A Telford-based manufacturer, whose first order was to supply its revolutionary products for Middle Eastern VIPs, is setting its sights on changing the way people board aeroplanes all over the world.
Formed in 2009, Ra’alloy has seen major interest from airlines, airports and ground handling companies for its ‘Aviramp’ boarding ramps that provide essential access to aircraft for all passengers, wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility.
Orders have already been won with Qantas, Qatar Airways, Swissport and Dallas Fortworth Airport, with five new people already taken on to cope with the increase in work.
Backed by support from the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), the company has also developed three different boarding ramps – ‘lite’, ‘regional’ and ‘continental’ – to ensure all international requirements are met.
Graham Corfield, Managing Director, picked up the story: “We were first contacted in 2010 by Oslo International Airport about the possibility of designing and manufacturing a disabled access ramp for passengers disembarking aircraft on remote stands.
“The concept was driven by the need to move it quickly and for the slopes to conform with EU regulations, allowing wheelchair users to move themselves up and down the walkway.”
He continued: “This is where ‘Aviramp’ came into the equation. It was exactly what they were looking for and even incorporated unique slip resistant flooring.
“The results have been impressive. People with reduced mobility can disembark with dignity and, on average, general passenger flow times are 30% quicker meaning less delays and possible cancellation of flights.”
The Manufacturing Advisory Service worked with Ra’alloy from the initial concept, providing strategic guidance, mentoring and new product support along the way.
It played an instrumental role in the company winning the attention of budget airline easyJet, who has been working with Graham and the team on the development and modification of ‘Aviramp’.
The trials were essential in testing the product in everyday industry situations and provided valuable insight into how it could be adapted to suit different sizes of aircraft and airport layouts.
This included a host of endorsements, including reductions on capital equipment costs, savings on moving people with reduced mobility and improved on target performance when it came to getting passengers on board and the flight safely underway.
“We’ve done about £300,000 worth or orders, but I’d expect this to triple over the next twelve months when you look at what we have in the pipeline,” continued Graham.
“80% of this growth will come from abroad and we are already looking at ways where we may set-up international manufacturing operations to support the delivery of ‘Aviramp’ all over the world. America is possibly our first target.”
MAS Advisor David Nuttall believes the next year will be huge for the business.
“In the aviation sector, the gestation period for new products is extensive with most airlines wanting to see others making the initial investment.
“This is now beginning to happen and our role is changing to support Ra’alloy in understanding the systems and process that it needs in place to be able to cope with the anticipated order intake so it is not swamped.
“The company has a world beating product and MAS will help it make the right decisions with regards to investment to ensure a natural migration from high end bespoke manufacture to high end serial production.”
Ra’alloy employs 16 people and is on course to turnover £1.1m this year. In addition to ‘Aviramp’, the company designs and manufactures aluminium access solutions, including the ramps and stairs that were used at London 2012.