MADE IN SHEFFIELD: Wimbledon thinks crane company is simply ace

Simon Eastwood, SCX Group Managing Director.
Simon Eastwood, SCX Group Managing Director.

A record year, a bulging order book and Wimbledon’s No1 Court roof is the strawberry on top.

But there’s something Simon Eastwood, boss of SCX, isn’t talking about – and it’s even bigger.

Josh McKennan, electrical engineer apprentice at SCX.

Josh McKennan, electrical engineer apprentice at SCX.

The Wincobank company is world-renowned for making ridiculously complicated cranes and moving structures, including the retractable roof on Wimbledon Centre Court and current project, No1 Court.

It supplied all 16 cranes used in the construction of the Navy’s two new aircraft carriers. The first one, HMS Queen Elizabeth, started sea trials last week.

And it has the highest level of nuclear handling approval, winning the company lucrative MoD contracts few could even pitch for.

They’re also working on a job of similar scale, complexity and international profile as those at Wimbledon, but Mr Eastwood is not allowed to talk about it because the client wants to break the news first.

Simon Eastwood, SCX Group Managing Director, right and labourer-driver Darren Bond.

Simon Eastwood, SCX Group Managing Director, right and labourer-driver Darren Bond.

Frustrating? Slightly.

But despite the lack of detail, it is yet another contract lifting the company to the next level – and piling the pressure on to move from three sites on to one.

A big, possibly make-or-break, decision in the life of a company – set to be made within a year.

But one thing’s for sure, it will be in Sheffield because of the skills and the supply chain.

Mr Eastwood said: “If this business wasn’t in a large industrial city it would be really tough for us to get the right people. We also rely on local subcontractors as ‘overspill’. In the last five years they have really improved.

“The type and variety of work we do gives me a massive amount of satisfaction.

“Most of the time I’ve got the best job in the world.”

The firm says 70 per cent of the steel used on the No1 Court job was sourced locally. And six Sheffield firms benefited from subcontract work, including Tinsley Bridge and Mayflower Engineering.

The complex and bespoke nature of their trade sets them apart from the pack, but it can cause problems.

“We are not reinventing the wheel each time, but because we do one-off products it can be stressful.

“Sometimes we wonder if we’ve overcharged, other times we make a loss.

“On our very first nuclear job 20 years ago we lost money due to the amount of documentation required. The sheer amount of it catches everyone out. But rather than say ‘never again’ we learned from the experience.”

An ‘ordinary’ 25 tonne factory crane might cost £100,000 and take four months to make.

A ‘nuclear’ version loaded with safety features takes more than a year and costs £3m.

The firm is making two.

Every weld has to be witnessed by an expert and the finished product comes with 30 thick files documenting every nut and bolt.

SCX comprises three divisions: special projects, crane maintenance and spares, and an electrical control gear distributor. Turnover has leapt from £20m to £30m in the last year and the order book is worth £60m, enough to keep them busy until 2021.

The group has hired 12 this year, taking the headcount to 150, Mr Eastwood said. “It is the best period we have ever been through, without a doubt. The biggest restriction on us is lack of people.”

An in-house academy ensures a stream of skilled apprentices.

Mr Eastwood added: “It’s a struggle for us to get quality youngsters. The education system lets companies like ours down.”

MADE IN SHEFFIELD: Lift off for SCX in record year

“Wimbledon was overjoyed the No1 Court roof is being made in Sheffield. They have a warm cosy feeling about it.”

SCX boss Simon Eastwood says the ‘Made in Sheffield’ quality standard is a huge hit with the All England Club – itself a bastion of world class tradition.

He added: “Too many businesses believe that because they have been going a long time they have a God given right to continue.

“Made in Sheffield is addressing that, making people focus on quality and going out pushing the name instead of sitting back on the history of the city.

“I’m proud to be a licence holder, helping to maintain Sheffield’s association with a quality product.”

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