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Totnes engineering success story

It was a pleasure to meet Matt Quartley recently - Managing Director of Valeport, an engineering company that makes measuring instruments for use at sea.

Located on the river Dart in Totnes, Valeport is a family owned business that has been in the town for 20 years and now employs over 100 staff, from machine shop workers to skilled R&D engineers.

Their world class products are designed, developed and made here and used worldwide, with around 20% sold to the UK market, mainly to energy companies based around Aberdeen.

They measure water flow, salinity, turbidity, pressure etc. With water quality being a hot topic at the moment, Valeport are currently working on a sensor to measure tryptophan, which can give an indication of biological pollution in water eg. sewage.

"This could be used both by pressure groups and water companies," said Matt.

Because of their experience in exporting products all over the world, Valeport exports were not adversely affected by Brexit - they were already used to doing the paperwork required. However it has made it more complicated for them to repair products which are sent back to the UK - if customers don't get the paperwork right at their end the products can be taxed when they come back into the UK for repair.

Covid posed a much bigger challenge, but Valeport carried on operating throughout and business has picked up again since.

Quartley is rightly proud of being a major employer in the South Hams, offering secure jobs at all levels.

"We are finding it a struggle to recruit R&D engineers - graduates are more knowledgeable now but seem to have less practical experience and there can be too much reliance on doing everything on a screen," says Matt. Industry placements are vital for engineering graduates to get experience, though these have been badly affected over the past three years by Covid lockdowns.

Apprenticeships are successful, and the company's production manager Reece who started with them at 16 is now responsible for 40 people, leading a team of skilled assembly technicians.

When I visited Valeport were installing solar panels on the roof of their building to help address surging energy bills - their electricity bill has quadrupled over the past year. But their pragmatic approach to this price hike is one reason why this family firm is a local success story.




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