Never did Dean Clark dream that his family engineering business would be transformed by making hydrotherapy spas and treadmills for horses.
But the move into the equine industry has seen DC Engineering from Swaffham in Norfolk race ahead, with orders for its high-end equipment doubling since last year, and now it is ready to maximise that potential after receiving support through New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership’s Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme.
The initiative was launched by the LEP last year to support businesses during Covid with short-term resilience projects and longer-term recovery and diversification ones. So far, it has awarded over £4.8m to 123 projects, generating nearly £7.5m of private match funding.
The pandemic hit DC Engineering incredibly hard. Eight members of the team tested positive for Covid and two of them were hospitalised. One is still off work recovering from the effects of the virus.
That put the firm out of action for the first two months of the year and brought its manufacturing to a halt. Even when it was able to resume its operations, Covid restrictions made transporting ECB Equine Ltd.’s in-demand treadmills to clients over the world a real challenge.
Dean Clark had heard about the Business Resilience and Recovery Scheme which, as well as grants, offers companies dealing with the effects of the outbreak fully funded support from a panel of consultants. He was looking into investing in a new piece of equipment and wanted advice about how its premises at the Ecotech Business Park could be redesigned to allow for both the equipment and socially distancing.
His application to New Anglia Growth Hub, which administers the scheme, was quickly approved and consultant Steve Palmer from WLP Consulting went into the company to review its layout.
“It just opened so many doors for us in terms of the opportunities we had,” said Dean. “He helped us look at the manufacturing and material costs and even how we went about our work, such as whether parts we needed were within easy reach.
“We were already doing a lot of it and with the extra things we learned, we reconfigured the workplace and now use that information every day. We are also completely on board with lean manufacturing in terms of removing costs out of these equine treadmills.”
Steve Palmer, Practice Principal & Director at WLP, said the LEP scheme had been “incredibly useful” for the businesses he had worked with and that the two days of support was ideal for business of all sizes.
“DC Engineering is a small family firm with the father, mother, son and daughter all working in the company. They are very hard working and committed to moving the business forward. They now have orders for double what they sold last year, so they have issues around capacity to make these treadmills.
“This support has allowed them to explore things they would perhaps not have had the time to do otherwise and the fact that there is no charge for it also really helps.”
It was by quite chance that the engineering firm which provides equipment for construction, agriculture and other sectors ended up producing horse spas. On the back of a recommendation, Dean received a phone call from Ean Branston, who wanted a sole company in the UK to manufacture the treadmills on behalf of ECB Equine Ltd. He was in the local area and asked if he could drop by and see him.
That was towards the end of 2016, and the link-up with the company, which is headquartered in the UK and the USA, has transformed DC Engineering. Clients are located all over the world and have included: Hamad bin Isa Al Khalif, King of Bahrain; Cian O’Connor, Irish Show Jumper; USA Dressage Olympian Kasey Perry; and Trainer of the 2017 Grand National Winer, Lucinda Russell.
ECB Equine Ltd products include cold saltwater hydrotherapy spas and mobile spas. The aqua treadmills and high-speed treadmills operate at speeds of up to 12km/h and 12 degrees of incline.
It has been a hugely successful journey, but with steep learning curves along the way. Dean said: “There was lots of R&D and it was a struggle to start with. We totally redesigned the machine and introduced filtration. We are now on machine 36 and it is perceived to be the best you can buy. You can interface with it and control it remotely via your iPhone.
“Some buy it for rehab and put the horses through an agreed recovery programme to build up the injured muscles. Others are eventers or racing stable yards which want to improve the horses’ stamina and fitness.”
For more information or to discuss the eligibility of your project, contact the New Anglia Growth Hub on 0300 333 6536 or email [email protected]