Agricultural, industrial gas and offshore handling expert Ritchie officially opened its new plant extension in Suttieside in mid February, providing greater manufacturing capacity, reduced operating costs and five new jobs for the company, which has been trading in Forfar for over 130 years.

The valentines day opening was marked with speeches from Tony Walker, the company’s Managing Director, Peter Hughes, Chief Executive of Scottish Engineering, and Ruth Leslie Melville, MBE, the Provost of Angus.

Other dignitaries in attendance included Charlie Stewart, director of growing businesses for Scottish Engineering Tayside, Allan Mitchell of the newly reformed Dundee and Angus Chamber of Commerce, and a number of Ritchie customers including Dominion Gas and Swire Oilfield Services.

An additional highlight was the burying of a time capsule as planned, representing a snapshot of life at Ritchie in 2008, while the company’s vision for the future was also noted as Walker stressed the emphasis for developing manufacturing processes, incorporating new techniques and investing in production equipment. Walker went on to preview plans that the company has to expand its product range by introducing a renewable energy offering and following speeches, a number of Ritchie customers accompanied the local dignitaries on a factory tour.

Walker commented, “On this site we employ almost 150 people including our joint venture galvanizing plant, which is the widest in Scotland, bringing in more than £12m into Angus last year. But what have we been doing to prepare for the future? At the same time as moving our operation onto one site we have embraced lean production techniques showing how we can make ourselves more effective by improving our working environment and removing waste from our processes and plant layouts.”

“We have also installed and exploited our new computer system giving us more current and detailed information with shop floor data collection and integrated time and attendance recording. Next come MRP (Manufacturing Resource Planning), forecasting and CRM (Customer Relationship Management).”

Peter Hughes, Chief Executive of Scottish Engineering said, “Ritchie has been around for 130 years and is now a significant employer in Angus and Tayside. The success of the company can be attributed to a hard working, skilled and enthusiastic workforce very well led by a forward thinking and inspired management team. This new extension is just another example of the company’s ongoing commitment to the area at a time when Scotland’s manufacturing operations are under severe pressure from overseas low-wage economies.”