Manufacturing Today Issue 201 June 2022

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Issue 201 2022


Smart solutions

Having expanded its facilities to meet the future needs of its clients, automation solutions provider ATS Automation continues to embrace innovation and develop its offering

Reinventing manufacturing: A transformation is underway that is subverting old perceptions of dusty factories and creating a need for new skills in areas such as artificial intelligence A unified approach: The labels on parts or products have to be accurate – they represent a critical part of the supply chain and can have a major impact on overall efficiency The next evolution: With Industry 4.0 bringing so much technology to the factory floor, the right wireless network option is now critical. 5G offers multiple solutions to the challenge

Chairman - Andrew Schofield

Editor’s Letter

Group COO - Joe Woolsgrove Editor - Libbie Hammond Staff Writers Daniel Baksi • Alex Caesari Danielle Champ • Jessica Olley Editorial Administrator - Amy Gilks Managing Art Editor - Fleur Daniels Art Editors - Paul Gillings • David Howard Artwork Administrator Rochelle Broderick-White Sales Director - Alasdair Gamble Business Development Director Philip Monument Head of Global Media Programs Mark Cawston - Operations Manager - Adam Blanch Research Managers Michelle Fontaine • Natalie Griffiths Jo-Ann Jeffery • Ben Richell • Basil Sharpe Editorial Researchers Victoria Burke • Mark Cowles Jeff Goldenberg • Dan Harrison Melanie Joyce • James Page • Wendy Russell Richard Saunders • Kieran Shukri Markus Wellington Advertising Sales Johanna Bailey • Mike Berger Jessica Eglington • James Fuller Will Gwyther • Alex Hartley Reid Lingle • Sam Surrell Florida General Manager - Ryan Finn Boston General Manager - Joy Francesconi Custom Media Sales - Dan Bess Subscriptions - Administration Natalie Fletcher • Rory Gallacher Ibby Mundhir

Hello and welcome to the June issue of Manufacturing Today. With figures in early June revealing slow growth in UK manufacturing for May, Maddie Walker, managing director at Accenture, Industry X, recommends ‘running more efficiently to avoid spiralling costs being passed onto the consumer’ as well as ‘continued investment in technology, like data analytics and robotics.’ This she says, will ‘help to make supply chains more visible to help plan for future shocks, as well as unlock new ways to make products more effectively.’ To be honest, it feels like we’re always advising investments in technology – the feature on page 14 notes a downside of this; the skills gap. If we’re changing the perception of manufacturing from a dusty old factory to a state-of-the-art production floor using AI and VR, a whole new set of recruitment challenges arise! Are you seeing this taking place out there?

Libbie Hammond EDITOR |




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This issue’s cover story takes a look at ATS

Automation, an automation solutions provider that is expanding its facilities and capabilities in order to meet the needs of its clients. MT was fortunate to speak to Andrew Hider, CEO of ATS, Udo Panenka, President of ATS Industrial Automation, and Dave Kelly, VP of Sales for Mobility, and they shared not only details of the scale of their developments (one of the factory lines is 150 feet by 1250 feet, the length of four continuous football fields) but also their enthusiasm for the future. Clearly it’s an exciting time and the ATS story is well worth a read – visit page 20 to find out more.

Issue 201 2022


Smart solutions

Having expanded its facilities to meet the future needs of its clients, automation solutions provider ATS Automation continues to embrace innovation and develop its offering

Reinventing manufacturing: A transformation is underway that is subverting old perceptions of dusty factories and creating a need for new skills in areas such as artificial intelligence A unified approach: The labels on parts or products have to be accurate – they represent a critical part of the supply chain and can have a major impact on overall efficiency The next evolution: With industry 4.0 bringing so much technology to the factory floor, the right wireless network option is now critical. 5G offers multiple solutions to the challenges

Please note: The opinions expressed by contributors and adver tisers within this publication do not necessarily coincide with those of the editor and publisher. Every reasonable effor t is made to ensure that the information published is accurate, and correct at time of writing, but no legal responsibility for loss occasioned by the use of such information can be accepted by the publisher. All rights reserved. The contents of the magazine are strictly copyright, the proper ty of Schofield Publishing, and may not be copied, stored in a retrieval system, or reproduced without the prior written permission of the publisher. l 1






Electric vehicles Could electric vehicles become the catalyst that drives a shift towards a comprehensive transformation of the entire transportation eco-system?

10 Communications There are several different wireless network options, but 5G is justifiably getting most of the attention these days because of the benefits it offers

12 Contract manufacturing What is the best way to modernize your labeling process with contract manufacturers and maintain control and accuracy outside of your four walls?

14 Skills gap Gaining and retaining skilled workers is essential to bridging the skills gap, and effectively implementing AI-based systems is key to making this happen

ATS Automation


16 Manufacturing news Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena

G.F Smith



First Solar 2 l




Crown Paints Plc

Hager UK



Battle Motors




FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group

Stellar Industrial Supply



Megger Ltd

Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc l 3

...Contents continued 94






Allied Air Enterprises

Heinrich Kopp GmbH



E+R Group

NELMAR Security Packaging Systems





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Eastern Industrial Automation





Hubbardton Forge







Bemis Associates

Accredo Packaging l 5

A new experience Can electric vehicles (EVs) become catalysts for redesigning the entire transportation ecosystem? Nihal Pimpale reports

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Electric vehicles l 7


atteries are key to both wider adoption and profitability from an EV manufacturer’s perspective. An EV may cost upwards of $10,000 more to produce than a regular ICE (internal combustion engine) vehicle, and batteries represent the largest single factor in this price differential. Battery economics plays a crucial role in consumer decision making as total vehicle cost must be weighed against driving range and other key factors. To accelerate adoption, both governments and OEMs are building joint strategies that incentivize consumers to make the leap to EVs. While much progress has been made over the last two decades on building efficient batteries and powering the EVs that are required to meet climate change goals, there is a hesitancy to go beyond vehicles themselves and address the entire transportation ecosystem. The challenges ahead are inordinate and cannot be addressed by solely designing a vehicle - but rethinking the entire transportation eco-system which includes our cities, landscapes, and every single touchpoint that the EV is a part of. When you elevate the overall experience, battery economics will take a backseat. I strongly believe that EVs could become the catalyst that drives this shift towards a comprehensive transformation of the entire transportation eco-system. For decades, manufacturers have competed on incremental innovations, touting marginal advances in their engineering capabilities, durability, efficiency, and aesthetics.

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Though these factors aren’t obsolete, we now need to shift focus towards consciously building efficient touchpoints all around the vehicle to enhance the overall transportation experience. This sentiment is shared by William Li, CEO of Nio: “If you are buying a car, you’re not just buying a vehicle. You’re buying a ticket to a new lifestyle.” As EVs are driving OEMs to rethink how cars are designed, there is an equal need to consciously remodel the entire transportation ecosystem consisting of the micro and macro moments that make up the everyday experience. To simplify, OEMs must visualize the key service touchpoints of a vehicle from its inception and map the complete eco-system from planning, manufacturing, production, sales, service, and feedback, looping back to planning – thereby creating a complete experience continuum. “There are about 900 individual touchpoints during the car-buying journey and all these data points need to be connected. The customer just expects it all to work,” said Christian Richter, Google’s Global Automotive Director. Here are some of the touchpoints of the EV journey that can benefit from design interventions:


For over a century, we’ve witnessed the incremental evolution of dashboards, trims, and designs. Though much progress has been made, the design cues of modern vehicles are still very apparent when

Electric vehicles we consider their lineage. However, EVs provide a fresh canvas for manufacturers to not just design the vehicle, but also change how it’s experienced when driven each day. The amount of data that OEMs can potentially tap through sensors, products, and services also leads to a greater understanding of consumer behavior, desires, and needs. Consumer preference for EVs is shaped by a number of factors including commutes, pleasure, and lifestyle, so consciously planting OEM-powered services into this equation must be part of how the vehicle eco-system is designed. Think product + service. How can the temporary materialistic pleasure transition towards continually upraising experience?


When consumers buy vehicles today, they expect a smart, connected, and consistent experience. When a car is put into production, all its components – including the digital channels (i.e., the dashboard, entertainment console, service portals) – must work in-sync with the vehicle and extend to external channels such as consoles at the carwash, parking meters, charging stations and more. CarPlay with iOS16 is one step towards a consistent dashboard experience that OEMs can leverage. But along with aesthetics, durability, and performance, it is crucial to build these ‘digital extensions’ right at the source.

provide insight into usage patterns that can then be relayed straight to the manufacturer for improvisations and upgrades within a modular framework.


Buying a vehicle, although a memorable moment, is still just a small part of the journey. Instead of solely cashing in on the diminishing charm of driving a brand-new vehicle, OEMs should build on micro-moments that continue to brighten the experience even as the car’s own shine fades. Given that consumers associate vehicles with its manufacturer, a reorientation will require OEMs taking center-stage, partnering with companies and governments, and increasing sources of revenue generated through deeper engagement that are fueled by a central CarOS platform. It’s not about selling just the car, it’s about the entire experience! v For a list of the sources used in this article, please contact the editor.


As manufacturers go D2C with their own platforms and services like Carvana that eliminate unpleasant traditional car-dealer experiences continue to emerge, we see early signs of disruption in the car buying experience. Virtually interacting with the vehicle, testing, and digital minting may allow consumers to experience the product before they lay hands on it. Profiling a customer can help manufacturers find the right configuration that extends toward a frictionless, personalized booking experience that includes factors like financing and delivery being completely digitized. Matthew Gold, former chief strategy officer as predicts that “by 2030, we will see the full auto-retail process becoming digital.”


Servicing is a critical part of vehicle ownership. However, creating platforms to integrate micro-moments of service history, scheduling, maintenance and upgrades will ensure consumers focus on enjoying the drive. For instance, OEMs could offer vehicle health monitoring on-board diagnostic dongles that detect errors, notify the customer and connects with an authorized expert that will help them make an informed decision and build consumer trust. Influenced by their experience with innovators in other industries, consumers now expect real-time service. Both Tesla and Nio offer energy packages that allow for charging vehicles on the spot as well as a ‘battery as a service’ offering makes rentable batteries available to the buyer. Recurring services like these could boost revenues while also building customer loyalty through a service that constantly delivers.


In the world of increasingly rapid consumption, vehicles continue to serve as companions for years. While engines and parts eventually wear out, a consciously designed ecosystem reinforces and strengthens the connection. OEMs should take this as a cue to build deeper loyalty programs that extend impact to include travel and hospitality partners. Capturing micro moments of customer emotions over the years can

Nihal Pimpale Nihal Pimpale is Chief Design Officer at Moonraft, the experience and innovation design arm of UST. For more than 22 years, UST has worked side by side with the world’s best companies to make a real impact through transformation. Powered by technology, inspired by people, and led by its purpose, it partners with its clients from design to operation. Through its nimble approach, it identifies their core challenges and crafts disruptive solutions that bring their vision to life. With deep domain expertise and a future-proof philosophy, UST embeds innovation and agility into its clients’ organizations - delivering measurable value and lasting change across industries, and around the world. Together, with over 30,000 employees in 30 countries, UST builds for boundless impact - touching billions of lives in the process. l 9

The next evolution The wireless way to agility and productivity with 5G. By Tom Richter


ince the invention of the steam engine and the assembly line, manufacturers have been at the forefront of the industrial revolution. Recently, they have begun investing in advanced automation technologies such as autonomous robotics, IoT, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and digital twins. Often referred to as Industry 4.0, this group of technologies also crucially depends on network connectivity, with wireless preferred in the future. There are several different wireless network options, but 5G is justifiably getting most of the attention these days.

cables. It is deterministic, which means that operational technology (OT) personnel can specify specific parameters that must be met. This contrasts with a typical wireless technology like Wi-Fi, which is non-deterministic and ‘best-effort’ by standard. For most automated manufacturing use cases, deterministic communications are preferable, if not essential. 5G has been specifically designed for industrial use cases with the ability to achieve ultra-low latencies (in the 1ms range), very high bandwidth (e.g., for video and augmented reality) and massive machine-type communications.

Cutting the cable

Sensors, sensors, sensors

Manufacturers today are looking for ways to become more agile and responsive to shifting demand. The globalization of markets and supply chains has increased efficiencies, but it has also created greater swings in demand and supply trends. A major driver of Industry 4.0 adoption is the ability to pivot quickly, either to match demand or adjust to supply chain issues. Traditionally, assembly lines have relied heavily on communications based on cabling. Technologies like Ethernet provide the speed, security and low latency for critical machine-to-machine communications. The downside of Ethernet cabling, however, is that it is expensive to re-wire the facility when re-tooling and has no solution for mobile assets. What makes 5G especially interesting is that it can match the bandwidth, reliability and latency performance of Ethernet with no

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One of the key trends in advanced manufacturing is low-powered sensors capable of running on five-to-ten year batteries or using energy harvested from other processes.These industrial IoT (IIoT) devices are rapidly proliferating throughout the manufacturing process.They capture data on every conceivable process, and play an important role in automation. Wiring thousands of sensors and instrumentation is costly and time-consuming. Thus, manufacturers use specific IIoT wireless communications systems, such as long-range wide area (LoRA) designed for low-power IIoT connectivity. 5G can also handle low-power sensor communications. However, because it draws more power, it usually complements other lowpowered wireless technologies. Use cases for 5G include sensors that only need to update occasionally, are located farther away, aren’t

Communications This is a use case where 5G is the obvious wireless technology. It is designed to handle mobile communications at speeds greater than 4.5 mph (unlike Wi-Fi) and is capable of ultra-reliable low latency communications (URLLC). Being broadband, it can also carry video and audio streams that allow central or floor personnel to monitor and remotely control the AGV if it gets into a tricky situation.

Coverage and reliability

Many manufacturers have already installed Wi-Fi to handle some of the wireless communications functions discussed here. However, the arrival of 5G opens new possibilities and will help to overcome many of the issues that are known to have plagued Wi-Fi installations. Although IT teams are more familiar with Wi-Fi, the two technologies aren’t dissimilar to install and operate. Industrial, campusbased 5G solutions use small cell radios that are very similar to Wi-Fi access points. The core network functions of the 5G network can be housed in a local server, which can also double as the local edge cloud. The up-front equipment is more expensive than Wi-Fi, but the total cost of ownership is similar or lower because of the superior radio coverage and performance of 5G. Wi-Fi radios are known to struggle in high-ceiling, metal structures – typical of modern factories, where there is a lot of signal interference. The consulting costs associated with engineering the Wi-Fi radio coverage has been known to exceed the entire cost of the hardware. And engineering of the radio coverage needs to be re-done whenever there is significant re-organization of the space. 5G, in contrast, is designed to provide broadband coverage in dense urban areas where radio interference is significant, thus requiring no special engineering to deploy in most factories.

A platform for Industry 4.0

battery-powered or are on moving equipment. 5G can be integrated with IIoT gateways to backhaul sensor data.

Smart AGVs

Automating the material feed using intelligent vehicles is another way to improve agility and productivity. Autonomous guided vehicles (AGVs) have long been used in factories for materials handling, but – being restricted to taped or wired routes – they aren’t very flexible. Smart AGVs, also called autonomous mobile robots (AMRs), capabilities allow them to roam singly, or in fleets, using open-path navigation. One of the key benefits of this evolution is that AGVs can sense obstacles in their path, alter course to avoid them, and use systemwide traffic information to compute more efficient routes to avoid congestion. The smart AGV makes these decisions using a combination of local sensor inputs and centrally communicated routing and traffic information. Central material resource planning (MRP) and digital twin software can keep constant track of loaded and unloaded AGVs and optimize the fleet routing at any time. There are two ways to handle the required information processing for the AGV: one is to use an on-board computer, the other is to handle it using an edge cloud. Putting the compute resources in the edge cloud lowers the cost of the AGV unit, just as long as there is low latency communication between the AGV and the edge cloud. Either way, reliable wireless connectivity is needed.

5G can act in concert with other wired and wireless systems and, in some cases, replace them. It can connect smart PPE wearables, handheld terminals and smart tools. It supports push-to-talk and push-to-video communications, as well as augmented reality heads-up displays. In other words, with a few exceptions, 5G can replace almost any current wireless and cabled communication system used in today’s factories. This consolidation onto a single connectivity platform reduces operational overhead and provides manufacturers with a foundational technology for expanding automation and realizing their Industry 4.0 ambitions. Although only recently available, 5G and its release roadmap is quickly rolling out and is likely to play a pivotal role over the next decade in the evolution of autonomic manufacturing. v

Tom Richter Tom Richter is Global Head of Discrete & Process Manufacturing Verticals, Nokia. He is responsible for the design and specification of tailored network solutions based on the specific vertical requirements of manufacturing companies. As a trusted partner for critical networks, Nokia is committed to innovation and technology leadership across mobile, fixed and cloud networks. It creates value with intellectual property and long-term research, led by the award-winning Nokia Bell Labs. Adhering to the highest standards of integrity and security, it helps build the capabilities needed for a more productive, sustainable, and inclusive world. l 11

A unified approach Barcode labeling with contract manufacturers: Maintaining control and accuracy outside of your four walls. By Jenna Wagner


anufacturers today are part of a global supply chain, sometimes specializing in one product or process and sometimes a product mix. In a vast supply chain made up of contract manufacturers, supplier networks, warehousing providers, and distribution specialists, barcode labeling is the common language allowing every link in the supply chain to work together. Companies who have a supplier network or multiple contract manufacturers understand that labels on incoming par ts or products must be accurate – especially for products being shipped directly to regional distribution centers versus a central warehouse. Labeling is a critical component of an efficient supply chain, and a unified labeling system can have a big impact on overall efficiency and your bottom line. First, let’s discuss what an inconsistent or outdated labeling system looks like. Companies without a unified labeling system for their contract manufacturers are likely managing a hodgepodge of label files, data, and software. Here are three scenarios commonly seen: • Some companies resort to simply sharing label files or data via email to their many contract manufacturers for printing. When labels are updated or changed, the files must be manually re-sent. Not only is this time consuming, but it also opens the door to human error and the risk of using outdated data. • Other companies might be managing a mismatched software

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environment, leveraging different brands of labeling software with each contract manufacturer. This is often the case when a labeling environment has grown over the years without much strategic direction. • Some companies are using their own custom-developed labeling system. While custom-developed software starts out as the perfect fit, it can be difficult and expensive to keep it compatible with modern technology. All the above labeling scenarios can lead to inaccurately labeled products or components, resulting in expensive and unnecessary supply chain bottlenecks. Specifically for the last scenario, once you start to think of longterm scalability, custom software development, systems integration, services costs, and maintaining that custom-built software solution over time, custom-developed labeling systems start to become a less attractive option. An alternative is commercial off-the-shelf software solutions that include numerous optional feature sets, making the addition and removal of certain functionalities as easy as checking a box. Off-the-shelf labeling solutions can meet your requirements at a fraction of the cost and come fully loaded with forward compatibility for seamless upgrades. Plus, it’s common for software companies to develop requested functionality for a customer, then include it in the next version release of the software for all end users to leverage.

Contract manufacturing

What are the risks of inaccurate labeling? • Inventory is the heartbeat of manufacturing and mistakes can cause serious production delays. If inaccurate labels are not caught early, they can lead to inaccurate inventory. • When automatic identification is impossible due to bad labels, employees must manually identify incoming components or products. Manual identification takes time and employees are likely to make mistakes. • When mistakes are caught, components or products must either be returned to the contract manufacturer or relabeled. Returns and relabeling waste time and resources. Inaccurate labeling from contract manufacturer’s components or products causes significant inefficiencies in the inventory receiving process. An inefficient process means more time, space, and labor are required to manage incoming inventory. With a unified labeling system, companies can experience much lower risk for labeling errors from their contract manufactures. The best part? No local software installations. How does a unified labeling system work? The unified labeling system would be centrally managed by your company and can be hosted either on-premise or in the cloud. • Smart label templates are designed and maintained in-house, and every change must pass your customizable (and automatic) approval process. Only approved label templates can be printed. • You create simple, streamlined printing interfaces via a web browser and secured with a username and password. Each contract manufacturer can only access the approved labels that are associated with that contract manufacturer. • Seamless integration with an ERP, WMS, or other business systems and databases provides accurate real-time data for every label printed. • Every label print job is tracked, including both internal print jobs and external contract manufacturing print jobs. Detailed reporting sets you up for success in the event of an audit. Web-based label printing portals are published and can be branded with your company’s logo. Each contract manufacturer has secure access to approved label templates that automatically pull in real-time data from your business system. No sending label files back and forth required.

What are the benefits of a unified labeling system? • Only accurate and real-time label data is printed, thanks to seamless integration with the necessary business systems. • Fewer labeling errors means the inventory receiving process is automated and efficient. • Inventory records are accurate, reducing the risk of production delays. • Maximum security with customizable user permissions. • Complete traceability and ability to report on all past label changes and print jobs. • Adding new contract manufacturers is quick and easy, eliminating any burden for your IT team. The best way to modernize your labeling process with contract manufacturers and maintain control and accuracy outside of your four walls is to implement a unified supplier labeling system. v

Case study: Nemak – a leading provider of innovative lightweighting solutions for the global automotive industry specializing in the development and manufacturing of aluminum components for powertrain and body structure applications – standardized their barcode labeling, reduced manual error, and automated printing out of their ERP system with TEKLYNX CENTRAL. Read the full case study here.

Jenna Wagner Jenna Wagner is the Global Marketing Director at TEKLYNX International. TEKLYNX International helps supply chains work better. Today, more than 750,000 companies in over 170 countries trust TEKLYNX integrated barcode and RFID label design products and the people behind its solutions to make barcode labeling operations efficient, accurate, secure, and industry compliant. Learn more at Barcode Better™ with TEKLYNX. l 13

Reinventing manufacturing How AI and the next generation can bridge the skills gap. By Jean-Baptiste Clouard


he skills gap in the manufacturing industry is a growing problem, and we’re increasingly seeing new ways of talking about an old problem. The manufacturing industry has a historic, old-fashioned perception that can often deter younger workers from choosing it for their career path – it’s an industry that can been seen as stuffy and under-paying. But we’re slowly seeing a transformation happen that subverts all these perceptions in Industry 4.0. Industry 4.0 is the emergence and increased use of new technologies as part of the new industrial revolution and is shaping the direction of the manufacturing industry today. New and emerging technologies, and new AI-focused star tups, are creating career opportunities for the likes of software developers and engineers in the hopes of using AI to automate

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processes and create innovative ways of addressing problems. But that does leave the need for these skills, and where do manufacturing companies access them?

The greater need for skills

Manufacturers often cite the skills gap as a reason for a slow transition to more innovative ways of working – there is a need for more technical skills to keep up. The industry needs to encourage people with skills in these sectors to apply for work in manufacturing and to upskill current employees to ensure they are not left behind. According to a study conducted by The Manufacturing Institute’s Centre for Manufacturing Research and the American Psychological Association, around two-thirds of employees under age 25 said they stay with their current employer

Skills gap AI can be used to automate processes which frees up time to upskill employees. For example, using AI-based supply chain software, such as one provided by Flowlity, at every stage of the manufacturing process will reduce time spent on repetitive tasks and quickly identify supply chain issues. Smaller companies especially can reap the benefits of AIbased algorithms as it eliminates the need to hire data scientists, roles that are extremely competitive in the employment market. Where once, teams had large amounts of data stored across emails and spreadsheets, by using AI software it becomes centralized in one digital database and can quickly be analyzed. This not only saves time but reduces the potential for human error. Mistakes cost time and money to fix, and the use of AI in manufacturing reduces the likelihood of mistakes being made. When repetitive processes are automated, employees are given the opportunity to train in new areas and further develop their skills, and we know that this commitment to professional development is key in retaining the skilled employees that are vital in closing the skills gap.

AI in learning and development

The emergence of new technologies could be seen as contributing to the skills gap, but the reality is that when utilized properly, AI can improve learning and development in the workplace. AI-based eLearning platforms can customize content for each employee, be used to create chatbots that are designed to assess employees on their knowledge, and even make the creation of eLearning content easier through automatic translation features. This is beneficial to new employees who are looking for a viable and varied career in manufacturing, as well as to existing employees who may not have the knowledge to adapt to the digital transformation, and finally to managers who normally would not have the time to create tailored training plans.

Bridging the gap

because of training and development (69 percent) and career opportunities (65 percent). Along with the concern of retaining younger workers who leave for higher pay or promotions after developing skills during their first few years of employment, it is important to the new wave of workers that their employer invests in continual development. One of the reasons cited by manufacturers for the skills gap is that within the industrial transition, there is a greater need for workers to have the technical skills to keep up. For example, AI offers the ability to automate processes – which will save time and money – but can often be underused because of the lack of technical skills in the workforce.

AI in manufacturing

Using AI to bridge the skills gap is not about overcoming humans in the workforce but expanding the role that people have in manufacturing. Where workers once were needed to carry out repetitive processes,

By using AI to upskill and train employees, companies can retain the skill needed to keep up with the industry 4.0 transition and remain competitive to rivals. Employee development isn’t just good for ensuring you have a skilled workforce – it ensures they are not lost to competitors, taking the skills needed to bridge the gap with them. This goes hand in hand with leveraging AI to automate processes that free up employees for training purposes and to optimize the manufacturing supply chain. Gaining and retaining skilled workers is essential to bridging the skills gap, and effectively implementing AI-based systems is key to making this happen. v

Jean-Baptiste Clouard Jean-Baptiste Clouard is the co-founder and CEO of Flowlity, an AI-based stock optimization and forecasting solution. The solution allows supply chain planners to capture market volatility and react to disruptions in an agile and effective way while connecting a company’s planning to its customers and suppliers. The technology takes external and unpredictable factors that could impact stock into consideration to allow businesses to replenish stock uncertainties and have safety stock. l 15

NEWS IN BRIEF Mexican expansions Smurfit Kappa has invested $23.5 million to upgrade its Nuevo Laredo sheet plant in Mexico to become a fully integrated corrugated plant. The investment includes a state-of-the-art corrugator and extension of the building. The new machine will have the two-pronged benefits of reducing CO2 emissions by up to 40 percent and doubling production capacity. The Nuevo Laredo plant is located in the Tamaulipas region in Northeastern Mexico where Smurfit Kappa has strong partnerships in the industrial, electrical appliances and electronics sectors. The region represents 3.3 percent of the country’s GDP and is home to over 200 companies which manufacture products for the US. This latest investment follows on from Smurfit Kappa’s $22 million expansion of its Culiacan corrugated plant in Northwest Mexico last year.

Energy solution Flogas Britain has partnered with power generator manufacturer Himoinsa to provide a cleaner, more cost-effective energy solution for UK manufacturing businesses currently relying on diesel generators. Together, they’ll provide turnkey liquid gas solutions to companies with onsite power generation needs, helping them to immediately lower their emissions and make significant cost savings following red diesel subsidy changes in April. As partners, Flogas and Himoinsa will provide completely tailored liquid gas solutions for manufacturing businesses with both temporary and permanent power generation needs. They will be able to select from Himoinsa’s range of state-of-the-art generators and will benefit from a reliable liquid gas supply from Flogas along with dedicated customer support. Liquid gas tanks will also be fitted with auto ordering technology, which triggers a refill when levels are running low and ensures customers always have the power they need.

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Transformation underway A framework agreement with Jotun has been announced by Emerson, to automate and digitalize the paint manufacturer’s global manufacturing facilities. The five-year agreement will enable Jotun to implement Emerson’s digital technologies to enhance all aspects of manufacturing automation in new factories, and for selected upgrades in some of its 39 existing factories around the world. Through its agreement with Emerson, Jotun will increase process automation and create a standardized digital technology solution for new factory projects, which will help the company achieve increased throughput, uptime and product quality, while reducing operating costs. “In securing a long-term automation partner with the expertise required to support our journey, we will have access to systems, competence and support serving our needs when constructing and operating technically advanced and efficient paint factories around the world,” said Fredrik Urdahl, Jotun’s group technical director - operations. “Emerson’s advanced automation technologies and focus on providing standardized project methodologies, as well as global and local support, were critical factors in our selection for collaboration.” “We have a long track record of helping companies introduce technologies and processes that lead to game-changing enhancements, and Emerson is committed to helping Jotun realize significant ongoing production efficiency improvements,” said Mark Bulanda, executive president of Emerson’s Automation Solutions business. “We will help support Jotun’s transformation efforts not only through our industry-leading portfolio of digital technologies and solutions, but also from our Project Certainty methodologies.”

Hot off the press Paper Converting Machine Company (PCMC) and Hudson-Sharp, part of Barry-Wehmiller’s Converting Solutions platform, have made significant contributions to Aspen Press & Packaging’s new flexible packaging division. Based in Salt Lake City, the packaging company has installed a 10-color, 52-inch Fusion C flexographic printing press from PCMC and two Ares 400-SUP stand-up pouch machines from Hudson-Sharp. “The purchase of this state-of-the-art flexible packaging equipment will enhance and extend Aspen Press & Packaging’s ability to offer its clients a more robust and wider range of solutions for their packaging needs,” said Scott Robbins, President, Aspen Press & Packaging. “The equipment is built and supported in North America, and the manufacturers’ proximity to us was important.” “The fast make-ready time and low waste, plus the SteadyPrint and TruePrint Plus technologies, were key factors in our decision to go with a Fusion C press,” added Steve Evans, Chief Financial Officer, Aspen Press & Packaging. “The Fusion C is a great complement to our existing offset packaging equipment. It truly gives our sales team an edge over our competitors.” PCMC’s Fusion C is a central impression (CI) press that combines the features and advantages of both inline and CI presses. It allows for quick setups and efficient runs, and is the only CI press manufactured in North America.

Manufacturing News Blueprint for the future Rising energy costs, reducing emissions and meeting environmental targets all need a change in energy management. IfM Engage, part of the Institute for Manufacturing, University of Cambridge and global technology company ABB have teamed up to develop a blueprint for better ways of working that look at technology challenges, processes and people, to plan purposeful change. “Sometimes organizations make the mistake of looking at what technologies can help them to ‘go digital’, without considering the broader context including where value can be created and what pain points could benefit most from digitalization. Do not build on the status quo but think about your ideal future scenario - then develop a roadmap for your digital transformation,” said Dr Clemens Chaskel, Industrial Associate, IfM Engage. “It’s not the technology that makes your digital transformation successful, but it’s how it is applied during road-mapping, the vital component is establishing connections between those strategic elements to ensure that every item on the roadmap has a purpose.” “IfM Engage and ABB developed a roadmap that will improve our technology strategy, R&D projects, customer deliverables and anticipate future trends, which has the potential to shape the energy management systems of the future. The next step is to turn this blueprint into real world actions,” added Giampiero Frisio, ABB Smart Power Division President. “By working with experts from the University of Cambridge, we secured our long-term trajectory for the evolution of the ABB Ability Energy Manager. We know we have a coherent and original strategy to support customers in cutting operational costs, reducing emissions and meeting environmental targets,” noted Giuseppe Casagrande, ABB Smart Power Division Digital Leader.

Modular approach

Plex Systems, a Rockwell Automation company and a leader in cloud-delivered smart manufacturing solutions, has announced a new modularization approach for its Smart Manufacturing Platform to enable accessibility and scalability for digital transformation in manufacturing. This approach, enabled by Plex’s innovative cloudnative platform, more closely aligns with customers’ needs as they build their smart manufacturing technology strategy, including a focus on flexibility, quick implementation, and ease of entry with a path to grow. “Plex was built from the ground up for manufacturers with flexibility and scalability in mind, as evidenced by our cloud-first multi-tenant architecture. Modularization takes this a step further with numerous starting points for companies at any stage to begin or expand their digital transformation journey,” said Nathan Pieri, chief product officer and vice president, applications, Rockwell Automation. “We took an outside-in look at understanding customer challenges and aligned our approach to help them manage their entire lifecycle and deliver positive business outcomes every step of the way. By providing manufacturers with easier points of entry and an elastic building block approach, companies can focus on their immediate Industry 4.0 transformation needs with options to add more capabilities as they need them, all seamlessly within our secure manufacturing cloud.” “The new modular approach, from production monitoring to full ERP and everything in between, ensures we can help customers quickly solve their most pressing pain points with one, many or all of our innovative smart manufacturing solutions, meeting them where their needs are and supporting them as they grow,” commented Ron Pascuzzi, chief customer officer, Plex Systems. “Plex’s customer-led approach to our product strategy is affirmed by offering a fast path to start their digital transformation journey.” l 17

Smart solutions Since 1978, ATS Automation has offered unparalleled synergy of experience, technology, and scale to advance factory automation for the world’s leading manufacturers – now, the ATS Industrial Automation division has its sights on helping companies go green 20 l


TS Automation (ATS) is an industry-leading automation solutions provider to many of the world’s most successful businesses. Headquartered in Canada and with over 50 facilities spanning more than 20 countries, the companies that make up the ATS portfolio offer solutions to multiple sectors, including industrial automation, life sciences, food and beverage processing, packaging, as well as

process automation. One ATS company in particular, ATS Industrial Automation, an endto-end automated tools, assembly and test solutions provider, is navigating changing global trends towards green energy and continuing to set itself apart from the competition. In addition, the business has completed multiple projects that demonstrate its expertise in electric vehicles (EVs) battery assembly and test, grid battery production, industrial electronics

ATS Automation

assembly, e-commerce packaging as well as automation solutions across the entire lifecycle of nuclear power plants from new builds to operations and maintenance, to refurbishment and decommissioning of existing reactors. The growth that ATS Industrial Automation is experiencing is fueled by the broader global focus on creating a greener future for the planet. With recent political issues surrounding the supply of oil and gas, combined with a renewed

emphasis on reducing global emissions after COP26, world leaders are looking for energy alternatives and strategies to mitigate the effects of climate change. Thanks to the push to move to EVs, that automation market is seeing enormous growth, and to continue to meet the needs of its bluechip client base in that space, ATS is expanding its operations. Keen to learn more about the changes that are underway at the organization, Manufacturing

Today attended ATS Industrials’ opening of its new Columbus, Ohio facility with Andrew Hider, CEO of ATS, Udo Panenka, President of ATS Industrial Automation, and Dave Kelly, VP of Sales for Mobility NA. The new 240,000 sq.-ft facility is – together with five other locations – built to support the demand for electric vehicle (EV) batteries, energy grid storage and continue its prominence and innovation in the industry. According to Udo, the driving ambition for l 21



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Kistler ATS is an industry leader in making manufacturing facilities smarter, greener, and safer, while implementing processes that promote Lean manufacturing. ATS utilizes Kistler’s technology to achieve zero-defect production, with 100 percent traceability and recognizes Kistler as a key growth supplier. Kistler has been working closely with ATS to develop innovative production and assembly solutions. ATS utilizes Kistler’s process monitoring and control solutions with force sensing technology to improve quality, reduce waste, and save production time. Kistler’s portfolio provides ATS with complete documentation and validation, allowing ATS to track processes, export data, log changes, and generate reports for continuous improvement.

ATS Industrial Automation’s new production space was to consolidate two smaller facilities and obtain a single, purpose-built location that boasted a contemporary aesthetic with leading capabilities. But the expansion of the facilities has created a ripple effect, introducing broader changes and new approaches across many areas of the business, and extending out to the local community, which will be touched upon later. The team began with the primary foundational reasons for the project and details about its creation. “About one-and-a-half years ago, we realized that this industry was experiencing profound changes and identified that our customers would need a lot of large-scale automated equipment to support their ambitious growth plans. This gave us a clear target – create enough space and the right environment to support our customers’ needs,” said Udo. With the Columbus facility being one of the ATS Industrial Automation sites already staffed with EV battery line experts, ATS is able to benefit from their experience on the breadth and size needed for the expansion. Recognizing that customers’ installations continue to scale up,



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ATS Automation moving from single assembly lines to holistic multiyear programs, the building was created with few obstructions and larger expanses between the beams. To give some idea of size, one of the lines is 150 feet by 1250 feet, the length of four continuous football fields. “This building enables us to solve our customers’ problems,” Udo added. Thanks to collaboration spaces, intimate knowledge around what keeps a customer up at night (which ATS calls valuable problems in attractive verticals) is brought in-house. “We want to have our engineers thinking more about the problems they solve and understand what keeps our customers awake at night – we want our team to fall in love with the problem and

come up with creative solutions,” he added. The project was more remarkable because it was being constructed throughout the pandemic, and Andrew credited the team for their outstanding contributions towards its completion. “If it weren’t for our team and their dedication to reaching their targets, we wouldn’t have thrived the way we did. When it comes down to it, it really is a testament to how the team operates and how they work together in a really challenging environment,” he said. This is a topic Udo feels particularly passionate about. “My first time here was after this building was completed. I was blown away by everything the team did, but as a leader, it felt strange to approve this building and follow the progress

when we couldn’t travel there. In retrospect, I think that the remoteness created empowerment and has served as a reminder for us to push our staff to reach their potential. We need to continue to empower our teams; our people need to drive this. I can tell you: in this case, they came up with some incredible solutions.” The new Columbus, Ohio site was built to accommodate new business, but there is more. ATS Industrial Automation is breaking ground with a second building to allow for more systems, lines, and support the aggressive growth plans of their customers and the industry. As Andrew was thrilled to reveal, the team was able to undertake the ribbon cutting on its completed facility and then ‘then walk over and

Siemens Leading digital transformations and Industry 4.0, Siemens is an integral partner for ATS Industrial Automation as it opens its new facility in Ohio. ATS has a strong background in partnering to bring innovative solutions to high-speed manufacturing, from developing battery assembly lines to medical equipment lines. Partnering is at the heart of the company’s operation, and enables its customers to increase throughput, and thereby gain a 50 percent improvement in plant-floor efficiency. Siemens solutions seamlessly integrate automation and software through technologies designed to both enhance production efficiency and time-to-market. Siemens Digital Enterprise helps manufacturers create sustainable competitive advantage, and be more responsive to changes in the market and in society. Learn More: l 23

break ground again on a new site!’ The EV battery lines created by ATS Industrial Automation are extraordinary projects, but they are not the only area of focus for this business. Udo took a moment to clarify the other core verticals for ATS Industrial Automation, which totals three different market segments. “One is everything around battery manufacturing, more mobility but also for grid battery storage applications. The second one is nuclear, so we are doing a lot of automated tools for the new build of small modular reactors, operations and maintenance as well as refurbishing existing reactors, and decommissioning reactors. The third is what we call specialty automation, which

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includes a lot of high-speed applications, product assembly, fuel cell assembly, and testing.”

Technology Expansion in the Midwest

This leads us to the question of what makes Ohio, and Columbus in particular, such an attractive place for all these operations? From Udo’s perspective, there are two critical elements, as he explained. “On one side, when we look at where our customers are based, we always try for a relatively ‘local-to-local’ approach. Many of our customers are large OEMs that are undertaking huge business transformations in the US, and we want to be able to support

them.” Central Ohio’s location makes it a convenient site from which to work with many of America’s leading manufacturers. “Additionally, we have critical mass here in the shape of our team, with great technical talent, passion, and excitement around technology and innovation. We need the best automation experts in the world to successfully drive our customers’ programs. This presents its own challenges as our customers are evolving their battery designs through the process, and operations may begin as one small line and expand into a huge overall program – for example, General Motors (GM) will need to build one million batteries in the near future. We have the program management skills required to make transformations and changes on this scale.” It’s clear that Columbus brings a lot to the table, and these benefits are further enhanced given its proximity to Detroit, which allows ATS to draw on the talent pool of that area, and its rich resource of automotive experience. This directed Udo, Andrew, and Dave onto the topic of people, which they acknowledged as ATS’ number one asset. The organization is keen to ensure that its people-oriented culture remains in place, even with its current fast pace of expansion. Recruiting remains a challenge, given the skills shortages the industry is facing, and ATS works hard to promote itself as a desirable employer that is creating hundreds of additional full-time jobs, which are high-tech and rewarding, and the team is making good

ATS Automation progress. Udo emphasized the role that ATS and its staff are playing in what is a historic transformation of the automotive industry from fossil fuel to electric power. “ATS offers the chance to get involved with some of the coolest automation projects in the world,” he said. He also noted another benefit that has been seen thanks to the new buildings – as strong teams are continuously strengthened and developed, it is easier to leverage proven best practice while introducing new ways of working and thinking to their roles. Keen to encourage the younger generation to consider a career in automation, ATS Industrial Automation runs an outreach program,

engaging with students and being involved with communities. Dave is personally involved in visiting local STEM schools and speaking about the opportunities available, including sponsoring local First Robotic Clubs (FRC) in the area. “We also partnered with a local community college where they are creating programs specifically for our technicians, and this ATS-based curriculum means that when they get here, they can hit the ground running,” he shared. ATS also works hard to ensure that its team includes a diverse range of people with different views and perspectives. ATS is e.g. actively encouraging women into technical and management positions, an area it continuously

Bosch Rexroth As one of the world’s leading suppliers of drive and control technologies, Bosch Rexroth ensures efficient, powerful and safe movement in machines and systems of any size. The company bundles global application experience in the market segments of mobile applications, machinery applications and engineering, and factory automation. With its intelligent components, customized system solutions and services, Bosch Rexroth is creating the necessary environment for fully connected factory automation applications. Bosch Rexroth offers its customers hydraulics, electric drive and control technology, gear technology and linear motion and assembly technology, including software and interfaces to the Internet of Things.

works to strengthen. “We started from schools and universities, recruiting young ladies into technical jobs, and we are always looking at how we place knowledgeable women into more leadership roles,” Udo confirmed. Priding itself on not only being a great place to work, ATS also understands its continued expansion’s effect on the local community through new employment opportunities. This is connected to ATS’ own wider green agenda – Community Impact is identified in its Sustainability Report. “There are five areas on which we are focused around Sustainability, with Community being one,” said Andrew. “Another is becoming carbon neutral by 2030, which is an ambitious target, but thanks to our ATS Business Model (a continuous improvement focus), it is being broken down into smaller, more measurable segments that can be studied over a period of time. We look at every business within ATS, understand exactly where they are in their journey, and work out target areas to improve. This could be solar panels, renewable energy, or even looking at our emissions from staff ’s commutes – we need to understand the l 25

impact to identify improvement areas.” Returning to the Columbus expansion projects, these also include energy-saving features in areas such as lighting. Going forward, maintaining a focus on green building elements is essential to the ATS team. “Additionally, one of our divisions has launched the ability to help customers reduce their own carbon footprint goals, so not only are we doing it from an ATS perspective so we can be good environmental and corporate citizens, but we are also looking at how we help our customers reduce their carbon footprint as well,” Andrew expanded. “We are always finding ways to support our customers in this as they are on the same green journey we are,” agreed Udo. “Some of our solutions, such as SuperTrak CONVEYANCE™, which are linear handling systems, save space and energy, which is very important not only on these huge automotive battery or product assembly lines.

A Proven Leader for Battery Assembly, Testing and Related Services

“It’s important to realize the breadth of what we are doing,” he continued. “We can easily demonstrate this by looking in more detail at one of our battery assembly lines. We take thousands of battery cells and put them into a module. Those modules make up the larger pack that ends up in the car later. The pack can weight over 2,500 lbs. and be more than two meters long.” “Today’s EV car manufacturers are looking to deliver a line that may produce a complete battery pack-per-minute, sometimes referred to as the skateboard,” added Dave. “That would mean an ATS Industrial Automation line would need to process 500-1,000 cells a minute. However, there are many variables from chemistry to cell design, for example, if the cells are pouch, cylindrical, or prismatic. “A cylindrical pack, for example, could have upwards of 6,500 to 10,000 cells in that pack,” Dave continued. “That means there could be demand for up to 20,000 welds every minute. The challenge is that each customer’s battery design, chemistry, and throughput specifications are different. “If one weld is defective, the range of the vehicle could potentially drop by almost two percent. It is all about accuracy and speed. We add high-speed, high-value processes at the cell level and precision processes through assembly and testing. We need to handle the material, assemble a product, and test it. Laser welding and tab formation are strengths of ATS Industrial Automation. Through our knowledge, skills, and processes, we can provide solutions for many different battery applications, EV battery, energy storage, and grid storage, to name a few,” he added. Having described the scale of the lines, the conversation then shifted towards a reality the manufacturing industry is experiencing on every

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ATS Automation level – delays in lead times. “We are no longer living in a world where someone can wait 20 or more months to get these lines. This entire sector is evolving at an amazing rate, and the consumer adoption of this new technology is spectacular,” Udo emphasized. “Time is of the essence, and this is where other technologies such as digitization are coming in, addressing the question of how we can simulate a full line before it’s built and start programming when the line only exists on a computer.” Answering these questions requires ATS to be incredibly focused on innovation. “To achieve that as a corporation, we continue to invest at a very significant level. Even through Covid-19, when as human beings, the world felt uncertain,

we kept our innovation target in line to ensure we brought products to market that truly help our customers,” Andrew expressed. Udo emphasized how seriously ATS takes its responsibility towards meeting its customers’ needs and the changes it is making to deliver what is required. “We are driving a lot of vertical integration, expanding the breadth and depth of what we can do ourselves and making sure we can get a little bit more independent. So, for example, we have recently acquired a conveyor supplier. We have to make the best of a challenging supply chain situation, utilize our size and strength with some of the critical suppliers, and work with them on understanding what is coming in the future.”

This willingness to adapt and evolve will be increasingly important going forward, given that the battery technology space is continuously changing – Udo described it as “a moving target.” “Battery costs are dropping ten percent every year, and every OEM wants to leverage the latest technology with changes in charging rates, range extension, battery density, and so on. Huge changes are happening, and in the quest for the cheapest or longest life battery, they might forget the design question: ‘how do I later on produce this battery easily’? “So, we have to think about how to design lines today with built-in upgrade capability to accommodate future battery design. ATS

McNaughton-McKay Electric Company McNaughton-McKay Electric Company is a full service electrical distributor serving a wide range of markets with innovative technology, solutions and personnel. In addition to a full line of products, we offer comprehensive services to move your business forward. For over 30 years we have collaborated with ATS to develop high-tech automation solutions tailored to end users across a variety of industries including automotive and electric vehicles, solar, life sciences and consumer products. Congratulations to ATS for providing outstanding solutions to their customers. With their newly designed production facilities, ATS is certain to remain an industry leader in factory automation solutions. l 27

Industrial Automation has delivered over 75 battery assemblies and test solutions; we have seen what works and what doesn’t. Some customers need an integrator, but more and more are looking for a partner who can help

identify design issues before production. Our customers want help to incorporate upgrades, modularity and support these new growth industries. We know what good looks like and can bring that credibility to our solutions.”

Growing Its People and Processes

As well as being able to shine a spotlight onto a customer’s operation to see where it can offer an improved solution, ATS keeps a laser focus on its own processes too, which includes questioning current ways of working and looking for areas of improvement. “The EV market will be growing significantly over the next 15 years. We are wellpositioned to benefit from that expansion, but we have to ask how we make our business scalable,” said Udo. “We need to become much smarter, ask questions about where and how we build, include digitization in a totally different way, and understand and optimize the process every single day.” A great example of how ATS is scaling in alignment with its customers’ growth is the relationship that it has with General Motors (GM), which Udo describes as a “highly valued relationship.” “They are ramping up their battery production rapidly, and we match up well in terms of our ability to respond to their timelines and the global reach we have,” agreed Dave. “I don’t think there are many other players that could support such a challenging program,” continued Udo. “I think there is alignment between our companies on our passion and drive to create the best solution, as well as attitudes and collaboration, also fueled by the ATS Lean Business Model ABM. Their Ultium battery is a very modern concept, and I think that it fits well with our appetite for innovation in new technology. We share synergies around complex program management and continuous improvement, and we go in, and brainstorm and problem solve.”

The Future is Bright

It is clear that ATS Automation has grown past being simply an automation equipment supplier and is now truly a partner of its customers on

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ATS Automation their journeys. Having more than doubled the company in the last five years, it has maintained a focus on preserving its culture and ensuring that it is not just a great place to work but also a significant contributor to the broader community. Before concluding, ATS’ valuable contribution to America’s fight against coronavirus deserves to be noted – its specialized life sciences capabilities were called upon to expedite the production of medical equipment, including filtering facepiece respirators, ventilator components, an automated bio-decontamination system, test kits, and hygiene product filling. These projects called

for fast response and unprecedented delivery times. “It proved to everyone what can be done. If you unleash people and let them run, you see what can be accomplished, and that is pretty fascinating,” said Andrew. As we approached the end of our interview, the ATS Industrial Automation team’s enthusiasm for the future remains inspiring, with Udo describing the coming years as ‘exciting.’ “If you are not enjoying what is happening at the moment and the opportunities this brings for people, then you are in the wrong industry!” he exclaimed. “We have learned many lessons around

Murrelektronik Murrelektronik is honored to be a long-term growth partner globally for ATS. We challenge the way of automation – things simply connected – with over 80,000 products, allowing you to make seamless automation a reality. Decentralized control solutions, the backbone of our platform, have saved customers over 30 percent on their overall installation costs! With factory trained engineers on staff to simplify your system integration, presence in over 50 countries, and 11 logistics centres strategically located globally, we help you stay connected, and ensure that we’ll be there for you!

different areas over the past 20 years, and our teams continue to adapt and get better,” ended Andrew. “I would say we are just in that stride now, and we still have a lot of work to keep that journey going.” v

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The journey to Industry 4.0 As it plans to boldly enter the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Crown Paints Plc invites us behind-the-scenes of its operations and explains why automation is the keystone to improving sustainability

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Crown Paints Plc


t’s been about a year since Crown Paints Plc (Crown) was last featured in Manufacturing Today. It’s been a taxing year for all; one crisis, it seems, begets the next. However, as Ellis Mudd, Director of Manufacturing at Crown, makes abundantly clear throughout the course of our interview, the last

year has also been a time of positive change, an evolution of sorts that not only supports Crown’s sustainability agenda, but also facilitates the company’s brave and bold entrance into the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0). “Like many manufacturing industries, we’re currently facing one of the most challenging

times that we’ve ever experienced,” asserts Ellis, which strikes a firmer chord when you consider the fact that Crown was established all the way back in 1777. “Hopefully we’ve come through the main challenges of Covid-19, but now we’re experiencing a global economy that has been severely impacted by high inflation, uncertainty caused by the terrible situation in Ukraine, high energy prices and low consumer confidence. Furthermore, all the disruptions in the global supply chain, which arose during the pandemic, persist. We’ve gone from one situation with excessive levels of demand to another: worrying about the rising prices of raw material prices and the lack of confidence that consumers have in the market. “When it came to the pandemic, we didn’t suffer from labor shortages; we have a fantastic loyal workforce and people who want to work with us. The benefit of being a very good employer is that, during crises like Covid-19

Bühler Bühler demonstrates a comprehensive know-how and the ability to deliver to its customers tailor-made systems for complex processes, across a wide range of industries. A global technology partner for process engineering, Bühler offers not only state-of-the-art machines, but also complete solutions for the manufacture of a wide range of products. It works closely with its partners to help them increase manufacturing output, and improve efficiencies with a wide range of products and services. Bühler is a specialist supplier to local and international partners for material handling solutions, mixing and milling systems, wet grinding and dispersing, cooling and drying systems, as well as being a leader in grain handling and food processing equipment. Bühler strives to create innovations for a better world, with a special focus on healthy, safety, and sustainable solutions. Bühler UK Ltd. 20 Atlantis Ave, London, E16 3BF | | |

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Billions of people come into contact with Bühler technologies to cover their basic needs for food and mobility every day. For this, we develop the best process solutions along complete value chains. Two billion people each day enjoy foods produced on Bühler equipment; and one billion people travel in vehicles manufactured with parts produced with our machinery. Having this global relevance, we are in a unique position to turn today’s global challenges into sustainable and good business. Specialists suppliers to local and international partners for: –

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Food processing systems

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Bühler UK limited 20Atlantis Avenue London, E16 2BF United Kingdom M +44 (0) 7771957893

Crown Paints Plc people work with a sense of comradery to overcome the tough times together. This has been built up from a very long history of looking after our employees, meaning that when adversity strikes, we know that we’re in a good place to fight back.” Though some businesses stood back, effectively waiting for the storm to pass, Crown decided to firmly stand up. In fact, the popular paint manufacturer accelerated its internal drive for operational excellence to face all those myriad external challenges, shifting its focus to achieve the company’s highest ever standards of sustainable manufacturing. “We’re still experiencing disruptions in the global supply chain,” admits Ellis. “It’s not just affecting the UK; it’s a global phenomenon. We had

to deal with the situation and essentially that meant becoming more and more efficient in our operations. “In the past, we’ve invested very heavily in automation and process control; however, now our focus is on getting those assets intelligently networked so that they work seamlessly together,” he details. “This has been chiefly informed by our partnership with Datastore. We’ve been working together on an end-toend Operational Efficiency platform that will be used within our factory, optimizing our data capture and analysis process to help us make more informed and faster decisions regarding the industrial process. The applications of that data capture will enable us to not only increase our sustainability credentials but will

also improve our operational efficiency as well. If you truly have that mindset, whereby you look at inputs and outputs with the intention of getting better results, then you’ll always try to increase efficiency, reduce energy usage and improve sustainability.”

Factory expansion

Digitization and automation are at the core of Crown’s drive for continuous improvement and represent a major step on the company’s eager path towards Industry 4.0. When we last spoke, Ellis informed us that the company was in the process of investing £4.4 million into its Hull-based factory, constructing an additional 46,000-square-foot raw materials and packaging warehouse. Further significant

Datastor From the very first site meeting with the team at Crown Paints, it was clear that they had great visions for the digitalisation of their paint manufacturing process. Their vision has now been realised with the implementation of Datastor’s GE Ifix & Siemens PLC based process control & MES solution which has Industry4.0 philosophy at its core, providing site management with real time business data. Although the original goal has been achieved, this does not mean the work stops, we still continue to push and improve the system functionality further, with various ongoing projects taking place and many enhancements in the pipeline to further improve the system and set the standard for global roll-out of the solutions at other locations within the Hempel group. The continuous development of the system requires our members to be embedded with the Crown team and regularly attend site steerco meetings with various stakeholders.

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investments were made within the factory to incorporate some of the latest machinery and technology available in the industry.

Agility and flexibility

Late last year, Crown cut the ribbon and opened the cutting-edge facility. Ellis is keen to offer us an update: “It’s a fantastic warehouse a lot of investment went into it, but underneath it was all about optimizing flows within the factory, reducing its overall footprint, and making us much more efficient in the process. That’s part of our overarching sustainability strategy, which has actually been a priority of ours long before it was fashionable! “Optimizing these flows with highly automated assets means that we need much less energy to carry out our manufacturing operations,” explains Ellis. “Filling lines are already highly automated, including robots and PLC controls , our manufacturing operations are process controlled as are our waste processes with software systems that sit over the top. We’ve always believed that there is a strong correlation between the amount of energy you use and your operational efficiency. “Therefore, from an environmental standpoint, reducing energy demands increases sustainability,” he notes. “It’s a win-win in both areas. We conceptualize this in terms of waste reduction and value creation rather than merely cost-cutting. If you take out the waste, then you create more value. The next phase of our automation journey is to link these islands of control together end to end throughout the

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Crown Paints Plc factory, creating one streamlined system that is highly networked and will communicate with every aspect of our operations.” For Crown, improving its operations to benefit the environment is nothing new. As Ellis proudly tells us, the company introduced power monitoring software nearly a decade ago. It also implemented the basics of LED lighting, employee behavior, and capital investment focussed on improving the largest drives. The UK paint company has won numerous awards for its environmental practices; however, now it wants to go one step further.

“Sustainability is one of the three pillars of our strategy and has been for some time. This has supported both capital investment and higher operational costs in order to become a leader in sustainable manufacturing. Our aim is to become carbon neutral in our own operations by 2025,” asserts Ellis. “Essentially, that means we must not only reduce our energy consumption but we must also eliminate any use of fossil fuels. We are currently running a couple of trial projects in order to find the best solution for eliminating our use of fossil fuels. All of our electricity is from certified renewable

Athlon At Athlon, we provide a range of mobility and leasing solutions, fleet management and consultancy support. Wherever you are, we guarantee global and local expertise, all delivered with a personal touch. We have enjoyed working in partnership with Crown Paints for many years, supporting all of their fleet requirements and helping to future-proof their fleet policy. Our experienced account managers and consultants have helped to make Crown’s fleet more environmentally focused, and ensured its policy always has the optimum vehicle choice selection, coupled with the most efficient and effective vehicles from operational, cost and driver perspectives. With focused whole life cost consultancy, along with regular market analysis, we have continued to identify and source an economical and sustainable fleet, while helping Crown Paints on their journey towards a cleaner, greener and more efficient fleet.

sources, and we’ve just started our own onsite generation: 560 solar panels now adorn the roof of our Hull factory. The renewable project, which went live in February, is already exceeding our expectations. As a result, we’re looking for other opportunities to facilitate Crown’s transition to carbon neutrality.” The journey to Industry 4.0 is an exciting one – and Crown is well on its way there. “On our current trajectory, within the next five years, we will have transformed the efficiency and sustainability of our manufacturing operations to be world class. As a result, the company will be in a very good place to face the challenges of the future. Tomorrow’s challenges will be different from today’s ones. But, with the agility and flexibility we’ve demonstrated throughout the pandemic and into more recent crises, I’ve no doubt that we will be ready to boldly enter Industry 4.0.” v

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Hager UK


it up

Celebrating 30 years at its Telford factory, Hager UK is proud to demonstrate how and why it continues to do things differently

Martin Edwards l 39

Hager UK


stablished in 1992, the UK division of its Germany-based parent company, Hager Group, is an industry leader in its own right. Hager UK is a frontrunner in the provision of solutions and services for electrical installations across residential, commercial, and industrial settings. Though its primary end customer remains electrical contractors, Hager UK is also seeing success in the project business, working in tandem with developers of commercial buildings, hotels, and residential properties. From its inception, Hager UK has been a keen team player, constructing robust partnerships with more than 1300 electrical wholesalers, selling to all the major players in the market. Built on the site of a former concrete works, Hager UK’s Telford manufacturing base was quickly established: market demand for the group’s unrivalled installation solutions had rapidly soared beyond measure ever since. “Today, we have around 200 people in our manufacturing and operations teams,” begins Martin Edwards, Director of Operations at Hager UK. “We both manufacture and distribute Hager products from our Telford site. In any given month, we can pick and pack up as many as 70,000 order lines. The manufacturing facility is truly a manufacturing marvel: CNC punching, press breaking, powder coating, and a

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full team of assembly operators; manufacturing and distribution all under one roof!” From its Shropshire-based factory, Hager UK currently distributes four main product ranges: energy distribution, including its Consumer Units and Invicta Distribution Board; wiring accessories, such as its safe and installer-friendly junction boxes, sockets, and switches; lighting controls and other modular devices like dimmers and switches; and building automation equipment, giving workers in large commercial buildings, for instance, the ability to accurately control airconditioning and safety systems. “I think the popularity of our products is a testament to their manufacturing,” admits Martin. “Part of it is certainly because we still manufacture many products within the UK, whereas so many products are of factored Far East origin. Obviously, we also have a very strong sales and marketing team, and we remain very close to the wholesaler market. But also, we’re developing new interfaces through our project service center, bringing us closer to project business and the actual electrical contractors who utilize our products on site.” That’s just the start, though. The company also offers myriad installation-related services. From its reliable and fully integrated electrical planning software, dubbed Hagercad, to its 3D model-based BIM system, which provides professionals with intelligent tools for designing

and managing projects, Hager UK is changing the way companies interact with the market.

New initiatives

The company also runs fully accredited training programs from its 600-square-foot Hager Academy, offering the latest learning technology to individuals who need to keep abreast of the latest electrical regulations. Despite being situated within a wide network of Hager Group divisions and wholesalers, the Telford-based company has always relied upon its close-knit team. As Martin discusses in more detail: “First and foremost, we’re a family-owned German business,” he says. “As the UK subsidiary of that parent group, we do still experience that founding family feel, which is, you could say, different to a traditional stock-listed company. For example, we’re planning on hosting an open day at our factory in July, where we will welcome workers, as well as their family and friends, to a summer barbecue – something like that goes a long way. Our workers are our experts; their hands are on our products every day, so we have a lot of faith in them.” Other new initiatives, like a recent overhaul in health and safety standards, proves that Hager UK is going above and beyond when it comes to the wellbeing of its employees. “Our priorities are thus: safety, quality, delivery, and then cost,” asserts Martin. “That’s the mantra



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we work by. Over the last few years, health and safety has been at the top of our agenda. There’s even friendly competition between the Hager Group’s various sites. For instance, Hager UK was awarded the prize for health and safety standards because we had more than five suggestions per employee for improvements. Being recognized as the best in the group was really humbling, and it worked to develop the

factory, too; it made people really feel they were working for a business that truly values their input and their safety.” In the last few years, by instruction of its parent group, Hager UK has been developing more and more standardized processes across the board. “Standardization really helps us share best practice, and health and safety improvements definitely fall under that banner,”

explains Martin. “If you were to go back 15 years, you would find that Hager Group’s subsidiaries were pretty much independently operating, and there are 23 factories around the world. That’s a lot of variability. “As a result, we have been recently joined together in sub-groups,” he adds. “We are, for example, part of the enclosures group, because we mainly assemble those here in Telford.To achieve consistency across multiple sub-groups, we have a system of processes being developed called the Hager Production System, which will aid us in our Lean manufacturing journey. By having things like management routines, production planning, and health and safety audited against this system, the company’s Lean future is at once made abundantly clear.”

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Within the last two years, moreover, Hager Group has appointed a new Head of Manufacturing and a new Head of Supply Chain. When Martin joined in 1996, the group was operating at a turnover of around €400 million. Now, that figure has bloomed to well over €2 billion. “Our success demonstrates that, by having a global approach, Hager will be able to make that next big step forward,” states Martin. “Hager Group’s CEO makes it clear that, when you have 12,000 employees, you can’t work the way you did when you had 1000.You need different processes and ways of structuring the business.You need to adapt. This standardization drive all stems from that theory of adaptation.” As part of its modus operandi for Lean manufacturing, Hager UK intends on further streamlining its production process by way of strategic investment. “To employ modern Lean techniques, we promote process flow directly linked to customer demand,” says Martin. “Luckily, we’ve been able to invest, replacing most our main machines and fabrication equipment in the last three-to-five years. As such, the Telford facility now owns two new AMADA CNC punch and Laser

Hager UK

machines, a significant investment. We’ve also invested significantly to update our powder coating facilities, to improve productivity and quality. “This all means less batch building and more Lean production. Indeed, when we say Lean, we mean the whole team coming together to measure its overall effectiveness in terms of scheduling and how this affects shipping demands. Added to this, we host regular management reviews to identify how we can continually adapt to issues as they surface,” he continues. One example of how Hager UK has adapted to new gaps in the market is found in engineerto-order solutions. What started as a solo effort has quickly transformed into a fully-fledged team of eight. In the custom orders team, workers create bespoke products for clients, meeting their needs in terms of the type of device, electrical enclosure, and internal wiring required. By steering away from the simple productin-a-box manufacturing model, the company has shown that adaptation is a sure way to exponential commercial growth. Indeed, while other businesses were still lagging behind because of the pandemic, last year Hager UK saw a double-digit percent increase in growth. Ever one to stay ahead of the curve, the electrical installations innovator is also serious about the issue of sustainability. Recently, for instance, Hager UK switched to a renewable energy supplier and installed electric vehicle charging points at its Telford facility. “The Hager group always runs with a company project,” says Martin. “Currently, we’re running our Project 2030, which includes our Blue Planet sustainability initiative. So, as part of that initiative, our car fleet is increasingly made up of hybrid vehicles. We have also installed eight chargers on site to accommodate this. However, the overarching ambition of Project 2030 is to cut CO2 emissions by 50 percent

against a benchmark date of 2021. To be honest, until now, we have chiefly focused on deploying the standardized Hager Production System, but our next challenge is driving forward with sustainability. We know that our powder coating operation is the main carbon emitter, and we have a project team now engaged in identifying ways we can make it greener.” Though it is clearly at the start of its

sustainability journey, it has become abundantly clear in our conversation that Hager UK does not do things by halves – it intends to finish what it has started. v

Hager UK Products: Electrical switch gear l 43

Going the distance

Battle Motors has continually pushed itself to be a pioneer in the field of electric vehicles. Its expansive operation has resulted in innovative developments in both the safety and sustainability sectors of manufacturing 44 l


s a leader in the vocational truck industry, Battle Motors provides custom, severe-service chassis and purpose-built vehicles for the refuse

and recycling, infrastructure maintenance, ground support, agriculture, and oil and gas industries.This year, the business celebrates its 75th anniversary, and we have the opportunity to speak with

Battle Motors

Kelleigh Ash, the company’s Chief Technology Officer, and Paul Marsolan, the Chief Software Officer, about how the business has utilized innovation to achieve its 75 years of success.

“When we started Battle Motors, we wanted to create a heavy-duty vehicle that would be environmentally friendly. When we looked around the marketplace, we found

an existing business CCC that had been around for a number of years making these vocational trucks, and we felt very strongly about taking that particular project on. We’ve l 45

since quadrupled our production volume, and created an electric vehicle (EV) line by capitalizing on the sort of chassis frame expertise that has been around for ages,” begins Paul. For him, the business’s success is rooted in a wealth of industry knowledge and dedicated experience, which is enforced by an eagerness to learn from other EV vendors in the sector. “We brought in talented individuals to help us power up our operations quickly and accurately. We also challenged our partners to take on the integration of extremely high voltage systems that have never been made before. We had prototype motors run off the line in order to get some of our first products done, and they gave some very encouraging feedback on those, which we appreciated. Ever since, they have remained excellent partners that have been happy to move forward with us. I believe the combination of these efforts is

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what has allowed us to make the progress we have over the last 75 years,” Paul says. Today, Battle Motors is honing in on its effort to grow within the industry, and subsequently, the company is pushing itself to take on new challenges. “We are focused on the legacy of crane carrier building trucks, and infusing new technologies with innovation into our products. This could include software, hardware, or the chassis itself. This work will require significant moves to invest in the CNG and diesel products as well,” shares Paul. On the subject of investments, our conversation then explores the recent developments the company is undergoing to expand its capabilities. At the start of 2022, it acquired Crane Carrier Company, a manufacturer that specializes in construction and refuse truck chassis. Battle Motors will also be including a ‘smart cab’, with improved advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS),

and state-of-the-art digital instrument cluster to provide additive services and safety features for customers. Ventures like this are made possible because of the company’s drive for innovation and safety, as we learn from Paul. “Part of the reason Battle Motors was founded was to a create clean, safe, heavy-duty vehicle, but we wanted to bring safety to the product in an innovative way. We had to work with different vendors, including radar and vision systems, to make this possible. You have to remember that these trucks are 80,000 pounds. So, it is incredibly important that safety features are at the top of our priority list to ensure that these vehicles, regardless of what they carry, do not put anyone in harm’s way; that is always our main goal,” Paul shares. Another notable partnership includes its recent venture with T-Mobile. Battle Motors has selected the company to be its provider of IoT connectivity and management for thousands of

Battle Motors fall apart, we can warn the fleet managers and drivers prior to them getting on the road,” Paul says. Kelleigh then adds that the importance of the partnership with T-Mobile means that Battle Motors is able to push live updates immediately, owing to T-Mobile’s network, which will be incremental to connecting thousands of the company’s new EV trucks to its software systems. She also highlights that these investments are part of the strategy to platform efficiency, while steering towards a greener future. “The reason as to why we are investing so heavily in automation and updated technology is partly in response to market changes, but above that, as our operation gets bigger, we need to ensure that our team is safe, and that we are reducing our carbon footprint. “Employee safety is paramount for us and even having antiquated processes and manual equipment that the

Freeman Building Systems Freeman Building Systems is currently celebrating its 30th anniversary. Our name is synonymous in Ohio with a fixture in the construction management and commercial construction industry. Our firm has over 360 years of combined experience, over $1.4 billion in combined commercial projects, and the successful completion over seven million square feet and climbing. Our greatest asset isn’t what we do, it’s who we are. Passion, integrity, transparency and personality compile the backbone of our company, and ensure that the work we do is done the right way. We take seriously the responsibility to help our clients achieve their goals, while also making time for them to enjoy this important moment in the life of their organization.

new Battle Motors battery electric trucks rolling off its Ohio-based production line to assist with speed and accuracy of truck trips. “We chose T-Mobile because we want every single electric vehicle that goes off our line to have a system for safety, identification of lane departures, speed, pedestrian protection and Vehicle 4 inclusion warnings. “We are now able to generate about 2000 CAN messages a second, which brings in a tremendous amount of data per truck. Every time one of these trucks is offline, it costs money, so if we can use that data to execute preventative maintenance, we are helping customers save up hugely. If we notice something will eventually l 47

team has to share is not sustainable for a safe operation. So, we are investing in automated lifters to lift heavier products on the line, rather than relying on antiquated machinery. Although it is in part due to the labor market, that is a very small motivation for us. We are more focused on the ways that we can improve our efficiency, and decrease our carbon footprint. The market is very tough right now to fit into all these positions, but we have an incredible team with us, and I’m certain that regardless of the challenges that come up, we will be able to adapt accordingly,” Kelleigh explains. In bringing our conversation to a close, both leaders share details of the areas they are choosing to prioritise for the coming years,

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with sustainability remaining at the forefront. “Our really big push is our EV chassis and getting that production across the finish line. We actually have some units in production, which is exciting. We are also investing in engineering, R&D and NPI initiatives. “Our government, at both federal and the local level, is offering some amazing subsidies to municipalities and dealers to support the shift to EV, and we are happy to partner with those customers to support that. As we’ve mentioned, we are also making significant investments in our automation and manufacturing lines, which will be able to push the company’s name that much further,” says Kelleigh.

Above that, Battle Motors is tripling its manufacturing capacity, as well as investing in Just-In-Time automation to support its growth initiative. Considering the future of the business, Kelleigh expresses that the industry is consistently changing, but Battle Motors is set to keep in tune with emerging trends and technologies, whether that is through manufacturing, product design, even tools, in order to support its customers. She believes that over the next three years, Battle Motors will be a completely different organization, and accordingly, the company is taking the necessary steps to support that evolution. “We are not only reacting to the immediate needs of the market, we are also reacting to the potential future state, which includes infusing new technologies in our products. We are going after new markets that the company has never been able to support, like the beverage delivery sector and such as lastmile delivery markets. Even our custom engineered chassis line allows us to build a truck for any application. We can design and manufacture trucks for uses such as airline refuelers to haybales; anything our clients require, we will custom design it. It’s really exciting to be able to offer a complete package solution for our customers. Regardless of whether its EV, or diesel, we are happy to take on whatever our clients’ need, and that is something that I am proud to be a part of,” she says.

Battle Motors On a shorter timescale, customers can expect even greater developments from the business in the coming years, and, as Kelleigh reflects on the brilliant efforts of her team, she highlights that the future for the business looks promising. “You can expect some really wonderful new product initiatives rolling out across the market soon. Our team is fantasticly dynamic and laser focused on innovations - from an engineering and innovation standpoint - and we are running about a million miles a minute to get these products out. “Our focus is on new technology, which is why our EV chassis is going to be extremely exciting. We have partnered with some really great national dealer groups that have provided us with some truly helpful feedback throughout this process, which has also allowed us to improve the product. Over the next few months, you can definitely expect to see leading technologies coming out from Battle Motors,” Kelleigh concludes. v

Battle Motors Services: Truck manufacturer

ToolMatics Inc It has been one of the highlights of ToolMatics Inc’s 30-plus years in business to have the opportunity to partner with a leader in the EV Industry. The company’s innovative tightening and material handling solutions will not only provide efficiency in the manufacturing process, but will ensure the health and well-being of the associates of Battle Motors. ToolMatics values this as a long-term partnership and is extremely excited to be involved in solving the earth’s long term energy demands. Congratulations to Battle Motors on 75 years; ToolMatics looks forward to being a major partner in the next 75! l 49

Furniture for a lifetime For over 80 years, Bisley has delivered timeless, enduring office furniture designs to customers all across the world

Richard Costin

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Bisley l 51



ith high-quality products that are made to last, Bisley has seen ongoing international success from its base in the UK. Known for its stylish flair and precision engineering, the company offers furniture that is both contemporary and durable. Having effectively adapted its offering to meet the needs of a changing workplace during the pandemic, Bisley now looks to expand its portfolio with innovative new wooden designs. The last year has been an exciting one for Bisley. As Chief Executive Officer, Richard Costin, reveals: “Throughout 2022, we have invested heavily in the further promotion of our brand as a proud UK manufacturer. We have also diversified into furniture for the home office, further utilising our new retail website, which has been a really exciting area of growth for us. “Our subsidiaries across the globe have been brilliant - they have had to cope with the same types of challenges, and they have

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all achieved many great things using the same innovation as we have in the UK. We are now seeing many large projects, that were initially put on hold, starting to come back. In addition, our reseller customers have been proactive in redesigning the office layout to support the new way of hybrid working. Our product team has been extremely busy using a mix of wooden and steel components to design brand new furniture ranges. “In terms of our product portfolio, lockers have been our fastest-selling item. They are available in both wood and steel, and the option of new smart lock technology allows the compartments to be opened using an app rather than the usual key, which has been a huge selling point.”

Innovation in action

These accomplishments are the result of years of hard work for Bisley. In the face of adversity, Richard and his team were able to transform

the company, and adapt its product portfolio to meet the needs of a rapidly changing work environment. “I became Bisley CEO in February 2020, just weeks before the pandemic struck and we were instructed to stay at home and not travel to the office. “It was very difficult, especially when you consider that we are an office furniture manufacturer, employing over 500 people who could not perform many of their duties from home. Like so many businesses, we immediately closed the factory to keep our people safe. “The immediate impact was a 30 percent reduction of order intake, but as our subsidiaries around the world were in different stages of the pandemic, the orders continued to come in. We decided to reopen the factory, but to phase the staff back to the factory in line with government guidelines, with as much social distancing as possible. “I initially joined Bisley in order to help the business change, refocus, and diversify. Although the pandemic was horrible in so many ways, it gave us the opportunity to try and understand what the future of office furniture retail would be, and then make the necessary changes in order to become a part of that future. We focused on restructuring, design, innovation, and exporting our products across the globe to our subsidiaries and beyond. “It was a pivotal time for the company – we were keen to develop our business strategy and client base, all while continuing to strengthen the Bisley brand. During the first lockdown, we evaluated our business and selling channels, and thought hard about how the working environment might change. I asked our design team to come up with new ideas, offering them free reign over all the products in our steel and wood factories. They came back quickly with some wonderful ideas, and the result of that is our Belong Collection,” Richard details. Being proactive and nimble meant that Bisley was able to thrive, even with the difficulties of a pandemic. As Richard asserts: “We have learnt many lessons over the last two years about our business and how quickly the market can change. It is imperative to react, and always stay one step ahead of what we believe our customers will need. “Technology has been a major factor behind the transformation of Bisley; ensuring data is immediately available to employees across the business has helped support manufacturing, order intake, and profitability. We have gotten much closer to our staff, which means that we can now support them with their personal challenges, as well as their career progression requirements.

Head into the comfort zone Your business is built on your reputation. That means delivering a quality service on time, on budget, and to your customer’s total satisfaction. You can’t let them down. And neither do we. Working with Interpon gives you access to thousands of quality powder coatings that are recognized as the best performing products on the market. We have the credibility to prove it.

“We’ve continued to act fast and be decisive, further supporting our reseller partners using technology and providing exceptional highquality products that continue to adapt and change at pace. For us, it’s been an opportunity to see how quickly we can create innovative, high-quality products that meet our customers’

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needs. The team works hard, and with such a vast number of skills and talent, we are able to come up with really beautiful products that are made for life.” Remaining keenly aware of up and coming market trends allowed Bisley to make strategic use of the global eCommerce boom that

followed Covid-19. As Richard enthuses: “We have created a platform, the Bisley Shop, that displays our products in a way that helps end users specify their needs and coordinate products with their home decoration. “We have showcased our products in roomsets that feel both aspirational and achievable, allowing customers to pick and mix between colours and finishes that suit their style. These things, combined with premium customer care and first-class delivery, have allowed us to emerge and carve our own path in a new market sector. “Using this platform, Bisley has diversified into a growing home market. We recognize that the boundaries between work and home have significantly reduced, and consequently, have focused on bridging that gap by creating products that either have a dual function, or look perfectly at home in a domestic setting.” The company has also built on its longstanding supplier relationships, in order to continue providing its customers with bestin-class service. “We treat our supply chain with the same importance as we treat our

Bisley customers - their ability to supply our raw materials has always been vital. Our priority is to use near shore-based suppliers as much as possible, however we do have to import some components from overseas. We have had a degree of delay and disruption, but we have managed to ensure delivery and reliability of supply,” Richard affirms.

Product roadmap

Thanks to the company’s strong working culture, effective use of technology, and steadfast network of suppliers, Bisley has been able to thrive over the last few years. As Richard comments: “The last two years have been significant for all of us, but our focus, strategy, and commitment to our customers and staff is our priority. Our strategy consists of five main points: product development, sustainability, technology innovation, global supply, and supply chain. “We have designed and created several new and innovative furniture solutions that cater to an even wider range of clients across the world. Bisley also launched its Green Book, which demonstrates the company’s commitment to, and vision for, a greener future. “In addition, we have won two Manufacturer of the Year awards, one at Mixology Awards 2021, and the other at the Insider Made in Wales Awards. They are both accolades that we are delighted to receive, because they support our ability to manufacture and deliver our highquality products to customers all over the world. “Most recently, one of our latest personal storage solutions, Buddy, was awarded a Design Guild Mark for 2022. This is our third, following BOB in 2020, and our design classic, the MultiDrawer, in 2017. This is one of the highest accolades to receive within our industry, and so to be awarded three within such a short period of time is just fantastic! “We’ve also been strategizing our product roadmap, and through this we appointed our new and first Creative Director, Jeanine Goddard, further enabling us to drive the creative direction for our business to further elevate our products and brand.” This exciting journey promises to continue for Bisley; with the success of its latest range, the company now looks forward to even more innovation and growth in the coming years. “2022 has already been an incredibly busy year for us. For the first time in two years, we were able to return to Clerkenwell Design Week, where we were able to welcome guests and industry peers into our showroom to see and interact with our newest products. “Having showcased our latest achievements, we are now focussed on continuously improving

our designs, and extending the breadth of our portfolio in the wooden design category.You can expect to see some new and exciting product launches and collaborations from us over the coming months,” Richard concludes. v

Bisley Services: Office furniture l 55

Great companies prosper

Since 1885, G.F Smith has been at the fore of fine paper making thanks to its impeccable eye for design and immaculate attention to detail


he name G.F Smith has imprinted itself upon the history of paper. Whether this is taken in a literal or figurative sense, the result

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remains the same. As John Haslam, Managing Director at G.F Smith, makes clear: “We are the most respected and remarkable fine paper company – that’s how we like to tag ourselves,” he begins. “From the start, the founding vision of the company has been this: travel the world, create the finest papers, and take them to individuals all over the globe. That is what we did in 1885, and that is what

we do now. We create desire and encourage nations of graphic designers to use our papers.” Established 137 years ago in Hull, UK, G.F Smith’s self-confessed obsession with the intrinsic splendor of paper has not gone away. As the popular paper merchant steadily expanded its influence across the world, that passion also steadily blossomed.


Today, G.F Smith has firmly marked its presence in 32 countries. From New Zealand to Korea and from Singapore to the US, the paper making giant has inspired many generations to get creative with the endless and universal opportunities afforded by paper. Still headquartered in the company’s home city of Hull, G.F Smith also has marketing and sales teams in London, as well as partners around the world who support its global mission.

To cater for this international demand, G.F Smith has cutting-edge paper mills operating out of the UK, Japan, and Bavaria. In turn, it produces innovative and eye-catching product lines like Colorplan, which features 55 color options, 25 embossing types, as well as ten different paper weights – all made in the UK. Also available is the Fine Collection, which offers professionals the best print performance

due to its use of unrivalled coated and uncoated paper. Yet, according to John, all this innovation and success stems from two things: paper being the passion and a true belief that people are its foundation. He says: “At G.F Smith, everything is about our team. Consequently, they believe in the brand – and if our people believe in what we do, then it’s an awful lot easier for the world to believe in what we do. Our team is unique, dynamic, and located in countries all over the globe. Their mission is to celebrate G.F Smith in these various places. In turn, we create desire through standards of excellence in both our service and our product. “Our success boils down to one simple fact: people buy from people,” John adds. “Going back hundreds of years, merchants would sell people the best paper or silk or cigars. But the buyer always sought out the seller. Little has changed. Therefore, we strongly believe that if we can build and develop strong relationships with our customers, like a classic merchant, then we can offer them the finest goods on the market. As a result, people know the name G.F Smith, and they trust it.” A leading market position is never guaranteed, and mightier companies have fallen into obscurity. Therefore, even after 137 years, G.F Smith is still aiming to innovate and grow its global links. “Our business continues to vary and change,” John explains. “We have numerous sectors: for general menus and leaflets used in hospitality, for greeting cards and envelopes, for luxury packaging, just to name a few. The customer provides the specification, and this goes to the printer or convertor. If the order is processed in the UK but is needed by a client in, say, China or Turkey, then there’s no issue. We’ve established G.F Smith as a global brand – that means the same paper and coloring is available all over the world.” From a manufacturing point of view, the technology processing these orders must remain up-to-date and efficient. Naturally, with global recognition comes certain expectations. “Our two main cylinder embossing machines are capable of dealing with high volumes of paper,” John points out. “They create an effect that makes the paper feel almost like leather. We also own a brilliant laminating machine, and our comprehensive suite of treating machines prepare paper for HB Indigo printing, converting the product through a sapphire solution so that it can go into an Indigo printing press (an alternative to lithographic printing).” More recently, John explains, G.F Smith acquired a renowned art supplies manufacturer, l 57

R. K. Burt, to expand its already large production line. “We purchased the company just before the pandemic,” he notes. “R. K. Burt supplies art paper for the artist. Following the acquisition, we moved all its manufacturing kit up to Hull, enabling us to make premium A3 and A5 drawing and watercolor pads. The paper doesn’t stretch or bleed or fade. It’s a technical sheet of paper for the artist. Ultimately, the breadth of converting that we do at G.F Smith meant that the joining of R. K. Burt was set to be a perfect marriage.” Then the pandemic hit. It had an unmistakable impact on the paper merchant. Only two times, John informs us, has G. F Smith lost money: once during World War II, when London and Hull were relentlessly bombed;

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and the other when Covid-19 pummeled every industry in its wake. “We did lose money during the pandemic,” John comments. “But with each wave, we grew stronger. I always remind myself of this: good companies will survive but great companies will prosper. G.F Smith is a great company. So, from the day the pandemic hit, we were meeting via Zoom every hour and a half – firefighting, trying to understand what was going on, reflecting on the future. Therefore, by the initial global shut down, we’d made a plan to survive and prosper. “We did anticipate a decrease in sales, and the losses were staggering: a 70 percent reduction in sales overnight,” he explains. “When that happens, we lift the company

up and flip it upside down. We look at the belly of the company and decide how to drag ourselves through this. However, it was inevitable that there would be casualties. We had to close the photographic sector of the business. We’ve been public about it: we protected everyone with voluntary redundancy, and most of those people got another job. It was really sad, but we are now back on track.” Heading in the right direction once more, G.F Smith intends to communicate with the market it has led for more than a century, reestablishing its extensive network of international clients and partners. During the relative quietness afforded by Covid-19, G.F Smith created a new, forward-looking plan for the business to guarantee its success.

G.FSmith How will it go about enacting this plan? “With a lot of noise,” answers John. “We’re intent on shouting. The whole marketing machine is now firing on all cylinders, and we have a completely new strategy. We’re still selling beautiful paper – but with more focus on the individual people involved. Marketing has been accelerating, with a growing emphasis placed on physical events. For example, we’ve just taken the whole sales team to Germany to visit a paper mill of ours and to engage with what they are doing there. “It’s going to take another year or so to get where we want to be in terms of profitability,” John concludes. “However, we’re certainly on the right side of the line again. As we are independent and privately owned, we’re able to make those decisions which bring us closer to our destiny. Indeed, if Covid-19 has proved anything, it’s this: no matter what gets thrown at G.F Smith, the business will be able to survive and march forward into the new world.” v

G.F Smith Services: Paper and packaging l 59

Picture perfect solutions 60 l

FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group

As it continues to pioneer its cutting-edge RxD® inkjet dispersion technology, FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group sees ongoing success on a global scale l 61


s a key component of the FUJIFILM Corporation, FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group is known for its world-class capabilities in inkjet ink and dispersion development and manufacturing. Through a collaborative, customer-focused approach, the company offers a depth of expert knowledge, bespoke product designs, and unparalleled levels of quality. Today, the Group prepares for major expansion across its US facilities, as it continues

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to facilitate the sustainable digitization of printing processes. With the support of its parent company, Fujifilm, the Ink Group has become an international leader in inkjet ink and dispersions. The company is the product of a major acquisition and merger, as Chief Operating Officer, Ian Wilkinson, discusses: “Around 2006, Fujifilm acquired various manufacturing companies who were producing core components for inkjet printing, including four

ink technology businesses and a printhead business. To begin with, each of the companies continued to run independently, and it took several years before they were brought together under a single entity. In 2017, Fujifilm officially formed its Inkjet Business Division, to align the activities of these companies. “I joined the business around this time, and my goal was to bring the various ink entities together into one group. Then to ensure that the newly formed Ink Solutions Group

FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group

was working closely and effectively with the printhead business. Since then, we have created a great synergy and seen a lot of success.” As the product of four different companies coming together, the Group has a diverse portfolio of products and services. “We have specialist capabilities in delivering ink and dispersions for packaging, textiles, sign and display, commercial, and industrial printing. Everything we offer is linked by a huge commonality in that it is all held to an

incredible standard of quality,” Ian asserts. The company’s market-leading ink and dispersion technologies are supported by FUJIFILM’s long history of innovation and industry insight, as well as an outstanding company culture. As Ian confirms: “The inkjet business builds on a heritage of producing dyes and screen printing and flexographic inks. We own significant intellectual property, which gives us advantage in certain areas. Using the expert knowledge and cooperation that we

have within our multi-disciplinary team, we are able to elevate our product development process, and provide our customers with really advanced technology and reliable products. “We also make significant investments in research and development, giving us the ability to develop new or customized products tailored to the needs of our customers. Our collaborative, project-based development process enables us to deliver high quality, fully validated, reliable inks to market in the shortest time, which is an industry leading capability due to the depth of knowledge our people have. “Our technical teams are full of true industry experts, who really understand inkjet technology and its potential in real-world applications. In addition to their expertise, we also have access to a vast range of technology and resources through our parent company. Fujifilm is a major corporation, and it offers us access to the best tools in the industry. “The company also prides itself on ongoing development. It’s always been about growth through innovation, and we are always being encouraged to develop new services and products that will contribute to the evolution of our brand. Tapping into that culture, and those resources, has given us a real competitive edge.” These assets have helped make FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group a world leader in inkjet ink and dispersion technology. Today, the company continues to make major investments into this category, in order to support a global digital transition. “We have made considerable capital investments over the past few years. These investments have been made across our product portfolio, however our RxD® inkjet pigment dispersion technology is the real driver of growth within the business. “Our RxD dispersion products are designed to meet the demands of a rapidly growing aqueous inkjet market. This technology is always developing and becoming more sophisticated, and at the same time it’s in high demand for high performance ink development across commercial, textile and printed packaging applications. “We are currently supporting the transition from analog to inkjet technology in a lot of industrial settings, particularly in emerging packaging applications. The transition has been going on for a while, but it’s recently gained a lot of momentum, which has accelerated our work. Our pigment dispersion technology is best-in-class; it has excellent stability - which is critical in the formulation of high performance inks - and manufactured to ultra high purity levels, which makes us the most popular choice for businesses transitioning to digital printing. l 63

We want to stay at the forefront of this transition, and so a huge amount of our focus is on that particular technology,” details Ian. Supporting this shift toward digital processes is the Group’s global network of development and manufacturing facilities. As Ian reveals: “Within the Ink Solutions Group, we have four main factories. Two in the UK, in Grangemouth and Broadstairs, one in the US, in New Castle, Delaware, and one more in Pune in India. “Each facility specializes in specific areas; India is primarily focused on manufacturing analog screen and flexo technology, whereas the plant up in Scotland produces RxD inkjet dispersions and dyes. In Broadstairs we manufacture UV inkjet inks, as well as analog inks for the European market. In America, we have a very significant amount of aqueous inkjet

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manufacturing capability and have recently opened our first RxD dispersion manufacturing facility in the US. “In order to manage the transfer from analog to digital, we have commissioned a second RxD dispersion manufacturing facility in the US. This second factory will double the size of our New Castle capacity. It will give us the capability to produce more ink and dispersion products, and distribute on a much larger scale. The construction process began earlier this year, and it will be completed by March 2023, which is very exciting. “Between the sites, we have all of our bases covered. All our plants are state-of-the-art, and maintained to a high standard of accreditation. Being a Japanese company, we have adopted an ethos of continuous improvement. This means

that we are always evaluating, and seeking to optimize the efficiency and effectiveness of our facilities. We run various improvement initiatives, focused on key areas such as sustainability, and these efforts are all linked to our overall strategy. We set ourselves yearly targets, depending on the focus of each facility, and then we measure our achievements according to those goals we have set ourselves. It’s very motivating.” It is clear that the Group’s sites are aligned in terms of their working culture, as Ian affirms: “We have a clear set of values and behaviors. There are five qualities that we always try to embody, which are Creativity, Teamwork, Integrity, Accountability and Responsibility. We regularly bring our international team together in meetings where we focus on reinforcing our values and our team charter and that helps keep everyone focused on our business purpose statement.” Driven by a mission to enable its customers’ profitable business growth, and support their goals through the sustainable digitization of print, FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group prepares for an exciting few years ahead. As Ian concludes: “In the coming years, we will continue to invest heavily in our factories and facilities, in order to support the digitization process.

FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group “The future is really looking bright. Inkjet is going to become the industry standard and we will be the pioneers of that technology. With the backing and suppor t of Fujifilm, we will be able to continue growing and unlocking new markets. Ultimately, it’s all about making sure the company is in good shape to manage that growth.” v

FUJIFILM Ink Solutions Group Services: Ink and Dispersions for Digital Printing

TAI TAI is a proud design-build partner to FFIC on multiple capital projects related to manufacturing capacity increases and facility expansion projects. For nearly 15 years, FFIC has relied on TAI to provide engineering, management, and technical services from nearly all of its 16 divisions. TAI and FFIC have built a trusted, valued relationship over the years that has carried them through complex and challenging multi-year EPCM projects - where close coordination and communication are vital to the delivery of a successful project. TAI has designed and built new facilities, managed the installation of equipment aimed to provide additional production capabilities, all while maintaining current operations to facilitate unprecedented capacity expansions. TAI strongly values its relationship with FFIC, and looks forward to continued success in the future. l 65

Five-star performance A trusted partner for some of the largest manufacturers in the US, Stellar Industrial Supply’s commitment to driving customer profit is driving impressive revenue growth

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Stellar Industrial Supply l 67

Stellar Industrial Supply


he home of Stellar Industrial Supply (Stellar) is the city of Tacoma, approximately 51 kilometers southwest of Seattle, Washington. An established supplier of industrial MRO cutting tools and safety products, it’s a company with a mission: to drive better financial performance for its customers. Launched in 1988, Stellar serves manufacturers of all sizes, federal, state, and local municipalities, and commercial construction companies across the US. The company provides products for advanced types of manufacturing across five divisions: aerospace, marine, MRO, metalworking, and safety supply. Since its founding, Stellar has grown significantly from organic growth in product offering, the addition of new branches, and astute acquisitions. Today, Stellar boasts an extremely vast product offering, the biggest proportion of which falls within coated and bonded abrasives, cutting tools, and other ancillary metalworking products required for the advanced manufacturing sector. Other product categories include tapes and adhesives,

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John Wiborg

safety products, hand tools, power tools, air tools, chemicals, and supplies, typically for maintenance type work. Asked about what sets the company apart amid a competitive field, John Wiborg, President of Stellar, cites the “high degree of proficiency in executing against our promise to help customers improve their profit.” It’s a customer-centric approach, for which Stellar is reaping the rewards.

“We’ve invested in, and continue to invest in, a number of specialists,” John continues. “These individuals have either vertical industry expertise, such as in aerospace or marine yacht building, or very in-depth product expertise, whether it’s metal working products and applications, or safety advisory capacity. They’re people who can go to the customer and find the absolute best solution for their needs – they’re not there to just advocate for any one supplier. “Stellar’s primary function in the world is to drive better financial performance for our customers,” he reiterates. “We achieve that via a variety of mechanisms, including better products and processes, back-office improvements, and supply chain management improvements. We also have a very robust Documented Cost Savings (DCS) program.”

Close customer contact

The thinking behind Stellar’s DCS program is straightforward: Stellar proves to its customers that it can offer them documented cost savings, and in return, those customers agree to purchase a higher volume and wider range of products. “We believe in win-win partnerships,” John says. “Among the typical actions we might take include working with our customers on their manufacturing or shop floor to identify pain points, bottle necks, product misuse, or opportunities to upgrade products or processes, drawing on our deep familiarity with our manufacturers’ R&D work. We also look at backoffice savings, or ways to minimize supply chain risk, by creating systems that reliably replenish items previously experiencing regular stock-outs. “Other methods include helping customers consolidate their vendor base, so that they have consistency in the products they are getting and the right training for staff,” he goes on. “We also help to reduce trips, falls, and related accidents. A splendid example of that is Milwaukee Power Tool, who is making wonderful use of an extremely robust, batteryoperated industrial lighting product, designed to help improve safety (reduced trips/falls), and leads to a reduction in costs.” Initially launched in 2010, the DCS program has achieved customer-approved savings of $17.92m last year. Since inception, the program has delivered a remarkable $150m of customer profit improvement. The program is enjoying success with mid-sized businesses. Asked about the trend, John alludes to the rapid recent productivity improvements among large manufacturers. “Typically, although mid-sized manufacturers have improved, it’s not quite been at the same rate,” John outlines. “Our job is to help those businesses in the 500-to-1000

employee range, and find innovative ways to bridge that gap.” A number of recognized companies have benefited from Stellar’s DCS program in recent years, including Atlas Copco, Buck Knives, and Tampa Brass – but none more so than Honeywell Aerospace. Stellar has more than 20 years of experience working at Honeywell’s Clearwater facility, providing dedicated employee on-site and off-site support to the long-term DCS program participant. In 2020, as Honeywell experienced frequent stock outages, frustrated shipments due to lack of documentation, and long lead times that adversely affected delivery dates to their customers, the Stellar team suggested an overhaul of their existing ‘three bids and a buy’ approach to production supplies and certified bulk chemicals.

Learning and collaborating

As part of the move, Stellar’s on-site person assumed oversight for procurement, purchase orders and order entry, receiving inspection, documentation, traceability, creating move orders, lab certification, labeling, and delivering material to the line stock areas. A further action – to secure internal lab certification of materials for Space and Defense, prior to acceptance and stocking, in four of Honeywell’s plants – eliminated supply chain disruptions and stock outages, and greatly reduced the returns process.

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Stellar Industrial Supply In all, the DCS program brought savings to Honeywell of $1.4m in 2020 alone, and through the successful delivery of valuable services over the years, has helped precipitate the growth of the Clearwater Site from $300m in 2010, to $850m in 2021. Continuing this theme, John is keen to emphasize the importance of Stellar’s Solutions division, dedicated to learning from and collaborating with customers to improve their onsite inventory management methods and supply chain. Using advanced technologies, including material management software, point-of-use inventory systems, RFID technology, and more, Stellar has the capability to produce customized reports of realtime inventory visibility, access control, and consumption. It’s designed to help customers streamline their supply chains and drive profitability. “We aspire to be an organization that plays to win, and defines winning as effectively serving our constituents,” John insists. “For our staff members, this means ensuring they have a great place to work, with a team environment, and effective working relationships. For our customers, it means delivering for them and being dependable, resilient, and consistent. For our suppliers, it means creating success in tandem with them, by helping them to gain market share profitability. Finally, for our shareholders, it means delivering a good return on their capital.”

Ansell Ansell is a safety company, and protection is at the heart of everything it does. The company’s products and services inspire confidence in people everywhere, and enable businesses and workers to perform better. Ansell’s mission is to provide innovative safety solutions in a trustworthy and reliable manner – creating an ‘Ansell Protected’ world. Ansell is honored to partner with Stellar Industrial Supply to provide safety solutions across the industries it services, including metal fabrication, energy and chemical, construction, and food and beverage. Together, through Stellar Industrial Supply and its AnsellGUARDIAN® service, Ansell can guide you in identifying risks and hazards in your specific work environment. Each of its customers receives a tailor-made safety solution that is backed up by data collected by 600+ safety experts, from over 17,000 individual assessments since 2010. The AnsellGUARDIAN® personalized risk management solution leads to improved worker safety, injury reduction and increased regulatory compliance. Ansell advises on business performance improvements that lower costs, and delivers best practice recommendations to optimize your PPE dispensing, improve your company’s output and eliminate waste, leading to an increase in productivity.

Acquisition activity

It’s an ethos that has served Stellar well throughout the turmoil of Covid-19. In early 2019, Stellar got a lot more intentional about developing its culture, codifying 26 fundamentals of behavior known as The Stellar Way. “I keep telling people how grateful I am that we had a solid year under our belt before the pandemic washed over us,” John admits. “Our teams had the ability to hunker down together and face all the challenges presented to us, to be able to operate in ways that didn’t let our customers down, and to do so with good spirit and resolve. “Going into it, we didn’t just want to survive – we wanted to rise to l 71

called Timesaver Industrial, based in Phoenix, Arizona,” John reveals. “That follows another acquisition at the end of March, for Nevadabased JLM Industrial Supplies. In August 2021, we also finalized a substantial acquisition of a company outside of Pittsburg called R.G. Brewton, which saw a total of 60 new employees come onboard. We remain active on the acquisition front, and we’re currently monitoring a number of opportunities.”

Future optimism

the occasion and make ourselves better as an organization,” John elaborates. “We set up several cross-functional work streams to look at what we could do better as a business, and we realized that we could automate, we could improve consistency, and we could be more proactive in how we communicate with our customers. Likewise, we also felt we could

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do a better job of developing our people, to enhance their career opportunities, and train them in leadership and other skill sets.” As business post-pandemic continues to kick-on, Stellar has also been active in its pursuit of a number of mergers and acquisitions, with deals finalized as recently as April 2022. “The company is a small cutting tool distributor

For John, the key to this success has been Stellar’s robust operating philosophy. “You can put a lot of great people together, but that doesn’t mean you have a great team,” he points out. “It’s important to focus on how people engage with each other, and to create a positive environment in which employees can demonstrate their commitment and support. “Now, when we get into acquisition mode, the first thing I do is spend time with the people who are interested in having us acquire their business,” John outlines. “I want to know about their culture, I want to know how their people think, I want to share with them our fundamentals and see if they resonate. If you sense a level of compatibility, it makes the integration a heck of a lot more straightforward. “Looking ahead to the latter half of 2022, the general economic picture won’t be as robust as we initially anticipated when putting our operating plan together in the fourth quarter of last year,” John concedes. “Nevertheless, our forecast is telling us that we’re going to be ahead of plan by around seven-to-eight percent. That’s something we feel good about.” The optimism at Stellar looks set to continue for the long term. “We’re operating in a $200 billion B2B space, with about 57 percent of that split up amongst thousands of smaller transactional distributors,” John adds. “With such a fragmented landscape, we believe that we have an opportunity to gain further market share profitably in the whole pie, with many of the industries we serve on long-term upswings. “We have heavy exposure in aerospace, something that we’ve secured intentionally,” he concludes. “Despite what was a challenging environment during the pandemic, that’s now coming back extremely robustly. Similarly, yacht building is an example of an industry that has remained robust throughout the last couple of years. If we continue to execute well, then we’re hopeful that we’ll be close to doubling our revenues within the next five years, between both acquisitions and organic growth.” v

Stellar Industrial Supply

Stellar Industrial Supply Services: Advanced manufacturing product distribution l 73

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First Solar

At the

forefront With operations spanning more than two decades, US-based First Solar is setting the standard for innovation within the solar industry, with the least energy-intensive panels on the market, and an ambitious plan for growth l 75


ot all companies can claim to be ‘leading the world’s sustainable energy future’ – but not all companies are First Solar. Founded in 1999, and headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, the company is the largest photovoltaic (PV) solar panel manufacturer in the US, and the only US-based company among the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers, with an unparalleled history of developing, financing, engineering, constructing, and operating grid-connected PV power plants across the globe. Among that list of ten, First Solar is also the only company in that list to produce an advanced thin film solar panel that does not use crystalline silicon as a semiconductor. Instead, First Solar’s PV panels utilize a next-generation solar semiconductor, known as Cadmium Telluride, or CadTel. “It’s an inherently sustainable semiconductor,” explains Mike Koralewski, COO at First Solar. “We’re essentially taking two byproducts from mining waste streams, Cadmium and Tellurium, and combining them into a stable compound. A layer of this material fixed between two sheets of glass, just three percent

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the thickness of a human hair, can produce electricity for 30 years or more.” It might sound like something out of sciencefiction, but the benefits of CadTel are real. As Mike indicates: “Unlike the crystalline silicon industry, which takes several days to accomplish all the steps in its manufacturing process, from refining polysilicon to assembling a solar panel, we take just four-and-a-half hours to produce a fully functioning solar panel at any one of our vertically integrated factories.” It’s a fact that allows First Solar to exercise full control over its value chain and manufacturing processes, giving the company the ability to offer a level of transparency and product traceability that is virtually unrivaled across the industry. It also allows the company to recycle its solar panels, recovering as much as 90 percent of the semiconductor and other materials. This process, which “has more in common with making flat-screen televisions than it does a crystalline silicon panel,” also has its environmental benefits. “It’s significantly less energy intensive,” Mike explains. “This allows us to have a carbon footprint that is two-and-a-half

times lower than the average crystalline silicon solar panel made in China.”

Factory of the future

First Solar’s panels, with the lowest carbon footprint in the industry, are yet more evidence of the company’s impressive track record on sustainability. The company was the first in the industry to commercialize solar recycling operations, and, in 2020, joined the RE100: a global, collaborative initiative bringing together influential businesses committed to 100 percent renewable power. First Solar has pledged to meet the 100 percent renewables target by 2028 as part of its RE100 commitment, with the interim goal of transitioning its US facilities to carbon-free electricity by 2026. “There tend to be two ways in which people look at the potential and future of the renewable energy sector, and both are intrinsically linked,” Mike suggests. “The first is to recognize the urgency of the fight against climate change and the fact that renewable energy in general and solar energy in particular represent our best bet at decarbonizing power generation.

First Solar The second is to recognize the fact that solar energy makes economic sense. It is now cheaper to build new utility-scale solar power plants in most parts of the US than it is to build any new conventional generation capacity. Together, these perspectives are driving policy changes, as governments look to further ramp up clean energy development and energy security, and growth as investors seek to capitalize on the industry’s potential.” Added to this, First Solar remains the first and only of the world’s ten largest solar manufacturers to join the Responsible Business Alliance (RBA), the world’s largest industry

coalition dedicated to supporting the rights and well-being of workers and communities in the global supply chain, and has been vocal in speaking out against the use of forced labor in solar supply chains. “As the solar industry continues to grow, it’s important that we do not lose sight of our original mission,” Mike insists. “We want to change the world for the better, and build a sustainable energy future that does not come at the cost of the people of the planet.” Today, First Solar operates some of the cleanest, safest, most diverse and inclusive, and modern factories not just in the solar

manufacturing industry, but in the US as a whole. The company currently operates two factories in northwest Ohio, amounting to what is the Western Hemisphere’s largest solar manufacturing footprint. “We’re building a third factory, which when fully operational, will scale our footprint to a total annual capacity of six gigawatts, which is believed to make it the largest fully vertically integrated solar manufacturing complex outside of China,” Mike reveals. “The new $680m facility will be one of the most advanced of its kind in the solar industry, combining highly skilled workers with Industry 4.0 architecture, machine-

Ice Industries Inc Ice Industries is establishing a customized, high-capacity roll-forming facility in 2022, supplying solar panel components to First Solar – America’s largest photovoltaic solar manufacturer. This partnership expansion continues their tradition of focused growth and customer service, exemplified by the two companies’ collaboration for well over a decade. Ice Industries is a world-class supplier with a broad range of capabilities, including: deep draw metal stamping; CNC machining; MIG, TIG, and resistance welding; assembly; rolled and welded pressure vessels, large format enclosures, high volume blanking, automated roll forming, and powder coating. They serve a wide range of markets including: HVACR; automotive; commercial & heavy truck; alternative energy; filtration; fire & safety; furniture; healthcare; and, offhighway vehicles. Ice Industries’ six locations are distributed throughout the North American central manufacturing corridor. Further information can be obtained on the Ice Industries website at l 77

to-machine communication, artificial intelligence, and Internet of Things connectivity to produce a higher degree of automation, precision, and continuous improvement. We anticipate that it will allow us to produce an average of one solar panel roughly every 2.75 seconds across our three-factory Ohio footprint, once it achieves its full production capacity. “This level of advanced manufacturing requires a new breed of US factory worker,” Mike continues. “One that is highly skilled, possesses technical knowledge, and is capable of troubleshooting from behind a console. While designing and building this factory of the future, we’re challenging ourselves to focus on the continuous improvement of our throughput, quality, and safety through automation without losing sight of our greatest strength, our people. We see this as an opportunity for our associates to upskill, learn new technologies, and continue to grow and develop themselves as our factories and products continually evolve. We also see this as an opportunity to attract new talent – people who will join us in establishing a new blueprint for US manufacturing that doesn’t just compete against China, but can outcompete.”

Supply chain relationships

Underpinning First Solar’s approach to growth and development is a mindset that puts the employee firmly at the heart of the company’s operations. “Our employees form the foundation of who we are and what we do,” Mike tells us. “As a result, we ensure that our employees are treated with respect and are competitively paid. “Our employees work in a high-tech environment that is safe and clean, with reliable and consistent work schedules that allow them to plan ahead,” he develops. “They have comprehensive medical coverage and access to a host of benefits, including tuition reimbursement for higher education, internal career progression, a wellness program, and paid parental leave. When you combine this with the sense of purpose that many find in working for First Solar, you have a healthy, safe, and comfortable working environment that makes it possible for us to out-innovate the competition and build the technology needed to power America’s sustainable energy future.” It’s an attitude that extends to First Solar’s suppliers. “We’re proud of the level of transparency and traceability that we’re able to deliver to our customers, especially considering the level of opacity that many others in the industry operate with,” Mike remarks. “This wouldn’t be possible without the strength of

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First Solar the relationships we share with our suppliers, many of which have grown with us for a number of years.” The company is especially proud of its success in building domestic supply chains in the US, with spending of approximately $1.5bn a year on hundreds of US businesses. “All too often, it’s the people on our factory floor or installing solar panels in the field that immediately come to mind when most think of American solar workers,” Mike states. “However, it takes the effort of thousands to enable our industry, and First Solar alone supports about 15,000 US jobs through its supply chain.

“These are the workers processing tellurium in Utah, the soda ash miners in Wyoming, the sand miners in Michigan, the glassworkers in Ohio and Illinois, the truckers and railroad workers that transport raw materials and completed solar panels, the warehouse and logistics workers, the scientists and academics, and so many others,” he lists. “These people power our supply chain and deliver our solar panels. They are American solar workers.” In the near future, Mike is expecting to see First Solar continue to grow substantially. “In terms of scale, we expect to be a 16+ gigawatt company with a manufacturing footprint that

spans four countries on two continents in the next two to three years,” he concludes. “I don’t expect that we’re done scaling, either. In fact, we are looking into the possibility of further expanding our manufacturing footprint. While no decisions have been made, we’re working with our suppliers to maintain a line of sight on equipment availability, while also following policy developments in key markets.” v

First Solar Products: Solar PV panels

Quanex Moisture ingress is a leading cause for solar panel power degradation - and Quanex offers proven technology to protect module components from moisture-related damage and power loss. For over 20 years, Quanex’s SolarGain® Edge Sealant has been trusted to protect module components from moisture-related damage and power loss. SolarGain Edge Sealant LP03 is a desiccated polyisobutylene/butyl (PIB) edge sealant effective in a variety of solar panel module types. The insulating properties of PIB enable the aperture efficiency of modules to be maximized. The addition of desiccant to the PIB creates a step change, delaying moisture migration to help protect cells, connections and conductive coatings from degradation. SolarGain Edge Sealant helps maximize performance and longevity. Extensive testing performed by our technical teams has demonstrated SolarGain Edge Sealant’s ability to provide high levels of moisture protection in c-Si panels, helping to reduce moisture-related power degradation, and achieve more power output over the course of many years of operational life. l 79


he history of Megger stretches back more than a century. Founded by Sydney Evershed, the socalled ‘Father of Insulation Tester Equipment’, in 1903, the company’s first product – the AVO Meter, the world’s first multi-meter tester – arrived two decades later. Since then, Megger’s story has been one of acquisition. The

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company has made a number of successful business purchases across the US, Germany, Sweden, and elsewhere, providing a platform for rapid organic growth. Today, Megger’s forte still lies with electrical test equipment. But as Piers Grumett, Group Operations Director at Megger, points out, this is by no means a narrow field of expertise.

“We produce equipment ranging from small, handheld devices that an electrician will use to conduct wiring tests in your house, all the way up to van-mounted equipment used by utilities to test substations,” he says. The company offers services including scheduled maintenance, faultfinding, and much more besides. “We also do test equipment for electric motors or rotating

Megger Ltd

Investing in accuracy machines, be that an electrical generator, or an instrument on a factory floor.” Megger prides itself on its exceptional standards of safety – a point on which, according to Piers, the company goes “over and above”. This, coupled with the fact that Megger produces some of the most accurate products available on the market, is testament

to the company’s rigorous investment in research and development. “Our customers are looking for functionality,” Piers explains. “Every year, we add functionality to various product lines, we accelerate our testing to make them more efficient for our customers, and we work to make our products more robust.”

A giant of electrical testing equipment provision, Megger is building on its rich legacy with recent ventures into smart monitoring solutions, and an ongoing international expansion This incremental process forms the bulk of Megger’s product development work, but the company is no stranger to innovation, and has recently sought to explore new opportunities l 81

within smart and online monitoring. “Previously, we’d focus on periodic testing, in which a technician or engineer would visit a client’s asset on a monthly or annual basis to ensure that it continued to run healthily,” Piers indicates. “More and more, online monitoring is an alternative that we’re exploring, in which a customer will purchase a unit that they can affix to their asset, such as a transformer or motor, which we can then monitor in a remote capacity. “If a customer is only doing periodic testing once a year or less, a lot can happen in that

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time frame,” Piers adds. “It might be that an asset needs some attention or care sooner than expected, or alternatively, it might reveal that an asset is in much better condition than we expected, and its replacement can be postponed. In either case, by conducting continual, real-time assessments, we can identify trends over a period of time, extrapolate performance, and ultimately prolong the lifespan of a piece of equipment.” As part of this strategy, it was announced in December of 2021 that Megger had acquired Metrycom, a leader in Smart Grid

monitoring solutions. Since rebranded as Megger Grid Analytics, the company provides grid network sensors and analytics using best-inclass sensor technology, enabling power utilities to get better visibility into MV networks, assist in grid operation management, and perform preventative condition-based maintenance. For utilities, this heightened insight into energy flow is critical at a time when more and more decentralized generation systems are being added to the grid. “Today, we have wind farms, solar farms, and individual panels installed at people’s houses,” Piers notes. “We’ve come

Megger Ltd

Robotas and Megger’s 30-year partnership. Robotas’ Mascot Systems have been a key part of Megger’s THT PCBA production since 1991. Megger runs seven of the latest generation Mascots, configured for cell manufacturing, and three Mascot SMEMA conveyor systems as part of their high-volume flow line. Mascot increases THT productivity and yield, and prevents errors by guiding operators via detailed placement information and laser indication, whilst dispensing the correct component for placement too. Our SMEMA board handling and component clinching systems with MRP integration and component traceability offer a complete assembly method. Mascot removes all common errors seen in THT production. WWW.ROBOTAS.COM

a long way from the old reality of big central power systems that pushed energy exclusively in a single direction. “Add to that the increasing number of people charging their electric cars, and we can see that patterns of energy flows are changing substantially,” he goes on. “This system helps the grid owner to understand those changes and flows as they are happening. It provides them with the information they need to manage their grid carefully, to ensure there’s enough power, and to maintain the voltage as people come online and offline. It makes a complex process more efficient.” l 83

Amid its ongoing quest for expansion, Megger benefits from its strong links and excellent brand name, in what is a relatively conservative industry. Nonetheless, the drive behind its strategy isn’t all about performance.

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As Piers emphasizes, Megger views itself as a value-oriented company, and asks the same of those with whom it seeks to partner. “We have a set of five core values: caring, creative, consistent, captivating, and confident,”

Piers reveals. “Upon acquisition, we look for companies that fit within that comfortably, and it’s incredibly important to us that we find a match. At the same time, we remain focused on delivering customer value.”

Megger Ltd Citing the need for these values to be “center-led”, Piers speaks positively about Megger’s efforts thus far to instill this culture throughout its employee base. “We have great people,” he admits. “Supply chains are a particularly great example, given all the obstacles that businesses are facing today. Yet, our teams have stepped up. They’ve spent long hours calling round to our suppliers, working in collaboration to try and replace components that we can’t source with those we can, and to engineer novel and expedient solutions.” To that end, Megger introduced its excellence system in 2019 – a continuous improvement system based on the principles of Lean manufacturing and operational excellence. “We adopt a problem-solving approach,” Piers remarks. “Bad stuff happens. How you react to what happens is the important part. You can sit there and stew, or you can get on with the solution. All successful companies will opt for the latter. It’s a mindset that makes us stronger for the future.” In 2020, bad stuff did indeed happen, as the arrival of Covid-19 sent shockwaves across the globe, and throughout every industry.

Transmille Transmille has worked alongside Megger to provide and design versatile and reliable calibration equipment for their manufacturing and service departments for over 15 years. Customised 3000A Series Multiproduct Calibrators ( provide automated voltage, current and resistance sources for testing a wide variety of products. In addition, the calibration houses and service centres across the globe use the 3200 Series Electrical Test Equipment Calibrators (https://www.transmille. com/3200b-series) to support Megger’s test equipment in the field. We are proud to supply Megger and support their testing requirements, with a strong working relationship built across many years. l 85

Predictably, Megger didn’t panic. Instead, the company prioritized the need to protect its people – implementing the necessary control measures, and allowing people to work from home, as it sought to minimize risk. Megger also took steps to retain its staff, despite sector-wide fears of unemployment. “A second priority was to support our customers,” Piers suggests. “We were very clear that if our customers needed help, we’d be there to answer any of their questions. People still needed to keep electricity supplied throughout the pandemic, and many needed help, so we did a lot of training webinars to help beef up our customers’ skills and capabilities.

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“We also had to preserve our cash,” he goes on. “We did reduce our investments for a short period, until we were more confident of how the situation was going to develop. Thankfully, I’m not aware that we had any transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace, despite the fact that all our factories remained open. That in itself is a testament to our efforts.” As the turbulence of the pandemic recedes, Megger is optimistic about the years to come. As it continues its acquisition strategy, the company has also been moving the dial on an international expansion, evidenced in its recent opening of a new sales office in South Africa. “We have very good penetration in

the Europe and the US, but Africa is an area we have identified for growth,” Piers tells us. “South Africa is our first location, but we’d like to follow it up with another in the West or the North of the continent. Last week, we participated in a double summit, sending two teams of experts and sales teams to Tanzania and Senegal to run sessions with potential customers. We had almost 200 customers attend, in what was a clear demonstration of Africa’s importance within our global strategy.” True to its history of innovation, Megger is even eyeing up new ventures, with a particular focus on the growing importance of electricity. “There’s a lot going on in terms

Megger Ltd of the decarbonization of our energy supply,” Piers concludes. “We believe that electricity is a key component of that. Whether it’s transportation, such as electric cars, or home heating, with heat pumps, it’s a sector that’s

going to see big demand. We view it as an opportunity. Between that, and our investment in monitoring and software, our target is to pretty much double the size of the business in the next five years.” v

Megger Ltd Services: Electrical testing equipment and software

Europlacer Prioritizing flexibility for circuit board assembly productivity. Choosing to switch away from process equipment at the very core of an electronics production line to new systems from an alternative supplier is never an easy decision, and not one to be made lightly. But that’s exactly what Megger did at its UK factory in Dover, Kent. Megger took the initiative to replace two legacy Japanese pick-and-place platforms on a surface mount circuit board assembly line. Analysis of production metrics on the older machines revealed efficiency shortcomings, particularly with new generations of miniature components. Megger’s production team deals with over 1,200 different types of electronic components and manages up to 16 assembly changeovers on its line every day – a necessary part of the manufacturing strategy to produce hundreds of different circuit boards in a variety of batch sizes for all Megger products. It highlighted the need for pick-and-place machines able to hold a large component inventory to minimize changeover times. And ones that could reliably automate the placement of increasingly common tiny 01005-profile components (resistors or capacitors measuring just 0.4mm x 0.2mm and typically weighing 0.04mg). The team evaluated potential solutions from several equipment suppliers. With legendary pick-and-place flexibility, along with the industry’s largest on-machine inventory capacity and 01005 capability for its iineo platform, Europlacer became the top candidate. In addition, Europlacer’s Application Support Manager used real Megger production floor data to prove capability and demonstrate productivity increases. Megger chose two Europlacer iineo+ pick-and-place machines based on unmatched flexibility. They were installed at Dover, in 2021. The following year, Megger invested in two more iineo+ machines, underscoring the value of the initial purchase and justifying the decision to move on from the legacy systems to equipment from a new supplier. The second pair were installed in January this year. Between them, the four iineo+ machines handle some five million components that Megger uses every month to assemble its circuit boards, delivering maximum productivity across the company’s two daily shifts. l 87

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Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc

Spirax-Sarco, on the road to a sustainable, inclusive and successful future Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc is pioneering the manufacturing industry with cleaner, safer and more sustainable solutions to secure a greener future


n the space of a year, Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc (Spirax-Sarco) has taken on some impressive ventures. During a time when the manufacturing industry has been fraught with challenges, the team responded to the increased demand for its products and solutions with determination and dedication. “We have helped our customers and communities fight the global pandemic, developed new technologies to advance industrial sustainability, created a roadmap for our own Net Zero future and we’ve looked after our people, as well as the planet,” begins the Manufacturing and Supply General Manager, Greg Godfrey-Williams. We learn from him how his company’s ability to navigate the difficulties of the last 12 months demonstrates how SpiraxSarco is working to help create a safer, more efficient and sustainable world. The company is a multi-national industrial engineering Group with expertise in the control and management of steam, electric thermal solutions, peristaltic pumping and associated fluid path technologies, which play an essential role in critical industrial processes. With customers in 134 countries, and a diverse range of industries to service, it offers engineered solutions that sit behind the

production of many items used on a daily basis. However, one of its specialties lies in steam, and this is where its innovation and capabilities shine. This clean, natural technology is used every day in a variety of industrial applications, especially in the pharmaceutical, healthcare, and food and beverage sectors. “Our products and solutions are all about delivering clean steam to the places where it is needed – such as parts and components, food, tablets, and sterilization for example. “We believe steam is a great medium. We’re keen to promote steam and its uses and to that end, we are running a campaign called Natural Technology. This highlights the use and potential of steam, and it’s really driving our sustainability efforts forward,” Greg highlights. “We supported investments to deliver our Net Zero targets, through the decarbonization of the steam specialties’ manufacturing facility in Cheltenham, as well as continuing to invest in the development of products and solutions to help our customers decarbonize their industrial processes,” he says. In addition, Greg notes that the business’s Board also approved the acquisition of Cotopaxi, a digitally-enabled global energy consulting and optimization company, which was subsequently completed

in January 2022, and will help accelerate the implementation of the Group’s digital strategy. Not only has the business been hard at work refining its in-house capabilities, but it has also been involved in extensive social responsibility efforts. According to Greg, these accomplishments would not be possible without employees’ significant contribution. Particularly during the pandemic, Spirax-Sarco’s team pulled together to meet customer needs, and worked closely with its supply chain partners to mitigate a challenging environment. “This has been especially evident in the way our teams have embraced our volunteering and community-based initiatives with over 11,000 volunteering hours recorded in 2021.These hours, taken together with financial support, resulted in close to one million pounds being donated to good causes.”

Community contributions

Greg then draws our attention to the numerous ways in which the company has taken its passion for people one step further and invested in its community. “A story I’d like to share concerns our donation of defibrillators. One of our employees saw a televised cardiac arrest happen at a football match in 2021. We subsequently launched CPR and defibrillator training for every employee in Cheltenham. Following this, we embarked on a campaign to raise awareness across businesses, in the home and in our community, and joined forces with local charity ‘public hearts foundation’. We then donated 11 defibrillators and cabinets to the community for public installation and use. “Furthermore, we leveraged and campaigned with local councils to allow these to be placed in public areas with a high footfall. Finally, we invested in new defibrillators in our UK manufacturing sites, and located them so that no one around here is more than 100 meters away from one of these lifesaving devices, and we also made two more of our own defibrillators available to public access, while donating old, usable defibrillators to schools, and Scout clubs, for example. So, we’re not just about manufacturing and engineering, but we are also incredibly passionate about our community,” he shares. l 89

“Our colleagues have been the most important asset for our business.You can have an army of infrastructure and state-of-the-art equipment, but it’s the people that really make it work, and we continue to invest every day in our people for a better tomorrow. These key investments are essential for us to try attract new talent, and also for retaining existing talent to strengthen their skills and knowledge for future growth.”

One Planet initiative

SWISS STEEL UK Together for a future that matters Swiss Steel UK is part of the Swiss Steel Group, and by having an international footprint and, at the same time, a local presence, it has access to 70 facilities within the Swiss Steel family, including its Stainless Steel Mills; Ugitech & Deutsche Edelstahlwerke (DEW). Being a partner of the Spirax-Sarco Group, Swiss Steel UK is pleased to support and supply a business that is very well-respected in the industry. Swiss Steel Group is a champion for Green Steel, empowering customers to make decisions to support bringing sustainable products to market.

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Apprenticeships, graduate schemes, leadership development programs at all levels, an inhouse academy, qualifications and progression are all ways in which the company is helping to refine the skills of its team. Cooperating with schools and universities, working with and sponsoring STEM, encouraging women in engineering, and working with the Cheltenham Science Festival are additional steps it is taking to welcome new generations into the manufacturing sector. Our conversation then shifts gears towards sustainability, which is an issue that Greg and

Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc his team are staunchly advocating for across the manufacturing industry. Spirax-Sarco has implemented a range of measures to get the company on the road to Net Zero, and one such example he shares with us is through its One Planet initiative. “Because we only have one planet, we’re doing everything we can to preserve the earth’s natural resources. We’re continuously investing in products and solutions to help our customers meet their own sustainability objectives. This will be through reducing our carbon emissions and using energy more efficiently. We estimate our solutions sold in 2021 will save our customers 18.2 million tons of CO2 annually, which is the equivalent of 8.8 million less cars on our roads. Our One Planet strategy sets out our commitment to sustainability, as well as our roadmap to building a more sustainable future.

“Within the strategy, we have set ourselves some stretching targets to deliver climate and environmental action, customer sustainability, resilient supply chains and stronger communities. This includes achieving Net Zero in scope one and two greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, and Net Zero in scope three emissions by 2050. We have a clear roadmap to achieve those goals, which includes sourcing or self-generating 100 percent of our electricity from renewable sources and converting our vehicle fleet to electric vehicles,” he says. Tying in with this, Spirax-Sarco looks closely at modern possibilities to ensure its products are of the highest quality and reliability. “Many of our products are built around energy and efficiency savings for customers, and being able to demonstrate those savings is important. Both existing and new products take that one

NCMT Ltd NCMT Ltd, the sole UK distributor of Okuma machine tools, have enjoyed a strong working relationship with Spirax Sarco spanning over 20 years. Continued investment in various Okuma machines with high specification and state-of-the-art technology, together with NCMT’s engineering support, has assisted Spirax-Sarco in developing an energy efficient and reliable manufacturing capability that provides improvements in capacity, productivity and sustainability.

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Sewtec Automation Sewtec Automation invents, designs, manufactures, installs and supports effective industrial automation systems worldwide. We embrace and solve complex engineering problems and challenges that others will not or cannot tackle. Invention underpins the way our people think and the way we work, inspiring and enabling us to create robust and reliable automation solutions that make businesses perform better. Whether it’s the food and beverage industry, medical and pharmaceuticals, tobacco or cosmetics; we have the expertise within our global team to make the impossible, possible.

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Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc step further through the implementation of the solutions that we provide, depending on the customer’s needs,” Greg says. As a global business, Spirax-Sarco’s success has allowed it to increase its international footprint as well. “We have facilities strategically placed all around the world, and we continue to invest in new plants and equipment.This covers all the equipment being digitally enabled enabling growth, greater flexibility, improved efficiency, and simultaneously lower our carbon footprint. For example, for every three old machines we retire, we only have to replace them with two that have more capacity but use less energy,” he highlights. It is clear that Spirax-Sarco has a long-

standing history of excellent performance. Our conversation draws to a close on the topic of the future, for which Greg is excited. “If I think about our long-term goals, I believe they will

Meridian Business Support Meridian Business Support is a leading recruitment specialist, supplying temporary, contract and permanent staffing solutions to clients across multiple sectors in the UK. Founded in 1989, Meridian has 32 branch operations nationally, which includes an onsite location with Spirax-Sarco, the world leader in steam system management. We are proud of our 12-year partnership with Spirax-Sarco, during which we have supported workers with their assignments, and specialized in the recruitment of CNC machinists, welders, technicians, assembly operatives, logistics operatives and office and professional workers, to name but a few.

include the continuation of our growth and shareholder value, customer support and focus, and outperforming industrial production rates. Above that, we want to remain in the top 50 of FTSE100, and progress on our journey towards our Net Zero targets through our One Planet strategy and Natural Technology. This is what will ensure that we remain more efficient, safer than ever before,” he concludes. v

Spirax-Sarco Engineering plc Services: Steam technology solutions l 93

Perfect flooring

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A well-known and trusted name, Amtico, is going above and beyond to ensure high quality, innovative flooring designs are produced for its customers, regardless of the challenges currently facing UK manufacturers

mtico is the pioneer of a type of flooring called luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and is keen to maintain that position, with nearly 60 years of knowledge and experience going into every floor. In discussion with Jonathan Duck, the company’s CEO, we learn about the range of products across the LVT market that Amtico has to offer, making it one of the leading worldwide names in the flooring industry, for both residential and commercial customers. “There are two broad categories of LVT; tiles that are glued down to a screed and tiles that are loose-laid over an existing floor. We operate in each category with our various products,” he begins. “Signature is our top-end glue down range, and when I joined Amtico in 2003, taking over from its founding CEO, that was all we made. It’s a high-end tile that leads the LVT market. Then, we have Form, which has greater surface texture, and is an upper-end product. There’s also Spacia, our main seller and slightly cheaper, which is a mid-range staple. Finally, there’s First, our price-fighting range. “We also have types of LVT that can be loose-laid on a floor. Access is our LVT version of the carpet tiles you might see in offices. Click Smart is our LVT version of the laminate you might see in homes, only much better,” he says. The wide offering speaks directly to what sets Amtico apart, as one of the few companies specialising in LVT, which is itself one of the hottest segments within the wider flooring industry. Of course, with privilege comes responsibility, and Amtico has to keep its innovation level high in order to remain at the top. “As you get more and more competition, you have to make sure you stay unique, which is why we have always upheld our reputation for design, quality, excellent customer service and support.” Amtico’s business consists of three interlocking activities: design, manufacturing, and sales and marketing. Jonathan elaborates that the company has to lead in each of these three activities, to stay fully ahead of its competition. “We want to guarantee that our designs are great, but not too far out there, while also maintaining a high pace of innovation to lead the market, but not running too far ahead of it. “One of the things that really helps us stand out is that we have always believed in Western manufacturing. My goal here has been twofold. First to create a very successful business, second to make sure Amtico plays its part as a national exporter, so UK-plc earns its way in the world and does not end up always borrowing from overseas to fund ever l 95

increasing imports.” This, Jonathan adds, speaks to the company’s impressive history. Since Amtico was founded in 1964, initially as part of the textiles and chemical company Courtaulds on a corner of its Coventry site, it has grown organically to about £200 million sales. It has also been a company, according to Jonathan, that others within the flooring industry have sought to copy. “We are always consciously pushing the boundaries, which fits with the type of culture we have built within the business. We work on the basis of driving as much authority and responsibility down the line as possible, employing great people and having a low staff turnover. Some companies may choose to run themselves through micromanagement, but we are at the opposite end of that spectrum. “We have strategic business goals which we communicate regularly, but we consciously do not tell our teams how to get there. The idea is that our people will get used to making their own decisions, and as a result, things will happen automatically and much faster. I use the example of various military leaders who devolve authority, and others who run it all from the centre. You can guess which armies work better in the field.” With the combination of innovation and team strategy, the prize for Amtico in the future is continued growth. Jonathan wants to remain adaptable, so as to keep expanding at about 10-20 percent each year, including in overseas markets. As he elaborates; “During Covid and Brexit, we ended up focusing very hard on the UK residential market, but I would now like to get back to a lot more exporting to commercial customers in Europe and beyond.” In the medium term, Amtico’s next goal is a step change increase in its production capacity. “That will be a big one for us. We are very space constrained in our Coventry factory and run 24/7, but do need to carry on expanding. A challenge is always the Western manufacturing cost position versus factories in the Far East. Over the past 15 years we have worked incredibly hard to get ourselves down to China’s cost position. This let us re-shore production long before it became fashionable to do so, and indeed when many economists and politicians were saying most Western manufacturing should move to the Far East. “The challenge of international competitiveness has recently returned with a vengeance, with the European costs of plastic raw materials doubled in the past 12 months, and now UK electricity trebled and gas no less than fifteen times up. This creates real

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margin and competitive pressures for all of manufacturing industry, much harsher than just the current wage inflation faced by the service sector. But as we increase our prices in line with the new-normal for our costs, despite Far East suppliers keeping a lid on what they sell for, albeit at the end of their very fragile supply chains, we will be fine. When raw material costs revert to normal, which they will eventually do, Amtico will be in an excellent position. “Furthermore, as we focus on our business goals and strategic development we never lose sight of the sustainability challenge that has become more prominent in recent years for manufacturing industry. Our recently developed strategy focusses our sustainability efforts for the next five years on four core areas: Fighting

Climate Change, Reducing Waste, Empowering People and Championing Innovation. We are committed to producing the same highquality product and unrivalled design that our customers expect, but we are committed to doing so with a smaller environmental impact.”

In conclusion, whatever the economic rollercoaster throws at Amtico, the company will keep succeeding. It’s all down to a dedicated team, who know what they are doing, take every challenge as an opportunity, and rely on innovation and design to keep their business at the leading edge. v

Jonathan Duck - CEO

Amtico Services: Flooring manufacturer l 97

Weld your way Stephan Pittner, CEO of CLOOS

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A global leader in the manufacture of robotic welding systems, CLOOS is targeting a new era of global growth, driven by continuous operational improvements and ongoing product development



he story of CLOOS is a more than century-long tale. Founded by Carl Cloos in 1919, the company proudly sits among the pioneers in welding technology. CLOOS presented the first CO2 gas shielded welding machine for welding with endless wire electrode at the Hanover Fair, in 1956. Two years later, the first welding power sources were integrated in manufacturing systems – a significant watershed, marking the foundation of automated welding. At the end of the 1970s, CLOOS first used robots for automated welding, and shortly after, the company began constructing and producing its own industrial robots. Following the market introduction of tandem welding, CLOOS has established itself as a global leader in the segment. “With more than 900 employees worldwide, CLOOS offers production solutions in welding and robot technology for a number of l 99

CLOOS different industries, including construction and agricultural machinery, rail, energy, and many more,” says Stephan Pittner, CEO of CLOOS, when asked about the company today. CLOOS’s QINEO series of welding power sources are available for various welding processes, while the company’s QIROX robots, positioners, and special purpose machines enable it to develop and manufacture automated welding systems to the specific requirements of its customers. “We stand out from our market competitors by serving the highest requirements in arc welding,” Stephan continues. “Apart from our headquarters in Haiger (Germany), we boast nine production sites, 14 subsidiaries and 64 sales and service centers. We attach great importance to a high degree of vertical integration in order to guarantee the quality of our products.” CLOOS has also benefited from new distribution channels and customer contacts in China, following its acquisition, in 2019, by the Estun Group, a leading Chinese manufacturer of core controlling parts for high-end intelligent

equipment. It’s a move that followed a number of similar purchases by Estun, which also included a 20 percent stake in Italian robotics and automation specialist Euclid Labs, UKbased motion control technology developer TrioMotion, and Germany’s MAI. “Our customers are roughly divided into one third each in Germany, Europe, and the rest of the world,” Stephan points out. “Asia, and above all China, is clearly one of our biggest growth markets. There’s also great demand for our products and know-how in the US. We’re currently working out a concept with our subsidiary in Schaumburg, Illinois, on how we can improve our share in that market.” Since the 1980s, CLOOS’s primary focus has been robot welding. But as Stephan reveals, the market has undergone a shift in recent years, as an increasing number of customers seek to integrate pre- and post-processing operations into their lines. “Focusing on those processes is increasingly vital,” Stephan comments. “For example, we’ve developed a grinding robot and equipment for pre-preparation and rework.

Furthermore, we now have robotic systems that can automatically assemble parts. We need to consider all of the functions in a fully automated welding line.” Although the majority of the company’s production takes place at its Haiger headquarters, a large portion of the final assembly of CLOOS’s robot systems is conducted on-site at its local subsidiaries, and has driven the company’s investment strategy in recent years. “We successfully relocated our welding torch production to our site in Krepice, Poland, almost ten years ago,” Stephan notes. “At our subsidiary in Nanjing, we’ll also increasingly produce lower-priced products for the Chinese market in the future. We’re currently transforming ourselves from a welding integrator to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and are increasingly bringing our products to the end customer via integrators.” The company has also recently invested €2 million in a comprehensive modernization of the mechanical processing area at its Haiger headquarters, with the addition of new high-

Pofnetz GmbH As a specialist in fiber optic technology, Pofnetz GmbH is an innovative and reliable partner when it comes to new, customer-specific solutions in the fields of robotics, medical technology and lighting. The development of extraordinary ideas, the support of our customers in prototype construction, and the production of small series of the highest quality are our special concerns. By moving to our new production site in 2022, investing in new testing and measuring technology, and an expanding our workforce, quality and delivery reliability will be improved once again. We are proud to be able to support our customer, Cloos, for ten years with tailor-made solutions in the field of fiber optic cables from our cable assembly, and would like to thank them for their excellent and trusting cooperation.

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tech machines. Robot parts are now machined on a four-axis horizontal machining center, while an automatic palletizing system and a five-axis machining center have replaced the company’s three former conventional milling machines.

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“We’re happy about reduced set-up times, increased flexibility of production, leaner logistics, and the minimization of bottleneck situations,” Stephan confirms. “In order to position ourselves even better for the future, we’re continuously

increasing the degree of automation and flexibility in our production.” In addition to this expanding footprint, CLOOS invests an annual sum in research and development equal to eight percent of its total revenue. “Software and digitization, in the age of Industry 4.0, are key,” Stephan insists. “Therefore, we have invested heavily in developing unique high-end software solutions.” One such solution is the company’s C-Gate IoT platform. An integrated information and communication tool, the C-Gate is designed to enable users to access data from their welding production in real time. Consisting of several modules which users can activate depending on their individual digitalisation strategy, it allows for the monitoring and control of production processes down to the smallest detail. “As a machine builder and solutions supplier for the welding industry, we need to offer digital functionalities to customers,” Stephan tells us. “This means offline teaching and system programming, full digital system monitoring, and generally increasing efficiency. In the future, this will become of heightened importance to us and our customers. That’s why we are currently working on casting all digital products into a central overall platform. In this way, we want to support our customers throughout the entire process chain, from simulation to production, operation, maintenance, and repair. “Historically, we’ve also focused very strongly on customized welding solutions,” Stephan continues. “The application and process development department at our Haiger facility plays a central role in the creation of customer-specific welding solutions and new welding technologies. We offer feasibility studies on customer components, the creation and optimization of robot programs and advice on the selection of welding technology. In addition, we’re currently working on building a modular system to adapt our products for different markets, which will enable us to bring our innovations to a wider range of customers even faster and more cost-effectively in the future.” From 1919 through to the present day, the perennial driving force behind CLOOS’s success has been its people. The company boasts an experienced roster of skilled technicians, a number of whom have remained loyal to CLOOS for upwards of 20 years. “Our employees are not afraid of any technological welding challenges,” Stephan emphasizes. “We offer excellent training and educational opportunities. These include in-house apprenticeships and dual study programs, where our employees can progress towards a Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree. Approximately 50 percent of our current crop of employees have graduated through our education system. We also partner very closely with universities to attract younger digital natives who are keen to work with robots. “The further development of young people and the constant arrival of new challenges in

CLOOS the automation environment spur me on,” Stephen admits. “I look forward to pushing new technologies and innovations in welding and robotics with our employees in Haiger, and those around the world.” CLOOS intends to announce a number of innovations throughout the latter half of 2022, with a focus around digitization and welding processes. “It is important to use the right welding procedures for maximum results and to increase efficiency,” Stephan confirms. “We continuously develop our processes to meet

new customer requirements and respond to changing materials. No matter if it’s thick or thin, steel or aluminum, manual or automated, we’re able to offer the right welding process for any product requirement.” Amid this busy year, the company is set to attend the EuroBLECH trade fair, due to be held in Hanover this coming October. “During live demonstrations of manual welding, visitors will be able to experience the constantly growing product range of the QINEO machines live,” Stephan promises. “Furthermore, our

SAB Bröckskes SAB Bröckskes is one of the world’s leading cable manufacturers and suppliers of cable assemblies, as well as temperature measurement technology. 75 years of experience in temperature measurement and control technique, as well as in cable production, has turned a one-man business into a company with nearly 550 staff members. Our strength is not only the production of standard products, but also the development and manufacturing of special products according to customers’ specifications. Every year, we manufacture more than 1500 special cables on our customers’ request. Every single product is a challenge for our technical team. We, at SAB Bröckskes, see ourselves as a manufacturer and service provider - in the sense of real partnership and customer oriented work. SAB Bröckskes GmbH & Co KG, Grefrather Str. 204-212b, 41749 Viersen, Germany |.

automation portfolio comprises simple, compact systems as well as complex, chained systems with automated workpiece identification and loading and unloading processes. “Looking further ahead, we still see great growth potential for our products and solutions in the global market,” he continues. “To realize that potential, we will significantly expand our presence, and strive for technology leadership in all aspects of arc welding processes. At the moment, the procurement situation is very tight, with semiconductors, electronics, and other parts limited in their availability. With the expansion of our supply chain to China, we’re safeguarding our ability to deliver reliably. At the same time, we’ll be trying to compensate for rising prices through a process of continual improvement, with ongoing optimizations and increasing efficiency throughout our internal processes.” v

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Eastern Industrial Automation

I On the eve of its seventh decade, Eastern Industrial Automation continues to push boundaries when it comes to in-house engineering, maintenance, and procurement capabilities

t was in the year 1963 that Richard Gorsey began personally delivering mechanical components to textile mills throughout New England. In doing so, he was laying the groundwork for what would come to be known as Eastern Industrial Automation (EIA), a company that today represents more than 1000 global manufacturers, and supplies in excess of 1,000,000 specific products to customers worldwide. But the EIA of today is a far cry from the company of 60 years ago – one that has not only undergone exponential growth, but has transformed its business beyond the sale of top-quality Industrial components. Instead, EIA has now established itself as an industry-leading portfolio of in-house application, engineering, maintenance, international and procurement services. “We pride ourselves on selling packaged solutions to our customers to directly impact their bottom line, so we are very prominent when it comes to total cost solutions,” l 105

says Drew Tucci, Vice President, Sales and Marketing at EIA. “As it pertains to our vast OEM partners, we’re developing and delivering bottom line solutions when it comes to subassembly manufacturing and precision machined parts. On the business side, we understand pull system procurement models, and we deliver lots of extra pieces to reduce the total cost of procurement.” It’s a profile that places EIA as a

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full-service engineering provider, with a mission “to provide an application solution, deliver quality products, predict that product’s life expectancy, repair and install it if needed, and create solutions to prevent costly downtime.” With primary responsibility for EIA’s field and shop services, Joe Colarusso, Engineering Services Division Manager at EIA, offers some insight into the depth of the company’s service

offering. “What we provide in the field is vibration analysis, laser alignment, field balancing, and predictive maintenance,” he tells us. “We’re able to predict a machine’s life expectancy with a set of points and alarms, take vibration measurements, download them, and trend them to avoid machine stoppage.” It’s a capability that equips EIA to search for and identify early indications of possible bearing failure, along with other factors that could precipitate a machine shutdown. “We’re able to help keep our customers production equipment operating at peak efficiency and avoid costly machine stoppage by utilizing, vibration analysis, (PdM program) which looks for anomalies and monitors changes from the established vibration signature ‘baseline’ of a system. This is achieved through examining of a machine’s vibration history and over time analysis to predict problems before serious issues arise.” According to company estimates, the vibration program alone provides its customers with savings in excess of $750,000 in eliminated downtime, underlining exactly why EIA continues to pride itself on a tangible bottom line impact.

Eastern Industrial Automation

The same is true of the company’s mechanical service solutions, through which EIA is able to offer direct, in-house customer repairs. “We have technicians who are trained to go on a remote site and change a bearing, a coupling, a pump while conducting laser alignment analysis, and then start the machine up and check its ideal operating performance,” Joe explains. “To use an analogy, they’re like doctors performing an EKG of a customer’s machine, utilizing the vibration spectrum to identify a fault.” It’s an exciting area of development, located within the umbrella of EIA’s predictive maintenance (PdM) solutions. “Our PdM division is actively involved in the development of remote sensing programs with OEM and end user partners utilizing Rexnord and Schaeffler sophisticated technologies,” states Joe. “These programs feature a wireless remote, accelerometers within the sensor, and have the ability to monitor both temperature and vibration. “As part of this continuous, cloud-enabled system, the end user is informed via an alarm on their cell phone whenever a machine is developing a problem,” he continues. “At that point, they’re able to conduct further analysis to determine the precise nature of the problem. As technology improves, the scope of what it’s possible to conclude with that data continues to evolve. End-users can now determine the input speed, and thereby identify whether it’s a bearing fault frequency, l 107

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Eastern Industrial Automation or if the machine is unbalanced. Particularly in the case of equipment where it’s difficult to get to a bearing, being able to carry out this identification accurately is a critical cost-saving solution.” The solutions don’t end there, either. Oil analysis, along with air leak detection and thermography, are additional offerings that serve to round out the vast capability within EIA’s field services division. With that, attention turns to the shop floor. Here again, Drew hints toward what is a continual evolution of the company’s capabilities: “Our machining capabilities continue to expand and complement our Tier 1 manufacturing partners while positively impacting our customers’ bottom lines. We act as a machine shop with a distributor’s mindset. We stock costly made-toorder components and deliver via point of use, on-line transaction or install on machinery if required. We also repair just about any product we sell, including couplings, bearings, and gearboxes,” Joe states. “We’re also very active in linear rail alterations and cutting; we will design applications in the field, return to our shop and cut the rail, mount the bearings on the rail, and package appropriately to support a vast array of OEM customers.” EIA has also enjoyed plenty of recent success in manufacturing. The company has built hydraulic power units for use across multiple industries, including food processing, lumber processing machinery, paper and material handling. Key partners Toshiba, Nachi Hydraulics and Nopak offer global resources to help expand this department’s mission. Festo Corporation, a leading global manufacturer of pneumatic and electromechanical systems, components, and controls for process and industrial automation has been a critical partner to EIA’s expansion. Pat Sharkey, Pneumatic Division Manager commented: “One of our unique abilities is to utilize our pneumatics expertise, combined with the motion control and automation division, to provide a new solution for a revolutionary cancer treatment system for a major US university. We partnered very closely with Festo to design in a piezo valve to use in the project. This created a quiet system that is for use right next to the patient. We were able to utilize data acquisition to store patient information to allow exact re-positioning for future radiation treatments.” Inevitably, one of the major drivers behind EIA’s success, is people. The company employs a large sales force, diverse in skill sets as part of a network that covers the northeastern l 109

US and niche markets throughout the US. The company prides itself on low turnover and has utilized the pandemic to promote from within, add new strategic positions and prepare for critical retirements. “Our team is built on individuals with knowledge, drive, and the heart and desire to succeed,” argues Phil Basquiat, National Sales Manager at EIA. “Through our shadow program, new hires are placed alongside our existing specialists, giving them ample opportunity to learn from experienced figures within the company, and to spend time with our manufacturing partners.” Sitting alongside its field services team, EIA also boasts a diverse unit of highly trained salespeople within its Business Development Group. Their role is to cater to EIA’s highvolume, multi-national OEM customers, working with colleagues across the world, including the company’s engineers in China. EIA operates wholly owned businesses in Shanghai, China - Shanghai Motion Control Technology Co. Ltd. Second generation, Geoff Filker, Principal of EIA says: “We stock far more product per location than anybody in our market, we’re very nimble, diversified, and experienced when it comes to the interchange and procurement of available products to meet immediate customer needs. We pride ourselves on supporting a broad range of Tier 1 manufacturing such as Dodge, Regal/Rexnord,

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Eastern Industrial Automation Schaeffler, NSK and many more. At a time of significant supply chain disruption, it’s a role that has been more challenging than ever. Thankfully, however, EIA and our strategic manufacturing partners have proven that we are wellequipped to ride the storm globally.” “Nevertheless, this wouldn’t be the case without our phenomenal group of individuals,” Drew reiterates. “Not a day goes by in the company that there isn’t some form of training or function going on to bring our employees up to a level above that of our competition. We’re not in the yes-no business; we live in the maybe world, with a ‘can do attitude’, in which anything is possible. For example, we’re developing specialized business units to support select marketplaces, including a Machine Tool Division that sells products focused to the precision spindle and machine tool repair industry. This division guarantees a 15-minute response, deals worldwide, heavily stocked, and offers unique channel expertise for that industry.” Steve Kenworthy, Machine Tool Division Manager, adds, “We continuously train our team to increase our technical proficiency in critical

machine tool components to provide the fast response demanded by this industry to maintain OEM-level machine performance after repairs have been completed.” “Other distributors don’t have this level of technical expertise in-house,” Phil agrees. “Instead, they go back to the manufacturer for help. At EIA, meanwhile, our vast group of specialists have worked for manufacturers in the past, have tons of application experience with various products, and they share that with our salespeople. We’re also a very active Tier One supplier in terms of our industrial knowledge and participation in distributor councils and association involvement. It results in a level of service which is far stronger than that of our local competitors.” Turning to the future, optimism abounds at EIA. The company is eyeing a number of opportunities, including the expansion of its machine services, the promotion of industry 4.0 smart product technology, and providing additional manufacturing services to a broad range of customers. With an ongoing labor shortage in the US, Drew is also confident

that demand for EIA’s field services will remain strong. As he indicates: “We’re expanding our team of engineering specialists in each of our regions, and growing those regions, with the goal of supporting a technical sales team with appropriate business acumen.” Although supply chain issues remain a concern, the company remains focused on supporting its customers with the incorporation of new and innovative technology across its operations. “Anything we can do to reduce the volume of components sitting on our customers’ shelves, and bring it in as a sub -assembly, is a real advantage in today’s marketplace,” Drew concludes. “We expect to expand that part of the business and continue to remain an organization that empowers its employees to be entrepreneurial thinkers with a vast array of technical expertise and support.” v

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Performance is everything As the world’s leading supplier of premium LED solutions for security and surveillance purposes, Raytec is lighting the way by always putting performance first

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ith products installed in diverse locations such as the isolated Arctic Circle and the verdant jungles of Borneo, Raytec has created a brighter and safer global environment by expertly pairing innovation with illumination. Founded in 2005, the LED pioneer is headquartered in Ashington, UK and holds an office in Ottawa, Canada to facilitate its growing sales in North American markets. By combining cutting-edge technologies with the highest levels of performance, Raytec has garnered a strong reputation for innovative

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explosion protected, security and heavy industrial lighting products – all of which are designed and manufactured in-house at the company’s Ashington base. From the beginning, Raytec has been committed to Ashington, an area steeped in industrial history, and though it has upgraded its facilities numerous times, it has always stayed loyal to the town and its people. Most recently, Raytec entered a new 30,000-square-foot facility, and it has now grown its employee base to nearly 90 across its UK and Canada sites. Less than five years after Raytec graduated

from its business incubation center, the LED startup had become the world’s chief manufacturer and supplier of LED lighting for the security and surveillance markets. In conversation, talking us through the company’s growth, is David Lambert, Managing Director at Raytec. “Whether you buy an LED light in Brazil or North America or the UK, the premium brand will always be Raytec,” he begins. “Following continued success in the security industry, where we lead the way in lighting used for video surveillance and in transport applications including numberplate


and durable housing meaning the device can’t ignite any hazardous gases or dust if electrical sparks do appear. Though it’s a niche market, there’s plenty more room for growth – and the opportunity is global. By tapping into this, we aim to deliver the same high-value, high-quality solutions for critical markets that we’ve been recognized for.” Raytec sets itself apart from the competition by designing, manufacturing, and testing all products at its Ashington facility. Indeed, not a single product is brought in or supplied by a third party; each and every product is bespoke, created in-house to guarantee performance in demanding and dangerous industries. “From a manufacturing perspective, we decided very early on that we’d commit to two things: Ashington and full on-site design, assembly and testing,” explains David. “Subsequently, we have full control over our manufacturing process and all our products are assembled by hand by highly skilled staff. As

heavy-duty lights, the illuminators all use large metal heat-sinks but the casting, machining, and painting processes are all handled off-site by specialists in these areas. “We have a brilliant relationship with specialist suppliers and subcontractors – most of whom are based in the UK, and many are local to Ashington,” he details. “They’re part of the process, too. We lean on them for their input; for instance, if we employ an extruder, a CNC machinist or an injection-moulder, then we invite them into our design process. We don’t expect to be the best at everything, but we rely on our suppliers to contribute to our success. We want our supply chain to influence the final product to the benefit of the supplier, manufacturing and most importantly, the customer. It’s a fundamental Raytec practice that just wouldn’t be feasible if we used suppliers from far flung parts of the world. From the very start of the business, we wanted to be a high-performance manufacturer of

capture and truck tolling, we entered the hazardous area lighting market where our luminaires improve safety and visibility within dangerous areas that show a potential risk of explosive gases and dust. “All LEDs and electronics within these areas must be certified for hazardous environments,” explains David. “Our approach is to merge our background in high power LED lighting with a deep understanding of the hazardous certification requirements. We use the latest LEDs and bespoke LED drivers all protected by a silicone potting compound and robust l 115

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Raytec world-leading lighting products; cost was never a main driver. That means we want control over our products, manufacturing on a smaller scale to achieve the best quality. In security and hazardous markets, control over your supply chain is essential. If the product goes wrong or there is a defect, then you’re either talking about a serious security breach or lives being lost. Therefore, performance is everything – and that means keeping it local.” Through this local footprint, the LED leader has created well-established industry standard products like the SPARTAN range of LED luminaires for hazardous areas; the VARIO range of high performance luminaires for video surveillance; award

winning PULSESTAR products for automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) applications and WARRIOR, a range of luminaires for heavy industrial applications. Raytec has consistently delivered high performance illuminators for its niche markets that offer the maximum performance, durability, flexibility and intelligence. For its flagship range of VARIO illuminators, moreover, the company has been awarded numerous accolades at industry-specific events all over the globe, including IFSEC, an annual trade fair and conference for the global security industry, and ISC West, a prominent security exposition hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada. Distributed to more than 70 countries

Hydram Sheet Metalwork Hydram Sheet Metalwork is one of the largest precision sheet metal fabrication companies in the UK. Offering the full range of subcontract metalwork services including laser cutting, CNC punching, panel bending and folding, tube laser cutting and tube bending, fabrication, powder coating and assembly, Hydram supplies metal fabrications and assemblies for the defence, renewables, industrial, rail and transportation sectors from its extensive site in County Durham. With multiple ISO accreditations, Hydram aims to achieve maximum productivity, quality and level of service, whilst maintaining competitive prices through its continuous improvement culture and by working closely with customers to establish long-term partnerships.

worldwide, Raytec’s groundbreaking LED products not only offer high-quality images, but also boast a ten-year lifespan, low running costs, and zero maintenance. Raytec isn’t resting on its laurels, though. In fact, the market leader has already identified its strategy for future growth. “Our direction of travel is towards smart lighting,” asserts David. “Within video surveillance, we already manufacture the smartest luminaires in the world; for example, our full-network VARIO IP illuminators, which are typically installed in vast security sites like prisons, allow for individually IP-addressable lights that can be controlled individually or in groups either from one central control room or from a pre-programmed series of responses to given scenarios. But we also want to bring smart lighting into the hazardous location market where easy maintenance and remote control are key. The smart technology will also flag maintenance needs and any on-site issues. In hazardous environments, this is crucial; often lights need to have an emergency back-up power because if the power on, say, an oil rig isn’t entirely reliable, then short periods of disconnect (called l 117

brown-outs) are common. Smart technology needs to pivot around these issues to ensure consistent coverage. “As an example of our global footprint, we recently provided a hazardous area lighting solution at a huge project in Papua New Guinea,” he explains. “We issued a complete, smart lighting system using SPARTN hazardous area luminaires for a 58-megawatt power station in Port Moresby, installing more than £200,000 worth of equipment. Raytec were brought in as the plant operators wanted longer-lasting safety lights without increasing maintenance requirements. Fortunately, our intelligent emergency lights are self-testing, self-charging, and cycle fluid, meaning they require much less maintenance than standard emergency luminaires. Our direction of travel in everything we do is towards smart; that is to say, more intelligent, easier to manage, easier to control and less hassle to maintain.” As products become smarter, however, they typically require more research and development (R&D) time as the technology leaps are larger. To that end, Raytec is currently making big investments in R&D, bringing more development and test facilities on-site to shorten development times, speed up testing and evaluation of prototypes and to facilitate customer led product modification.

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Raytec However, as David reveals, the pursuit of “smart” goes beyond product development: “To help achieve our global growth ambitions we need to be smart in how we deliver the best customer service experience to our customers. Crucially, we want to lead with our digital footprint: We can’t have a sales person in every country around the world, but we can reach all of our customers digitally. Focusing on digital service allows us to offer the same level of quality service and support to any of our customers, whether in Germany, Brazil, or Peru. All of our customers should have the best access to product information and specification tools via, our soon to be launched, new website and every

customer will have access to live chat, live video calls and video demonstrations from our show rooms in Ashington and Ottawa. Between the two offices we have most time zones covered.” Raytec is now aiming to optimize its operations and grow its global footprint – both digitally and physically with the bulk of growth expected to come from hazardous area lighting. “We will keep pivoting to become a more and more hazardousfocused business as that is where we see the opportunity for Ratyec,” concludes David. “As it stands, we’re looking for a 15 percent revenue growth in that market over the next three years, which will undoubtedly be

achieved through robust R&D investments. We’re committed to technologies rather than processes, and that means we’ll always be at the forefront of the industry. Within five years, I’m confident we’ll have more elements of our manufacturing process brought inhouse, we will have continued to build our sales profile globally, and our office in Ottawa will continue to develop our footprint in North America.” v

Raytec Services: LED lighting for security and hazardous industries

R D Castings R D Castings (RDC) are pleased to be a valued partner with Raytec and congratulate the company on their continued growth and success. RDC joined Raytec at the very beginning of their expansion into the hazardous environment markets. Working closely with the Raytec team, RDC provide full support from conception to completion, focusing heavily on the DFM principles that have helped both companies strive forwards. To deliver superior services, RDC operate a very comprehensive range of diecast plant, including fully automated systems running with 6 axis robots. The CNC department utilizes 12x twin pallet high-speed machine centres, most of which are fitted with Nikken 4th Axis indexers. This allows many components to be one hit machined complete, further improving accuracy. A planned investment in further robotic automation will rolled out during the third quarter of 2022, providing extended CNC machining facilities and new casting cells in early 2023. l 119


billion-dollar plan Catching up after a period of rapid expansion, Allied Air Enterprises shares with us its bold strategy for the future

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hen Manufacturing Today last sat down with Allied Air Enterprises (Allied Air), things were going well. As Craig Fairley, Vice President, US Operations at Allied Air, told us at the time, in response to strong market performance, the HVAC solutions pioneer had just begun a huge $35 million expansion of its flagship facility in Orangeburg Country, South Carolina. The mammoth project has since been completed. As Craig now informs us, it has proved to be a shrewd investment. “Allied Air has seen a lot of growth over the last year,” he explains. “The Orangeburg facility’s expansion went operational in January, and it’s going really well, to say the least. We’ve not only filled our expansion and distribution center, but we’ve also actually gone and outgrown it. Our demand is so strong that, even with our $35 million expansion, we’re already having to look at additional space.

“That’s not to say the expansion was a waste,” Craig continues. “It allowed us to open some crucial additional manufacturing space in the main plant. As a result, we could bring in new lines of products, improve lead times for customers, decrease costs associated with indirect labor through direct shipping, and, in turn, support Allied Air’s overarching growth strategy. “That means we are gaining new customers and strengthening our links with old ones. With the current state of the supply chain, we’ve seen novel, unique opportunities to offer supply solutions to distributors who find themselves short of product. This has helped those either side of the deal tremendously. While their original supplier stalled, Allied Air manufactured the required products and got them over much quicker than they could imagine. Therefore, we’ve seen a lot of new faces come into the facility to sign exciting new contracts,” he adds. If there’s one thing for certain about Allied

Air, its exponential growth. When we last spoke, Craig put forth the company’s long-term goal: transforming the popular heating and cooling equipment manufacturer into a $1 billion organization. That goal now feels closer than ever. “We’ve seen an additional 25-to-30 percent growth in Allied Air this last year,” he notes. “To that end, we’ve brought in an extra 250 employees, increasing our overall company population by nearly a third. That’s empowered us to make substantial new investments, including extra cooling and vent press lines, as well as adding fresh tube expanders to the facility. “In terms of new products, Allied Air has 18 launches scheduled for the year,” Craig explains. “These broadly focus on our cooling heat pump and Magic-Pak solutions. Improvements to the former allows us to sell our pump technology in northern markets, where temperatures can drop to minus 15 degrees Celsius. A lot of heat pumps are sold in the South as, typically, they don’t operate well in colder environments. However, the technology we launched this year, which features an innovative style of invertor and compressor integrated with the unit, will enable us to expand into the northern Iowa region and beyond.”

Embracing automation

Allied Air boasts a complete portfolio of industry-leading products, including but not limited to its heat pumps, across seven

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Allied Air Enterprises noteworthy brands: Armstrong Air, AirEase, Concord, Allied, Allied Commercial, Ducane, and Magic-Pak. To stay at the fore of its market niche, Allied Air transforms original concepts into fully realized goods with astonishing speed, while, at the same time, performing rigorous research and development trials to maintain standards and quality assurance guarantees. This all takes places across five factories in the US, supplying independent distributors and HVAC contractors with expansive lines of both residential and commercial products. Among the company’s best-selling products are its air handlers and air conditioning units, which are manufactured under the Armstrong

Air banner and can be linked with an auxiliary thermostat tool to equip customers with unparalleled control and, therefore, offer further savings on energy costs.

Anticipating growth

Drawing from another partner in its vast collection of brands, Magic-Pak’s all-in-one HVAC systems offer unrivalled convenience and simplicity, whereas Allied’s tried and tested heat pumps feature special anti-corrosion technology to extend the product’s lifespan and thus save buyers money in the process. This evidently consumer-focused philosophy stems from the company’s strong ethical code,

LG Electronics Component Solutions For years, LG has had an established partnership with Allied Air Enterprises, a well-known leader of the HVACR industry. The company is extremely grateful for its role as a strategic supplier to help Allied Air Enterprises achieve success in new product launches and innovations. LG’s Gen 2 fixed scroll, 2-stage modulating scroll, variable speed scroll and variable speed rotary compressors have helped Allied Air meet the significant demand of its residential and light commercial systems. With the proven efficiency and reliability of our compressors, Allied Air and LG are looking to a bright future ahead for the industry, together. See below for more details.

the core of which stands on three main pillars: integrity, honesty, and excellence. In our last conversation, Craig informed us that, to support the steady flow of new products, Allied Air had recently invested over $20 million in new, state-of-the-art equipment, such as its giant 1500-ton press and advancements in air proofing technology. Since then, Allied Air has continued to mobilize internal financial investment, enhancing the automated elements of its production line. “Our experience with the pandemic has led to some interesting new developments,” notes Craig. “If we look at Covid-19 as a whole, I will say this: the demand has always been higher than what we can produce. Indeed, at our Orangeburg facility, the plant’s earnings have gone up by 22 percent yearon-year. We saw record gross trade sales in 2021, and we’re also off to a strong start in 2022. However, one unmistakable impact that the pandemic had on our processes was that we were affected by the labor shortage that quickly followed. l 123

“Even though we’ve grown, we still haven’t been able to bring in enough laborers to support the strong backlog of work that we have,” he adds. “As a result, Allied Air has begun to seek aid through automation. In several of our plants, we’re integrating robotic technology across the assembly process. For some lines, where there used to be a couple of operators, there is now a robot working in tandem with someone else. Consequently, we’ve had to add tighter safety measures for operators working alongside automated equipment. Ironically, we have Covid-19 to thank for this development. It really pushed us forward in this direction. Today, the biggest thing we are focusing on is getting in the right technical RECHI RECHI was established in Taiwan in 1989 with four production bases worldwide. We are the world’s leading brand in rotary compressors with annual sales of over 20 million units, including 4.35 million units sold to North America. RECHI provide single speed/DC inverter rotary compressors ranging from 300 to 33,000 Btu/h with variety of R410a/R32/R454B/R290 refrigerants. RECHI compressors are widely applied to Split A/C, Window A/C, Package, PTAC, RV A/C, Portable A/C, Dehumidifiers, Mini Split A/C, Heat Pump Dryer, Heat Pump Water Heater etc. As a leading brand in the rotary compressor industry, RECHI is aiming to develop more eco-friendly and energy-saving products to help reduce carbon emissions.

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Allied Air Enterprises support to optimize the process.” The implementation of innovative and cutting-edge technology does not go unnoticed in the manufacturing world. Indeed, more recently, Allied Air has announced its promising new partnership with General Electric (GE), a multinational conglomerate and one of the largest firms in the US. As Craig discusses in more detail: “We will be providing GE with cooling and heat pump solutions,” he says. “So that means manufacturing aluminum coils instead of the typical copper ones and, ultimately, providing our latest cooling and heating technology.

The products will be delivered across three of our factories: Marshall Town, Saltillo, and Orangeburg. We’ve already started making products for GE and will continue to do so in Q3 and Q4 of this year. As with all our products, those built for GE will adhere to our industry-leading standards and quality assurance guarantee.” There continues to be strong demand in the HVAC market, and though equipment retailers and manufacturers have been undoubtedly challenged with the aforementioned constraints in terms of labor shortages and global supply chain disruptions,

S.A.Y. Plastics Inc For over 27 years, S.A.Y. Plastics Inc has been dedicated to providing quality plastic products to a variety of industries, including HVAC, automotive, plumbing, and pet products. For the last six years, we have been proudly serving Allied Air with services, including injection molding, post processing, assembly line production along with facilitating new mold creation and modifications. In recent years, we have implemented more automation combining the use of robotics and vision inspection equipment as well as attempting to be more environmentally friendly. Our subsidiary, OptiLedge, is an alternative to wooden pallets made with 100 percent reprocessed plastic. OptiLedges reduce the CO2 impact on our planet, and they are lightweight, recyclable and exempt from needing heat treatment.

Allied Air is acting to stimulate consistent operational improvement, whether that means automating processes or forming strong commercial partnerships, to achieve its longterm goal. “In 2022, I think we will see another 15to-20 percent growth in revenue and sales,” Craig concludes. “Within the next threeto-five years, Allied Air eagerly anticipates its status as a billion-dollar company. Our impressive performance of $672 million in revenue last year, as well as the current figures we’re now seeing, I’ve no doubt that we will achieve that status by 2025.” From our conversation, then, it’s clear that Allied Air does not intend to merely go with the flow. Like its famed systems, it aims to take control – of its internal processes, of its market niche, and of the wider industry as a whole. v

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Heinrich Kopp GmbH

Keeping the spark alive

Stephan Dörrschuck

For 95 years, Heinrich Kopp GmbH has been delivering high-quality electrical installation products to trade and industry professionals – now it’s investigating the potential of renewable energy and updating its product portfolio to meet new market requirements


n Kahl am Main, a community in the Aschaffenburg district of Bavaria, Germany, Heinrich Kopp GmbH (Kopp) has been developing, manufacturing, and selling electrical installation equipment for personal and trade use since 1927. The company’s product range is vast and comprises of more than 7000 total items, including classic plug and switch programs, dimmers, presence detectors, infrared motion sensors, mobile personal protection devices, smart home technology, and a host of other electrical installation accessories. Kopp’s broad spectrum of electrical goods are distributed across Europe – Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia are key locations – as well as the rest of the world. In addition to its headquarters in Kahl am Main,

Kopp also operates out of three international offices to target global markets. Quality is a top priority for Kopp. In German-speaking countries, the brand is widely recognized as one of the leading companies for electrical engineering products. Indeed, Kopp has been voluntarily complying with DIN ISO 9001 since 1993. Sustainability is also fundamental to the company’s philosophy. Kopp aims to continuously improve its environmental performance by optimizing methods and utilizing the appropriate materials and products in its services. For these efforts, Kopp has received several awards and certifications, with close recognition being paid for its measures to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

We wanted to learn more about Kopp and its impressive manufacturing credentials, so we sat down with CEO Stephan Dörrschuck. “We serve the professional and retail trade for electrical installation accessories,” he begins. “Our customers, on the one hand, are electrical or solar professionals with their own electrical specialists who use Kopp products for commercial orders; on the other hand, our customers are also do-it-yourself individuals purchasing Kopp products in construction and specialist stores for private projects.” Broadly speaking, the Kahl am Main-based manufacturer can be split into three different divisions: electrical installation, smart home, and energy. “In terms of electrical installation, the DNA of Kopp lies in the development, l 127

production, and sale of electrical accessories for diverse market segments,” explains Stephan. “Regarding our smart home division, we recognize the potential of automation in domestic settings, and have since promoted efficient home energy management. Our products help customers easily control lighting, heating, and roller shutters – to name a few. Kopp’s Blue-control smart home system, which is led by Bluetooth 5 Mesh technology, is at the heart of this process and enables the holistic

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networking of electrical components. “Finally, our energy division concerns the production of solar modules, inverters, and energy storage systems,” he continues. “We support our customers in the planning and installation of decentralized energy generation systems, offering complete solutions and components for, say, photovoltaic units. We also supply a range of products to the international energy industry. ‘Think global, act local,’ we like to say, and that means tapping into global markets from our local German service base.Though technically our newest division, the efficient and economical use of available energy has always been a core concept of product development at Kopp.” Due to the enormous range of high-quality electrical accessories that Stephan has described, Kopp is recognized by its

customers as a true market leader, covering myriad facets of the electricals sector. “That’s why electrical professionals choose us,” says Stephan. “We focus on the individualization and customization of products, making us a reliable and flexible partner that can meet all demands. Yet, despite our high-quality manufacturing, we operate with a very attractive priceperformance ratio. The key to this is, of course, our brilliant employee base. It is very important for us to retain our employees for the long term; their expertise fuels our constant development. But this will only continue if everyone feels comfortable and can grow in a personal way. Therefore, we strongly focus on good working relationships, flat hierarchies, and always ensure that there is ample room for professional development.”

Tunisian facility

In terms of its facilities, Kopp operates out of two production sites – one in Germany; one in Tunisia – and employs around 550 personnel in total. “Our three core processes for electrical installation are metal processing,

Heinrich Kopp GmbH stamping, and bending. However, we now have the capacity to carry out plastic injection molding, toolmaking, and automated manufacturing,” says Stephan. “That ensures we will be able to satisfy both current and future needs of the industry. Our Tunisia facility is strategically located and can be supplied with raw materials and components very quickly. Moreover, deliveries from the Mediterranean region, which largely take place via sea, require much less time than from Asia, a place where many competitors have turned to for manufacturing. As a result, we can produce goods more quickly and at shorter notice, offering greater flexibility when it comes to planning our activities.” More recently, Kopp has made strong investments in its manufacturing infrastructure to optimize processes, making them more cost-effective and energyefficient. “With these robust investments, we wanted to strengthen our core processes by expanding sustainability and efficiency, increasing energy efficiency and effectiveness through strategic digitalization,” Stephan reveals. “In short, that is our investment strategy. Therefore, we will continue to focus on innovative tooling technologies and the self-production of energy. Before the end of this year, we have planned the launch of a new product that will save solar installers a lot of time and

effort. So, stay tuned! Furthermore, we are constantly searching for opportunities through new industrial partnerships. After all, the needs of our customers are constantly changing, and we always want to be close to the professionals and the consumer.” Looking ahead, Kopp is keeping the spark alive with several more exciting launches planned for

the rest of the year. “We are planning to expand our partnerships in the areas of energy management, service, and storage control,” Stephan details. “In terms of switch ranges, which is our core sector, we also have numerous new products and line range expansions in the pipeline. Even though it is currently difficult to plan for the long term due to supply bottlenecks and raw material problems, we do not want to stand still. We must keep moving. After all, progress and the desire for state-of-theart electrical engineering continues, and we intend to stay one step ahead of the competition. “The current energy crisis shows that we have to make better use of available energy,” he concludes. “Electric cars, as well as the growing number of electrical devices in our homes, will further increase demand for electricity – and the energy source will not get any cheaper. That is why we will continue to work on expanding our product ranges and on the individual functionality of products in electrical installation, building automation, and across our energy segment.” v

Heinrich Kopp GmbH Products: Electrical installation equipment l 129

Sixty years of


Since inventing the first plastic hanger in 1961, Mainetti has continued to see success as a leading product innovator and valued partner for retailers all across the world 130 l


nticipating the future needs of a changing commercial landscape has made Mainetti a global pioneer of reliable, sustainable industry. Alongside its world-leading portfolio of garment hangers, the company offers its customers a diverse selection of flexible

packaging products, PPE garments and recycling system support. Having led the way for product reuse and recycling over 40 years ago, Mainetti remains dedicated to sustainability and the promotion of circular economy. Today, Mainetti is the largest hanger company and the largest supplier to the retail trade of


flexible packaging globally. It has gone from strength to strength over the course of six decades, as Managing Director, Jim Hutchinson, discusses: “As the name suggests, Mainetti was founded in Italy, in May 1961. It’s owners, the four Mainetti brothers, were the first people in the world to manufacture plastic garment

hangers. The business proved successful, and in the 1970’s it expanded internationally, and established its UK division in 1974. “The move to the UK was strategic, as the country had a well-developed national retail market. Expansion continued from there, and in 1989 we set up an import and marketing

operation in Hong Kong. This division of the company was able to supply the rising local market across China. “The company continued to expand into Asia, establishing a new manufacturing operation in Sri Lanka in 1993. A few years later, Mainetti acquired a garment hanger operation l 131

Mainetti called Pendy Plastic Products from Fergusson International Holdings PLC, which propelled it into being the world’s largest garment hanger company. “By the early 2000’s, Mainetti had experienced even further expansion across the world, and in 2005 the company opened two brand new factories in China, one in Shenzhen and another in Shanghai. The following year, Mainetti made two major acquisitions in the

USA – Randy Hangers and A&E Hangers. These two companies were acquired from Tyco, and brought into the Mainetti operation.

Product portfolio

“The late 2000’s saw even more expansion, this time into India and its subcontinents. We opened a new factory in Bangladesh, and another in Vietnam. In 2012, Mainetti started a program to diversify its product offering,

and started making and supplying flexible packaging options, including both paper and plastic bags, for the retail industry. “These operations have steadily expanded over the last decade, and Mainetti now has flexible packaging operations in over 13 countries, including Bangladesh, India, China, Vietnam, Turkey, Romania, Italy and South America. More recently, Mainetti has started an intelligent solutions division, which offers RFID hardware, software and labels; it currently has operations across China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Turkey, Italy and the US.” Having continually grown and evolved throughout its history, the company now offers its customers an industry-leading portfolio of products and services. As Jim details: “Mainetti manufactures a variety of products designed to support retailers across the world. We are most well-known for designing and producing garment hangers. With generations of experience in this category, the company now boasts the largest range of products available in the market today.

Seven Ways Environmental Services Seven Ways has worked with Mainetti on many environmental projects over the last 15 years, from the supply and maintenance of waste and recycling equipment, to ensuring Mainetti’s achievements of full circle initiatives and its carbon neutral status is complied with, and that all best practice considerations are at the forefront of all the company’s joint activities. Seven Ways looks forward to being called upon for all Mainetti’s future requirements.

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“Beyond manufacturing and distributing hangers, we also have a closed-loop product recycling program, which means used hangers can be taken from stores, sorted, and returned to the supply chain for repeated use. The company also offers a number of sustainable product options for customers who do not want to use plastic, these include FSC certified wooden hangers, die-cut paper options, and Paperform hangers, which are made using paper pulp.

Innovating and evolving

“Mainetti is also the only global supplier of flexible packaging to the garment industry. We offer a wide range of standard and bespoke products in this category, and in-keeping with our sustainability commitment, we have also developed a film recycling process. “Polyloop takes back used film, cleans off the print, and then recovers the clean, clear granulate. The system provides a sustainable alternative that maintains the quality of the plastic whilst extending its lifecycle. It’s one of Mainetti’s proudest innovations, with a large number of UK retailers now using the Polyloop closed loop system to make their operations more environmentally friendly. The system has been so successful that we are now looking to expand it across Europe.”

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Mainetti Continued diversification is one of the reasons for Mainetti’s enduring success. In recent months, the company broke into a brand-new market, in collaboration with major corrugate supplier, Smurfit Kappa. “With Smurfit Kappa, Mainetti UK has been able to manufacture corrugated trays for the national fresh produce industry. “You will have most likely walked past these trays many times whilst shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables in UK supermarkets. They have been an incredibly successful product for Mainetti, allowing the company to diversify into new markets, and keep moving in new directions. We have learned a lot from working in different industries, and in turn this has

supported our ability to continue innovating and evolving. “We have also diversified our offering in response to the recent global pandemic situation. Like many other businesses, Mainetti responded to the unprecedented demand for PPE items, which were in short supply. In 2020, we started manufacturing aprons and face visors. We also used our global sourcing teams to acquire large volumes of face masks, nitrile gloves and hand sanitizer. “Unlike some companies, who were only looking to make a quick return on PPE products, Mainetti developed a global PPE vertical. We partnered our own production facilities with major manufacturers, such as

Gabriel-Chemie Gabriel-Chemie have been working closely with the Mainetti Group for over 20 years, working to a collaborative vision focusing on the end customers’ need. The quality of our products and services has to meet the highest national and international criteria. Beyond that – and above all – it has to completely fulfil all customer expectations and customer-specific requirements. Tackling such constantly changing challenges successfully requires first and foremost an awareness of quality, which is dynamically cultivated and carried forward by all our employees across the entire Group.

KingFa China, to establish a global presence in the PPE category,” comments Jim. “We were the official face mask supplier for the Hong Kong/China delegation for the Tokyo Olympic Games.” This latest venture is just one way in which Mainetti has used its extensive manufacturing footprint to create groundbreaking new products and designs. The company’s global facility network is key to unlocking its innovative potential, as Jim asserts: “One of Mainetti’s competitive advantages is its in-house engineering, design and manufacturing capability. “We operate a total of 40 facilities worldwide, including Mainetti Technologie, which is where we design all of our production equipment. We then fabricate the machines at our factory in Southern China, and the resulting equipment allows us to provide a high level of production quality and consistency, despite the group’s expansive footprint. “Mainetti operates a variety of different types of equipment, ranging from traditional injection moulding and extrusion equipment to our cutting-edge Paperforming technology l 135

and the Polyloop flexible packaging recycling equipment, which allows our retail partners to use high levels of recycled LDPE materials within their products.”

Sustainability strategy

Making the most out of these facilities is Mainetti’s outstanding team of creative, dedicated product experts. “Mainetti’s major strength is its people. We benefit from a very high degree of employee satisfaction and low levels of staff turnover, which is testament to the positive, forward thinking, environmentally responsible and inclusive culture that we promote. “The motivation, enthusiasm and technical skills of our global operations teams have been critical to the improvements we have been able to achieve over the last years. Low levels of staff turnover allow us to structurally develop high levels of skill throughout our factories, which means that our lean programs are properly embedded throughout the business. “We adopt an open and transparent style, where the performance of each factory against standard KPIs is shared throughout the entire group. This promotes healthy and friendly competition as well as high levels of sharing, where teams collaborate to solve issues or challenges faced by more than one facility,” Jim enthuses. Mainetti’s team is also brought together by a common goal: the drive toward sustainable industry and a more circular economy. As Jim affirms: “Caring for the environment and ensuring we contribute to global initiatives designed to tackle climate change is a central pillar of Mainetti’s business strategy. In 2021, we launched our ‘Full Circle’ sustainability strategy that combines efforts to decarbonize our operations with helping our customers move towards higher levels of circularity. “Our decarbonization strategy is divided into five steps. The first is an aim to reduce energy consumption as much as possible through energy efficiency programs and investment in more efficient plant. Secondly, we are looking to invest in onsite renewable energy. We have already implemented large-scale solar farms on our sites in Vietnam, North China and India, and we are undertaking further installations in Romania and Southern Italy. “Our third step is investing in green energy tariffs wherever possible. As a matter of policy, we try to source grid energy that comes from renewable sources such as wind or solar. Our fourth step is to try and expand the availability of these renewable energy sources in different countries. We invest heavily in Energy Attribute Certificates that support renewable projects around the world.

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Mainetti “Finally, we aim to offset the balance of our scope one and two carbon emissions through investing in independently certified projects. Considering all of these steps is how Mainetti has been able to utilize 67 percent renewable energy this year, with a commitment to achieving 80 percent by 2025, and 100 percent by 2030.” Future-thinking has kept Mainetti one step ahead of the market for over 60 years. Looking forward to 2023 and beyond, Jim concludes: “Despite difficult trading conditions, sustainability will continue to be high on the agenda for Mainetti. We are very well placed to offer commercial solutions to our customers, in order to help them meet their sustainability goals, both in terms of closed loop recycling solutions and new, renewable product options.

“Looking further ahead, the diversification that we have started in recent years will continue. I expect that recycling and Polyloop

UK Engineering Ltd and UK Electrical Ltd UK Engineering Ltd and UK Electrical Ltd have proudly supported Mainetti for over 13 years in all aspects of engineering work including projects, maintenance and plant upgrades. Supplying these engineering services to a growing and inspiring ‘blue chip’ company such as Mainetti means a great deal to our business. UK Engineering & UK Electrical employees are proud to provide their services to Mainetti.

services will become a bigger part of what we do in the UK, as we continue to innovate with a range of sustainable solutions for making our products.” v

Mainetti Products: Flexible packaging, PPE, and garment hangers l 137


American makers

Since 1974, Hubbardton Forge has been passionate about manufacturing high-quality, hand-crafted lighting with incredible style

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Hubbardton Forge


s one of the country’s oldest and largest continuously-operating commercial forges, Hubbardton Forge (Hubbardton) manufactures a unique and creative range of artisanal, handmade lighting fixtures. All working under one roof, the company’s passionate team of designers and manufacturers collaborate to achieve the highest quality end products. Now, with

four decades of success under its belt, Hubbardton looks to grow its team, and expand its portfolio with a range of contemporary new designs. Today, Hubbardton is a premium indoor and outdoor decorative residential lighting company, made up of over 230 employees. Its story begins in the small town of Castleton, Vermont, with two friends, and a shared vision. As Maria l 139

Mullen, Chief Executive Officer reveals: “The company was started by a pair of college friends, George Chandler and Reed Hampton. “They took over an old barn on the Chandler property, and fired up an old forge, where they began by making candlesticks and fireplace implements. Soon afterward, they began making lighting in the barn, and for many years the company continued working steadily. George

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and Reed always did things their own way, and they really made a splash in the lighting industry. The product they offered was very different. It had a unique style, and was crafted to a very high quality. Using those principles, the company has continued to grow into what it is today.” Forty-seven years later, Hubbardton remains dedicated to the creative spirit it was founded upon. Known for original designs, and incredible

quality, the company maintains its strong reputation with the help of its positive working culture. “I think that our culture is probably one of our biggest strengths. Our people have made a huge contribution to the success of this company; through good times and tough times, they have always focused on creating an original product, not run-of-the-mill versions of someone else’s concept. “Our ability to put out truly original designs is a key component of what we do, and the success that we have had doing it. Our design team is incredibly informed and talented, meaning they can produce really unique lighting concepts. We also focus heavily on quality. We want to give our customers an amazing experience, and I think those core values help keep the business focused on always achieving that. “Our designers and engineers all work under one roof in Castleton, which is a major asset for the company.The teams have a great synergy that means they work together really well; anyone can go out onto the plant floor and adjust, or just ask questions about the products. It’s not as if one person has a concept and then you send a drawing off overseas and you get a prototype, and you hope it works – we are working shoulder-to-shoulder, supporting one another and constantly improving upon the original design. I think that’s one of the main drivers of our success,” enthuses Maria. The team works out of Hubbardton’s original facility in Castleton, where the company operates a unique single-flow manufacturing process. As the company’s Vice President of Operations, Steve Wiegers, explains: “Our manufacturing footprint is about 100,000-square-feet, representing about 80-to-90 percent of the total facility. The entire process happens under one roof, and that includes both the product development and manufacturing teams. Our base handmade processes are quite traditional – we are doing the forging and welding of the product, the finishing, which is predominantly powder coating, assembly and packing ourselves. “Our manufacturing schedule is 98 percent made-to-order, meaning we don’t produce a lot of standard products to finished good inventory. It’s a key part of our manufacturing strategy that we produce orders to actual demand and the customer’s specification, so we use most available warehouse space to store raw materials. “A key aspect of what we do, which really raises eyebrows and gets the attention of other manufacturers, is a high-mix, low-volume, madeto-order strategy. This essentially means that we have a single piece flow through the entire plant. You can place an order today, and we will make that product entirely in-house. “It’s an important part of our brand – we offer a hand-crafted fixture, made just for you, within

Hubbardton Forge three to four weeks. The standard product lines are semi-customizable, meaning there are near 30,000 standard configurations available. Those options include a base design, numerous finishes, plus glass and shade options, giving the customer the freedom to tailor the product to their home and needs. “In terms of our process, it’s all about doing our best to perfect that model. We just don’t see anybody else doing it the way we can. It can be a real challenge, but we think it also gives us a key competitive advantage. We can offer hand-made products with a sense of variety, which means our customers don’t need to compromise on quality or aesthetics. The model definitely works for us, Right Sized Inventory “Seven years ago, I was in search of an innovative technology to alleviate Hubbardton Forge’s inventory imbalances. My team exploited all the traditional approaches, but those methodologies failed to deliver favorable results. In 2015, I came across Right Sized Inventory’s patented inventory optimization technology. Since that time their solution has been utilized as a key part of our planning process. Together, we standardized the planning process, reduced administration costs, improved service levels, mitigated expedites, and unleashed substantial working capital. We are thankful to be strategically partnered with Right Sized Inventory.” Steve Wiegers, VP of Operations, Hubbardton Forge

even throughout the disruptions of the pandemic we maintained an avg. service rate above 90 percent on-time delivery, only down slightly from our norm of 95 percent.” The company supports its single-flow operation with a sophisticated blend of traditional methods and cutting-edge technology. “So much of what we do is by hand, and so when it comes to processes and equipment there is definitely a blend of 100-year-old equipment with newer technology.There is a similar mixture of the old and the new in the product itself, and so we are used to striking that balance. “We invest heavily in keeping our model strong, striving to always have the right materials and parts on hand for our team. We also focus on communication between our departments; for example, the work instructions and new process documentation for a new product introduction needs to be very clear, because otherwise it can be difficult for employees to gain familiarity with all our products. “Additionally, the company makes ongoing investments in order to maintain a high level of quality throughout the facility. Every year we l 141

invest heavily in new product tooling, which aids us at key points in the manufacturing process and helps make our overall operation more consistent and efficient. We also work to implement elements of standardization wherever we can into the single-flow operation, in order to maintain stringent quality control.There is a lot of training involved in working here, and you have to invest a lot into it,” asserts Steve.

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These investments come at a time of considerable growth for Hubbardton Forge, as the company continues to thrive, despite the effects of Covid-19. “The pandemic taught us a lot. From an operational standpoint, I think we learned that being a domestic manufacturer, and not being wholly reliant on importing materials and product, certainly gave us an advantage. At a time when customers were struggling to

get products from other manufacturers, we were still able to maintain a high performance in terms of delivery. The breadth of our product line was also an asset during this period. Because we don’t rely heavily on one component, if anything was unavailable it only affected a few of our products,” says Steve. “We looked at the pandemic and the handling of it as an extension of our safety program. First, you have all the protocols in place that make sure we have a safe work environment, so that people can come back to work in a properly risk-assessed space. Then you look at what else can be done to make people feel more comfortable – for example, we put in touchless water dispensers, and invested in upgrading our bathrooms so that minimal contact was required. Overall, we want people to feel good about working here, and to feel safe. It’s a really important part of our culture,” adds Margaret Dugan, Vice President of Human Resources at Hubbardton. Alongside the challenges it brought, the pandemic also offered Hubbardton a unique window of opportunity. As Maria observes: “Obviously, the pandemic drove lots of us back

Hubbardton Forge into our homes. With little else to do, we found that people were re-evaluating their houses and looking to upgrade their furnishings. In addition, people had to set up home offices and classrooms, which hadn’t been considered before. I think once everyone realized how long the pandemic would be affecting our daily lives, they wanted to invest in making their homes as pleasant as possible. That’s where Hubbardton stepped up, and we gained a lot of attention.” As it continues to take advantage of this momentum, the company looks forward to a bright future. With new products and an expanded team coming to Hubbardton in the near future, it looks like the brand will continue to Griplock® Systems Since 1992, Griplock® Systems has been providing companies like Hubbardton Forge, a long-time customer, with the safest, strongest, and most versatile suspension systems. It’s because of the company’s engineering expertise, high quality-control, and innovative products, that Griplock® Systems is the leader in cable suspension. They revolutionized the lighting industry with their patented and UL recognized Rincon® Powered Suspension System, which suspends and powers class 2 LED fixtures, eliminating the power cord and providing a clean, modern look. Like Hubbardton Forge, one of the first adopters of Rincon®, lighting OEMs everywhere are ditching the power cord for power-over-cable suspension from Griplock® Systems.

raise the bar for manufacturers everywhere. “We will continue to expand our offering throughout the rest of 2022. We have an amazing, talented group of people here, and with their help we are growing our portfolio and offering new products to our customers. We are going to continue down that path of improving our business, whether it’s with new technologies, improving environmental areas, or just elevating the overall experience for our employees, it’s all tied together. “We will continue focusing on our staff. By engaging in effective communication, we hope to find out how we can make things easier for them. We do have more demand for our product at the moment, and with limited space it’s important that we take on more people in order to spread the workload evenly. We are also looking to implement some new technologies and processes in order to take care of the people who work here,” Maria concludes. v

Hubbardton Forge Products: Handcrafted lighting fixtures l 143

Engineered sophistication

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E+R Group


E+R Group has been in the machine production industry for 104 years, which is why the company is considered one of its true pioneers

merson and Renwick, more widely known as E+R, has become synonymous with quality and expertise. It began its journey in 1918, mainly in the leathercloth and textile industries ultimately becoming a market leader in print for the wall covering business. In the early 1990s the group ventured into manufacturing machines for heat exchangers, mainly for automotive / aerospace products. In the early 2000s, E+R purchased the IP of Dixon Coatings, an even older company established circa 1890, but with its wealth of experience, the acquisition proved to be a fantastic investment and thus paved the way for the Coating division. In 2014, the company turned towards roll-to-roll vacuum coating as a complement to many of the businesses already under its umbrella. Fast forward to 2021 with all business groups thriving: “We saw it as a perfect opportunity to totally rebrand the business to E+R Group to show case our four divisions (Print, Forming, Coating and Vacuum),” begins Andrew Jack, the company’s Sales Director. He, alongside Ben Clements, the Managing Director, and Nicholas Butcher, the Process and Equipment Development Director, share the ambitions currently pushing E+R Group forward, in addition to the recent rebranding, as well as the innovative developments taking root within its infrastructure. Speaking of which, Nicholas then highlights a new facility E+R Group recently purchased. “We will be taking residence in our new technology center in the Lancashire Digital Technology center, which is aptly located on Innovation Drive ” he continues. A big focus of our conversation is the company’s sustainability initiatives. E+R Group is determined to work with companies that are making waves in the renewable energy sector in order to facilitate an efficient transition towards Net Zero. Kicking off this venture, Nicholas and Andrew attended COP26 last year, as part of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce delegation, to investigate what can be done regarding a decrease in CO2 levels. “We are working heavily with the local Chamber of Commerce to promote low carbon technologies. To do that, we are tailoring some of our product lines across our divisions, and we’ve chosen to hone in on three main areas as part of this: innovation, efficiency, and enabling technology. The latter looks at how we transfer our history of 104 years into emerging markets. Although our background is in wall coverings, the historical techniques we l 145

used in the Coating and Print business can be used in the production of green fuel cells and batteries for example, and so we’re taking on the transference of that core expertise to new and upcoming areas,” Nicholas says. Furthermore, E+R Group recently signed a pledge through an external organization to publicly display its internal targets to reach Net Zero, and is currently in the process of outlining additional goals informed by scientific research. “To help with this process, we are employing a full-time consultancy that will work with us to set our objectives based on data, and so we are studying everything within our operations to cut down on emissions,” he continues According to Ben, this also requires a topdown analysis of the company. In order to encourage a group effort, all three gentlemen

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express that they are also responding to the needs of their employees as a priority throughout this process. “We’re currently adopting a four-day working week, and we will be rolling that out to get our team involved in a greener future. Owing to the size of our company, one contribution to the expansion of our carbon footprint is actually from us as individuals. So, by reducing the amount of time we travel to work, we can help minimize that, and it also helps encourage a better work balance, which I think is incredibly important,” Ben explains. “We are also working to put in place the ISO standards of 14001, 45001 and 50001, which focus on the environmental, health and safety, and management aspects of our business. By embodying the company policy and working towards these additional ISO standards, we

believe we will foster a culture of continuous improvement. Changes like this have to be cemented in the foundations of who we are. Although we’re not there yet, these steps will stand us in good stead to make this dream a reality; it’s not for today, it’s for the future,” shares Nick. All of the above has lead E+R to launch a new addition to its already impressive website with a new division called ‘Horizon’. This new business group will highlight the production machines dedicated to the ‘Green sector’. Continuing on the topic of aspects in which the business is proud to be investing, we turn our attention to its supply-chain; an area that also has been crucial in sustaining the company’s operations over the last two years. “HMK for example,” says Ben, “is a reseller for some of our motion components,

E+R Group

and they are a fantastic company in that they are very consultative. The reason we work so well together is because they are open to innovative ideas. So, we present them with a challenge, and they have the application support, the knowledge and the ability to help in terms of extending our capacity with high-caliber engineers. If we reach a pinch point, we can use them as an extension of our design team, because they have well-established technologies in motion control, PLC code and electrical cubicles, and they distribute hardware components around the motion control motors. This means we can buy integrated solutions. Whether we need to redevelop an existing platform, or meet a new challenge, we need that advice to see what’s out there, and help us deliver quality products to our own customers,” Ben elaborates. l 147

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E+R Group

Another business mentioned is General Utilities Cutting & Grinding (GU), which has been critical in manufacturing the side profiles of E+R Group’s machinery. “All the machines depend very highly on the chassis, and the frames that GU do are absolutely at the heart of our machines. Without a high-quality product, we’d be nothing, so GU is reasonably priced, the delivery is excellent, and as company, it is incredibly open and honest, and a pleasure to work with,” he adds. With an exemplary synergy between its employees, suppliers and leaders, E+R Group is ready to take on the future of the company, regardless of the challenges that lay ahead. “From my perspective,” Ben says, “we would like to solidify position in our existing markets, as well as be more established in the development of industry technology, particularly when it comes to batteries and energy. “We are not as well known in the energy market as I would like us to be, so it’s about

cementing that position. I believe we are on a strong growth trajectory, and very shortly, we will need more facilities, and more people, so our aim is to establish ourselves in that position, and become a go-to for these energy solutions rather than a novelty, niche supplier,” Ben expresses. Nicholas then adds that he would also like to see the company make significant improvements on its journey to Net Zero in order to drive the work towards achieving the ultimate objective for 2030. However, the final sentiments come from Andrew, who believes that the future of E+R Group is only possible because of its excellent past. “Throughout these developments, we don’t want to lose touch with our history. We came from a textile printing background, and we are still supplying mature industries, so, although we are excited about our future and the potential that lies ahead, we never want to forget the journey that brought us here,” he concludes. v

E+R Group Services: Equipment engineering l 149

Packaging the world’s high-value assets 150 l

NELMAR Security Packaging Systems NELMAR Security Packaging Systems’ products are trusted worldwide by the largest banks, retailers, and armoured carriers. The company is determined to protect its customers’ currency or valuables while in transit with the help of its high-quality products l 151


he specialist in tamper-evident security packaging, NELMAR Security Packaging Systems, is focused on quality and efficiency. “We are trusted by banks, armoured car carriers, retailers, pharmacies, and dutyfree shops worldwide,” says the company’s Director of Marketing and Communications, Sam Pearl. “The majority of our business is conducted in North America, but we do have a global presence across 55 countries. We are completely vertically integrated so our entire process is conducted here in our 200,000-square-foot facility, where we support extruding the plastic film, printing, bag-making, distribution, supply chain management, and customer service. It gives us a level of flexibility, quality control and agility, which enables us to offer consistent, high-quality products to our customers,” he says. Joining Sam in our conversation is Eric Dohrendorf, the Director of Product and Market Development, as well as Kevin Couto, the Director of Production Operations to discuss the developments currently underway at NELMAR, and how the business is an active innovator for the sustainability movement. “We serve multiple industries. Our products

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are used for bank deposit bags and currency shipping bags, which are primarily provided to the banking industry, and the cash-in-transit industry. They are also provided to commercial depositors, retail chains, and hospitality. We also provide tamper-evident duty-free bags for the securing of liquid, aerosols and gels, and we offer tamper-evident bags to the medical industry for the bulk shipment of different pharmaceutical products,” says Eric. One of the key advantages of a NELMAR product, as Sam highlights, is that the packaging is 100 percent recyclable. “If it’s brought to the proper collection bins at your local curbside or store drop-off, or directly to the recycling facilities, it can be properly recycled. We are taking that next step and incorporating recycled plastic into our products to complete the circular economy via post-consumer recycled (PCR) resin. We have already done it for a few key customers, and it’s becoming more and more prevalent in terms of the demand from our client base.” On the note of recycling, Eric highlights that Europe was first to the forefront of recycling, while North America only responded later. However, the business is seeing a significant push towards the incorporation of recycled

materials, and NELMAR is taking on the responsibility to form part of the country’s sustainability solutions. Through substantial investments into enhancing its infrastructure, the company is able to blend the best raw materials to ensure a consistent quality for each product. Owing to its ability to pivot quickly, NELMAR provides proactive services and consultations, which is one of the traits that sets the company apart. “We are not only a traditional manufacturer, we also provide a highly focused and customercentric service. Above that, our passion for what we do and the way we do it is truly the driving force for our operation, and the key to our long-term success,” says Eric. Recently, the business completed the development of its logo for its TE360 promise, which stands for 360 degrees of tamperevident security, uncompromised, and can be found stamped on its FRAUDSTOPPER™ bags. This is just one of the ways in which the business is pushing the boundaries of its in-house product innovation. “We have been doing this since 1984. We have a singular focus on the development and production of tamper-evident packaging, which is why we tend to focus on developing specific features to

NELMAR Security Packaging Systems

refine the way we manufacture our products. The key points for our TE360 guarantee and services is to focus on innovation and strive for the most advanced tamper-evident technology in North America.” We learn from the three gentlemen that another driving factor for product enhancements and developments is sourced primarily by its customer base. “Usually the characteristics of our product quality are inspired by our clients. We focus heavily on partnering with customers to develop the most efficient and secure products. “One of the trends that is emerging in our specific industry is the integration of tamper-evident packaging into the larger infrastructure’s supply chain and its ability to support track-and-trace. As a base, our products are designed to securely transport and store highly valuable items, and show evidence of tampering should an event occur. Right now, we are seeing our products work in conjunction with intelligent systems. This means that they are not just a bag or a package, they are part of an overall solution,” Kevin says. He adds that as a result of this attention to detail, requests have come in for companies to go one step further and integrate technologies

into its bags that will be able to communicate with external devices. As more items are being purchased and shipped through online channels, it is crucial for products to remain secure until they reach the buyer. To guarantee this peace of mind, NELMAR takes pride in its bespoke tamperevident solutions. “We don’t mass produce,

rather our products are customized for each of our client’s specific processes, so we have a series of modular features that are all accessible. Depending on our customer’s needs, we will go ahead and field the appropriate bags or programs to meet their procedures. Our product will sit seamlessly within their existing system. We don’t have a ‘one size fits l 153

all’ solution here. By being vertically integrated and having everything under one roof, we have that flexibility to design something for each and every customer,” says Eric. We then discuss the future of NELMAR, which, according to all three leaders, looks promising. Considering the extensive work the business has invested in to ensure its operation produces exemplary products, the goals that these leaders have set in place for growth and expansion seem highly achievable. “In terms of our short-term goals, we are really looking at going after some of the emerging markets. There are several other

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markets where tamper-evident packaging is just starting to come into use, and we want to platform its value, such as the food and restaurant delivery sector,” shares Kevin. In the long term, the business will work towards making its products even more environmentally friendly and sustainable. “We’d like to manufacture stronger products using less material, and incorporating more PCR into our film formulations. We are also investigating how to create networks for the re-cooperation of the products that we make so they can be funnelled to the appropriate recycling channels,” Sam expresses. Kevin

elaborates further on this idea saying, “The plan is to take the millions of deposit bags that are being used annually by financial institutions and their customers, and reincorporate and recycle them back into our products, or into items like park benches, picnic tables and other items of that nature. I think those types of initiatives are extremely interesting, and those are initiatives that NELMAR will support and continue developing with our partners.” “The second part of our focus concerns ways in which our packaging can be used with external devices. There are going to be ways we create that make our products more

NELMAR Security Packaging Systems

entity, there has been a clear shift to supporting customers in their sustainability and logistics goals, and we are incredibly excited to be a part of that movement,” concludes Sam. v

NELMAR Security Packaging Systems Services: Tamper-evident security packaging

intelligent, allowing them to communicate with third party programs and support track-andtrace capabilities,” he says. With a customer-centric approach, clients of NELMAR can look also forward to an expansion on the innovative warehousing and distribution programmes, as well as online ordering services, which will be designed to take the company’s operation to the next level. “We are not just offering a product, we are offering bespoke programmes and supporting services. I think that has been key to our success for over the past few decades. While we are a single-focused manufacturing l 155

Staying on course The manufacturing landscape looks very different to when we last spoke with CMD Ltd in 2019, yet the company has continued to excel in its operations with innovative products and a dedicated team 156 l


ovid-19 has shaken many sectors in the manufacturing industry, and for CMD Ltd (CMD) this has been no exception. Nevertheless, the British manufacturer that specializes in integrating power and AV/data access for offices and commercial spaces, has managed

to navigate the challenges of the last two years with an enviable finesse, as we learn from its General Manager, Jon Holding. “We were open right through the pandemic. We kept a core staff on the shop floor in those first couple of weeks when no one knew what was happening, and with their incredible


Above: General Manager, Jon Holding

efforts, we produced the power distribution for the Nightingale hospitals. Then, we gradually brought the rest of our team back under safe working conditions, and we expanded our shift patterns to minimise the number of people onsite at any given time. As you can imagine this increased our costs, but we were fortunate

to make a profit thereafter, so I think we coped very well,” he shares. Jon highlights that overcoming the last two years is a true testament to CMD’s resilience, and although it wasn’t easy, it brought about some exciting new developments, of which he is keen to share. “We had to pivot to

accelerate product developments targeted at the home office, which we did very quickly and implemented successfully,” he expresses. One of the new product ventures is the Miro monitor arm, which has been shortlisted for a Mixology Award. Miro is an industry first that enables vertical movement of the monitor l 157

to the correct user position. Its synchronised movement of the lower and upper arm enables the monitor to be raised or lowered without any need for sideways or forward motion. The result is a stylish and robust arm that is suitable for monitors weighing anywhere between two and 10 kilograms, with an efficient use of desk space. The innovative device will be available

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exclusively from CMD Ltd, and come in a range of colour options, with integral cable management, and a top fixing C-clamp. “Of all the monitor arm products in the commercial office space, not one is manufactured in the UK; they are generally from the Far East. Miro has been designed in such a way that it’s quick to assemble, which means it is commercially

viable for UK manufacturing. We are therefore extremely proud of the fact that we will be creating this product at our Yorkshire facility,” Jon explains. “Additionally, it’s fully recyclable, and made from 100-percent recycled materials. With this environmental push, the product is helping us with our Net Zero strategy that we started to implement last year.” Continuing on the topic of sustainability, we ask Jon what other measures the business is implementing within its operation as it journeys towards Net Zero. “We are repatriating some of our tooling back into the UK, which will help minimize logistics, but we’re attacking it from different angles. These could range from how we manufacture our products, to how we connect as a senior leadership team by making use of online meeting platforms where possible. Our company car policy, in terms of moving to electric vehicles, is still in its infancy, but we continue on this path as we replace vehicles moving forward,” he says. Sustainability is not the only development taking place within the company. Recently, CMD installed a fully automated CNC punch machine to assist with efficiency across its production line. “This was brought in for our sheet steel, and we are also in the process of commissioning a new piece of equipment,

CMD Ltd which is a wire cutting machine that will help speed things up for us. There will also be some advanced production layouts and new machinery required to help us build this monitor arm,” Jon explains. To make an operation of this size possible, Jon pays tribute to the hardworking team that is keeping the business going. “I am tremendously proud of them all. It’s with a heavy heart I report that in the early days of the pandemic, we lost a long-standing member of our team who had approximately 28 years of service with us, and that hit everybody quite hard. I did three memorials in the car park with everybody to remember our lost colleagues, but the way the group rallied together despite their personal and professional difficulties was inspirational. “This group will never cease to amaze me, particularly given the fact that over the last two years, we have had to make some drastic changes to ensure our team is safe. These adjustments came at a time when we knew very little about the virus, and everyone felt immensely unsure about what would happen. However, they handled it all fantastically, and I am so proud of them,” shares Jon. There have been many lessons the company has learnt from the consequences of Covid-19, particularly when it comes to looking after its team, and, according to Jon, CMD is determined to keep the well-being of its staff a top priority. “We employed a large number of people from Eastern Europe, who went home to be with their family at the start of the pandemic, and haven’t returned. As a result, we are facing some recruiting issues, but we adjusted our pay bands so we were more attractive to people coming onto the factory floor. One of the things we learnt is that we need a flexible workforce to be able to pivot to different challenges, so we put our team in bands according to their skillsets; the more experienced they become within the company, the higher their salaries will be. It was an investment I felt was the right thing to do, and it proved to be very valuable,” he expresses. With this in mind, CMD is looking stronger than ever to take on the years ahead. From a revenue standpoint, although Jon predicts the company won’t be at pre-pandemic levels this year, he is not discouraged. In fact, he is certain the company will continue to excel as it takes on new ventures. “We are looking into vertical markets, rather than just building

in new geographic areas, as I feel that our footprint at the moment is in an excellent position. I think there are more possibilities in the vertical spheres, where, with a bit of tweaking and refinement, our skillsets will thrive. So, we are looking into the educational and hospitality markets for example, which will

open up even more exciting opportunities for us,” he concludes. v

CMD Ltd Services: Power system developer

Feller UK Feller UK have been a long-term supplier to CMD, supporting their purchasing, manufacturing and sales division, with high-quality power supply and powercords for their top tier, high-end products. We are pleased to support CMD in this feature, and look forward to our continued mutual support and collaborations, as we continue to grow. l 159

As its acquisition by Ali Group enters the final stages, Welbilt explains why this is an exciting opportunity for the company, its customers, and its portfolio of leading brands 160 l


number of leading brands make up the Welbilt portfolio. Headquartered out of New Port Richie, Florida, the international

industrial conglomerate has established itself as a leader in the commercial food service industry, and the parent of a series of recognized industry product labels, including


Connected cooking Frymaster®, Garland®, Convotherm®, Crem® and many more. One such brand is Merrychef®. Falling under the umbrella of Welbilt’s UK operations, the

company has designed and manufactured accelerated cooking equipment since 1950, introducing kitchens and restaurants around the world to an entirely new method of

cooking. It’s a name that has ushered in a new era of rapid, on-demand ordering, creating ways to meet guests’ growing appetite for fast and flavorful food – without ever having to l 161

sacrifice quality or consistency. Today, the man behind Merrychef is Vice President and Managing Director Colin Lacey. “Although we’re primarily based in the UK, we distribute globally in cooperation with Welbilt distribution centers,” he explains. “We have a number of hubs that are located around the world, including in China, Germany, Spain, Singapore, and the US. We go to market effectively through the Welbilt network of distributors and service partners, working with somewhere in the region of 5000 global distributors.” It’s been an exciting 12 months for Welbilt, and for Merrychef, following its pending acquisition by another industrial conglomerate,

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Ali Group. “The process is now almost complete, and is due to be finalized in the next couple of months, subject to final due diligence and regulatory approvals,” Colin reveals. “Once done, Welbilt will become part of the Ali Group, in what will then become probably the biggest company within commercial catering and food service equipment manufacturing. It’s yet another significant milestone.” For Colin, it’s a perfect match. “Ali Group is very successful globally, albeit with a much higher presence in the EMEA region, and less so in the US,” he tells us. “Welbilt is almost the exact opposite: about 70 percent of our global revenue traditionally comes from the US. A secondary factor is that while Ali Group has a

greater number of brands than Welbilt, they’re not present in a lot of the global quick service restaurant chains. Welbilt, meanwhile, has made that part of the industry its core focus. “Our customers are always trying to do more with fewer suppliers,” Colin continues. “One of the advantages of the acquisition is that it will give customers of both Welbilt and Ali Group access to more products. It’s got all the ingredients to make it extremely successful, and we’re just waiting in anticipation for everything to be confirmed.” In some particularly exciting news, Merrychef recently announced the launch of its new high speed oven product: Merrychef conneX®. Under development for close to three years, its initial release was delayed by the pandemic, but the hope is that it can now become an industry leader in connected kitchen goods. “conneX® represents the next generation of high-speed ovens from Merrychef,” Colin confirms. “It’s designed to be class leading in every aspect, in terms of cooking performance and energy efficiency. “The product comes with built-in Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectively as standard,” he indicates. “Making the equipment easy to use is critical, and so it also features the latest generation of touch screen controllers. This fits into Welbilt’s broader strategy of creating what we call a ‘common control platform’. That is, if you know how to use one piece of Welbilt equipment, you’ll know how to use any other piece of equipment from the company. We want to create a singular user experience.” For an industry grappling with shortages, such innovations could prove revolutionary. “Finding people, training them, and retaining them, is a significant challenge within almost every industry,” Colin comments. “By making the conneX® easier to integrate into a modern kitchen, it becomes easier to operate, use, and clean for the staff. On top of that, with so many of our clients innovating and regularly updating their menus, users can wirelessly upload completely new menus to their oven overnight. The next morning, all the operator has to do is press accept, and they’ll find themselves with a whole new menu on the machine, with the icons, photos, and instructions they need.” The company has already made great strides in its mission to place environmental concerns at the forefront of its product development. “Sustainability has become more and more important as we move from the linear economy of take, make, use, and dump, to a more circular economy, centered around reusing and recycling,” Colin insists. “As a company, we moved away from a lot of plastic


Boxes and Packaging Boxes and Packaging is one of the UK’s leading designers, manufacturers and suppliers of corrugated packaging. From standard boxes to bespoke solutions, teams at its ten sites work with a wide range of clients, from high-end vineyards to global manufacturers and their global supply chains. Adept at creating solutions that are 100 percent recyclable, sustainable packaging solutions have never been more important to businesses. To get in touch with your local team visit

components in the past, and now the majority of our oven components are constructed out of materials that can be reused. “We’ve also invested in additional equipment in the factory, including an automated P1 Salvagnini bender, along with more efficient press brake equipment,” he adds. “We have added a high efficiency powder coat painting facility and we have even done things like moving from nitrogen to air for cutting. Everything we do follows a Welbilt production system as a global standard. We’re currently exploring whether we can utilize our 100,000-square-foot roof in Sheffield for solar energy, and will be installing EV charging on-site for our customers and staff. We’re trying to be as responsible as we can be, making steady improvements year-on-year.” Like many businesses, it’s been a tumultuous couple of years for Welbilt, as the company grappled with the impact and disruption following the Covid-19 pandemic. “We clearly had to adapt very quickly when the short, sharp shock happened in 2020,” Colin admits. “People were concerned, and we implemented best practice measures: improving ventilation, l 163

additional sanitation, and installing plastic screens throughout the factory. Since then, we’ve deployed a hybrid model, in keeping with a lot of other industries, in which people can work from home where it makes sense to do so.”

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The last couple of years have been extremely successful for the company, and for Merrychef in particular. “Our products suit the ways our customers had to adapt to the pandemic,” Colin suggests, when questioned

about this growth in popularity. “Speed of service became vital because people didn’t want to be waiting in queues. We also saw the move to drive-thru, and having to deliver products rapidly. In hospitality, more people were collecting or ordering home deliveries. As the pandemic recedes those changes have become the new normal.” In fact, it’s the landscape post–Covid-19 that has proved trickiest to navigate. “The current supply chain disruption, port congestion, and logistics issues are proving to be somewhat of a lasting legacy,” Colin reflects. “Electronic and electrical components remain a huge challenge. What it’s done is it’s forced us to re-examine global supply chains, and look more closely at the potential for localization, changing sources, or dual sourcing.” Despite these challenges, Merrychef continues to grow its workforce adding more than 100 new recruits to its ranks within the last year alone. “People are our biggest and most precious asset,” Colin says. “We’re very fortunate in that we have lots of long serving members, but we’ve also reintroduced apprenticeships and some engineering internships, which is something we haven’t done before, and which we see as a very good way of nurturing new talent. We’re also fostering relationships with UK universities – both to give people practical experience in the commercial world, and also to identify new talent.” With a strong foundation, and a clear direction, the future at Merrychef is looking bright. “We have a plan, and we are executing against that plan,” Colin confirms. “The business is growing at double digit rates, our

Welbilt “We are very fortunate that Welbilt, as our parent company, is hugely supportive of Merrychef in terms of investment,” he concludes. “I don’t foresee any change with Ali Group. I am very optimistic for the future. We have lots of challenges, but there’s nothing we can’t overcome.” v

customers love Merrychef and the benefits we bring. Our new conneX® range has been extremely well received so far, and we continue to invest in the business. I see this as just a continuous success story: if we keep

delivering products that our customers want, if we make sure that we resolve supply chain issues and insure ourselves against disruption, then there is no reason for us not to continue to grow.

Welbilt Services: Commercial food service design and manufacturing l 165

Fighting fire with innovation

For over 45 years, Angloco has been a leading manufacturer of fire-fighting and rescue vehicles; having recently won a number of major contracts, the company now enjoys significant growth and continues its incredible reputation for quality 166 l

Angloco l 167


ince 1974, Angloco has been dedicated to designing and building specialpurpose firefighting and rescue vehicles. With a wealth of experience and a team of highly capable engineers, the company has also become a leading specialist supplier of firefighting and rescue equipment. Today, Angloco continues to offer a comprehensive service with the customer at its core, which has helped it establish an international presence and grow into new markets with high-profile partners. Originating as a small family company, Angloco soon grew into a major manufacturer and supplier. As Operations Director, Chris Stubbs, discusses: “Angloco is still an independent, family-owned and operated company based in Batley, near Leeds. Established in 1965, as Anglo-Coachbuilders Ltd., the company soon moved into its current headquarters, and built its first firefighting vehicle in 1974.

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“We have also grown our manufacturing facilities out of the company headquarters in Batley. We now have four separate production sites centred around our head offices, and additional facilities in the West Midlands and Southeast of England.” Today, the company offers a whole host of vehicle design and aftermarket services, as well as a range of affiliated products. “Angloco designs, manufactures and supplies firefighting and rescue vehicles and equipment. It has customers in a vast international customer base, and is supported by a comprehensive customer support service. “The company also supplies firefighting and rescue equipment and accessories, including thermal imaging cameras, rescue tools (cutting and spreading), power tools, stabilisation/ cribbing equipment, air bags (for lifting/ recovery), firefighting delivery hose, water mist technology branches and lances, firefighting branch pipes/nozzles, portable pumps,

firefighting foam concentrates, and firefighting training units (from portable extinguisher simulation to full-scale rigs). “In support of its products and vehicles, Angloco has a dedicated after-sales service and spare parts department. In addition to carrying out on-location commissioning and training, it has experience in major servicing and refurbishment projects overseas, as well as throughout the UK. “Our firefighting and rescue vehicles are designed and manufactured by our in-house team of engineers. Additionally, we are a UK representative and key supplier of specialist equipment to numerous other manufacturers. “For example, we work closely with Finnish manufacturer, Bronto Skylift. As a global market leader in hydraulic aerial platforms, Bronto Skylift is known for having pioneered early conceptions of the telescopic aerial ladder platform. We were appointed to be their UK distributor in 1988; with our connections in the

“The first fire appliances we built were two type B water tenders for Surrey Fire Brigade. These were based on the Ford D-series chassis, and, like most appliances at the time, the body and crew cab were framed from hardwood timber. “After a few years of success, the company changed its name to Angloco Ltd. In 1986, seven years after changing its name, the company was acquired by Bill and Julie Brown, who undertook a management buyout. From then on, the company has continued to grow. We now supply our firefighting vehicles all around the world, and since developing the technology for those first appliances, we have delivered them to over 70 countries. l 169

fire and rescue appliances sector we were able to increase their international presence, and provide our customer base with over 160 units,” Chris details. Offering such a diverse product and service portfolio means that Angloco is able to serve a wide international customer base. As Chris confirms: “We have customers in a considerable number of countries all around the world. We cover a range of territories, from the Caribbean, China and sub-Saharan Africa to The Falklands, New Zealand, the Middle East, and Mediterranean Europe. Our biggest customer to date is Capita Fire and Rescue, to whom we have supplied 80 Multi-Purpose Response Vehicles for the UK Ministry of Defence.

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“Despite our large footprint, we consider each market and customer as equally important. We have only been able to grow into the large international operation we are today thanks to the support of our customers, and the dedication we offer each and every one of them.” It is clear that strong customer relationships are at the root of Angloco’s success.The company’s team of informed engineering experts ensure a consistently high quality of service, as Chris asserts: “The secret behind Angloco’s success is its employees. Our culture is about putting our people, and the needs of the customer, at the heart of everything we do. “We have a fantastic workforce, with many of our team members having been with us for well

over 20 years. We have recently had one of our treasured employees retire after over 50 years of service, which we made sure to recognize as the amazing achievement it is.” For decades, Angloco has enjoyed a steady stream of success. In the hopes of accelerating the company’s growth, its leadership team decided to take a bold step in a new direction. “Around six years ago, the board of directors made the decision to take on higher volume opportunities.This was a shift in strategy for the company, because we had traditionally only taken on small batch and specialist orders. “We soon won our first sizeable order in the UK’s Eastern Counties region, with a collaborative project involving Bedfordshire and Essex County Fire and Rescue Services. Since delivering successfully on that project, we have refined our process in terms of efficiency, and significantly reduced our lead times. “We haven’t looked back since. Our success with the first few batch orders helped us optimize our operation, which, in turn, was instrumental in winning Angloco a major contract with Capita Fire to supply vehicles to the Ministry of Defence (MoD),” Chris explains. This new chapter for Angloco is characterized by a series of high-profile partnerships, as Chris reveals: “The Capita contract was for 80 vehicles to be delivered at a rate of one finished firefighting appliance per week.This was a fantastic achievement for the company, especially during a pandemic. Unlike some of our competitors, we did not take furlough and instead ensured that we could fulfil the commitments we made to our customers. As a result of that dedication, there are now Angloco vehicles in every MoD base around the world. “Since then, we have been awarded several other major contracts, including one with Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service. Additionally, we have supplied specialist firefighting vehicles to numerous airports all across the UK.” The company has even expanded its facility network, in order to meet increased demand. “These new facilities have been fundamental in providing us with the space to both expand our operation, and, more importantly, to keep our people safe through the pandemic by allowing us to incorporate safe working bubbles. “As we move forward, this space is allowing us to expand our manufacturing capabilities into new areas which would previously have been carried out by some of our suppliers. By bringing these operations in-house, we have managed to save significant costs throughout the business,” Chris enthuses. With renewed momentum, and a series of exciting projects on the horizon, Angloco no doubt has a bright future ahead of it. As Chris concludes:


“For the rest of 2022, and in 2023, we are looking forward to more of the same success that the company has enjoyed for a number of years. “In the long-term Angloco will continue to do all the things that have made it a local employer of choice. We believe in looking after our

people, because they will always look after our customers in return. It’s an ongoing cycle – we will continue to offer an unparalleled service and high-quality vehicles, and as a result Angloco will continue to be a successful business for many years to come.” v

Angloco Services: Emergency vehicle manufacturer l 171

For over a century, Stephenson has been producing innovative products for manufacturers worldwide

Solid format personal care made sustainably 172 l



ased in Leeds, Stephenson is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of sustainable personal care products. With innovative ideas, expert teams, and great products, the company has continued to serve a diverse customer base for over 100 years. Today, Stephenson looks to expand its presence in the sustainable soap product category, with brand new product recipes and major brand partnerships. The philosophy behind Stephenson has undergone a significant transformation over the last few years. As Chief Executive Officer, Jamie Bentley, states: “We are a longstanding business, which means we have a lot of knowledge, but also some very traditional values and ways of doing things. About three years ago we decided it was time to re-evaluate our culture, in order to really engage our people in the overall strategy of the business.

“I’ve always used this particular analogy to explain our change in direction: everyone views the business as a train set, they have their space, and they focus on making it as efficient as possible, but they are also closely connected to every other part of the track. It’s really about showing people the role they play in the success of the company, and how important they are. We have a lot of very bright people working for us, people with a lot of respect for each other’s time and abilities, and by emphasizing that connectedness we have built a real sense of team spirit. When Covid-19 hit, it really showed how effective our people are when they come together as a team.” In order to successfully overhaul the company’s working culture, Jamie and his team invested heavily in training and communication. “The company is made up of lots of different individuals with different capabilities; we have a lot of very young, bright and ambitious graduates working alongside much more experienced workers, and so the real challenge is getting people to work together as effectively as possible. “We wanted the synergy between groups to come from the people themselves, rather than it being instructed, so we focused on structuring operations in such a way that clear communication would be organically fostered between different groups, and between individuals within the same department. “The other element of our strategy was just being very transparent with everyone about our goals. We came up with a document called

‘strategy on a page’, (S.O.A.P) which essentially conveyed exactly what we wanted to achieve over the next couple of years. It really helped people feel involved, which meant that everyone was working toward a common goal. From there, we committed to ongoing transparency - we share all the important company data with our employees, including KPI’s for every part of the train set. “We also established two core principles. The first is profit; it is no secret that in order to be successful, a company needs to be profitable. The second principle is purpose beyond profit – we asked all of our employees to really think about the larger purpose behind what we do. A good example of this kind of thinking in action is our £20,000 investment in a new 3D printer; yes, it is useful, it supports profitability, but it also allows our people a lot of new opportunities to learn and be creative. We are still learning loads as a consequence of having that new piece of technology, which is a value in and of itself,” Jamie reveals.

With a renewed sense of community, Stephenson was able to weather the storm of Covid-19. As Jamie details: “One of the major challenges we faced, particularly as a result of the pandemic, was the transition from working in the factory and offices to working primarily from home. The commercial, sales and administration teams all began working remotely, and everyone did a really fantastic job, in part due to the new company culture that we had established. We also had a lot of very hardworking people in our factory, who came in to produce essential goods all throughout the pandemic. Their presence helped maintain our visibility in the market more broadly, especially when it came to suppliers and customers. “One of the more recent challenges we have faced is bringing the team back together after an extended period of working separately or remotely. People have gotten used to working from home, especially young graduates who haven’t really known anything else, and l 173

so it was really important that we create an environment where everyone is happy under one roof. We know the value of incidental conversations, and general facetime with the team, so we worked hard to establish a hybrid model that worked for everyone.” For Stephenson, the pandemic highlighted the importance of collaborative working. As Jamie asserts: “In order to maintain our company culture, and support the needs of our people, we are trying to achieve a flexible working model. We do quite a lot of training across the different groups, and we have also appointed Lucy Bilbrough as our Director of Supply Chain and Continuous Improvement in order to oversee those efforts. She is a Master blackbelt in lean manufacturing, which means she is able to work with each and every employee, solving problems and offering general support where it’s needed. “One thing she is particularly good at is getting different departments to work together effectively. For example, one project might require input from a salesperson, an engineer and a factory operator. If we can get all of those different skill sets working together in harmony, then the problem is going to be solved a lot quicker. That’s why we have such a strong focus on training and communication;

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we understand each other, and that makes our team incredibly valuable.” These changes have helped Stephenson become a forerunner in the sustainable personal care product category. With its revolutionary formula for a sustainable soap bar alternative, the company has partnered with numerous international brands, as well as dozens of small artisanal businesses. “We are currently working with some major cosmetics and personal hygiene brands to produce products that need less packaging. Sustainable products are on the rise globally, and so we have been focusing our energies on producing solid products that will produce less packaging waste; that includes things like shampoos and conditioners, as well as traditional soap bars. We have created a shampoo base soap that works really well, which is exciting for us because it’s an ever-increasing market. “Stephenson has been manufacturing soap for over 100 years, and it has evolved a lot during that time. We’ve gone from making washing wool and newsprint, which was actually one of the earliest sustainable products, to making soap for the rubber industry and numerous personal care products. All the time we have kept our technology centered around solid format goods, which makes us the ideal

partner for companies that are now looking to produce solid-form, sustainable personal care products. “In response to the rising popularity of sustainable personal care products , we have developed our technology even further, using a much more modern and high-performing surfactants to replace actual soap. We have also combined our efforts in manufacturing the shampoo bar with a sustainability drive that has helped reduce the amount of plastic packaging and shipping needed to distribute the item,” Jamie comments. These successes secure Stephenson’s position as a world-leading innovator and manufacturer. As the effects of the pandemic linger, Jamie discusses the year ahead: “For the rest of 2022, we will really be focusing on managing the day-to-day. Inflation has been challenging for us as a business, because we have a lot of clients running smaller businesses, and it’s really important that we find ways of managing that cost increase to limit the impact on them. “We will also be investing heavily in innovation. We can support our business and the customer base by producing new products with fresh, new ideas that will allow all of us to flourish for years to come.”


Chemlink Specialities Chemlink Specialities, a member of HARKE GROUP, is a dynamic company offering an application and formulation led approach to chemical distribution. Supported by a comprehensive range of products from quality manufacturers. We offer an integrated formulation and sampling service that benefits principals and customers alike. Drawing upon our extensive database of formulations enables us to develop tailor made samples for immediate customer evaluation. Our unique service, with collectively over 150 years of expert technical experience, spans a spectrum of industries ranging from HI&I, cosmetics and personal care, and pharmaceutical.

This spirit of innovation will no doubt take Stephenson a long way, as it continues to offer a sustainable, disruptive solution to brands across the world. “In the next three-to-five years, I would like to double the size of the business through innovation. We aren’t looking to move to a different site, so it will be all about creative thinking, and generating capacity through strategic maneuvers, capable people, and investment in the latest technology. “There are challenges at the moment, however, in line with industry trends, we anticipate that they will correct themselves in time. If you think about how much shampoo is sold around the world every day, we only need to produce a fraction of that to remain profitable, and make a real positive change to the sustainability of the industry as a whole. That potential is enormous, and it’s very exciting,” Jamie concludes. v

Stephenson Services: Personal care product manufacturer l 175

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Bemis Associates

End-to-end expertise In business for more than a century, Bemis Associates was a pioneer in the manufacture of innovative bonding solutions. Now, the company hopes to lead the industry towards a more sustainable future


emis Associates (Bemis) was founded over 112 years ago in Water town, MA. Founded by the Howard family, the company began producing a chewing gum base for Wrigley, and natural latex-based hot melt adhesives for New England’s shoe industry. More than 90 years on, and four generations later, Steve Howard took the helm at Bemis. Under his leadership, the company has grown substantially from a small manufacturer on the Boston outskir ts, into a global leader in hot melt adhesives. Today, Bemis manufactures a broad range of chemistries to meet a variety of bonding applications across apparel, industrial, and automotive. As Michael Johansen, President at Bemis explains, the company draws on its heritage and exper tise to develop unique solutions to meet their customers’ needs, a process he describes as “concept to commercialization.” “We leverage our deep knowledge and exper tise to work closely with customers to understand their applications and manufacturing processes,” he outlines. “Our design, product development, and materials l 177

science teams can then develop the right solution. This integrated service model is a key differentiator for us in our key target markets. And given our global footprint, we can help customers in the execution of these types of programs anywhere in the world.” Among Bemis’s unique solutions is the SEWFREE® Eco-System, a service model of customized solutions and consulting services. It brings together the company’s product experience in polyurethane, co-polyester, polyamide, and olefin chemistries, along with extensive process exper tise in single- and multi-layer films, extrusion, coating, laminating, and slitting. Elevated functionality, 3D thermoforming, and the bonding of dissimilar materials, including leather to wood, fabrics to perforated hard plastics, or leather to metal, round out the package.

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“What’s key is that we’re involved from the very beginning,” Michael explains. “We’re not just bringing a product to them, we’re bringing creative design, and helping to bring that product to life.” It’s a model that Bemis delivers globally, with a footprint that covers multiple manufacturing sites in Taiwan, China, and Vietnam, along with primary manufacturing, design, and corporate headquarters in the US. “That’s why we call it an eco-system,” Michael continues. “It’s an end-to-end environment.” It’s a growing footprint, too – thanks to Bemis’s recent acquisition of Protechnic, a French manufacturer of thermo-adhesives and decorative film printing solutions, based in Cerro de France. Founded in 1983, the company boasts 144 employees across its operations in France and Shanghai, with additional ventures in India and Israel.

“For several years, we’ve recognized the need to provide discontinuous adhesives for our customers,” Michael comments. “Bemis and Protechnic have complementary products and technology, as well as a strong alignment in their corporate values and culture. It’s an acquisition that will allow us to produce new and exciting products globally, and to introduce Protechnic products to the apparel, industrial, and consumer electronics markets on an international scale.” Driving Bemis’s upwards growth trajectory is a heavy emphasis on research and development, built upon a method of channeling market and customer insights directly into needs-based project delivery. “Whether you’re working with cotton, polyester, nylon, wool, aluminum, steel, wood, glass, EVA, or Kevlar, our adhesives work

Bemis Associates par tnering with venture capital firm Alante to invest in sustainable material technology, and become a par t of their innovation community, giving us early visibility to a range of sustainable developing technology that aligns with our long-term goals.” As the world recovers from the economic and supply chain crises of the past two years, Bemis is anticipating a big year ahead. The company is on track for record growth, a product of its focus and investments amid the downturn. “Our organization went into Covid with the commitment that we would not just survive, but come out of it stronger, and we are now seeing the fruits of that hard work,” Michael notes. “This year, we’ll continue those big investments in our global footprint.” v

Bemis Associates Services: Bonding solutions manufacturer with a range of dissimilar materials that are generally challenging to bond,” Michael tells us. “We push the boundaries with our customers on new materials, bonding and shaping them in new dynamic ways. Our product roadmaps reflect the latest in enduser, innovative material, sustainability, and usability market needs, tied closely with the technology trajectories of our customers.” Among those topics, the impor tance of sustainability as a particular focus for Bemis is something that’s been underscored recently, with the launch of the company’s Bemis Outdoor Fund. It’s seen Bemis par tner with organizations that educate on climate change, protect the outdoors, provide equitable access to nature, and which advocate for sound climate policy, with names including the Conservation Alliance, Protect our Winters (POW), Forest Park Conservancy in Por tland, and more. “Obviously, a lot, if not most, of what we do is plastics,” Michael admits. “Our major focus now is, how do we star t to reimagine and reinvent plastics? We’re looking at the range of options available through which we can actually begin to introduce a more sustainable alternative to virgin plastic, and then make that the foundation of our business. We’re already introducing that through some of our technology, working with upcycling star tup Novoloop to reduce the carbon footprint of our materials, or l 179

Towards the

post-consumer age Born in Vietnam and made in America, Accredo Packaging’s success is a testament to one family’s vision for a cleaner, more sustainable packaging industry


n 1975, after the fall of Saigon, thousands of people left Vietnam, with most seeking refuge in the United States of America. The 11 members of the Nguyen family were among that group. They were picked up by a cargo ship off the coast of Vietnam and arrived in the United States as a group of refugees with the ambition to start a new life in a foreign land. After settling in the US and several years of hard work and struggle, they found success operating multiple seafood restaurants. In 1986, they founded a new business manufacturing plastic grocery bags. As

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time went on, the company grew substantially. After several years of hard work, the Nguyen’s found themselves at the helm of Advance Polybag Inc. (API), one of the largest plastic bag manufacturers in the world. In 2009, a new era of sustainability emerged. API already had a strong foundation across the US, including an employee base of hundreds of skilled workers. As calls for more sustainable packaging solutions began to grow, API sought to diversify its product portfolio. The Nguyen family launched Accredo Packaging (Accredo) and opened a new manufacturing facility in

Sugar Land, Texas. That initial site marked the first LEED Silver-certified manufacturing facility in the flexible packaging industry and demonstrated the company’s commitment to sustainability. Thirteen years have passed since the inauguration of Accredo’s largely empty building, which started with just two extruders and two presses. Today, Accredo boasts an employee base of 600 people and is posting impressive revenue numbers. It is a success story built on the company’s rigorous sustainability credentials.

Accredo Packaging

“We have a powerful value proposition,” Rex Varn, Executive Vice President at Accredo, tells us. “Our plant is powered exclusively by Texas wind energy. On top of that, we use expanded gamut printers - a printing method that uses 95 percent less solvent and produces much less waste than traditional printing techniques.” Armed with these innovations, the newly formed Accredo immediately set to work to deliver the first recyclable polyethylene (PE) stand-up pouch in the US: the Gen1. Helping businesses to achieve sustainability goals and source reduction through first-mover innovation, the Gen2 pouch later followed this product. Accredo has found a receptive consumer base in both cases, enthusiastic about embracing Accredo’s industry-leading solutions. “We have grown from having zero sales 13 years ago to occupying a sizable place in the market,” Rex reflects. “We have a great portfolio of companies, and all of them form a part of our leadership in providing sustainable packaging solutions.” Now with many established customers, Accredo continues to pursue rapid growth. Over the past three years, Accredo has completed a 200,000 square-foot expansion of its Sugar Land, Texas facility and is scheduled to complete another 85,000 square-foot expansion in Sugar Land this fall. “We now have about 600,000 square feet l 181

Accredo Packaging of office and manufacturing space combined,” Rex confirms. He adds that Accredo will continue building with even more growth over the next five years.

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In 2019, Accredo Packaging also completed a 250,000-square-foot facility in Vietnam to service the burgeoning Southeast Asia market. As its Vietnam facility suggests, Accredo remains a company close to its roots. As Rex explains, the Nguyen family continues to exert an active presence within the business. “They’re here on the ground, working day-in, day-out,” he confirms. “Among the Nguyen family, nine from the first generation and nine from the second generation, are all active in the API Companies’ day-to-day operations; including one of the Nguyen brothers as CEO, with additional brothers as plant managers at the Sugar Land facility and other locations.They have also kept the company strong throughout the pandemic, maintaining significant inventory to ensure that we have always been able to support our customers.” In a booming industry, developments at Accredo show no signs of a halt. “We expect to see more products and more of our customers making the transition to sustainable

products,” Rex adds, “We don’t have a single customer in our global portfolio today that isn’t interested in trying to find a more sustainable product. Among our customers, nearly every company has a Director of Sustainability, with a corner office right next to the CEO. And their customers, in the same way, are saying, ‘We want a more sustainable product.’ ‘Is that recyclable?’ ‘Does that have recycled content?’ It’s our role to make those products available. Gen3 recyclable products are now in the pipeline, and we aim to continue to be ahead of the curve in finding and delivering new innovations to the marketplace. Beyond that, our main goal is to keep growing and continue our double-digit growth trend.” v

Accredo Packaging Services: Recyclable packaging solutions

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