Scunthorpe manufacturer achieves high ambitions for international growth

HITEK Electronic Materials is a manufacturer of components for the electronics industry. In the last five years, they’ve seen their international business grow across Europe through the help and support of the Department for International Trade (DIT). Jim Lawton, managing director (pictured), tells us how they’ve achieved their exporting ambitions and how they’re setting their sights on becoming globally-recognised in their field.

Based in Scunthorpe, HITEK’s products are used to protect electronics, either from interference from other electronic signals or being damaged from over-heating by using thermal interface materials. Since 1985, the company has served customers all over the UK and only recently turned their attention to the international market. “We did such a good job in the UK, it made sense to do the same for other countries,” says Jim Lawon, managing director. They first focused on markets within Europe but are now exporting worldwide. Jim explains how they began their international developments. “We first approached overseas manufacturers and distributors of the same materials as HITEK. These other manufacturers and distributors were offered our support and extensive stock of materials to satisfy their local market.”

Since then, HITEK’s markets have only grown, and in the last two years, the company has brought in orders totalling almost £300,000 across various markets, including Singapore, South Africa and Australia. Jim attributes much of this to the support of DIT and his International Trade Adviser (ITA), Duncan Slater who worked closely with HITEK. “Without DIT we would be much further back on our exporting journey. With the extensive knowledge network within DIT and the array of workshops that educated our staff, we were able to get up-to-speed on the market places we were looking to develop.”

“Exporting now accounts for 10% of our company turnover.”

As well as receiving on-going support with exporting, Jim tells us how DIT gave the company access to funding that enabled them to explore global markets. By applying for Exporting for Growth funding, a grant that gives companies a minimum of £1000 towards the cost of international activities, they’ve been able to progress their overseas trade even faster. “Funding was of great importance to us. We have engaged with local business development companies in the Middle East, exhibited at exhibitions in the Far East and had repeated visits to potential customers in our target countries,” Jim explains. “With this funding, HITEK has been able to make a decision to invest in resources and travel to our identified countries with the knowledge that there is support from the UK government to help us succeed.”

And succeed is exactly what HITEK has done. Over the past five years, they have grown their business to include international trade, which now accounts for 10% of the company turnover. This success has been recognised, with Jim recently being announced as one of the Northern Powerhouse Export Champions for 2019 by the former Secretary of State for International Trade, Dr Liam Fox and former Minister of State at the DIT, Baroness Fairhead CBE. This is something Jim is incredibly proud of. “With this recognition comes kudos for the company. There are many companies exporting in the UK and to be identified as a champion is a reward to the company as a whole.”

“We have spread the risk of business downturn by increasing our market.”

For other businesses looking to find markets outside the UK, Jim advises they don’t spread themselves too thin. “Be focused! Don’t try to expand into too many markets at once.” He recommends focussing on just one or two international markets and moving on only once your desired outcome has been achieved.

For HITEK, exporting has become an important part of their business strategy as they look to grow further. “While HITEK is the go-to company for our products and solutions in the UK, we strive to make it a go-to company worldwide.” With ongoing advice and contacts provided by their ITA, HITEK has all the support they need as they set their sights on achieving global status.

If you would like more information on developing your businesses’ manufacturing exports, speak to one of our specialist International Trade Advisers.

Enterprise Growth Solutions Ltd (EGSL) deliver the contract for the Department for International Trade in Yorkshire and the Humber.