AN ENGINEERING firm has invented a new type of automatic vehicle which will help it grow annual turnover by £1m to £2.5m and open a factory in Europe.
County Durham-based A-Tech has developed a new automated guided vehicle (AGV) for use in factories that has attracted the attention of a number of global manufacturers.
Unlike other AGVs, which navigate using GPS or pre-programmed hardware, A-Tech’s automated tow truck is guided by magnetic floor tape. As a result, it is approximately half the cost of existing industrial AGVs.
Spanish car parts maker Gestamp has already invested in the product for its Sunderland plant, meaning staff no longer have to leave production lines to manually tow components. Interest has also been registered by Nissan and logistics firm Vantec, via their respective Sunderland plants.
Since its inception over 30 years ago, A-Tech has largely been a fabrications business but recently diversified into also developing electronic equipment such as conveyors. The automated tow truck is the first of a number of AGVs it plans to develop using its patented navigation system.
By 2019 the company expects annual turnover to grow by £1m to £2.5m, with around £500,000 being generated by AGV sales in that time.
The firm, which employs 30 people at its Newton Aycliffe site, also plans to open a facility in Poland to service the European divisions of its global manufacturing clients.
It has already purchased land in Poznan but is awaiting more clarity on the Brexit deal before construction work begins.
Director William Manners said: “Initially we’re targeting our AGV at the automotive industry but it could have applications in many other sectors, including pharmaceuticals, shipping and food and drink manufacturing.
“A-Tech is established in the supply chains of several multi-national firms, which will aid the process of rolling out the AGV system globally. Opening a site in Europe will also give us a huge boost logistically and will generate new opportunities at our North East headquarters.”
The launch of A-Tech’s AGV was supported by RTC North, which helps businesses commercialise new products and services and train companies in innovation management and business improvement.
A-Tech accessed the RTC’s ‘Designing Better Business’ programme receiving grant funding and support in the design and development of the product. Designing Better Business is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020
Designing Better Business programme manager and RTC director Jamie Ollivere said: “A-Tech’s new system is looking to take the AGV market in a slightly new direction. It comes with a simple and reliable operating system and has a real focus on safety. The product itself and the partnerships that are being put in place mean that A-Tech’s AGV has great potential in UK and international markets. I am sure by being bold, diversifying, it will pay off and open up exciting new avenues for the firm.”
For more information on A-Tech, which is based on Aycliffe Business Park, visit www.a-tech.uk.com.