Burnley : News

From an older building in the countryside to prime aerospace position: the continued ascent of Burnley’s Hycrome

It still takes many people by surprise that Burnley is something of an aerospace heavyweight – we even have a 37-acre hub – Innovation Drive – dedicated to our advanced manufacturing and engineering prowess.

Our central location in the Northwest means we are at the heart of the wider regional aerospace and advanced engineering cluster. The Northwest aerospace cluster is the biggest in Europe, contributing £7 billion to the UK economy – a quarter of UK aerospace turnover. We are home to some of the most important players in the industry, including Safran Nacelles, Velocity Composites, Paradigm Precision and Hycrome Aerospace.

And it’s Hycrome who we recently had the pleasure of visiting, so we could meet their operations director Stephen Kelly, who also showed us around the 70,000 sq ft facility on Heasandford Industrial Estate, right next to Safran. In fact, Safran is the second-biggest customer of Hycrome and both are Burnley Bondholders. It’s fantastic when we can keep business within our borough and work together in this way.

“This building wasn’t always the home of Hycrome, we used to be based in Colne on Knotts Lane and it was a world away from this. It was an old building and quickly became unsuitable as we enjoyed rapid growth. We relocated to Burnley in 1996 and have been here ever since,” Stephen explained.

But what exactly does Hycrome do? In a nutshell, they provide advanced manufacturing and surface technologies to the aerospace supply chain. This includes the nacelles part of the aeroplane engines to Safran, propulsion parts to Rolls Royce and aero structures to Airbus, as well as landing, fuel and environmental systems.

Hycrome has been operating since 1947, but a big turning point for the business came when it won big contracts in the 1980s with Rolls Royce and British Aerospace. Realising its value, The Score Group acquired Hycrome in 1989 and then carried out a huge investment project, leading to the relocation to Burnley in 1996.

“In our old premises, we had nine tanks of chrome coating, but we pride ourselves on being cutting edge and envisioning major changes before they happen. So, we heavily invested in new technology such as thermal coatings and robotics to move away from traditional chrome coating methods, and this is so much better for quality, the environment and health and safety,” Stephen told Burnley.co.uk.

Indeed, on the tour we saw the innovative technology they use, including the robotic arms which meticulously spray the components, as well as the lab technicians who scrupulously check each part under a microscope to ensure it meets the incredibly stringent standards you would expect from an aerospace firm.

 “We were the first company in the UK to get Airbus approval for Tartaric Sulphuric Anodise (TSA), we were ahead of the curve with that and recognised that green was the next agenda and we wanted to be at the forefront,” he said.

The next generation of engineers

It’s not just technology that Hycrome are leaders in, but also recruitment and the next generation of engineers. Since January 2022 alone, they’ve recruited 30 people, as the aerospace industry experiences recovery from the pandemic. For three mechanical engineering apprenticeship positions alone, the business received 50 applications, a huge feat considering the talent-gap we’ve been seeing in the national press and a reported struggle across all sectors to recruit.

“Engineering isn’t just about cutting metal or working on a machine – in fact, there are over 30 different career paths on offer here! We have 170 employees, so you can see that our recent intake of 30 means we’re on a huge growth path. We are passionate about getting into schools to encourage young people to study STEM and let them know they can have a successful career right here in Burnley,” Stephen told us.

Hycrome work closely with Burnley College, with the business acknowledging that many of the core competencies of engineering are no longer taught in schools, so it’s of paramount importance that further education fills that gap.

After a break due to the pandemic, Stephen is thrilled they can welcome back work experience students in the summer. It’s a scheme Hycrome are passionate about and it’s fantastic to see a business not only growing but wanting to take young people in the area on the journey with them. We wish Hycrome all the best with their growth plans and recruitment drive and are thrilled Burnley remains the home of their first-class facility!