How will E+R Group double in size in just five years?

Recently, we sat down with Andy Jack and Nicholas Butcher from E+R Group (E+R). Andy joined as Sales Director four years ago, while Nick has been with the business since 2014.

As Product Development Director, it is Nick’s job to assist the business in developing its coating and laminating division, while also adding new, cutting-edge vacuum technology to E+R’s asset portfolio.

Aided by Nick and his team, E+R has gone on to become one of several companies that can manufacture both atmospheric- and vacuum-based coating machinery.

Andy begins the interview by telling us a bit about E+R’s rich history. “We have been around for over 100 years,” he says. “In fact, we are turning 105 this year.

“The company began life in the textile, leather, and cloth industries in the early 1900s, moving into a new field in the 1970s: the paper and wallcovering industry.

“Then, from the 1990s onwards, we divested the business into the automotive sector, and then in early 2000’s purchased the Intellectual Property (IP) for coating and laminating from a company called Dixon.

“In 2014, we began our vacuum group, and since then have had strong success in these two sectors, culminating in our recent move to a new application center, where Nick and I now reside.”

When it comes to key differentiators that set the firm apart, Nick is keen to sing E+R’s praises. “As a company that prides itself on innovation, we provide the capital machinery that enables the manufacturing of low carbon products,” he explains.

“To give you an idea, these products include production systems for batteries serving automotive and the aerospace sector as well as small scale batteries for micro devices. Then we have machinery aimed at producing back and top contacts for solar powered systems. We are really proud to be rolling out equipment for PV energy generation.

“Another example would be our machinery to aid in manufacturing of low emission glass replacements, which use thin polyesters, allowing us to provide infrared and ultraviolet (UV) rejection. Of course, this will inevitably reduce demand for air conditioning, lowering overall emissions,” says Nick.

At the cutting edge

More recently, E+R has become more heavily involved in developing ribbons and coatings, which can be used in the nuclear fusion technologies of the future, working towards superconducting tokamaks. As Nick notes, by working on small scale nuclear reactors, the company is helping to keep costs down when manufacturing different parts of the system.

“As you can tell,” adds Andy, “we are very much operating at the cutting edge, particularly in our development center. We work with a variety of start-ups and major blue-chip companies.

“And that is globally, I might add – from the US to Asia. Some are supported and funded by governments. Currently, we have over 20 active projects in discussion. All are taking place in the center.”

We are particularly interested in how government-funded projects come about. “Well,” explains Nick. “It begins with a call in the public domain, so a post will be put up on the government’s website.

“We work in collaboration with three or four different organizations, and we take note when there is a specific need to develop a new IP. Then between us, we agree that there will be some form of joint development and collaboration as a collective.

“Typically, we ensure that we have an end user, manufacturer, and university involved,” he goes on. “As well as an IP developer that intends to license the technology. Between the four of us, we will then decide if we should put in a bid for the program if the funding support meets our timelines.”

If successful, then the team will execute the task with precision and panache. In fact, as Nick tells us, for the best part of the last year, E+R has been successful in this regard – with each case related to batteries. Previously, though, the company found its calling during the pandemic.

Indeed, E+R has worked diligently on an anti-Covid layering program, building anti-microbial layers with its machinery for surface applications which were then deployed in railway stations.

That is not all the firm has to be proud about. With more than 50 world-firsts to its name, E+R really has got a lot to write home about.

“Because of the nature of our business,” says Andy, “which is to build machinery that other people do not, we are involved at the cutting edge of technology.

“So we create highly bespoke pieces of equipment, and because of that, we end up developing, in some cases, world-firsts.”

Addressing market gaps

That is the modest way of putting it. But we want to know more. “Naturally, we cannot name clients or machine names, however we recently shipped one piece of equipment that had not one but two world-firsts in it,” Andy smiles. “It had never been done before.”

It is clearly a source of pride for the duo. It is one of the reasons they both enjoy life at E+R. Another reason is the people involved.

“We have got an incredibly strong team here,” says Nick. “They support the innovation applications, among other things, allowing us to always stay one step ahead.

“In my team, for instance, I have a very talented base of chemists, physicists, and experienced commissioning engineers,” he goes on. “As a consequence, that experience means we can call on a really strong level of tools that we have all established over the years from various applications across the globe.

“Together, we can target all that shared knowledge and grasp emerging opportunities in the market. The interesting point here is that, because we have such a diverse portfolio of experience in different industries, we can take solutions from one – say, energy-storage – and apply that to another sector.

“Those within the latter will not be aware of the solution from the former, but by effectively cross-pollinating, we can bring a wealth of knowledge and both novel and existing solutions to emerging gaps in markets.”

With these strong foundations for innovation, E+R has its sights on a promising future. “In five years, I believe we will have doubled the size of the company,” asserts Andy. “That is part of our new company strategy, and it certainly feels tangible.”

Nick’s also keen to add his forecasts for the company. “Within that same time frame,” he concludes, “the plan is to also put more energy into our decarbonization targets, bringing us closer towards becoming a net zero company.

“Our first priority, in that sense, is to fulfil the promises we have made to our customers and our staff. I think the key will be making more forward thinking decisions, which will inevitably pull us towards an impressive future.”