A TECHNOLOGY firm’s North-East plant will remain an “engine room” for growth as new robots sustain its industry standing, its boss has told The Northern Echo.

Stadium Group has bolstered its factory with a new mechanical line to support circuit board work.

Boss Charlie Peppiatt last night said the move represents a real sign of Stadium’s international growth intent as it seeks to build on record orders and expansion into the US.

The business, which employs well in excess of 100 staff in the region, was founded as a motorcycle helmet company but is now responsible for designing and making vehicle control panels, wireless devices and electronic displays, with its catalogue including vehicle fleet tracking and black box systems for insurers to assess drivers’ safety.

Mr Peppiatt, chief executive, told the Echo that the firm’s investment in its Hartlepool-based factory will help it “stay ahead of the curve”, providing skilled jobs in the process, as Stadium continues with transformation plans to shift from being a solely electronic manufacturing services operator to a design-led business.

According to its latest financial results, released yesterday, work on the latter is bearing greater fruit, with its higher-margin technology products division accounting for 61 per cent of total revenues in the six months to June 30.

Those successes helped the business’ current order book rise to a record £30.8m, which was up 19 per cent from the £25.8m announced at the end of December.

Referring to its Hartlepool factory, based off Brenda Road, Mr Peppiatt said it will continue to be a crucial element in the business’ international future alongside a sister site in southern China, citing the robot investment, to add small components to circuit boards, as a sign of its commitment.

He told the Echo: “Hartlepool is one of our European centres of excellence and we are seeing the level of activity grow at the site.

“It is an engine room for the firm and a very important part of the business.

“As we grow the technology products division, the Hartlepool site will be building (more) products that we design in our centres.”

However, Mr Peppiatt also confirmed the company was pressing ahead with ambitions to gain a foothold in North America – weeks after telling the Echo that it was aiming to “get some boots on the ground” in the territory to provide a gateway to the “largest market on the planet” for the type of apparatus it supplies.

The business has established Stadium Group Inc in a bid to access US market opportunities, and Mr Peppiatt said it was far from an idle move.

He said: “We see this as an important component in the overall strategy going forward, and is one we will continue to grow.

“We will do it in a balanced way but we are not going there as industrial tourists – there are opportunities for Stadium in North America alongside Europe and the UK, which remain important too.”

Mr Peppiatt also confirmed Stadium, which saw group revenues rise 13 per cent in the six-month period to £27.4m, and saw reported pretax profit lift 185 per cent to £2m, was keen to build on a recent £2.8m deal to buy PowerPax UK.

Announced just last week, Stadium says the tie-up will see Berkshire’s PowerPax, known for serving the industrial power supply market, strengthen Stadium’s power division by adding products and customers.

Mr Peppiatt added: “It is a really good fit and has been on our list for a while. We are very excited about it.”

Stadium previously bought Stontronics, known for making power supply units, transformers and adaptors, and took on Cable Power Limited, to cater for everchanging forms of cabling in electric devices.