John Ichikawa, who has been with the business in Maldon, Essex, for 12 years, was promoted to head of technical sales to work alongside managing director Alex White who will now focus more on international sales. Ichikawa is grounded in production, installation, technical support and servicing.

He said: “We have enjoyed record sales in this downturn. In tough times people recognise more acutely that labour is their biggest expense. Automated machinery helps cut those costs and is good on quality control, as every product made is the exactly same, not always so with hand cutting.

“We have also invested more in proactive marketing – press adverts, trade shows and updating the website. Whereas people used to say ‘Blackman and White who?’, we are now much better known thanks to marketing and tighter targeting of areas such as graphics and POS markets.

“All our machines and accessories are made in the UK and tailored to meet each customer’s needs. We can also react rapidly so our customers are up and running with the minimum of delay.”

Ichikawa has practical experience of automated blade and laser cutting of a wide range of materials from PVC and sailcloth to composites and other technical textiles, said the company, which has promoted Adrian Zurek installation and service manager.

White said: “A dramatic increase in enquiries in the UK and overseas for automated cutters in the last year means we need additional experienced staff who understand the practical issues that customers face. John has a full understanding of our machines and their applications.”