Major growth sees Prima Dental launch a £7m investment in Gloucester

As Prima Dental looks back over a record 2022 and turns its sights to 2023, it reveals a £7 million investment in its Gloucester factory.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Alun Jones, group managing director of Prima Dental, the Gloucester dental burr manufacturer, who spoke to SoGlos about the company's ambitious plans.

In Prima Dental's own words the manufacturer and exporter of dental burs' recovery since Covid-19 has been ‘exceptional’ and 2022 a record year – but the firm could be about to trump all that with news of an even more exciting 2023.

SoGlos spoke to Alun Jones, group managing director for the £30 million-plus turnover Gloucester-headquartered business, and to its vice president of manufacturing, Darren Boyce, who revealed a forthcoming £7 million investment in the firm's factory that is expected to boost production by another 15 per cent.

(Questions for Alun Jones, group managing director of Prima Dental)

As we move into the final quarter of 2022 how would you sum up the year so far for Prima Dental?

We have continued our recovery from Covid and will end the year with strong sales growth driven by exports from the UK as well as good performances from our joint venture businesses in Brazil and China/Hong Kong. We reacted quickly to the recovery with the recruitment of an extra 51 people this year, backed by a huge training programme.

However, in common with most businesses, we have had to contend with the challenges of supply chain disruption and cost inflation across most of our inputs at a time when the marketplace is beginning to soften.

Where is the growth coming from and what have been the biggest wins or most memorable moments?

We have just signed a new contract which will deliver a 15 per cent volume increase to our Gloucester factory. This has been five years in the making, and will trigger investment of £7 million in new equipment and further recruitment.

Our business in Brazil has had a record year and we are now the clear market leader in the local market with fast-growing exports to the rest of Latin America and in China, we also lead the market locally and our export effort has gained 19 new customers in the past six months.

Can you tell us a little about this year’s recruitment drive and whether that is ongoing?

The recruitment process of delivering 51 new colleagues’ year to date (over 70 in 12 months!) has been a major task in a competitive market, but we have maintained our stance in recruiting people who will share our culture and values.

This has been backed by a huge training programme which at over nine months totalled some 7,200 hours. We have also developed our existing team with 13 internal promotions over the same period. As mentioned above we will be recruiting further in the coming months to accommodate further expansion.

A view across the floor of Prima Dental's Gloucester factory on Waterwells Business Park.

How is the current inflation crisis affecting Prima?

Well, we are seeing significant increases across the whole cost base from raw materials, energy, and transport to new machinery and, of course, we are very concerned about the effects of inflation on our workforce. In this context, we paid a lump sum to the team in July and have plans to do the same at year-end in addition to our pay review in January.

We are fortunate as a business that is predominantly export focused, we have seen some relief as the result of the weakness of sterling, but we are expecting inflation to remain a concern for the medium term.

How do you see the year ending for Prima Dental and 2023 beginning, and what are the big opportunities ahead for the company?

We are delighted that all our enterprises are performing well and despite all the challenges we face we are planning for a 20 per cent increase in turnover in 2023.

New opportunities ahead include entry to the orthopaedic marketplace and the conclusion of our pioneering project with Kings College, London aimed at eliminating viruses in the dental surgery environment, a £472,000 grant funded by Innovate UK, which is showing very promising early results.

A close up of one of the dental burs made by Prima Dental.

(Questions for Darren Boyce, vice president, manufacturing, Prima Dental)

Alun Jones has outlined an incredible year for Prima Dental. Can you give us a sense of the growth at the firm as you see it and how it is evolving?

Our growth post-Covid has been exceptional. For the first half of 2022, we demonstrated 20 per cent growth against the previous year. Our investment in people, training and upskilling has enabled us to grow in line with customer demand and has set us up for further growth in the second half of 2022, into 2023

How would you sum up the potential for the firm and where does it see its key opportunities – overseas, in the UK or both?

We are already the market leader in our industry for rotary dental products. Increased regulations within our sector have been a key driver for us. Staying ahead of the curve will ensure we extend our competitive edge and of course, enable us to grow market share both domestically and internationally.

What are the biggest challenges for Prima Dental currently and what would you like to see, in terms of policy or economic headwinds, to help?

I think the current economic situation breeds uncertainty and instability so a clear economic framework from the central government would be most welcome.

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