Precision engineering company invests £500,000 & sees turnover triple

A  South Yorkshire precision engineering company, which has invested half a million pounds in new machinery, has seen its turnover triple.

Electrical discharge machining company Erodatools has spent £500,000 on six new precision cutting machines in the past two years.  It now has 23 machines to meet the demand for its highly specialised services.

The Penistone-based company, whose past clients include Rolls Royce, BAE Systems and BNFL, was set up 42 years ago by brothers Ken and Tony Rolfe.

It has become one of the leading specialists in its field in the region and is based in a purpose built 8,500 sq ft factory, from which it provides both wire and spark erosion services.

The company is receiving advice from business support programme Enterprising Barnsley, run by Barnsley Council.

In 1990 the company was destroyed by fire and lost its premises and all of its machinery.

Managing director Ken Rolfe said: “The fire raised our building to the ground and it was really traumatic for everyone involved.  It had a massive impact on our business at the time.

“Despite the set-back we managed to rebuild the company and, even in the current economic climate, we have tripled our turnover in the past five years.”

Electrical discharge machining (EDM) is a manufacturing process whereby a particular shape is created using electrical discharges or sparks. EDM can be used to cut intricate contours or cavities in pre-hardened steel without the need for heat treatment to soften and re-harden the metal.

Erodatools was originally based in a workshop owned by William Gittus, a firm which built and repaired railway wagons, and it continues to manufacture components for the railway industry to this day.

It also works across a wide range of other industrial sectors, including aerospace, marine and automotive, petro-chemicals and textiles, nuclear energy, surgical, military and oil and gas exploration.

“Our investment in new machinery has meant that we are capable of increasing profitability and we have the capacity to serve a variety of industries,” said Ken.

“We have always been inventive and innovative and like to find ways of solving problems.  We love the challenge and it has become a way of life.”

The company can handle pieces up to five tonnes and can machine as small as   three microns, which is three millionths of a metre.

And, with electricity bills reaching around £30,000 a year, Erodatools has gained support from Northern Powergrid to install a new electricity substation which will benefit the industrial site where it is based.

Ken is proud of the family-run business.  Daughters Caroline and Charlotte have joined son Chris and nephew Phil who are both longstanding employees. The company now has 10 staff and turnover is increasing year on year.

Enterprising Barnsley has helped Erodatools with advice on accounting and production planning.

“We realised we needed help with computerising our systems so we approached Enterprising Barnsley, and they’ve been brilliant,” said Ken.

Andy Arnold, of Enterprising Barnsley, said: “We are delighted that the company is investing in new machinery and doing so well.

“They are one of only ten companies in Yorkshire offering such specialised services and it’s a great success story, particularly considering they had to recover from a terrible fire.

“There is clearly a strong demand for precision engineering in a wide range of industries and it’s brilliant that we have such expertise right here in South Yorkshire.”

Ken Rolfe, managing director of Erodatools

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