Engineering excellence from the banks of the Tyne to the Sea of Japan

Soil Machine Dynamics (SMD) pioneered the design and manufacture of seabed ploughs back in 1970, and following the acquisition of Hydrovision in 2003, has grown to be the world’s number one independent designer and manufacturer of work class and specialist subsea remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). SMD underwent a management buy-out in 2008, funded by the private equity group, Inflexion. Its impressive range of customers spans a variety of sectors from energy (oil and gas, marine renewables and offshore wind infrastructure, nuclear), to telecoms, mining, naval and military, and scientific communities.

SMD has experienced rapid growth and now operates from its 90,000 square feet of manufacturing space, across four production sites in and around Wallsend, where the head office is also based.  The company is organised along five key business streams: Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs), Trenching, Renewables, Nuclear, and Subsea Mining. Annual turnover has risen substantially in recent years, from around £40m in 2007 to a forecast of more than £100m in 2012.

Some of the best engineering talent around work here - around half are degree qualified engineers. And with a big commitment to achieving manufacturing excellence, SMD takes pride in nurturing future leaders through graduate and apprenticeship programmes. So, it’s not surprising then that business has grown its headcount significantly over the past two years. This stood at 136 employees at the beginning of 2010, with numbers now fast approaching 500. The vast majority of are based in the North East, while others work from offices in Yorkshire, Singapore, the US and Brazil.

SMD’s mining business stream was awarded with the company’s biggest contract to date in 2007. This contract was to build the world’s first deep sea mining tools for Australian company Nautilus Minerals, to mine Copper, Gold and Iron ore from the sea bed off Papua New Guinea. It’s this type of ground-breaking work that has earned them Royal approval with two consecutive Queens Awards for Enterprise. The first award was won in 2011 in the category of Innovation, and the second award was won in 2012 for International Trade.

 And the engineering excellence doesn’t stop there. One of the company’s vehicles was used to plug the hole caused by BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil platform explosion. And in 2011, its Q-trencher vehicle was used to dig trenches in the sea off the Japanese coast to repair damaged telecommunications cables running between the islands, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Today, the innovative work continues with its latest development, the Atom work class ROV system, being exported to customers in South East Asia and the Mediterranean. The Atom is an ultra-compact work class ROV, which is suitable for subsea drill support, inspection, repair and maintenance, and survey and light construction, which can be mobilised on vessels and rigs with limited deck space.

Commenting on the success of SMD, CEO, Andrew Hodgson says: “We’ve been part of the manufacturing industry in NewcastleGateshead for over 40 years and witnessed its fascinating developments throughout that time. The decline of the shipyards and heavy industries was a catalyst for the area to discover new skills; to embrace new ways of manufacturing. I think great progress has been made and I’d certainly say that like many other manufacturing companies in the area, our success is down to the combination of creativity and technical expertise displayed by our outstanding team of people who strive to excel in everything they do.”

Help Tell Our Story

Share Your Story

What People Say About NewcastleGateshead

If you love where you live, tell the world: Become a NewcastleGateshead Ambassador

Why We're Great

Get Involved

Get Involved

You’ll find everything you need to know to get started right here.

News Around NewcastleGateshead