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Kimmel Bay global engineering firm propelled by £1.6m boost


November 27, 2023 - 486 views

The growth of a specialist engineering company that keeps the world’s airlines flying is being jet-propelled by a £1.6 million investment package.

According to Jeff Wirth, the managing director of Continental Diamond Tool, on the Tir Llwyd Industrial Estate in Kinmel Bay, the rapid expansion is down to a perfect combination of the Welsh work ethic and American backing.

As part of the company’s expansion plans,  it has opened a second production unit across the road to house its new electro-plating operation which has received support from the Welsh Government.

The niche outfit – one of only two companies of its kind in the UK  – which employs 40 people and makes a range of diamond-encrusted rotary dressers and grinders which are used in a variety of manufacturing industries, including aerospace, automotive, medical and semi-conductors.

In the aerospace industry, the company’s rotary diamond dressers are used to manufacture parts for engines used in Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner aircraft, as well as the Airbus range A330-A380 whose wings are made at the giant Airbus factory in Broughton.

More than 60 per cent of the company’s products are exported to 30 countries, with sales growing particularly strongly across Europe and Asia, as well as North America.

The company, which celebrates its 40th anniversary next year, was founded originally as Consort Precision Diamond, specialising in manufacturing rotary dressers which can take up to 20,000 industrial diamonds to make each one.

Then in 2018, with the original management team having reached or nearing retirement age, it was bought and rebranded in a timely takeover by Continental Diamond Tool, based in New Haven, Indiana.

At that time the Kinmel Bay factory’s rotary dressers were sold mainly to the aerospace industry and when the Covid pandemic struck around 75 per cent of the orders were wiped out after passenger planes were grounded.

Potential disaster was averted by diversifying the product range, allied to the  determination of the workforce and the investment and energy of the new owners.

During a weeklong visit from the States, Jeff Wirth, who’s also the engineering manager of the parent company, said: “It would have sunk most companies but we had already started our diversification and we had started a pretty significant culture change here.

“Sales are now at a record high. Over the past five years we have achieved more than 70 per cent growth in the Rotary Diamond Dresser product line in Kinmel Bay, despite the negative effects to the economy from Covid.

“We now added our second product line to make electro-plated grinding wheels here, along with a CNC lathe and a custom built precision grinder for finishing of rotary dressers. Together they will  help us increase capacity by 40 per cent.

“It all adds up to a £1.6 million investment already and we’re getting ready planning the next stage of our expansion here.”

The company’s owner and CEO, Nick Viggiano, added: “We believe in the workforce here, we believe in the people and their work ethic and their can do spirit, which is really our strength, along with pride in their work. In New Haven, Indiana, the culture is the same.

“In that sense, it’s a little old school which is a good thing for us. We just take modern technologies and join it with that culture and it’s a win, win.

Managing Director Jeff Wirth added “Because the rotary market is the toughest one it is also supply limited and, because finding the right workforce and training them is difficult, the larger companies are shrinking their capacity.

“We’ve seen supply chain disruptions in Europe since Covid which is something I’ve never seen in 35  years. We anticipated those disruptions and we’re getting opportunities I would never have imagined before.

“Our main competitors to this day are not at pre-Covid numbers – we blew away our pre-Covid numbers a year after Covid started and by the second year we were exceeding them. We continue to  grow market share.

“At the moment we’re much smaller in Europe which has the same size market as North America but we’re only scratching the surface so the potential is unlimited for us.”

That spectacular success has not gone unnoticed as the company was shortlisted as a finalist in three categories at the West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce’s Recognition Awards – Business of the Year, International Trade and Export and Business Growth.

It’s a source of great pride to production manager Justin Hughes who’s been working at the Kinmel Bay site for the past 17 years.

He said:  “We’ve got the backing of the American parent company behind us which enables us to push forward with machinery, people and aim at new markets because we have a big safety net behind us.

“It gives us reassurance and confidence as we continue to grow and develop.”

It was a sentiment echoed by finance manager Michaela Lawton who added: “The new energy and substantial investment brought by the new owners has been a game changer.

“We’ve also had a good relationship with the Welsh Government for some time and the latest support we’ve had was the £90,000 we received from the Smart Cymru fund to help with the new technology that we introduced through the electro-plated product.

“The company is on an upward trajectory in terms of growth, turnover, profit and being able to further diversify our product range is the next step forward.

“It’s a very exciting place to work and the sky really is the limit.”