Posted on 21st January 2019
The last time I visited Edwards was around 8 years ago, when big changes were in the air and the direction of change was not entirely clear to the workforce. I encountered a vast area of empty floor space, possibly as large as a football pitch, with offices along one side, and the obvious marks of machinery which had recently been moved. That very week in 2011 all the machines which used to produce precisely engineered goods had been stripped out and sent off to the Czech Republic where production costs would be much cheaper.
On Monday this week I visited again and finally got my bearings and realised that I was in the same space, now transformed and converted into modern office spaces, a spacious canteen and separate areas for research and development containing complex machinery. All the space has been carefully designed and remodelled to cater for futuristic hi tech engineering in the modern digital age.
In the last ten years Edwards has re-grouped its workforce, previously on three sites in Crawley, Shoreham and Burgess Hill, into one global HQ on the Victoria Business Park. It has manufacturing bases in at least six countries, including Germany, Korea, The Czech Republic, Japan and China, as well as two in Britain at Eastbourne and Clevedon.
Edwards, owned by a venture capital group until 2013, has re-invented itself and is now part of a much larger business, Atlas Copco Compressors. The acquisition was completed in January 2014 and Edwards is now the Vacuum Solutions division of that global company, which employs around 33,000 people. In Burgess Hill Edwards employs around 400 staff, and another 7000 or so work for the company in other parts of the world.
Founded in South London by a physicist, FD Edwards, in 1919, the company has gone from strength to strength in providing equipment and services, in particular vacuum pumps and abatement solutions across many industries including scientific, industrial, process and research and development. It is a brilliant example of high level manufacturing based in Britain, and we are fortunate to have it as an employer in Burgess Hill.
My thanks to Viv Pettman who welcomed me and set up the visit, and to Peter Lamb, who showed me round and explained to me all the developments and the processes involved. As always, it was a pleasure to chat with them about issues ranging from employee involvement to the effects of Brexit. They seem to have created an excellent working environment for the headquarters in Burgess Hill, and they are always supportive of the BHBPA.
"“Sutton Winson have been members of the BHBPA for around 7 years. We have found it a great way to keep in touch with Burgess Hill businesses and to meet with likeminded people. It’s not just another “networking” group, as it tackles the real issues and gets things done”"
"This association was started with a lot of effort from a few local businessmen and has proved to be a very powerful and useful tool for our business. The BHBPA has influence at the top level; when action is needed, the BHBPA gets it done. We are kept in touch with all that is happening on our doorstep and will often act because of what is published in the weekly emails / newsletters."
"“I can’t speak highly enough of the BHBPA. As a small local business we feel very much part of a community and thoroughly enjoy the annual exhibition and meetings throughout the year. Over the years we have built fantastic working relationships with many BHBPA members and every meeting and event offers us opportunities to work with more. This is networking at its best! ” "
"The BHBPA is the most effective and dynamic business organisation I have ever worked with in over 30 years in Local Government. It has a very active and large membership whose points of view are taken seriously by all government structures. Peter Liddell does an excellent job in providing unique and enjoyable networking opportunities where members interact and discuss points of mutual interest. It provides a forum for businesses to discuss common issues, to share experiences and to play a powerful and meaningful role in the Burgess Hill community. The BHBPA provides important and credible support for all its members and ensures that their best interests are represented where necessary. "