A fabrication business that manufactures industrial heating and cooling systems is expanding its footprint at Port of Sunderland, a year after its launch.
DLAW Contractors was founded in April 2019 by four Sunderland-born oil and gas industry experts, with a combined 72 years’ experience in welding, pipefitting and contracting.
Headed up by former American Air Filters Aftermarket Business Manager, Dale Barry, the quartet launched the business after spotting a gap in the market for the supply of specialised, industrial-scale geothermal heating and cooling systems for the agricultural and energy sectors.
Initially operating from two shipping containers at the port, it took just three months for DLAW to reach capacity, leading to the company moving to its own dedicated 200sqm manufacturing facility in July and doubling its headcount from four to eight.
A year on, DLAW is now continuing to expand its presence at Port of Sunderland, with the acquisition of a larger building just yards from its initial facility, increasing its capacity by 150 per cent from 200sqm to 500sqm.
Dale Barry, managing director at DLAW, explains: “DLAW started from two containers, one of which was a cutting bay and the other a welding bay. Three months later, we took up our first space and now we’ve expanded yet again with the purchase and fit-out of a second unit.”
DLAW was launched after Dale - who has worked in the oil and gas sector for 23 years – was approached by a previous colleague to help design and manufacture a new heating and cooling solution for his own business, which produced goods for the agricultural sector.
This led to the formation of DLAW with former work colleagues, Lee Ashman, Anthony Turnbull and Dean Walton, all time-served tradesmen from Sunderland, to help bring the idea to life. After impressing the client with their solution, the four secured another order and decided to grasp the nettle and launch DLAW.
“It all started from one customer, who I knew personally, asking us to help design a new containerised plug and play solution that would make the process of drying arable produce and chilling dairy products a lot cheaper and more efficient,” Dale added.
“We completed the first order and once the client saw the standard of manufacture, that was it. They asked if we could begin producing them on mass, and DLAW was born.”
The company’s investment in a second facility at the port follows a series of contract wins that has seen the firm not only secure the installation work for its cooling systems but also diversify into new markets.
“It’s been a whirlwind first year for us and we’re excited to see what the future has in store,” Lee said. “Our new manufacturing facility will not only allow us to increase output but will also see us diversify into new sectors and continue bringing high-skilled job opportunities to the city.”
The business decided to invest in Port of Sunderland after being impressed by the accessibility of the site and the facilities on offer.
Dale said: “Port of Sunderland is an ideal hub. It’s secure within the compound and it gives us the means to expand without having to spend a lot of money moving from shed to shed. The port has the flexibility to adapt with us, they’re aware of our needs and are always only a phone call away. They’ve been great.
“It has both heavy plant and heavy lift cranage capabilities and is ideally placed for companies like us who, as we grow, could potentially be importing and exporting tonnes of cargo at any given time. It has all the facilities required to expand your business at a rapid rate.”
Dale is also a committed advocate for apprenticeships and, with the opening of the new manufacturing hub, is keen to develop opportunities for the city’s young people.
“The jobs we’ve created and will continue to create are not only highly-skilled, but also multi-disciplined,” Dale adds. “When I started out in the Royal Navy, I was taught many trades, as were most others at that time who cut their cloth in the shipyards and the glassworks.
“When we take on apprentices, they'll be welders, pipefitters and mechanics and will be trained to the highest standards. For example, a lot of the work we do is stainless pipefitting and stainless welding, which is highly specialised. There’s a real art to it and it’s this kind of highly skilled work we’re hoping to bring back to the region.”
Speaking about DLAW’s story so far, Matthew Hunt, director at Port of Sunderland, said: “DLAW is an absolutely fantastic success story – not just for the port – but for Sunderland as a whole.
“To have grown at such rapid pace, in such a short time, is testament to just how forward-thinking and innovative these four guys are. We’re delighted to have supported them on their journey and look forward to continuing to work closely with them into the future as they continue growing.”
Cllr Graeme Miller, chair of Port of Sunderland, added: “We have invested heavily in Port of Sunderland over recent years - positioning it not only as a desirable port of call for cargo but also businesses - and we’re delighted to see this investment bearing fruit.
“The scale at which DLAW has grown in its first year is remarkable and we’d like to wish them all the best for the future, as they continue to bring highly skilled welding jobs back to the city as well as creating opportunities for young people.”