THE York Handmade Brick Company says it has saved £200,000 by designing and building its own equipment.

Production manager Steve Pittham has been with the firm since it was founded 30 years ago, and designed and created a new brick dryer from scratch.

Company chairman David Armitage said the dryer could handle more than 33,000 bricks at a time, which will speed up the firm's production process.

He said: "He is the most loyal and dedicated employee one could wish for. Even since we formed York Handmade, Steve has been the bedrock of the company.

"He is also extremely talented. A new dryer would have cost us about £300,000, but Steve’s ability to design and build our machine has saved us about £200,000. This has been a labour of love for him and he is very modest about it all. But it is a fantastic achievement."

Steve said: "Our previous dryer had run its course and just wasn’t capable of handling the pressure of our increasing order book. We had the choice of buying a new one or building one ourselves. I liked the challenge of the second option and I am delighted it has worked out so well.

"It took about four months to build the dyer and it has already made a huge difference to our production process, doubling the amount of bricks which can be dried at the same time during a 48-hour cycle."

The company is currently handling a £300,000 contract to build a new library at Magdalene College, Cambridge, and other housing developments in London.

David said: "Looking ahead, it is encouraging to report that brick remains the building material of choice for many architects and specifiers across the UK. Providing the economy doesn’t implode, we anticipate a very successful and enjoyable 2019.

"It is especially encouraging to report that York Handmade is going from strength to strength in the wake of our 30th anniversary. The company was founded in 1988, taking control of a redundant pipeworks in Forest Lane, Alne, with only some excellent clay being of any use for brick-making. Since then we have grown to 30 employees with a turnover of £2.5 million, with a target of £3 million this year."