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Francis Brown, in Stockton, continues to grow after major contract successes
A 110-YEAR-OLD engineering company has secured a major contract with a North-East energy firm to strengthen its international presence.
Francis Brown Limited, in Stockton, makes winches for remote operated vehicles (ROV), which are used to lay high-voltage underwater cables on offshore wind projects.
The fourth generation firm, which employs more than 100 workers, built launch and recovery machinery for ROV maker Soil Machine Dynamics, based in Wallsend, near Newcastle, which have been sent to Brazil.
The deal comes after Francis Brown secured its largest ever export order from a Chinese company to use its experience of working with pressure vessels in the chemical industry.
Founded by former construction worker Francis Brown in 1903, after he injured his back, the firm began selling wire rat traps, soil sieves, and mattresses, in Silver Street, Stockton.
It now makes pressure vessels and incinerators for chemical firms and sump tanks for laboratory modules in the oil and gas industries, and is working on the Knarr field, in the Norwegian North Sea, which is estimated to contain about 55 million barrels of oil, and the Ichthys liquified natural gas project off the coast of Western Australia.
Jamie Brown, managing director, said its strong order book had allowed it to expand its headquarters and increase its global recognition.
He said: “The marketplace was very buoyant last year, and although there was a slower start to 2013, this year is now increasing as well.
“The markets are continuing to fluctuate, but we focus on a broad mix of work with different customers in oil and gas and renewable energy.
“An example of that success was when we worked on an offshore cable laying plough that was damaged while working on the seabed.
“It had to come into port, costing £100,000 a day, so we worked around the clock to get the repairs done.
“The Chinese order was also a great boost because although there are cheaper local manufacturers, that company recognise our products' quality.”
The company's welding skills were used to erect sections of the world's largest tidal turbine, now operating in the Orkney Islands, and Mr Brown said such expertise had won the trust of customers, bringing further opportunities to keep growing.
He said: “We've got about 30 per cent extra capacity, which has allowed us to develop areas for different materials.
“We have been able to put in place a clean room for stainless steel fabrication, and are using the extra space to offer assembly and finishing services for carbon steel.
“A number of customers have already taken this up because they see the benefit of equipment that can be unloaded and installed immediately, rather than having to be assembled on site.”
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