24 May 2012
Unison tube benders in demand
Scarborough-based Unison (www.unisonltd. com) says that 2012 looks set to be a ground-breaking year, with its first-quarter order book three-times the size that it was last year. Over 10 of the tube-bending machines currently on order are destined for export, with some going to the company’s traditional markets of the USA, Western Europe and Scandinavia, and the rest to Latin America, Asia and Africa.
After a record year in 2011 — with the company building more machines than ever before, increasing its head-count by almost 20% and leasing 8,000ft2 of additional space — the latest order surge is prompting it to expand again and recruit new staff. CEO Alan Pickering says: “The tube-bending industry has decided to switch toall-electric machines, and our track record with this technology — unequalled, as we pioneered all-electric benders in the 1990s — has given us the richest tube-bending capability on offer today. We are now building machines at a rate some three-times higher than we were a year ago.”
Unison attributes its success to a number of factors, including the current ‘pick-up’ of activity in the North American market and its continued investment in R&D throughout the recent downturn. “Like a lot of manufacturers, we often develop new technology to satisfy customer requests, but we also invest in pure R&D, which is unusual; for example, we have just committed to spending three quarters of a million pounds on one new generic project. In all, we are spending some 10% of our turnover on R&D, which is probably two- or three-times what many of our competitors spend.”
One of the company’s recent generic R&D projects — an iPhone app that allows users to quickly determine the tooling needed for a particular bending task — is already paying dividends; over 3,000 people have downloadedit in less than nine months.