UK Subsea Robotics Firm SMD Sets Sights on Exceeding £100m Turnover in Five Years

Simon Graham, Senior Engineer (L) and Jack McCusker, Project Manager. Credit: Mike Smith Photography.
Simon Graham, Senior Engineer (L) and Jack McCusker, Project Manager. Credit: Mike Smith Photography.

UK-based subsea robotics and engineering firm Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) has this week announced plans to exceed £100m turnover within five years.

To reach this goal, the company says it is focusing on the electrification of its vehicles, has ambitious recruitment targets, and plans to expand its innovation and services arms with two new facilities on the horizon that will be based in the North East of England.

Mike Jones, chairman at SMD, said: “We have been around for over 50 years now and have weathered many storms including the dot com crash and more recently, the pandemic. What has helped our continued growth has been our focus on innovation and that has undoubtedly been because of our talented people.

“Last year our turnover was £58m, inclusive of our Shanghai operation, and we have confidence that we can double that by 2025.

“We are proud to be based in the North East and especially on the Tyne and that won’t change. As we move forward and start to cement our service offering, we are planning on opening a dedicated customer service centre and will need new people to support our clients. In addition, we want to open an R&D facility and will need engineers and software developers to shape the future of SMD’s products and services.”

The company said that branching into a more service-led model is key for SMD and it recently announced a framework agreement with Dutch offshore installation firm, Van Oord, under which it not only supplied its equipment for an offshore wind project in Taiwan but was also on hand 24/7 to repair and maintain the vehicles. 

Mike Jones, Chairman at SMD

Credit: Mike Smith Photography.

"Given the challenging conditions in the emerging territory, this was vital in reducing downtime ensuring the project was completed within the client’s operational timescales, SMD said.

Liam Forbes, general manager of services at SMD, explained: “We have listened to our clients and it’s very clear that they value the assurance working with the OEM can offer. They increasingly want our help to repair, modify and maintain their equipment. The three year arrangement we have with Van Oord means the team benefits from our OEM expertise, a set price list of all parts and services and 24/7 worldwide technical support. This will vastly reduce the cost and the time it takes to purchase, modify or repair parts.

“To provide context, SMD delivered the Dig-it and Deep Dig-it trenchers to Van Oord in 2018 and 2019 respectively. Any modifications or repairs they may need will now be conducted directly with our team whether that is routine maintenance or in an emergency situation.”

Jones continued: “As well as services being a huge growth area for us, the electric revolution is also something we are working hard on. We have created our first electric ROV vehicle that will be in the market this year and have great concepts for more electric vehicles and applications in the pipeline.

"Artemis will also be a massive commercial product launch for us in 2023, it’s been over three years in the making and we are finally at the point where it can be hired for use on commercial projects. Its patented technology gives accurate, real-time measurement of where cables have been placed deep below the seabed to protect them, which has not been possible with existing technology.

“It’s a very exciting time for SMD and we are determined to achieve our goals and continue to be pioneers in our field.”

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