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Vortok on track for a bright future
03/07/2009 | Channel:
New Products & Services
Vortok International designs and manufactures bespoke products for railways around the world, and is thriving as governments try to jump-start economies with public spending, particularly as many are pumping cash into railways.
“We’re in a market where money is being spent,” said Vortok managing director Peter Shrubsall. “The railways are part of national economies and are being used by governments around the world to help kick-start economies out of recession. Governments are investing in railways and, as a consequence, there are opportunities for companies like us.”
Vortok has been so successful that, during the past decade, it has grown from seven employees to 20 and is recruiting for an important addition to the team at present. “We’re just delighted to be thriving in Plymouth and providing opportunities for local VORTOKpeople and supplier companies.”
The firm has grown so much, however, that in March it had to move into larger premises and, on 2nd June, it officially opened its new factory at the Langage Science Park. Among 50 specially invited guests were Jean Pierre Colliault, the chief executive of Vortok’s ‘grandparent’ the Delachaux Group.
France-based Delachaux is among the world’s largest suppliers of rail welding equipment and has factories world-wide. Vortok’s parent firm is actually the Pandrol Group, which bought it in 1992, but this in turn is owned by the Delachaux holding conglomerate. Vortok was formed in 1975 and moved to Plymouth in 1985. In the early 1990s it was a single-product company that was attractive to Pandrol, itself an international company and market leader in rail fastenings.
“The one product we had back then, the famous Vortok Coil, complemented their products,” explained Mr Shrubsall, “but since 1997 we have been on a growth programme and have innovated successfully.”
Vortok was originally based at a Plymouth City Council-owned industrial unit in Belliver but found it too cramped. The new base is about 12 years old, but had recently become available. Vortok’s new HQ is called Innovation House, which is appropriate as the firm landed the innovation prize at last year’s National Rail Awards, and innovation has been the key to its success.
“We now have 60 products that we sell around the world,” said Mr Shrubsall. “We do all the design and evaluation, use local suppliers to manufacture the components and then we assemble them. “It’s because of our international business that we have been able to thrive and move to these premises – despite the economic climate in the UK.”
The company sells to all the major European markets, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia. It also has customers in the USA, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Australia and China. “It’s a world-wide business,” said Mr Shrubsall. “We have been able to bring innovative solutions to railway problems.” He said the firm produced ‘unique’ and ‘niche’ products, none of which had a head-to-head competitor. The firm’s website (www.vortok.co.uk) lists a range of technologies, including magnets, insulators and even safety barriers.
“If it’s track, overhead line or signalling systems, we can help,” said Mr Shrubsall. “We’ve solved several problems that no one else has been able to solve. We have a
reputation for approaching problems in a different, and often radical, way. People come to us for ideas – we can’t solve them all but we have been successful. That has resulted in our product range being useful to railway companies around the world.”
Vortok is perhaps best known in the UK for the Vortok Coil, Safety Barrier, Verse and Stressing Rollers, however in recent years Vortok has seen significant growth to its exports. Typical of this is the range of quick-fit balise mounting arms that are currently being deployed across Europe and beyond, in relation to ERTMS projects.
Vortok continues to develop new and innovative products, several of which are currently under development. Richard Robertson, the sales and marketing director, said that “the key to the company’s success has been the ability to engineer solutions that give the customer significant cost savings whilst improving both quality and safety standards.”
World-wide governmental investment into railway systems, such as ERTMS, is helping this UK manufacturing firm ride out the recession and expand into bigger premises. Vortok is always looking to provide the innovative solution to the trickiest of problems.
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Tel: 01752 349 200