Green Port Hull | Innovative Hull firm Challenger Handling doubles…
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John Sanderson, of Challenger Handling

Challenger Handling Limited designs and manufactures bespoke equipment for the recycling and materials handling industries, and was launched in Hull in 1996.

Over the past seven years, the company has designed and exported equipment to countries across the globe, including New Zealand, Russia, Israel, Argentina, Spain and Norway.

It now has an export order book of close to £1m, including contracts for Romania, Israel and Lebanon, and has grown turnover to about £2.4m – up from £1.5m in 2012.

John Sanderson, sales manager at Challenger, said: "We have increased export orders over the last six years, with exports currently making up about 20 per cent of our business.

"We have completed installations in places such as Canada, Norway, Sweden, South Africa, Poland, the Congo and Sudan, and we are working on current enquiries for Africa, Mexico, Spain and Poland.

"Our current export order value is approximately £1m, including all equipment for a medical waste treatment facility in Romania."

From equipment for the recycling of steel drums and baling equipment for animal bedding and fodder to materials handling and shredding equipment, Challenger designs and manufactures equipment for companies across a range of industries.

Recently, it manufactured and installed all of the equipment for a UK television recycling facility, while an email shot to all of Finland's timber firms resulted in a £250,000 contract.

The company has also received more than £100,000 of orders from Siemens in Hull, thanks to its participation in the Green Port Growth Programme.

Mr Sanderson said involvement with the programme had been key to Challenger's recent success.

He said: "I registered Challenger's interest in being listed as a supplier in the Green Port Growth programme when Green Port was first announced in 2012.

"This has assisted Challenger in a number of ways. It has provided financial assistance, which has enabled us to increase our facilities by buying the building next door, and subsequently increase the number of employees, from 14 to 22.

"We also became an accredited supplier to the Siemens development in Hull, supplying equipment required for the manufacture of blades.

"We are now looking to invest further in training and take on more people."

Mr Sanderson said while recent events such as Brexit had impacted Challenger's bottom line, it had also created further opportunities for growth.

"Competitiveness combined with the Made in Britain tag is still a strong selling point," he said.

"Challenger is the UK and Ireland agent for SSI Shredders of the USA, so the drop in the value of the pound against the dollar has cost us a significant amount of money. However, we will still remain profitable.

"I think the biggest opportunity for Challenger is the export market – since the drop in the pound we have seen a definite increase in export enquiries.

"The pound does seem to have stabilised, so although we will lose some of the sales for SSI Shredders in the UK we feel that this will be offset by an increase in export orders."

The business was founded in Dewsbury in 1988 as Challenger Hydraulics. In 1996, the firm took over a Hull conveyor manufacturer and Challenger Handling came into being, to develop the manufacturing of equipment.

In 2005, Challenger began developing the recycling equipment side of the business – a move Mr Sanderson said remained one of the firm's best ideas.

Speaking about the firm's success, he said Challenger's biggest asset was "without a doubt its employees", adding "we are fortunate in having a dedicated team of engineers, some of whom have been with the company since its inception in 1996.

"We always have at least one apprentice and are now actively looking for another.

"The skills gap is a real problem, though; it is here now and affects the whole industry, which is why we are looking to invest further in training.

"I think every business needs to make the effort to help plug that gap."

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