For generations the steelmaking heartland of Sheffield has been rightly lauded as the manufacturing powerhouse of the region - while Doncaster, boasting excellent rail, road and airport links, has long been the ‘go to’ place for logistics.
Dan Fell, chief executive of Doncaster Chamber, expertly summed it up a couple of years ago when he said the general perception is: “Sheffield is great at making stuff and Doncaster is good at moving it” - but he was also keen to point out: “We are pretty good at making stuff in Doncaster too.”
As part of our ongoing ‘Made in Doncaster’ campaign, the Doncaster Free Press is aiming to shine a light on some of the manufacturing firms doing the town proud.
Ambition is clearly always important in business - and Doncaster-based Donasonic have it in abundance.
The firm specialises in making machinery that can transform household waste into energy before selling it to companies all over the globe.
And with fossil fuel reserves such as oil, gas and coal ever diminishing, companies like Donasonic are becoming increasingly vital to the future of the world’s energy production.
The need for environmentally friendly energy production worldwide informs Donasonic’s global ambitions.
Since forming in 2011, the company has grown year on year and now has more than 50 waste processing machines in operation across the world.
The firm designs and makes the equipment at their headquarters in Wheatley Hills, before shipping it overseas to power plants and energy producing factories.
Hatfield-born Craig Hudson, head of international sales and project management, said the firm was formed by a group of people who had a background in waste production and electronics and wanted to a create a company “with a goal of being market leaders in quality and value for money.”
The 32-year-old added: “Our machines take mixed waste and automatically separate out valuable waste streams such as metals, plastics, etc which can be recycled and the remaining waste can be used to create power.”
The company employs more than 25 people at their bases in Doncaster, Shenzen in China, Hungary and Pattaya in Thailand and the workforce speaks 12 languages between them.
They have more than 50 machines, ranging in size from three tonnes to 80 tonnes, operating in more than 50 countries worldwide, including Hungary, Germany, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.
Mr Hudson said their typical customers range from “local councils wanting to create power from waste to farmers who needed to treat animal carcasses, scrap yards wanting to separate/process metals and investment companies who wanted to build power plants.”
But their biggest market is in Thailand, where Donasonic has been tasked by private companies in the country to come up with better ways of processing millions of tonnes of waste.
The firm has recently signed a $5m deal to design a plant to process all of Bangkok’s waste. There is currently 10m tonnes of waste in a landfill site near Bangkok Airport with a further 7, 500 tonnes being dumped there every day.
However’s Donasonic’s plant will be able to process 250 tonnes of waste per day when it becomes fully operational later this year. The site will recycle the waste and use it to produce power to thousands of homes and businesses across the country.
It will also help to create 95 new jobs for local people and a team of engineers from the Doncaster office will be going over to show them how to use the machinery.
Mr Hudson said: “This project is so significant that if you turn a light on in Bangkok that’s Donasonic generating the power from waste. This plant will generate power for 400,000 homes.
“We will be shipping 60 40ft containers from Doncaster to Thailand with a total weight of over 450 tons which is a vast amount.”
Previously the company signed a $4m deal with a plant in Hatyai, Thailand, to supply a 50 tonne single shaft shredding machine called ‘The Thunderstorm’ - officially the largest shredding machine in Asia - plus four other machines.
With the help of Donasonic, this plant now supplies 150, 000 homes with power. This deal came about after the chairman of a private Thai based company visited the firm’s Doncaster office to see how their machines worked.
The company also has machinery in a plastics separation plant in Rayong, Thailand, which processes 200 tonnes of plastic per day.
Donasonic has other deals in the pipeline over the next two years to process landfill at another site in Bangkok.
Mr Hudson added that the company is a market leader because the machines they make have a unique selling point - they can think for themselves.
He said: “Our competitors have a simple ‘turn off or turn on system’ but our machines were to be smart and think for themselves, we were to give the machines a brain so that not only could they think for themselves they could feed real time information back to our head office no matter where the machine was in the world allowing us to not only monitor the system but allow us to actually predict what parts need servicing and when something the competition just can’t offer.
“We have a central control room where this happens. We can see where the machine is, CCTV of the machine and sensors will tell us how hot the parts are running.”
He added: “This is important because it is critical the power plant is always ‘fed’. If our machines stop then so does the plant.
“To give you an idea of the complications of this, if our machines stop for a day then the customer is normally fined by their national grid around $10, 000 per day.
“With our machines being smart we can maximize uptime on the machines and predict downtime for servicing.”
Despite five years of booming business, Donasonic is just getting started.
Mr Hudson said: “We are on a mission to now help Asia solve the ongoing waste/pollution issues. We are already number one in Thailand in this field and we plan to expand into China more so in the near future.”
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