Manufacturing in the UK

Yokel

LE
Another SME story from MTD MFG: NTG Precision Engineering invests almost £1m to expand machining capacity

NTG Precision Engineering has increased its investment in specialist technology to almost £1m in recent months.

The Team Valley-based company has installed an XYZ three-axis CNC milling machine to fulfil a contract for high-precision components and it is also awaiting the delivery in January of two four-axis CNC milling machines.

The total cost of the three large-framed machines is £400,000 and follows a recent £500,000 spend on a CNC cylindrical grinder.

It is part of a planned £3.5m investment programme in capital equipment and staff by the firm, which provides a comprehensive range of subcontract multi-axis CNC machining and precision engineering services.

The XYZ milling machine was sourced quickly in response to a client’s specific requirements and will improve overall capacity to meet a growing order book. The other two machines are Hass VF6 four-axis milling machines.


Where is the Team Valley?
 

Yokel

LE
Investing in skills and training? I thought that the short term management culture opposed that?

£500,000 advanced skills boost for West Midlands manufacturers

Hundreds of workers across the West Midlands are being given the opportunity to upskill thanks to a new initiative by The Black Country & Marches Institute of Technology (IoT).

Companies can now access specialist training for members of staff aged 19+ on one of three Level 4 technical courses in Automated Machining, Robotics and Quality Assurance.

The £500,000 In-Work Skills pilot, which will be delivered at the Marches spoke of the IOT at In-Comm Training in Telford, is free of charge and can be completed part-time and in modules giving both staff and employers complete flexibility.

Topics have been chosen to reflect the changing needs of industry as they look to take advantage of new opportunities in advanced manufacturing and greener technologies, including the march towards electrification.

“Brexit and Covid has placed a lot of financial pressure on businesses and, in some cases, training budgets have been cut, meaning employees and bosses are missing out on vital skills development,” commented Bekki Phillips, Chief Operating Officer at In-Comm Training.

“The In-Work Skills pilot has been designed to bridge this gap and will give manufacturers access to high quality Level 4 technical courses at no cost to them.
 

Yokel

LE
Small companies often play a part in the supply chains for larger companies as well as being exports in their own right.

£250,000 ‘Worcester Presses’ investment helps Cotmor move forward with ambitious expansion plans

A £250,000 investment drive with Worcester Presses is helping a leading Black Country metal pressing specialist take advantage of new domestic and reshoring opportunities.

Cotmor Tool & Presswork, which employs 16 people at its Brierley Hill factory, has seen sales soar to £2m following the easing of lockdown and is now setting its sights on an additional £1m of orders over the next twelve months.

The company has formed a strategic partnership with the nearby press supplier to capitalise on this growth and this has resulted in the installation of two 110 tonne and one 160 tonne Chin Fong machines.

Two state-of-the-art Tomac decoilers have also been introduced, in addition to Titan monitoring technology designed to improve tool and press life and a die cushion to help accommodate multi-functional tools.

“Volumes have bounced back stronger than any of us expected and this has given us the impetus to look at new equipment that will make us faster and give us capacity to take on up to £1m of new work,” explained David Cotterill, who runs Cotmor with his wife Wendy and daughters Louise and Natalie.

80% of our work is overseas and we ship deep drawn, precision and progression presswork to clients in Brazil, China, Germany, Japan, Turkey and South Korea. A lot of these components are technically difficult to produce and, since lockdown, we are seeing an increasing number of enquiries from firms looking to reshore to achieve security of supply.

Portsmouth’s Excell Metal Spinning completes major expansion programme

Excell Metal Spinning, a Portsmouth-based manufacturer specialising in the production of asymmetrical metal products and components, has announced the completion of its £250,000 expansion programme.

Established in 2020, Excell has grown from an ‘out-of-toolbox’ workshop to facilities scaling over 15,000 sq. ft in Hilsea, Portsmouth. Included in the expansion, the firm has installed state- of-the- art-machinery and created new jobs, including two new marketing executives, three apprentices and three new machinists.

Of the company’s recent success, Excell Metal Spinning founder Neil Hunt said:

“The significance of the expansion to Excell is very important in the next step to building a fully one-stop shop for engineering products for our customers. The positive increase in demand is very nice to see and allows us to expand and create new jobs and training opportunities. The boost of eight new members of the team is great to see and the machine shop opening is long overdue and can only make us stronger. The biggest improvement I hope to see from the expansion is cutting lead times for our customers by having control of a lot more work and not relying on subcontractors. Of course my expectations for Excell, is to keep growing as a solid engineering company which the foundations are very much in place now.”

Despite surging energy and raw material costs, and the impact of COVID-19 on a global scale, Excell Metal Spinning has seen an unprecedented surge in demand for their services.

In 2020, Excell played a significant role in the supply of components used in the NHS Nightingale hospitals and throughout the year supplied nozzles used for anti-bacterial sprayers for street cleaning seen in Europe.

The introduction of a new machine shop, with machinery including a press brake, milling and turning lathe alongside a laser cutter with German IPG lasers, will mean the Portsmouth manufacturer can continue to meet the increasing global demand.

The additional machine shop is expected to improve services by quickening lead times and improving in-house capabilities for toolmaking. With the support of new machinery, additional services are now being made available including laser cutting that can cut up to thicknesses of 20mm. The expansion will also see a reduction in transportation as Excell is now able to source crucial supplies closer to home.
 

Yokel

LE
I never intended this thread to simply be a collation of good news stories, but somewhere to discuss issues. As such Reshoring is a big topic.

Reshoring UK

Reshoring UK is a unique collaboration of leading industrial engineering associations to assist manufacturers connect with trusted, accredited suppliers capable of delivering products and services that match their requirements.

This structured approach will support OEMs and Tier 1 companies who need to fill the gaps in their supply chains or to support the creation of new ones. This facility will support the high value and technical requirements of such industries as aerospace, automotive, rail, marine, energy and medical from conceptual design to complete product delivery for companies searching for UK-based support for their businesses.

The development of the Reshoring initiative is to encourage engagement with our manufacturing supply chain and to recognise the strength, skills and innovation available to manufacturers in the UK’ Baroness Burt of Solihull, Patron of Reshoring UK.
 

Yokel

LE
Alongside supporting Reshoring, another key thing to emphasise is the continuing importance of Research and Development, which frequently involves links to our Universities and is a reason why the drive for a focus on STEM subjects is so important. It is also why industrial espionage and things like cyber security are key issues.

MTD MFG: R&D investment pays off as AWI launches new ‘high performance’ alloy

One of the UK’s leading manufacturers of round, flat and profile wire is starting the new year in style by introducing a new alloy to its expanding range.

Alloy Wire International (AWI), which supplies to more than 5000 customers across the world, has seen investment in its R&D programme pay off with the launch of INCONEL: 617®, a Chromium-Cobalt-Molybdenum alloy aluminium.

This delivers a combination of increased strength and stability at elevated temperatures (up to 1100°C/2012°F), whilst retaining the high temperature corrosion resistance of INCONEL® alloy 601.

The high nickel and chromium content makes the alloy resistant to a variety of both reducing and oxidising media, not to mention achieving comparable corrosion resistance to INCONEL 625.

Going forward, this wire is expected to be used to produce components destined for the aerospace, medical, nuclear and petrochemical sectors, all high-tech industries that demand material that performs under the most extreme engineering conditions.

“We’re going to start by offering this grade initially in the size range of 0.025 (.001”) to 5.00mm (.197”), with each order made to customer specification within 3 weeks,” explained Andrew du Plessis, Technical Director at Alloy Wire International.

He continued: “With our ability to manufacture very small order quantities, engineers have the freedom to acquire just the amount of wire they need for their own R&D or product trials. Better still, wire in this Alloy 617 is also manufactured under our AS 9100 (aerospace) and ISO 13485 (medical devices) approved quality systems.”


Are there any means for the Government to help? Perhaps tax breaks or other support for investing in R&D and quality systems?
 
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Are there any means for the Government to help? Perhaps tax breaks or other support for investing in R&D and quality systems?

It already does. R&D tax credits, with different schemes for large and small companies.


When I worked for a UK technology company, this was a significant scheme for us. We were developing cutting-edge FPGA-based technology. There were no manuals, no guides, it was very much a case of “figure it out”, and pretty much everything we did in terms of product development qualified for R&D tax credits.

One market for us was announcement servers. “All circuits are busy, please try later”. Although the application was old, we were able to replace three full racks of equipment with a single 2RU server, and the reduction in plant costs alone pretty much paid for the replacement for most customers. Even though it was an older application, the densification and resultant power efficiency qualified those projects for R&D tax credits.

The US has a similar scheme from the IRS.

But R&D in the US is a massive thing. The US Govt funds FFRDCs and UARCs, along with wholly-owned Labs eg the ARL and NRL. For FFRDCs and UARCs, in return for the funding, the USG owns, or part-owns the output and patents. There’s 40-odd FFRDCs, and they each are billion-dollar enterprises.


I suppose the nearest thing in the UK would be the labs at Capenhurst, Harwell, Culham etc, with DSTL being most similar to the ARL and NRL.
 

Yokel

LE
Does Government help with funding new facilities?

MTD MRG - British Steel to invest £26 million in new facilities at its Skinningrove plant

Building Design Northern (BDN Ltd) has been appointed to bring to life British Steel’s new processing facilities at Skinningrove, marking the company’s largest investment in its special profiles business for more than 30 years.

BDN provided an initial architectural and engineering feasibility study of the site prior to the work going to tender, with the firm having been appointed across multiple disciplines to carry out all of the design work on the development.

British Steel has experienced strong growth for its products in recent months, particularly those used in the mining and construction sectors, and the new built-to-spec service centre will see the company bring to market an extended range of value-added profiles for the forklift industry.

Richard Marsden, managing director of BDN, said: “The continued investment by British Steel into Skinningrove will provide a huge boost to the Tees Valley’s historic steel industry and we are delighted to be working closely with the company to help bring this exciting project to life.

“As a practice with offices in the North East and the North West, we know just how important developments such as this will play in helping ‘level up’ the North as we bounce back from the pandemic and we’re incredibly proud to be involved, and building on a strong track record of designing and engineering industrial buildings.”
 

Yokel

LE
Since electric vehicles are going to be part of the future, here are two related stories:

Britishvolt powers ahead with plans to build UK gigaplant

EV battery pioneer, Britishvolt, the UK’s foremost investor in battery cell technologies and associated R&D to develop homegrown intellectual property, is powering ahead with its historic plans for its first full-scale electric-vehicle Gigaplant in Northumberland and is delighted that the project is receiving support from the Government through its Automotive Transformation Fund, delivered by the Advanced Propulsion Centre.

At the same time BV announce that Tritax and abrdn are becoming its partner to fund the build of the project, shell and core, as well as to develop the associated supplier park. Tritax is the leading investor in UK and European logistics real estate and is joining BV in partnership with abrdn’s global real assets and investment capabilities.

The ATF is a funding programme with the aim of creating a sustainable, zero emission automotive supply chain in the UK. The fund is an important mechanism to deliver the UK “Government’s 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution and its recent Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Over the next few weeks BV will make a series of follow up announcements including customer MoUs and R&D collaborations, relationships with blue chip UK automotive sports car brands and technology releases.


Government does have a part to play even if it does upset some on the right who think there should be a laissez faire approach. What about when the batteries are spent?

Veolia to open new electric vehicle battery recycling plant in UK

Veolia, the UK’s leading resource management company, has announced its first electric vehicle battery recycling facility in the UK, which will have the capacity to process 20% of the UK’s end of life electric vehicle batteries by 2024.

Many of the materials required for battery manufacturing rely on traditional water and energy intensive processes. It is estimated that 500,000 gallons of water is required to extract one tonne of lithium using this type of mining. Urban mining or the use of recycled materials could reduce water consumption as well as cutting greenhouse gas emissions from battery production by up to 50%.

Veolia’s new facility in Minworth, West Midlands marks the first step in developing its recycling technology and treatment capacity within the UK,
with an anticipated 350,000 tonnes of end of life electric vehicle batteries predicted to be in the country by 2040.


Recycling will also reduce the need for imports from potentially hostile nations. But wgere will these batteries be used? In cars, of course:

Bentley Motors to invest £2.5 billion and build first electric car at its Crewe plant

Bentley’s first-ever Battery-Powered Electric Vehicle (BEV) will be developed and built in the UK with the company committing to investing £2.5 billion in sustainability over the next ten years. The announcement is a major boost for the UK economy and also helps secure Bentley’s first step into electrification at the production plant, where all Bentley models are built and 4,000 colleagues work.

The first BEV is scheduled to roll off the production line in 2025 and will mark a significant moment in Bentley’s long and illustrious history. It is also a critical step in the company’s Beyond100 strategy – the ground-breaking plan launched in 2020 that will ensure Bentley is exclusively electric and end-to-end carbon neutral by 2030.

The significant investment programme will also result in a complete transformation of Bentley’s entire product portfolio, and the historic Crewe Campus by embedding an industry-leading greenfield facility into a world-leading, next generation digital, low environmental impact, high-value advanced manufacturing facility.
 

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