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How a Scottish engineering firm went from mobile phones to outer space

Walker Precision Engineering

Beside the Clyde

Headquartered in Glasgow, Walker Precision Engineering is a contract manufacturer, producing complex assemblies for the aerospace and defence sectors.

“We’re one of the only Scottish manufacturing companies supplying to all of the UK defence industry’s prime contractors,” says managing director Mark Walker.

From premises in Glasgow, Basildon and Poland, the family-owned business manufactures complex parts for the aerospace and defence industries.

Expertise in aerospace

After an introduction by BGF, Chris Melrose, ex-vice president of Bombardier Aerospace, joined the firm as non-executive chair.

BGF Talent Network  

‘Partner of choice’

The company has become the partner of choice when it comes to high-precision machining, specialist surface treatment and assembly capabilities. But Walker Precision Engineering hasn’t always focused on aerospace and defence – when it was founded in 1979, it was a much simpler affair.

“The company was founded by my late father who started out with a couple of manual milling and grinding machines,” says Mark. “He soon moved into supplying fixtures and tooling for the electronics industry – working for clients like IBM.”

In the mid-nineties, the company became a specialist in radio frequency equipment, supplying all of the test equipment for Motorola’s analogue mobile phones. But, when the mobile phone giant lost its competitive advantage, it transferred work from the UK to China.

“At that time Motorola had been roughly 90% of our business,” explains Mark. “Through sheer perseverance, hard work and good technical capabilities, we managed to break into the defence market.”

‘Keeps us focused’

With work in a brand new market gaining traction, Walker Precision Engineering started talking to BGF in 2012. They spent the best part of six years getting to know each other before BGF invested in early 2018 – backing the company with £4 million. “Building up trust over those initial years was very important,” says Mark.

“BGF’s support enabled us to invest in specialist machinery, increasing our capacity across our production sites in Glasgow, Basildon and Poland. They also helped to drive the organisational structure with a more formal monthly board meeting.”

Mark says BGF has been fantastic to work with and has given the company a level of confidence when it comes to calculated risk. “I have a lot of respect for the team – I would give any one of them a job and Chris Melrose, our non-executive director that BGF helped to place, is a fantastic sounding board. He keeps us focused.”

BGF's investment has allowed the firm to...

Increase investment in specialist machinery, increasing its high accuracy machining capacity.

Move its Basildon operations to a new, purpose-built facility.

Double the capacity of its manufacturing facility in Poland.

 

I have a lot of respect for the BGF team – I would give any one of them a job and Chris Melrose, our non-exec director that BGF helped to place, is a fantastic sounding board. He keeps us focused.

Mark Walker, managing director of Walker Precision Engineering

Remote corners of the earth

Turnover has grown from £14 million in 2017 to just shy of £20 million, and the company aims to hit £50 million in the next five years. Mark also expects to increase work with another burgeoning sector.

“We’re starting to do even more with the space industry which is great – we’ve recently provided all of the metal work for a large constellation of satellites which is aiming to provide better internet connection to people in the most remote corners of the earth.”

£4m

Initial investment from BGF to expand operations in the UK and mainland Europe.

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