Polo helmets fit for royalty are transforming Peterborough manufacturer

A manufacturer in Peterborough is enjoying royal success as the business is transformed after a sector-wide decline.

Wednesday, 15th August 2018, 3:17 pm
Updated Sunday, 2nd September 2018, 10:06 pm
Silvio and Clair Perna of Automated Wire Bending Ltd, Vicarage Farm Road, Fengate. They make polo helmets for export EMN-180416-145524009

Automated Wire Bending, in Vicarage Farm Road, is using its skills to make high value, individual helmets for polo players.

The designs have been so successful the helmets, which sell for up to £500 each, are now being worn by Prince William and Prince Harry.

They are also in demand across the world including Dubai, America, Australia and New Zealand.

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Staff at Automated Wire Bending Ltd, Vicarage Farm Road, Fengate. They make polo helmets for export EMN-180416-150057009

Managing director Silvio Perna said: “We are building on this success. In two weeks we begin making helmets for cross country riders and will expand into the equestrian sector.”

It is just one way the 26- year-old firm has diversified after the decline of manufacturing at the turn of the millennium as production moved to the low cost Far East.

Mr Perna said: “We had to reinvent the firm. We went from dealing with the giants of retail making many thousands of components for items from trouser presses to mixers to dealing with individuals who had ideas.

“In 18 months staff fell from 40 to just 15. We didn’t have a plan and each day asked ‘what shall we do today?’”

Staff at Automated Wire Bending Ltd, Vicarage Farm Road, Fengate. They make polo helmets for export EMN-180416-145941009

Another area of success netting £400,000 a year is strawberry growing.

He said: “We make the wire frames on which the producers grow the strawberries.”

But there is a new cloud over the market.

Mr Perna said: “Brexit is a cause of much uncertainty. We don’t know what will happen to the producers if they lose their EU grants.”

He said: “This company would not be where it is without our European workforce and the skills they have brought with them and their work ethic.”

The company has 45 members of staff and about 40 per cent are from eastern Europe.

Mr Perna said: “They have added to the economy - not taken from it.”