Applelec managing director, Ian Drinkwater, is celebrating 15 years since he began the firm
Managing director, Ian Drinkwater, also claims the firm has undergone a ‘tremendous change’ since its inception, as it revealed turnover jumped by 44 percent in 2012.
He says: “It was just myself and Paul Stothers my business partner who started Applelec in 1998— we used to make a lot of gates, railings, and metal fabrications.
“Gradually we started getting requests from sign-makers locally, so we branched into making three-dimensional and flat-cut letters. From just the two of us to employing almost 50 people at the minute, it has been a tremendous change.”
Of the near 50 people employed at the site, 16 of those have been appointed in the last twelve months, as the firm opened up a second larger manufacturing site in Yorkshire.
Drinkwater continues: “We used to manufacture everything at our Bradford site, but with the emergence of our LED Light Sheet range, we needed more space. Last November, we moved everything in the signage manufacturing side to Leeds. The Light Sheets are made in Bradford.”
With LEDs an increasingly big part of Applelec’s business—around 50 percent of revenue according to the firm—it is also refurbishing the LED manufacturing site at its Bradford headquarters.
During SignLink’s tour of the site, display fabrication engineer, Bob Watson, enthused as he told how the products produced there had been used in picture frames for the National History Museum. Applelec’s commitment to LEDs is perhaps affirmed by using its Light Sheet range to illuminate the snooker table in the staff room.
The managing director revealed what has been driving that growth, and why he believes that signage, to a certain extent, is immune from poor economic conditions.
He adds: “LED Light Sheets have seen a tremendous increase in sales, but metal fabricated letters with LEDS in them have also seen a great increase.
“Recession or not, there will always be a demand for signage. Whether that’s less expensive side for more budget conscious shops or higher-end installations, there will always be a need.”
Business development manager, Andy Armitage, picks up the point, saying that firm’s who are running into budget difficulties with clients need to be more flexible.
He says: “With traditional sign-making skills you can always manufacture a sign to suit a budget. It might not be the sign that the end user had hoped for, but you can always reduce the materials, or be creative on the design.
With our knowledge of how to make the signs, you can always come up with something that pleases the end user and their pocket.”
Applelec’s products have also been used to brand some of the largest firm’s in the country, but the company stresses it only sells to the trade. The company also never publicises that its materials have been used in the products, saying its important to maintain ‘clear water’.
The firm has recently announced a growth of 44 percent in turnover, and says that profits are to be reinvested over the course of the year.
Applelec works closely with the local chamber of commerce, and the benefits provide a valuable lesson of the value of engaging with the local business community.
Half the funding for its new logo and website came from the chamber, as well as partnering it with a local agency to complete the work.
The turnover growth at the firm shows it is reaping the dividends of a policy of investment in staff, equipment, and most of all in new technology, as it seeks to secure the long-term future of the business.