With a royal visit, a large contract with the Ministry of Defence and a Queen's Award for innovation, things are looking up for Bradley Doublelock. T&A Reporter MARK CASCI visited the trailer equipment specialists and delved into its history.

Bradley Doublelock has come a long way from its foundation in 1947.

The company, which began as a maker of caravans in Cleckheaton, was visited by the Duke of Kent on Friday after winning a Queen's Award for Innovation earlier this year.

Not long after its formation Bradley Doublelock dispensed with the caravan trade and has evolved over the years to become a leading designer and manufacturer of equipment to the light trailer industry.

The niche market has proved a successful one for the firm.

Success led to the company being honoured this year with the Queen's Award for Innovation, a prestigious accolade honouring the company's contribution to international trade.

Bob O'Hanrahan, the firm's managing director, said that the award was a great privilege.

"It was a massive boost for the company," he said. "In our industry, I cannot think of anyone who has received an award like this and we are up against some fairly big players. It has given us the platform to move forward."

The company currently has its headquarters in Bingley but has recently opened a second base in Cross Hills where its chassis are manufactured.

Friday's Royal visit was arranged to mark the award. Alongside the Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire, the Duke was given a grand tour of the Cross Hills facility, where Mr O'Hanrahan was able to take him through what the company does and who it supplies.

The Duke watched workers in action as well as being given demonstrations on how the highly sophisticated equipment works.

At one stage a forklift truck was driven onto one of the trailers without bending the chassis of either the trailer or the van it was attached to - the result of a technologically advanced computer system which compensates for excess weight at either end of the trailer.

Andrew Spencer, sales director at the company, said: "It went really well. Some of our bigger customers were here too and we should be announcing some more business contracts shortly."

The company started off supplying equipment to cattle and boat trailers, car transporters and a multitude of other trailer applications.

It would soon add jockey wheels, prop stands, towing jaws and many other units to its range before developing its Flipper tow ball cover, a chrome-plated unit, fitted to thousands of cars all over the UK.

A change in tactics following a successful management buy-out in 2000 resulted in the company diversifying its business to include specialist military applications and specialist chassis.

A high-profile contract with the Ministry of Defence followed which saw the company designing and creating a patented disc braking system which has been used on more than 6,000 army trailers.

The highly sophisticated technology includes computer systems which allow the driver to see how much weight is in the trailer and if it is close to becoming overloaded.

The contract with the MoD raised the company profile so much that it found itself nominated and eventually selected for the Queen's Award.

The trailer equipment which Bradley Doublelock has developed for the military is now being used all over the world and marks how far it has come during it existence.

The firm exports to Europe, particularly Spain where Bradley Doublelock has found a strong market.

"There is no indigenous manufacturer of this kind of technology in Spain," said Mr Spencer. "The situation with Spain and its strong agricultural base means that, as a consequence, we have had a strong presence there."

Today Bradley Doublelock employs 115 at its two sites in Bingley and Cross Hills and a further four people at a distribution centre in Ireland.

e-mail: mark.casci@bradford.newsquest.co.uk