Actuated Solutions was started in 2003 as a joint venture between two friends and colleagues, Paul Slaughter and Chris Hickey. The pair previously held senior sales positions for one of the largest multinational providers of valve automation products. When the firm closed its UK office, Paul and Chris decided to embrace the opportunity and give the market what it had, in their opinion, been crying out for: better quality products, at a better price, sold with better – and, crucially, faster - service.
After joining the valve automation industry as fresh-faced apprentices, both Paul and Chris started off on the factory floor putting together actuators and picking orders. The pair soon began to earn a strong reputation for their in-depth product knowledge and quickly worked their way up the corporate ladder. This experience provided invaluable insight into the industry, as well as a sound technical understanding of product capabilities and an established network of key contacts.
From the start, Actuated Solutions won the confidence of two of the world’s leading actuator manufactures: HK Contromatic, a South Korean producer of the HQ Electric and HP pneumatic actuators along with the APL range of switch boxes; and Quifer – a Spanish company that manufacture the KP/KPM rack & pinion and KSY/KSYM scotch yoke pneumatic actuators. Both brands are still represented by Actuated Solutions today.
Carving out a place in the market
Knowing first-hand how larger businesses can become victims of their own success – often restricted by their size and internal red-tape when it comes to responding quickly to demand or keeping overheads low in order to pass on savings to customers – Paul and Chris were keen for their company to be different. To capitalise on the smaller size and independence of the fledgling company, and to uphold the core value of never letting customers down, it was agreed all profits would be reinvested. By taking this action, the firm was able to maintain higher levels of stock than most of its competitors, subsequently setting itself apart in the market by offering a quick and agile partnership.
During the early days, when other providers were unable to deliver, Actuated Solutions could pick, pack and ship on the same day – something that they still strive to do for every customer. This competitive edge, coupled with the business owners’ credibility, reputation and connections in the tight knit industry, saw many customers move to Actuated Solutions. Paul comments: “After coming of age in the industry, it’s safe to say that there wasn’t much myself and Chris hadn’t seen. Something that frustrated us both was the impact of internal politics and bureaucracy on customers of large, cumbersome corporations. They were slow to react to the changing needs of the market and, as a result, were often unable to supply customers with the right product, at the right time, at the right price”
“Part of the reason we started Actuated Solutions was to challenge the status quo and give the market what we felt it needed: greater availability of a range of quality-made, fairly priced valve automation products. Our aim has always been to get what’s needed, where it’s needed as quickly as possible. It’s a simple strategy that’s served us well to date. Now, I’m proud to say, customers choose us for the products we stock, and come back to us for the service we provide.”
Going from strength to strength
In 2003, it was just Paul and Chris in a small 500 square foot unit. They both worked from top to bottom – chasing invoices, picking and packing orders, building products, generating new business, attending trade shows and working around the clock to make their start-up venture a success. In its first year of trading the company sold just over 800 actuators. Demand continued to grow at a steady pace with turnover increasing year on year, apart from the economic recession of 2008. Last year Actuated Solutions hit a record high of selling over 10,000 actuators and in doing so have successfully establishing itself as one of the UK’s leading independent providers of valve automation products.
In 2011, the company decided to change direction and be more than a box seller by offering high quality European-made scotch yoke actuators for the oil & gas market. Working closely with Quifer, Actuated Solutions now offer actuators up to 100,000NM and have worked hard to gain all the relevant certification needed and can supply with SIL3, ATEX & GOST certification.
With the experience the company has gained over many years in the industry, there isn’t much Actuated Solutions hasn’t seen or a problem the firm isn’t able to solve, whether it’s specifying actuators & controls to work in low temperatures in Siberia or hot climates in the Middle East. With all design and accessory build completed in house in the UK the move into the scotch yoke market now accounts for 20% of the company’s yearly turnover.
Fast forward to the present day and home is now a 7500 Sq/ft. unit which allows Actuated Solutions the space and capacity to stock and sell off-the-shelf actuators alongside custom-built automated valve solutions, as well accessories such as switchboxes, solenoids, positioners and gearboxes.
Like most UK businesses, Actuated Solutions is once again faced with economic uncertainty, brought about this time by Brexit. Despite the jury being out on the remaining part of the open market, the potential reintroduction of import duty from the continent, and an end to the free movement of labour, the company remains optimistic that it is strong enough to tackle any challenges that may arise in the future. Thanks to the company’s ethos of never letting the customer down, its focus on quality products at fair prices, and with quick and friendly service, it’s business as usual for Actuated Solutions, as Paul confirms: “Brexit uncertainty doesn’t trouble me from a professional point of view. What’s important to our business is that we continue to invest in bringing, high quality, innovative products to market – like the new HQ005 electric quarter turn actuator that we launched earlier this year. And that we maintain our commitment to availability and thorough, fast and friendly service.”
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