An engineering business behind a striking Covid memorial is investing in young people as it looks to build a bright future.
R.A.F Engineering, like many businesses, put its expansion plans on ice to ensure it could deal with the economic impact of Brexit, Covid, war in Ukraine, and increased energy bills. Now the company, based in Workington, Cumbria, is setting its sights on the growth and diversification which it previously planned.
Rafal Gibki and Aneta Gibka took over the company, formerly Hudson Swan, five years ago, with ambitious plans to develop the business. Having successfully steered the company through a turbulent economy, Rafal and Aneta are fully focused on building the company. They are already ahead of schedule on their revised plans after reaching a £1m turnover target last month.
Aneta said: “We had a vision five years ago when we bought the company. Brexit put a hold on a lot of things, then Covid and war in Ukraine. We had to fight to survive. We had to reassess what the situation meant for us as a business and manage our cash flow. Now we have stabilised, we can grow.”
“This year we set a target of reaching £1m in turnover and we already reached that last month so we are ahead of where we set our sights on being. It helps that even during difficult times we have continued to invest. We have bought five new machines and we have digitised the business through support from the Made Smarter initiative.”
“We have also continued to recruit young people and apprentices from Lakes College and have trained them up ourselves. Raf has a lot of experience in engineering so young people and apprentices who come here are gaining expertise and knowledge which is standing them, and the business, in good stead.”
“We do also want to recruit more experience into the business as well but recruiting young people the way we have has meant that we have been able to continue to grow the company and, with Raf being such a good person to learn from, it has worked well.”
“We have also continued to focus on manufacturing quality products and giving good customer service by the speed of our turnaround and delivery times. That gives clients trust and confidence in doing business with us and we have managed to grow the company through building this reputation. We are very much open to collaboration with other businesses and organisations and are part of the Swimming With The Big Fish initiative with Solomons Europe.”
R.A.F, which employs 15 people, mainly from the Workington and Whitehaven areas, manufactures quality precision engineered and machined steel parts to a range of industries. Approximately 60 per cent of its customers are in the nuclear industry. It also supplies engineering, food and agricultural clients and plans to supply renewable and defence industries. Iggesund, TSP, and James Fisher in Cumbria, and Tata Steel in Port Talbot, are among R.A.F’s customers.
Most recently R.A.F Engineering manufactured a striking memorial to commemorate the victims of Covid which has been installed in a garden of remembrance at Workington’s Vulcan Park. The steel sculpture, designed by Steven Marshall, depicts a pair of hands around the world and was unveiled on March 23.
The business also tries to support other initiatives in the local community including sponsoring sports teams, first aid programmes, and internet safety initiatives for young people.
iSH Managing Director John Maddison said: “I was delighted to meet with Aneta and the team at R.A.F Engineering recently.”
“It’s another company in West Cumbria which is doing great things, open to collaboration, looking to diversify into new markets, investing in young people and new technologies and, with its success, looking to help the local community by supporting a range of initiatives.”
“Hearing what businesses like R.A.F are doing is another reason why the future is so bright for West Cumbria and why at iSH we are so excited about what can be achieved by further building the area’s capability and showcasing this expertise to new markets regionally, nationally and internationally.”