Generations of Denfords at cutting edge of business

FOR almost 60 years it has been helping young people enjoy and excel at design and technology.

Brighouse firm Denford Ltd has spent the decades building its stellar reputation as a leading manufacturer of computer-aided design and manufacturing solutions for the education sector.

While other manufacturers have floundered in the recession, Denford Ltd has gone from strength to strength – enabling it to move into new purpose-built premises at Armytage Road.

Managing director Simon Moorhouse puts the company's success down to a proactive approach.

"We've looked at expanding our range and bringing new and affordable products to market as quickly as possible," he says.

"It's been absolutely fantastic in this type of economy."

The plush new headquarters, which house the company's manufacturing facilities and office space, plus a dedicated showroom, demonstration and training facility, are a sign of confidence in the face of uncertain times ahead.

The firm is steeling itself for a challenge with education secretary Michael Gove's axe looming over the country's secondary schools – the firm's biggest market in the UK.

"We're very interested to see what Mr Gove has planned for education funding here in the UK," says Mr Moorhouse.

"The market appears to be holding up, quotations are good and enquiries are good.

"The order books are very healthy but the biggest challenge will be forecasting."

Nevertheless, the firm's longevity speaks for itself.

"We've had seven years of growth and over the last couple of years our sales revenue has been growing in excess of 35 per cent year-on- year," says Mr Moorhouse.

"The challenge will be keeping that going. But we're looking at new products and new markets and we'll continue to look at making sure we improve profit margins where ever we can."

The family firm dates back to the years before the Second World War. It was founded in Halifax by Horace Denford, the grandfather of the present chief executive Andrew Denford, before moving to Brighouse in the 1950s.

Initially it produced engineering inspection and measuring equipment and tool holders, before moving on to lathes, tool sharpening equipment, grinders and polishers.

Horace's son Gerald Denford took over the company in 1962 and steered it into the start of the Computer Numerical Control machine era before.

Andrew took the reins in 1987 and again developed new technologies, with his daughter Nicola as corporate affairs director.

Today, the business has a world-wide reputation for quality and technological excellence, exporting to schools, colleges and universities in more than 80 countries.

Its commitment to design and technology education goes above and beyond the machines it produces.

In addition, the company has founded and sponsored a number of projects that help students to use it, including the FT in Schools Technology Challenge.

"We're trying to engage students in the process of design and manufacture, and show them manufacturing and engineering isn't the old fashioned, dirty industry they might think – it's highly technical, it's interesting, well-paid and a career we'd like students to get involved in."