Thursday, August 27, 2009

Axe fear at stairlift firm

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THE future of around 90 Teesside workers is in doubt today after it emerged ThyssenKrupp is scaling back production of its straight stair lifts in Stockton.

The German giant, which took over the facility last year after buying family-owned manufacturer Lift Able, will cease production of its battery powered Cumbria lift from September 25.

But the move may not lead to redundancies, as a new product is being lined up to fill the gap. The mains-powered Cumbria unit will also continue to be produced on Teesside.

ThyssenKrupp, however, refused to rule out the prospect of redundancies.

“This is a decision which has not been taken yet,” a spokesperson from the firm’s elevators division said. “A new product will be coming in, but we cannot say which product or when.”

One of the world’s biggest manufacturers of escalators and elevators, ThyssenKrupp bought Lift Able in March, 2008.

ThyssenKrupp saw the move as an opportunity to expand its UK operations and strengthen its presence in a UK market which employs more than 12,000 people and saw 267,750 lifts installed in 2008, according to the European Lift Association (ELA).

But this is only a fraction of the 4.96m lifts installed across Europe last year, with Italy the biggest single market. There were only 7,079 new lifts installed in the UK in 2008, with a commercial value of 473m euros.

ThyssenKrupp declined to comment on sales volumes of the Cumbria DC unit or revenues derived from its UK-based transactions.

Lift Able was one of Europe’s five largest manufacturers of straight stair-lifts, with a turnover of more than £10m when it was sold in March 2008.

The company specialised in the manufacture, supply and maintenance of stairlifts and disabled access solutions to domestic and public buildings and was a major supplier to local authorities and the NHS.

In 2007 Lift Able won a Green Apple Environment Award for its commitment to the environment and for sourcing materials from local suppliers.

Teesside is home to several companies in the mobility sector including independent lift maker Pickerings Lifts in Stockton.

Founded in 1854, the company specialises in the design, manufacture, installation and maintenance of lifts and earlier this year won a contract to install three lifts in the grade 1 listed Crockfords Casino in central London.

The venue is the world’s oldest private gaming club founded in 1828 and owned by Genting Stanley Ltd, which operates more than 40 branded casinos throughout the UK.