LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD Winner
Awarded to the individual who, in the opinion of the BPMA, has made a significant and consistent contribution the pump industry over the duration of their working career.
Chris Rea OBE, AESSEAL
The year’s recipient started his career in Sealing Solutions, with a small subsidiary of a much larger group, in Sheffield following his move from Northern Ireland. He developed quite a substantial business selling products onto UK based distributors, primarily through the provision of great service, something which has remained with him and has been instilled throughout his business ever since. He briefly returned to Northern Ireland in the summer of 1977 where his wife Ros, who was born in Sheffield, joined him. He had a happy two years working in Northern Ireland in a small but dynamic business with several branches but eventually returned to Sheffield. He took over and bought a small engineering business on April Fools’ Day in 1979.
The company was situated in an area of Sheffield that required redevelopment and was actually located between a massage parlour and a used-furniture shop. Despite this, for a two and a half year period employees grew from 8 to 23, sales more than doubled and purchases from suppliers trebled.
However, one Friday afternoon in October 1981 the distributorship for the business was withdrawn and out of 23 employees, some 18 had already been approached by, and subsequently elected to go and work for, two new distributorships. It seems all the remaining staff members, including our award recipient, were the only ones who were not aware of the change in the distributor agreement.
But whether you believe in fate or not, this turned out to be a major turning point in his career. The company spent 6 months to a year in intensive care but eventually took the first tentative steps towards developing a range of products to compete in the market place.
For anyone who knows Chris Rea and AESSEAL, the rest is history. Chris is now the Managing Director and the majority shareholder of the UK’s last remaining mechanical seal company and the world’s 4th largest mechanical seal manufacturer. The group has grown from 8 to over 1,700 employees over 30 years and 2017 sales were in excess of £170 million of which 90% are exports. Product and process development, information technology and over 90% of manufacturing is still based here in the UK.
In 2002 Chris was awarded an OBE for “Services to Industry” and in 2011 he became a Deputy Lieutenant of the County of South Yorkshire. He followed this up in 2012 by becoming a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers. He also holds an Honours Degree in Economics from Queens University, Belfast.
Chris is not only a great figurehead for the business, but he is also a great accountant and a great engineer and has been responsible for making AESSEAL what it is today. He believes in supporting the local community, furthering the engineering profession and is particularly interested in promoting women in engineering. Chris continues to invest heavily into the AESSEAL business and his outstanding contribution to the mechanical sealing, reliability and associated pump industries, is probably unsurpassed.