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J.A. Harrison maintains tradition of making a habit of excellence

J.A. Harrison boasts an enviable manufacturing heritage, supplying products to prestige brands such as Rolls Royce, Siemens, Sainsbury's and other blue chip end users.

The Overview

J.A. Harrison has unveiled a new hi-tech production facility, designed to slash lead times on their innovative sealing products, thanks to support from the Business Growth Hub, part of The Growth Company.

The business received a raft of support which resulted in the successful application of an Export Grant which covered 20% of refurbishment costs. The historic move has been the catalyst for a number of high-profile contract wins, international expansion and the creation of 20 new jobs across the business.

J.A. Harrison employee in new facility

J.A. Harrison employee manufacturing gaskets which service the world!

An employee at J.A. Harrison - a huge success story for Oldham!

The Challenge

Founded in 1900, J.A. Harrison is one of the UK’s leading and longest-standing gasket and seal manufacturers, producing a range of products that are widely used across a portfolio of various sectors including the energy, automotive, food and drink processing, and pharmaceutical industries.

For several years the Shepherd family had been looking to relocate their business from its premises in Cheetham Hill which were dated and not able to meet the requirements of their expansion plans.

The Solution

In August 2015, the business contacted the Hub looking for funding support to accelerate the move and began working with growth advisor Darren Flannery.

Darren explains: “After several options fell through, new premises for the company were identified in Oldham.

“We then worked closely with the business, introducing them to our partners across The Growth Company, along with those at Oldham Council.”

Darren worked side-by-side the business to guide them on every bit of support that was available each time a new property option was identified. This included liaising with the Department for International Trade North West, part of The Growth Company, to successfully apply for an Export Grant which covered around 20% of the costs of refurbishing the premises to support their ambitions to expand into new markets such as the aerospace sector.

In 2017, J.A. Harrison opened its new £2.8m hi-tech production facility, capable of earning accreditation to supply products to the world’s most heavily regulated industries.

J.A. Harrison Managing Director Keith Shepherd explains: “J.A. Harrison has an incredible history – we’ve been in business since the turn of the last century, which is no small feat for any business.

“While we won’t lose sight of our bread and butter, what we’ve looked to do is bring a big business mentality to our operations.

“A lot of businesses aren’t brave enough to take that leap of faith required to make the next step. But we want to forge our own future.”

The business understands the value of developing a culture that looks to nurture and retain its own talent and already had strong links with The Growth Company Education & Skills.


J.A. Harrison employee manufacturing gaskets

J.A. Harrison employee in the new, £2.8m hi-tech facility in Oldham

"The support we’ve received from the Business Growth Hub, together with other parts of The Growth Company and Oldham Council has opened a whole new world."

Keith Shepherd, J.A. Harrison Managing Director


This partnership has now been extended further as J.A. Harrison has developed an apprenticeship academy at the new site to help ensure the business attracts a constant pipeline of new, talented young people – which started with the recruitment of a further five new apprentices in April 2017.

“Apprenticeship programmes are a huge passion of ours due to the energy those individuals bring – they inject life into a business,” says Keith. “What I like about apprentices is that they tend to have no off button; they say things that spark fresh ideas. If each of our five new apprentices says something that sparks just one idea, this business will be five steps further forward.”

J.A. Harrison teamed up with The Growth Company Organisational Development team to bring its accreditations up to date so they can tender for contracts further up the supply chain, dealing directly with major car manufacturers rather than as a third-tier supplier.

Darren adds: “It’s been great to work on this massive project to move such an established company as J.A. Harrison to new premises after so many years in Cheetham Hill.

“It’s a huge success story for Oldham as it’s a business which offers much to the local economy in terms of recruiting apprentices, supporting the local supply chain and engaging with community initiatives.”

Keith adds: “The support we’ve received from the Business Growth Hub, together with other parts of The Growth Company and Oldham Council has opened a whole new world.

“Buying our new premises has ensured that we are embedded into the local community; we’ve planted roots here in Oldham and this will be the epicentre of the products we supply and manufacture for years to come.

“We have recently won some major new clients and are looking to expand internationally to new markets.”

J.A. Harrison’s new facility has already led to the creation of 26 new jobs and it is expected to create 20 more over the next five years.

The Oldham-based business’s history stretches 117 years − with satellite bases in Cardiff, Dubai, Prague and Perth – and looks well set to reach its next major milestone.

The Hub has a range of services to support businesses of all types and sizes, including support to help you find new markets and export. Are you ready to succeed? Take the next step and Enquire and Grow today.  

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