by almost half over the past two years. The company is a market leader in subsea connectivity and encapsulation, and is flourishing particularly in the oil & gas and defence arenas.
Hydro Bond designs and manufactures underwater and harsh-environment electrical and optical connectors, penetrators and cable assemblies to provide power and data for a wide range of applications.
Customers are national and international, and in addition to defence and oil and gas can be found in the energy, marine, research, geological survey and aerospace fields. Managing Director Doug Whyte said growth had been consistent, with a sharp increase since 2005.
“In the last two years, the company has grown by over 45% with turnover currently around £5million and this is something we want to continue with and build on. We currently have 65 staff but are looking to take on more people as we expand the business. We are looking to build a new facility at the Science and Energy Park at the Bridge of Don – moving to a new purpose-built building which will enable the company to better fulfil its manufacturing role – by the end of 2008. At the moment, 43% of our business is overseas and we predict that, in the next three to five years, our overseas business will double.”
My Whyte founded Hydro Bond in 1982 with a small team of engineers, and initially work was concentrated in oil and gas sectors producing subsea mateable connectors. The company was based in Aberdeen to enhance its customer base through subsea technology because of the presence of offshore oil exploration in the North Sea.
The company further increased its capabilities over the coming years by becoming heavily involved in Ministry of Defence projects and is now preferred supplier of electrical and optical connectors and penetrators to many defence-related companies.
Pressure hull glands with optical fibre, coaxial and electrical paths are now installed on all the Ministry of Defence Swiftsure, Trafalgar, Vanguard and Astute-class submarines, launched at Barrow-in-Furness with Hydro Bond connectors and cable assemblies on board. Staff numbers have grown over the years from just five in 1982 to 65 at the premises in Bridge of Don, with addition of its sister company Hydrocable Systems manufacturing customer specified bespoke cables for the same industries.
The company has also business partners in a network of regional offices worldwide – including the US, Norway, Italy, Poland and Australia – who are regarded as, and treated like, staff members. They have contributed to the increase in exports of 9% of turnover four years ago to 43% last year.
Mr Whyte said “Growth and employment have been unlike many companies in the North Sea oil and gas industry where some work is cyclical.
“There has been considerable growth overseas in the defence market in the US, Australia, France and Japan, predominantly on submarine platforms basically entailing anything connected to equipment on submarines”
The increase in this side of the operations is the result of a shrewd strategy formed in 1990s.
“We have been building the defence business over the past 10 years and there are big changes in the industry” said Mr Whyte.
“It is so different from when the MoD controlled everything. Defence companies are becoming more commercially aware and are cherry-picking goods and services off the shelf. Technology is moving so fast.”
Mr Whyte said the company was operating in a niche market – with competitors internationally rather than locally – but a key part of the firm’s success had been its staff. “We tend to have a strong long-term work force with experienced staff who have seen it all – boom and bust – but our business is steady. As we develop, we are looking for some engineers and technicians. We are trying to recruit graduates and build for the future.”