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Feature: Ulster Engineering re-emerge

When it came to shredders, Ulster Engineering was one of the biggest names around. Then it all went quiet as the company hit hard times. But now the manufacturer is springing back and getting ready to reposition itself as one of the main names people think of when considering shredders.

“It is true to say that you will see more of Ulster Engineering,” says general manager Elliott Martin. “Our name had disappeared. But now we are back.”

Formed in the early 1970s, Ulster began as a sub-contractor for engineering companies, mainly doing aerospace work. But when it got into shredders, the company’s fortune changed and it became the best known manufacturer — mainly for the paper and confidential document industry. It was famed for the quality of its products — its Ulster Shredder in particular being a hallmark for kit that did the job it was bought for.

“It is fair to say that we were probably the main manufacturer of shredders,” says Martin.
Yet despite its success over the years, the fortunes of the company, based in Ballyclare, Northern Ireland, began to slide until it was a shadow of its former self.

“The business was in a bit of a downer,” says Martin. “There was a lack of investment on the production line, in the product and the people.

This was one of the main issues. The four directors [who owned the company] wanted to move on. They were looking at other things and the decision was made to sell. They all had other business interests and one of them retired.”

In October last year, Ulster Engineering was
bought by trailer manufacturer SDC and the renewed energy and drive brought to the company by the new owner has sparked a hive of activity at the factory.

“The new owner has completely revitalised the business,” says Martin. “SDC saw it as a good opportunity because recycling is a growth market.

It also wanted to manufacture a product to sell — it didn’t just want an engineering firm, but one that made something.”

The purchase has had an immediate effect on all parts of the business. “The impact of the new owner has been felt on the shop floor. Morale is up and there is certainly renewed enthusiasm. SDC has also bought new equipment. We are beginning to advertise and attend shows again, which we haven’t done for quite some time.”

The next stage for the firm is to begin to invest in both the current range of shredders that begin with a 7.5kW (10hp) machine to a 112kW (150hp) piece of kit, as well as new, more powerful machinery.

Martin says: “We want to look at our range. We want to extend our products up to a 200hp shredder that could work in materials recycling facilities as well as a new mobile machine. This is just the initial stage; we are planning for expansion. Our drive is to grow the business.”

Martin and the team at Ulster Engineering are also looking at ways to make their business more efficient: “We want to streamline the manufacturing process to help us grow. We were a household name, so to speak, in the paper recycling/confidential document business. But we can see ourselves getting into rubber and plastics and household waste.”

The company has even begun to export its shredders with machinery go

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