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Flexible Technology expecting profit after a revival

Flexible Technology, the Bute-based printed circuits manufacturer, expects to turn a profit this year and restart recruitment, after landing new customers and seeing a revival in some of its markets.

Founded at Rothesay in 1981 by Professor Peter Timms and two fellow ex-IBM engineers, FlexTech has recently put its workforce back onto full-time working after two years of short-time and a 25% slimming of head-count since 2011.

In 2013 the company made a loss of around £100,000, according to abbreviated accounts just filed at Companies House.

But Professor Timms, 70, who owns 92% of the company, said: "We are just back into profit, we are busy, orders have increased and we have a bundle of customers."

He said: "It is almost entirely new customer growth, because the defence work which has been one of our mainstays has been pretty flat. There aren't many opportunities for growth there, but in a number of products away from government spending in this country and overseas there are opportunities, and we have been fortunate enough to get hold of two or three."

On which sectors they were in, Prof Timms said "medical electronics.....new products for which there is no competition".

Three years ago FlexTech lost work for flight control systems for Airbus aircraft, which it had done for over a decade as sub-contractor for another UK company, believed to be BAE Systems, when the work went to Germany. Now some avionics work has returned, while there has also been some "reshoring" in sectors which had moved work to the Far East, Prof Timms said.

He added: "Whilst these are not significant on their own, they do reflect the long lead times which are typical of scheduling in the Far East. The Chinese want to know what they are doing for the next few months and plan it down to the last minute, many of our customers want to be able to order every month because that way they can manage demand and stocks much more accurately."

In the healthcare sector, where FlexTech lost work for patient-monitoring equipment in the NHS to the Far East a few years ago, there had been no further work lost, Prof Timms said, but the UK health service budgets were still under severe pressure.

The company has now invested over £30,000 in new process equipment which Prof Timms said had been in the pipeline for a while.

On this year's performance, he said: "I have got fingers and toes crossed as we speak." Compared with two years ago FlexTech now had good order visibility, whereas at that time "we didn't know what we were doing from one month to the next", the founder said. There was now "more employment reliability and the possibility of recruitment in the near future". FlexTech currently employs 41 at Rothesay, where it is a major private sector employer.

Prof Timms is a former chairman of Caledonian MacBrayne and chairman of HIE Ventures, J&S Marine, Scottish Electronics Technology Group and Smartpower.

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