Staffordshire firms are helping to win the fight against illegal drugs, weapons and people-smuggling following a £30 million investment in hi-tech x-ray security equipment.
Stoke-on-Trent firms EH Hassell and Sons and Wizard Systems have joined Rapiscan, one of the world’s largest producers of vehicle-mounted x-ray scanning equipment, in an operation supplying sophisticated mobile scanning machines for use at border checkpoints and airports.
The investment has helped create 150 new jobs, with production taking place across three sites in Trentham, Biddulph and nearby Congleton.
The scanning machines can detect anything from illegal immigrants and narcotics, to weapons and explosives. The growth in the business reflects the growing demand for new technology in security sector industries.
Bosses from Rapiscan’s head office in Surrey recently visited the operation to assess how the three companies were working together.
They first visited the two Stoke firms before moving on to Rapiscan’s own facilities in neighbouring Congleton.
The process involves Mercedes trucks being adapted at each step of the supply chain to manufacture a specific end product – a vehicle carrying mobile or gantry-style x-ray scanning equipment.
The operation has proved so successful there are now plans in place to double capacity in partnership with local firms.
Project manager Tony Joynson, of Staffordshire inward investment agency InStaffs, said: “We mustn’t underestimate the contribution the local area is making in the field of security.We should be proud that a company of Rapiscan’s international standing has chosen to invest so heavily in the Stoke-on-Trent area and this visit is an opportunity for all partners involved to see the good work that is being done at all three sites, and how they interact with each other as the product reaches its next stage.”
“The vehicles are exported and used across the world and we would certainly hope to see this investment continue in the North Staffordshire area over the long-term future,” he added.
Accompanying the Rapiscan representatives on their visit were Stoke-on-Trent South MP Robert Flello, Staffordshire Moorlands MP Charlotte Atkins, Councillor Adrian Knapper and representatives from Advantage West Midlands and InStaffs.
John Edees, of Rapiscan, said: “Sadly, it is a fact of life that security is a rapidly growing industry. Rapiscan Systems are the probably the fastest growing business in the world that specialises in security vehicle and cargo inspection equipment.
“I don’t believe there is an airport in the world Rapiscan Systems don’t have a presence in. Rapiscan Systems are committed to the region and there is no doubting the quality of manufacturing in this part of the world. Partnerships are key to our business.”
Richard Butler, head of inward investment for Advantage West Midlands, added: “This is a very exciting company working at the cutting edge of a rapidly expanding and very important industry.
“They [Rapiscan] have chosen North Staffordshire for their manufacturing operations because of the availability of highly skilled labour and its geographic location in the country, with fast access to London by train. We hope to work with them and support them in the future as their business expands in the region.”