Merit poised for huge expansion after doubling factory footprint

A pioneering Northumberland construction company is on the brink of significant job creation after doubling its manufacturing footprint.

Cramlington based Merit – the 2018 North East Company of the Year – has seen huge rise in demand thanks to its unique off-site ‘Pam’ (Pre-Assembled module) techniques carried out in its current factory.

During lockdown the company, which employs just over 160 people, has ramped up its offsite manufacturing – and it is now poised to see accelerated expansion after snapping up a second sizeable factory.

Based at Nelson Industrial Estate in Cramlington, the 100,000sqft building was formerly occupied by plastic manufacturer Jaycare, but will now be a strategic site for Merit’s ongoing projects.

Merit has signed a five-year letting for the 100,000 sqft premises, while also also retaining an option to buy the property.

CEO Tony Wells said 30 jobs will be created through the factory expansion, for which Merit has been given grant funding to fit it out, but this figure could increase to “big numbers” if contract wins continue.

He said: “We’ve kind of turned making buildings into making a new car. It’s pretty new and cost effective.

“I don’t like to oversell these things – I’m not the ultimate showman – but we are quietly confident that we have some different. We’re doubling the factory size, creating more jobs for the North East, and it’s exciting.”

The sustainable construction firm, which also moved into new offices four months ago, made a switch in strategy to Pre-Assembled Modules for virtually all its projects which, Mr Wells explained, reduces the construction programme and costs.

A recent contract for work on the £75m Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult (CGT Catapult) manufacturing centre in Stevenage saw the company take off-site construction to new heights and only around 10% of the labour needed was carried out on site.

At the end of last year the firm’s expertise within the healthcare sector saw it launch Merit Health, a new organisation centred on providing solutions to building healthcare facilities quicker, at a lower cost and with zero carbon emissions in operation. Merit Health sees the firm work with heath trusts on designs which can help them improve hospitals, and the company is awaiting on a number of bid decisions.

Mr Wells said: “We have been moving towards accelerated offsite manufacturing as a business anyway, and then Covid gave us the opportunity to accelerate even more rapidly, and to integrate rules on social distancing on site.

“We expanded the office and basically tripled the office capacity from what we had, and had been renting a further 40,000sqft of factory space.

“Then this new factory came up. It’s literally across the road – we couldn’t not take up that opportunity so we’ve taken it on. We now have another 100,000sqft of room on 11 and a half acres of land, so we could expand it too.

“We’re really investing heavily in IT and BIM (building information modelling). We’re in lockdown but we’re working very hard in order to turn a bad situation into something a little bit better.

“And we think about hospital design particularly, and how it can improve patient safety and patient outcomes, and the safety of staff. Some of our designs are quite innovative.

“We’ll create 30 jobs initially but when both factories are fitted out we could be talking big figures. We’re registered Made in Britain and want to maximise the amount of local jobs and local supply chain.”

Naylors Gavin Black secured the deal with Merit.

Keith Stewart, partner at Naylors Gavin Black, which acted as joint agent alongside Frew Pain & Partners, added: “After falling into disrepair and laying empty for such a long period, it will be fantastic to see this space help a successful local company grow further.”

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