An Essex manufacturer is targeting a £10m jump in turnover after launching a new solution for the rail sector.
Dura Composites, which employs 35 people at its Clacton-on-Sea premises, has used its expertise in composite production to come up with a fibreglass station platform that allows railway stations to remain operational whilst addressing potentially dangerous stepping distances.
Designed in conjunction with feedback from installation partners and Network Rail, the ‘Dura Platform’ features a height adjustable sub-structure and, thanks to the characteristics of the material, will not suffer from compaction issues, is fully DDA compliant and reduces the likelihood of slips and falls.
The company, which has been supported by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), has already successfully trialed the solution, with interest now coming from all over the UK.
“Traditionally, our business has been heavily involved in supplying innovative fibreglass flooring and structures such as structural walkways, heavy duty trench covers and marine pontoon decking to name but a few,” explained Stuart Burns, who joined the company as a Director after moving from Heinz in 2007.
“This still forms a core part of our offer, but we are also now looking at applying our technology to new markets. Rail is one such sector and we believe with the mix of products we can supply that we will see sales account for 15% of our turnover next year and rising to 25% by 2017.”
He continued: “The ‘Dura Platform’, conceived, designed and developed by our Commercial Director Tom Bowman, uses the latest breakthrough technology to offer a host of real benefits to the installer, the user and the station operator.
“Once this system is adopted by the first few stations we expect the cost savings and reduction in passenger disruption will mean that we will be manufacturing thousands of platforms every year.
“We have calculated that it is 25% more cost effective to use our solution than the existing alternative, which also means still having to close off parts of/or all of the station to complete works. Something nobody wants to see, endure or fund.”
MAS provided strategic support on the development of the new product and also secured grants to go towards the initial costs of setting up tooling.
This brought the project forward by a minimum of three months and allowed the company to start initial manufacture in April and to produce a full prototype of the platform for exhibition at Infrarail 2014 in May, where it received huge interest from UK rail contractors and Network Rail platform experts.
“The innovation does not stop there. Working with Advisor Victoria Tsoi, we are now in the process of bringing a further variant of the ‘Dura Platform’ to fruition,” added Stuart.
“The initial model was designed as a platform extension system, which could be massive when you consider the huge rail infrastructure projects currently being discussed in the UK to add more passenger capacity.
“The second model, which is already on the drawing board, has been conceived to offer a repair and refurbishment solution for situations where the gap between the platforms and the train step has increased out of gauge due to subsidence.”
Victoria Tsoi has been working with Dura Composites since 2013 and in that short time has already seen a huge amount of progress and applications for two patents.
She said: “The company has always been at the forefront of composite technology, but until recently has not maximised its impact in the rail sector.
“We sat down with Stuart and his team to look at how they could transfer their composites expertise into this industry and they quickly came up with a solution that could change the way the sector operates forever.”
Dura Composites is planning to create up to 20 jobs in the next three years, taking the workforce to 55 people.
Longer-term, the firm has a three-year plan to increase turnover from £7m to £17m by 2017.