A patent for quality
With roots dating back to 1838 and the formation of Kell, Meats & Co, Helipebs Controls Ltd. has evolved into a world-leading manufacturer of hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders, valves and systems
Encompassing nearly 200 years of history and manufacturing experience, Helipebs Controls Ltd. is still a family owned business and is an internationally recognised authority in cylinder and valve engineering technology. While the company’s Helipeb technology was introduced in 1912, the history of Helipebs begins with the formation of Kell, Meats & Co. in the design and manufacture of agricultural implements and machines in Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire. Helipeb stands for Helical Pebble and in 1912 the company’s founder invented the Helipeb, which is a helical pebble that is used to more efficiently grind cement into dust; this technology was subsequently patented around the world. Helipebs Controls was established in 1969 to manufacture valves for steam and naval applications from its base in Gloucester.
Today, Helipebs Controls is recognised across the world for the delivery of hydraulic cylinders, pneumatic cylinders, servo actuators, valves and hydraulic systems for markets including Formula 1, oil and gas, aerospace, pharmaceutical, green energy and tool making applications. As a result of its impressive growth within the export market the company has been recognised for its excellence in export by the 2016 Queen’s Award for Enterprise – the UK’s highest accolade for business success. Helipebs Controls won The Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade having grown its overseas sales by 142 per cent between 2013 and 2015, which the company achieved by extending its product range from quality standardised hydraulic cylinders to bespoke items, often serving the most rigorous and safety critical industries in the world. “Currently 45 per cent of everything that we manufacture is sold overseas and indirectly around three quarters of our equipment ends up abroad. It was these results that allowed us to win the prestigious Queen’s Award for Enterprise: International Trade during 2016 because our export growth has been excellent in recent years,” elaborates Managing Director of Helipebs Controls, Andrew Hopcraft. “We are massively proud of this achievement because the standards required of a Queen’s Awards are extremely difficult to reach and we have had to be very consistent in the way that we grew the business. To do this it is important to have the entire company continuously improving and working towards a common goal, which is something that I certainly think we do.”
The strength of Helipebs Controls is reinforced by the company’s longstanding relationship with the American, Cincinnati-based Sheffer Corporation. The partnership between the two companies was established in 1970, when Helipebs began to manufacture Sheffer cylinders under licence in Gloucester with this co-operation still going strong today. “We have been working with Sheffer since 1970 and think of them as a true partner and our best friends in the world. Sheffer typically supplies clients in both North and South America, while we cover Europe and the rest of the world. This means that between us we can provide & support almost any product relating to hydraulic cylinders or systems to anybody around the world and we meet with Sheffer regularly to share best industry practice and ideas,” Andrew reveals. “If a technology or component has been manufactured in America and is used within Europe we can help Sheffer in dealing with a customer in Germany for example, while Sheffer can help to support us with our products in the US. We work very closely with the company in that respect and wouldn’t be here in the same shape without that partnership.”
Further to establishing strong international relationships through its international sales force, co-operation with Sheffer and a comprehensive client portfolio, Helipebs Controls maintains a strong culture of research, development and innovation. The company designs and manufacturers standard ‘off-the-shelf’ hydraulic cylinders and pneumatic cylinders, as well as bespoke servo actuators and hydraulic systems. Helipebs Controls has recently expanded its product portfolio to expand on its traditional line of tie rod cylinders to include a new range of welded cylinders. “There are several ways to produce cylinders and as a business we have typically produced tie rod cylinders, primarily because they normally have a long service life, are very easy to repair and can withstand very high pressures better than other constructions. Another way to produce cylinders is through welded construction, where rather than holding the unit together with tie rods, key components are welded together. There are some advantages to this style of product and indeed some clients at the quality end of the market prefer that technology, for example in specific offshore applications ” Andrew explains. “The issue for us has always been the quality and sealing of those kinds of cylinders but we have discovered a new methodology for sealing welded cylinders and we think that we now have a very high quality product that we can take to market and we are launching that range of cylinders now.”
At the core of the company’s cylinder and hydraulic system manufacturing is a consistent culture of continuous improvement and quality, which was further highlighted by Helipebs Controls achieving ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 certification and Fit for Nuclear accreditation throughout 2016. These will strengthen the business as it continues to grow and develop its presence with both new and existing clients. “Specifically there are two areas that we are focusing on as a business. The first is diversifying where we operate. We have had one or two segments that have dominated our business and we have done very well with those, but there are others where we feel that we could expand,” Andrew concludes. “Secondly we are also looking at how we might use current technologies such as electronics that are embedded into the systems more effectively. We have also recently been shortlisted for The MX Manufacturer Awards and are currently 18 months into a five-year plan were we are very clear about what is in and out of that plan, which helps us to focus on what we do. We also communicate that continuously, using regular team briefs, company meetings, appraisals and even posters around the site. Therefore the strategic intent of the business is known by everybody and everybody knows what part they have to play in driving the business forward.”
Helipebs Controls Ltd.
Products: A leading manufacturer of hydraulic and pneumatic cylinders and systems