50 years and counting for SJC Hutchinson Engineering in Kilrea

Over 50 years ago, SJC Hutchinson Engineering was established when Kilrea man Creighton Hutchinson made a life-changing decision to leave his employment with a local engineering company and set up his own business on the family farm. 

Monday, 25th October 2021, 6:00 am

Over 50 years ago, SJC Hutchinson Engineering was established when Kilrea man Creighton Hutchinson made a life-changing decision to leave his employment with a local engineering company and set up his own business on the family farm. 

Mainly dealing with agricultural engineering, Creighton soon built up a solid customer base repairing farming machinery and manufacturing a wide range of items including cubicles and silage barriers to ornamental gates, railings, and even swings and slides.

Five decades on, and Hutchinson Engineering is now a second-generation family-run business that is a subcontract manufacturer for some of the world’s best-known companies in the materials handling, coachbuilding, and agricultural sectors. These include Caterpillar, Wrightbus, Terex, and McLaren. Their main services include laser cutting, folding, and fabrication.

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Mark Hutchinson CEO and Richard Hutchinson director of innovation

The company now has over 120 staff and 100,000 sq. ft. capacity state-of-the-art facilities still based on the same green site that Creighton purchased in 1974.

The company is run by CEO Mark Hutchinson, supported by his brother Richard, who is Hutchinson Engineering’s director of innovation.

Mark joined the business full time in 1997, after helping his father since he was a small boy. As the downturn in the agriculture industry progressed Mark knew that a new direction was needed and purchased a plasma cutter which enabled them to target industrial subcontract work. A laser cutting machine was then purchased in 1999, which became a crucial piece of equipment allowing it to run unmanned overnight.

Over the past 20 years, Mark has had the vision to install new technology to improve their offering to their customer base. He believes that as well as investing in technology he needs to invest in people which gives Hutchinson Engineering an outstanding reputation of being one of the best places to work in the area. And as a company, they are proud to have achieved Investors in People Gold and are one of a few manufacturing companies in the UK to have gained this accreditation.

Richard is responsible for product development and new ways of working and one of the success stories to date has been the development of a foot-operated hand sanitising station that has sold over 2,500 units throughout the UK and Europe.

Another important achievement for Hutchinson Engineering in 2020 was being a key supplier for the ‘Ventilator Challenge UK’. The company helped provide parts for 7,500 ventilators which have been used to help save the lives of people throughout the UK and worldwide.

Richard explained: “We are proud that our team was willing to rise to the challenge at the height of the pandemic and worked alongside iconic brands such as McLaren and Rolls Royce to deliver these products within four weeks.”

Mark continued: “Our planned investment in 2022 of circa £4m will see a massive upgrade in our equipment to offer even better levels of lead time to our customers, along with training and empowering our staff to provide industry-leading service levels.”

Mark and Richard share pride in all that their father and employees achieved, and want to continue the legacy into the next generation and beyond.

Richard believes the support of their mother Pearl has also been a huge factor in their success: “Mum has always been there for all of us, with any decisions and milestones throughout the 50 years of Hutchinson Engineering, from sitting in a cold car waiting for Dad to measure up gates in the early days to supporting us and encouraging us now as we invest in new facilities and equipment. We are forever grateful for her support.”

Mark added: “Unfortunately, Dad won’t be part of our 50th celebrations as he passed away in May 2021, aged 73. He endured and overcame many challenges throughout his life, the biggest being his Parkinson’s diagnosis at the age of 52. Dad was always front and centre in the business he set up and loved. He gave many people in the local area an opportunity when others did not. He always saw the best in people. He taught me to treat others with respect, an invaluable lesson, especially during my early years in the business. Dad was a man of integrity and honesty, and this shone through in every aspect of his life, including his business.

“Dad recognised and accepted that he had taken the business as far as he could. He was happy and content with what he had achieved and wanted to hand it over to the next generation to take the business forward. He constantly encouraged and supported us in our decisions. We will always be grateful for Dad’s trust in us to carry the business forward. I respect his hard work and determination, which has given us a fantastic foundation.

“As we celebrate our 50th year in business, we are planning our largest investment to date – which will be the most technologically advanced laser storage system worldwide. Finally, we would like to thank all our employees, loyal customers, suppliers, and especially our Dad for making this journey special. Here’s to the next 50!”

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