The company was formed in 1983 as a one man business in the Enterprise Workshops at Byker with a 320 sq. ft unit, a bag of tools, a £200 overdraft and the intention of manufacturing drawing office equipment and similar furniture. The larger items of equipment provided by the enterprise centre were shared communally with other tenants.
At that time production could only be achieved by hard work, ingenuity and long hours. Machine tools had to be modified to produce items not intended on that type of equipment. Other machines were designed and built from scratch – some items could only be produced by long tedious work because the cash for the correct equipment was not available. The skill and precise standards acquired as an apprentice and in a career as a draughtsman and then as a senior engineer proved invaluable in producing reliable well-built furniture conceived and manufactured as an engineered product rather than being built to a price.
These technical drawing boards proved to be very popular. However an opportunity arose in 1984 during a competitive tendering process with Gateshead Education Authority to design and produce reliable computer trollies and furniture for educational use. These products were designed and manufactured from a multi-disciplined precision perspective giving consideration to all aspects of performance eliminating problems as compared to products created by the dedicated trades of a welder or by a joiner or by a painter.
Such was the reputation achieved from these sturdy items that advertising and marketing of the products of the business was not required, sales were acquired by personal recommendation from user to user therefore more finance could be returned to the business to invest in additional equipment and resources. This policy assisted in adopting additional and technically advanced manufacturing methods to cater for the increasing demand for quality long life school furniture. The quality products produced by the business differentiated them quite dramatically from the flat packed furniture within schools with regard to strength and build quality that had such a negative effect on longevity. It was the success of these furniture products that firmly established the company as local leaders in the design and manufacture of educational furniture.
In 1986 the business moved to larger premises at Pandon Gate House, 5 City Road, Newcastle upon Tyne. As finance was critical the unit was located on the ground floor of a semi derelict fish processing factory. Unfortunately there was a difference of several feet between the unit and the street level which possibly explained the low rent. In addition much renovation work was required to strengthen floors and turn the site into a more usable manufacturing resource. Access limitations through narrow stairways and around cast iron pillars every twelve feet caused problems with the manufacturing of large furniture items whilst all materials had to be carried-in by hand off the busy street and up a flight of domestic stairs.
Creative engineering to utilise space led to some innovative solutions and building modifications along with the legendary hole in the floor solution to permit entry for larger pieces of furniture and equipment. In quite a short period space became somewhat limited so when a second, adjacent unit became available and then a subsequent cellar unit they were readily taken-on by Ambic. The first floor then became available which allowed for it to be utilised as a woodwork and assembly shop. At its peak, Ambic worked within 3,700 sq ft of disjoined manufacturing space. All profits were wisely reinvested thereby expanding the business by increasing the range of machine tools rather than expensive cars or holidays.
The manufacturing efficiency of running an eight-department business across four units that were spread over three floors without street access became minimal and the need for more suitable premises led, in April 1999, to Ambic relocating to the Stella Gill Industrial Estate near Chester-le-Street. At Stella Gill, the business was spread over four units that had a combined total of a mere 3,600 sq ft. They did, however, have the added advantage of being adjacent to one another and were all at ground floor level with direct access to the outside. In 2001 trading was transferred to a new company Ambic Ltd The company continued to expand as units became vacant and as finance allowed. By 2009 Ambic occupied 13,440 sq ft of manufacturing space spread over nine units and 14 containers. Ambic at that stage employed 30 office and manufacturing staff and having grown to be one of the leading providers of bespoke fitted educational furniture in the North East of England began earning the title of Ambic-The North East School Furnishing Company.
The control and manufacture all of the furniture components enables solutions to be as versatile and diverse as our customer’s imagination is broad. Ambic offered an unrivalled level of design, construction and fitting of unique furniture and room solutions that satisfied the diverse needs of their customers. The market at this time was extremely buoyant and further growth was not possible without additional manufacturing space and larger essential manufacturing tools. This hindered business growth within the by then restrictive individual factory units at Stella Gill. This led Ambic to invest in the development of a new factory site.
In February 2007 Ambic secured the purchase of a five-acre development site alongside the Stella Gill Industrial Estate in Pelton Fell, Chester-le-Street, Co Durham. A new factory was designed and built with production transferred in September 2009. The business now occupies 24,000 sq ft (2,400 sq m) on the 5 acre site with major external storage, vehicle manoeuvring area and extensive expansion space. This facility is now a state of the art fully integrated production unit utilising the latest technology and CNC controlled manufacturing methods. The factory is fully integrated with the raw materials of wood, metal, plastics, paint, fasteners etc. delivered to the northern end and fully finished furniture being loaded at the southern end.
In between there are separate departments for ; Wood Machining – to cut, drill, laminate, shape and sand the wood sheets and laminates into furniture panels and components. Polishing – to sand, stain and varnish these panels and components into fully finished items ready for assembly. This department also produces the Ambic signature polished waterproof edges. Welding – this shop uses lengths of steel tube which are cut and welded into substantial frames for furniture items, tables and desks. This department has the latest CNC tube bending machine to produce the smooth rounded furniture without sharp corners necessary within schools. Sheet Metalwork – using flat sheets of steel guillotined, formed and fabricated into metal components used in the manufacture and assembly of furniture and incorporated to improve the strength and rigidity of Ambic furniture not found in lesser quality suppliers. Powder coating & Painting – Used to produce a hard wearing durable finish which complements the high standards maintained in the products of the company as this facility is in house the process enables a more rapid delivery schedule and allows the company to maintain its quality standards. Precision Engineering & Tool Making – Supports the factory manufacturing equipment and produces bespoke precision components. Assembly area with installation teams – All Ambic furniture is delivered fully assembled either in the factory or on site by our site fitting teams where fitted furniture has been specified. This department is supported by our fleet of 10 vehicles covering England, Scotland, and Wales.
Solid Grade Laminate Fabrication (Trespa) – produces toilet cubicles, wet areas laboratories, kitchen areas, Solid Surfacing Fabrication (Corian, Staron) – produces food server counters, laboratories and high specification installations. Plastics Fabrication (Perspex, Polyethylene, PVC). Sand Blasting – Renovation of metal items our customers wish to have refurbished, Vinyl Cutting – In house facility to cut out coloured animal shapes, plant shapes and lettering. Stores – stock of furniture components, building, plumbing, drainage, plastering, decorating, flooring, ceiling and electrical materials.