This week, we are celebrating Haughton Design’s 20th year in business! So, we decided to look back through the archives and reflect on the company’s history as well as success over the years:

HD’s history spans back to 1990 when Managing Director, David Mills, first started working as a Contract Design/Draughtsman;

“I finished my apprenticeship the year before and was desperate to move forward with my career. My time at Josiah Parkes (Union Locks and now Assa Abloy) had taught me so much! I learned lots about designing and detailing small mechanisms, plastic mouldings, pressings and die casting. I worked in tooling, gauges and special purpose machine design for high volume manufacture – there were some ingenious processes and equipment within the three factories…

My apprenticeship has been invaluable throughout my career. It taught me a lot about design but also about the wider business, working with people on the shop floor and in senior management too. However, as a young and driven engineer, it was time to move on and work for myself – it was time to become a ‘Contractor’”.

1990 – 1995

Between 1990 and 1995, David worked as a Self-Employed Onsite Contractor. His work was mostly completed on film and ink but after investing in training and a software license, he moved into working in AutoCAD 2D. Projects David completed included:

  • Paper mill equipment and wrapping machine design
  • Paint finishing equipment design
  • Detail Furnace and process line design
  • Detail HVAC, heating ventilation and air conditioning design
  • Special purpose machine and equipment design
  • Robot and automated cell design

“My years as a Contractor were very enjoyable. The work I did was incredibly varied and in vastly different sectors. It wasn’t easy though, and there wasn’t much work available. I was so inexperienced against other established contractors. When potential clients reviewed a pile of CVs, they weren’t going to pick mine for a contract due to the work being outside of my previous experience. I overcame this by calling clients directly and explaining my eagerness to learn and help – I would soon pick things up. My approach was simple: if they weren’t happy after the first month, they could end the contract without paying for my work. It was high risk but without this approach, I probably wouldn’t have found the work or opportunities that I did meaning that I would have had to return to permanent staff work. I counted myself very lucky and contracting rapidly increased my design and development knowledge.”

1996 – 2002

Working as a Freelancer at this time allowed David to continue learning and diversify his skillset. He introduced 3D modelling using Mechanical Desktop before moving to SolidWorks in 1998. Projects undertaken were:

“After contracting for 5 years, I started to become disillusioned. I found it difficult not to be in control, for example, a contract would often end before the full completion of a project. At this point, I began working from home as an emerging new thing called ‘the internet’ and ‘email’ made this possible. Working purely on my own taught me a lot about organisation and efficiency. If I worked ‘smart’ I got a lot more done and so became more profitable. However, I realised that not only was working from home and being self-employed quite lonely, but it was also extremely risky for my now young family.”

2002 – 2006

In 2002 David established Haughton Design Limited, taking on his first employee and office space at Stafford’s Business Innovation Centre (BIC) primarily working on mechanical design, development and engineering projects for the Aerospace and Automotive sectors.

“It was in 2002 that HD was truly born. We started with two seats of SolidWorks and one of Mechanical DeskTop. SolidWorks quickly became the tool of choice but we also bought Catia V5 for work in the Aerospace and Automotive sectors.”

2006 – 2012

Having started to build a strong reputation for high quality work within highly regulated sectors to meet tight timeframes and budgets, HD were experiencing an increased number of enquiries in particularly in the areas of new product development and high-volume manufacturing. We recognised that clients often turned to us when projects had gone wrong or had been mishandled and so they needed to be rectified quickly and importantly, correctly. This was often due to other design companies creating highly visual products however, without considering or truly understanding Design For Manufacture (DFM). As a result, HD launched a ‘Design Rescue’ service and our true USP was identified. Through the nature of HDs past work and varied skillsets, we were able to create highly visual and user-centered products that were also robust and optimised for assembly/manufacture.

2012 – 2022

In 2012, Sanofi Aventis were shutting their R&D facility in Holmes Chapel. This was Haughton Design’s first significant step into medical device design & development. Little did we know, the projects for Sanofi at this time would dramatically change the future and direction of Haughton Design. Through these projects for Sanofi, we built strong links and a network of expertise/consultants to overcome the inevitable challenges our clients encounter during the medical device development process. It was at this point, we committed to achieving our ISO: 13485 certification by 2013.

Whilst we are incredibly proud of our past work, since 2012 HD has grown from a small engineering team with a focus in aerospace and test rigs to a larger medical device development team encompassing a diverse background with in-depth expertise in a variety of areas including industrial design, human factors and FEA. We have continued to grow our work and skillset in medical device design & development, focusing initially on auto-injector and drug delivery platforms. These days, medical device development accounts for over 80% of our turnover. Our work spans several device and healthcare sectors including respiratory, parenteral, stoma care, IVD’s, patient handling and many others. Over the years, HD has maintained its lean and agile approach and built a strong reputation of being a high quality, high value and adaptable development partner to our clients globally. These days, our client list encompasses some of the world’s largest Pharmaceutical and Healthcare companies including; Owen Mumford, Sanofi Aventis, Vectura and Teva Pharmaceuticals to name a few!

Internally, we have seen the team grow, the introduction of new services, expanded to working internationally, the purchase and renovation of a fantastic new premises and continual investment in the latest software and training. Teamed with a number of awards, plenty of talks, presentations and conferences, HD continue to grow and improve year on year.

Over the years, we have been fortunate to have come through, navigate and survive a number of global challenges such as; 9/11, the 2008 Financial Crash, COVID-19, Brexit, global supply chain issues and an unstable British Government (to name a few!) with business currently stronger than ever. This is a credit to David and the team’s approach.

On behalf of the team at Haughton Design, we would like to commend David for his past and the journey he’s been on at Haughton Design. He is extremely personable, empathetic, committed and flexible – values that run through Haughton Design as a business.

However, none of the above would have been possible without the support of our clients both old and new, our suppliers as well as our world-class design & development team that continue to ensure HD is a success. We are proud to be heading into the next 20 years of business with a strong pipeline of work, an excellent team, client base and a wonderful new premises to continue strengthening our work and services.

Happy 20th birthday HD! We hope you enjoy a look back through the archives:

Amber Davies - Human Factors Design Engineer & Marketing Manager at Haughton Design Amber Davies 9 November 2022


Get in Touch with Amber Davies

Human Factors Design Engineer & Marketing Manager

Amber graduated from Cardiff Metropolitan University with a degree in Product Design. She has a particular interest in the medical field stemming from her personal experience of using a medical device. She pairs her design background with her personal experiences to apply empathy and develop improved user experiences. Amber also combines this understanding to liaise with customers and create digital content at HD.

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