Manufacturing Today Issue 182

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Issue 182 2020


Mastering one’s craft Independent metal printer Tinmasters credits both customer service and innovation as the cornerstones of its success

• Machine Learning • Waste Management • Inventory management • Planning and forecasting

Chairman Andrew Schofield Managing Director Joe Woolsgrove


Editor Libbie Hammond Assistant Editor Will Daynes Staff Writer Alex McDonald Production Manager Fleur Daniels



Art Editor David Howard

Issue 182 2020


Advertising Designer Rebecca Side Sales Director Alasdair Gamble Operations Director Philip Monument


Operations Manager Natalie Griffiths Research Managers Jo-Ann Jeffery • Ben Richell Rachel Harper • Kieran Shukri Editorial Researchers Adam Blanch • Mark Cowles Tarjinder Kaur-D’Silva • Jeff Goldenberg Mark Kafourous • James Page Wendy Russell • Richard Saunders Sales Director Alasdair Gamble Advertising Sales Johanna Bailey • Mark Cawston Alex Hartley • Dave King Theresa McDonald • Ibby Mundhir Web Sales



Mastering one’s craft Independent metal printer Tinmasters credits both customer service and innovation as the cornerstones of its success

• Machine Learning • Waste Management • Inventory management • Planning and forecasting

ere we are again – another issue of Manufacturing Today already! 2020 is creeping to a close and I think we will all be glad of a fresh start in 2021, albeit one with the added unknown of Brexit and its complications. Are you prepped and ready as far as possible? Or is Covid keeping your attention – I would love to hear what you are working on and looking at for the New Year strategies. What great news we had recently with the vaccine announcements from Pfizer and BioNTech, and Moderna – astonishing work from these companies and massive congratulations (and gratitude) to those working in this area. It is so gratifying to see what science can achieve and I am sure the manufacturing and logistics partners that will be required for the production and distribution side will also step up and prove their abilities to the world when needed, too. As we approach the last issue of 2020, if you do have any news to share, stories to tell or a subject you’d like to see covered in 2021 – do get in touch.


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Have we Tweeted about you yet? Get in touch on Twitter or send some news over to me on email and I will be happy to share it! 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


Focus on...

4 Machine Learning

Evolved Artificial Intelligence can ultimately help companies realize their technological goals by resolving the very real limitations of machine learning



6 Waste Management

Ultimately the UK needs more and better recycling and waste management infrastructure in its own borders to make a sustainable future a genuine possibility

Alicat Scientific

8 Inventory management

By parting with outdated methods, companies can reshape their factories to be proactive and resilient, helping navigate challenging conditions



10 Planning and forecasting

In this emerging low-touch economy, manufacturers must take this opportunity to instigate a strategy of digital-first operations, improving resilience and visibility

12 Manufacturing news


Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena

IQE Group

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Purple Innovation



Tinmasters Unitech 2 l

Schoeller Allibert Lim

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Baxi Heating

Group Plc

bert Limited


de Jong DUKE

Optikos Corporation



Stolle Machinery Europe

J & E Hall International


Leistritz AG




Royston Lead



Kaiser Premier

Holtec Gas Systems

STARC Systems


CanSource l 3

Evolved Artificial

Intelligence An alternative to machine learning. By Steve Roemerman


he emergence of the fourth industrial revolution concept a few years ago marked a major turning point for the manufacturing industry. The goal of every industrial revolution has been to improve productivity and tap the capabilities of new technology. However, the current path has the widest range of possibilities. Today’s focus is on integration and automation. When implemented correctly, these transformative processes can improve productivity, efficiency, and improve a company’s bottom line. Companies have attempted to deploy AI technology, such as machine learning, to solve some age-old issues with manufacturing. These practices are based on the idea machines should both learn and act without human interference. In some cases, machine learning has allowed companies to reduce bottlenecks in production, as well as downtime, and labor costs. While promising, such successes are offset by the limitations of machine learning in a manufacturing environment. The heart of the problem is that traditional AI requires failures in order to learn. But manufacturing companies simply can’t afford or allow failures in their production. As such, machine learning cannot take place because there is not enough data for the machines to learn. However, there is an alternative to machine learning which can solve this dilemma. This alternative is Evolved Artificial Intelligence.

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Evolved AI

Developed by Lone Star Analysis, Evolved AI (EAI) is a hybrid, knowledgedriven approach. It gets its hybrid status for its inclusion of multiple modeling techniques, statistical methods and knowledge of the domain from subject matter expertise. This combination approach allows EAI to start with the known boundaries of a problem, instead of learning everything from scratch. This is one of the differences between EAI and the machine learning method. For example, if a formula incorporates multiple variables as a given, or widely accepted knowledge, EAI teaches the model this concept from the start. Other models might rely on a training set of those same variables to reach the conclusion of the already understood knowledge. In this way, EAI is naturally smarter.

How does it work?

Using adaptive discovery, EAI finds the most ideal array of conditions contributing to a scientific equation matching real-world observations. The conditions introduced are tailored to the problem by including known interactions between variables and any existing relationships, especially those less obvious at first glance. Conditions are then either emphasized or given less value based on their joint ability to produce an expected outcome. Machine learning models typically use deterministic approaches. EAI,

Machine Learning processing units, or extensive cloud resources. EAI can operate anywhere: edge, cloud or offline. EAI isn’t only dependent on historical training data. This means solutions can be generated when no historical data has been collected, data is limited, or data is no longer relevant. This removes the need for big data and training data. That means there’s also no need for cleaning, scaling or tagging. Customers can instantly gain value instead of waiting around for data to become available. Lastly, the designer of the model has control over what the system learns. This provides a built-in clarification function. A mathematical model describes the input/output relationship. This allows models to be tuned to specific equipment characteristics for applications in the industrial internet of things (IIoT).

Application in Manufacturing

however, is more resilient when presented with new data, whether it’s discrete, continuous, deterministic, stochastic or a combination. Mathematically, this enables it to solve more complex problems. Practically, it means EAI is less greedy for data and processing power. This opens a whole world of challenging problems other approaches just can’t solve. EAI was developed to address concerns about machine learning, such as its need for and reliance on large data sets, its level of accuracy and its transparency. Combining previously experienced problems with mathematical approaches like signal processing, time series forecasting, and stochastic optimization resulted in an interpretable and explainable model. Because of mathematical and physics-based transparency, practitioners using EAI can easily interpret results and explain how the system works. The terms within the mathematical model are explicit. This is in direct opposition to traditional neural networks which introduce unexpected variable relationships with hidden architecture which is opaque to the user at best.

Benefitting from EAI

In addition to being more understandable, EAI’s benefits range from computing power to data set sizes. Because it can run on a laptop PC, there’s no need for exorbitant amounts of computing power from graphics

Although the possibilities with EAI are endless, its biggest benefits currently to manufacturing are condition-based maintenance and operation monitoring. In both instances, EAI learns what the manufacturing process is supposed to do, and immediately predicts critical conditions and prescribes mitigating action. For condition-based maintenance, this can focus on critical pieces of infrastructure like pumps, motors and conveyors to ensure a reduction in downtime. Meanwhile, operational monitoring solutions take a more macro approach by focusing on things like inventory levels, cycle times and resourcing to forecast disruptions in production. Long term, EAI will change how manufacturing performance is monitored. Machine-specific data can help uniquely characterize each item. This is a more detailed approach, as opposed to using generic data and static thresholds to characterize a broad cross-section of industrial equipment. Characterization will maintain relevance in often changing environments. Subsequently, machines may be checked for deviations from their normal mode of operation. Therefore, prescriptive maintenance may take place on an individual ‘need’ basis, rather than comprehensively through a ‘calendarbased’ plan. Using this approach reduces chances of performing maintenance when it’s not needed. Evolved AI is a smarter subsect of artificial intelligence. EAI can ultimately help companies realize their technological goals by resolving the very real limitations of machine learning. This tested and proven hybrid approach is unconstrained by mathematical limitations, more accurate and more transparent. With its ability to assess data sets of any size, while also factoring in the potential for random occurrences, EAI is primed to be essential for manufacturing companies looking to truly create smarter operations. v

Steve Roemerman Steve Roemerman is the chairman and CEO of Lone Star Analysis. Lone Star Analysis delivers predictive and prescriptive analytics and evolved artificial intelligence to help customers make informed decisions in the face of uncertainty. Since 2004, companies have trusted Lone Star to deliver actionable answers to complex problems in manufacturing, aerospace, defense, energy, logistics, transportation and more. l 5

Best possible


The way to make supply chains more sustainable? Invest in green infrastructure across the UK, argues Jeff Rhodes


he UK’s waste challenge is well documented and there is considerable pressure on businesses, particularly consumer goods manufacturers, to create and adopt more environmentally friendly packaging. This trend is one for the long-term, and while some brands are making positive changes towards more recyclable packaging, others are less so and some, though wellintentioned, are only introducing more problems, such as so-called ‘compostable’ plastics. Designing material to be recycled from the offset is only one part of the process that needs to happen to ensure production and supply is sustainable. What we really need is more green infrastructure in the UK that better enables recycling. There is an urgent need for the government to focus on helping the UK to manage its own waste on its own shores, recycling it into essential sustainable raw materials or generating much-needed renewable energy. Much of the waste being produced needs to be dealt with better, as well as just being made differently; better plastic recycling for instance where plastic bottles are designed to be recycled, and a standardised format used across the industry. When dealt with properly, even non-recyclable waste can be used as a fuel to generate renewable and low-carbon energy that

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can be used to power homes, businesses, hospitals and schools. All this can help change the way people think about waste, understanding that what they throw away in the bin is not gone forever, but rather can become a valuable resource. We have all seen saddening reports in the media of UK waste and recycling ending up discarded in other countries, often in the developing world. Biffa has called on the government multiple times to introduce stricter regulations on exporting waste so that we see an end to scenes like these. In particular, we have called for an urgent review of the UK’s Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system, which is failing to deliver its primary purpose of making the producers of packaging partly fund its recycling. Moreover, it evidently creates a false market that acts as an incentive to criminals to export materials to overseas destinations, where they may have no certainty that they will be properly recycled. If the government were to introduce stricter regulations on exporting waste to ensure recycling is kept in the UK as much as possible, it would not only mean the end to upsetting reports of waste dumped abroad, but would incentivise and stimulate investment in green infrastructure and create a better system for recycling. We ourselves are major investors

Waste Management

in green economy infrastructure and we want it to be used as much as possible – earlier this year we opened our £27.5m recycling facility in Seaham, County Durham, which is capable of recycling 57,000 tonnes of plastic, or 1.3bn plastic bottles, every year. With our partners, we are also investing in a 42MW energy from waste facility currently under construction in Leicestershire. Investing in recycling infrastructure helps support the creation of more recyclable packaging at the producer end and investment in more things like energy from waste plants helps capture more value from materials which can’t be recycled. Our argument around waste exports is not to say that the Government has been totally ignorant of the issue. Its 2018 Waste and Resources Strategy pledges investment into supporting resource efficiency, but could go further in ensuring that more recycling is kept in the UK, supporting a more circular economy and green recovery on our own shores. The Government is also not alone in its need to drive change in the way we approach waste and recycling. Action is needed throughout the entire waste chain, from the need for manufacturers to design more environmentally friendly and recyclable packaging at the beginning, to businesses to come together to introduce clearer recycling labelling on

products, to consumers of these products to dispose of the packaging correctly, for more consistency across the country on what can and cannot be recycled, to collectors to sort the waste properly and recycle it in UK facilities. Biffa recently joined the On-Pack Recycling Label (OPRL) scheme in support of clearer and more widespread recycling labelling on packaging. To truly achieve more sustainable packaging, the entire value chain needs to work together, ensuring simplicity and consistency. It requires a significant amount of collaboration from all parts of the chain in order to work, but examples prove it is possible. One of the best cases of such an example is the plastic milk bottle. Back in 2008, more than ten years ago, Biffa opened the first commercially available rHDPE food grade production plant in the UK. When it began operating, the plant had the capacity to process 63,000 tonnes of material per year and create high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pellets from recycled milk bottles, which could then in turn be used to create new plastic milk bottles. By working closely in partnership with the dairy industry, securing a standardised packaging design which was universally adopted, this approach has resulted in a closed-loop solution for the UK’s plastic milk bottles. Getting the design right enabled different stakeholders in the chain to play their part, such as enabling waste managers to recycle the bottles. The success of projects such as this are clear, with today an estimated 85 per cent of the nation’s milk bottles containing recycled milk bottle plastic, processed by Biffa. This case study also helps to highlight that when the design of packaging at the beginning is not right, stakeholders are limited with what they can do – waste management companies for example cannot change the chemical make-up of the materials, they can simply recycle the material that is fit for this purpose, so by giving them recyclable products in the first place, it ensures they can fulfil their role in the supply chain. Another driver for collaboration is brands looking to change product packaging to be more sustainable, in response to demand for more environmentally friendly products. Nestlé has recently committed to making every single BUXTON® bottle it makes from 100 per cent recycled PET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate or rPET). By working with Biffa as its waste manager, it has found a solution that will mean collected recyclable PET bottles are processed in UK recycling faculties and turned back into plastic bottles. Such a partnership is a prime example of a brand reducing the amount of unsustainable virgin plastic material used in production and turning waste into useful sustainable product. While collaboration throughout the production and waste chain is key to a more sustainable future, including fully recyclable packaging designs at the beginning, ultimately the UK needs more and better recycling and waste management infrastructure in its own borders to make a sustainable future a genuine possibility. The Government must urgently revise its waste export policy in such a way that stimulates investment in UK facilities – and prevent the UK’s waste ending up in places is absolutely should not be. v

Jeff Rhodes Jeff Rhodes is Head of Environment & External Affairs at Biffa. A Great British company, Biffa has been at the forefront of the UK’s waste industry for over 100 years, with operations that span the entire breadth of the waste management process including collection, recycling, treatment, disposal and energy generation. It exists to change the way people think about waste; to help people see the opportunities that exist when waste is managed in the right way, and to make that happen. It understands the vital role it must play in helping the UK to address the climate emergency and deliver sustainable growth. l 7

Breaking the


The dangers of a ‘keep the boat afloat’ mindset in the factory. By Richard Lebovitz


ost manufacturers went into the spring of 2020 expecting ‘business as usual.’ Betting on high demand, companies built up inventory levels accordingly. But then Covid-19 hit and threw a wrench in supply chain plans – and the unsophisticated tools and spreadsheets historically relied on for inventory optimization couldn’t manage the subsequent influx of challenges. The core issue: Manufacturers were left with too much obsolete inventory, and not enough of the right parts to meet the delivery demands of their customers. And companies had to manage these excess-inventory and critical-shortage challenges with a reduced on-site workforce due to furloughs and remote work mandates. Today, while many companies are selling and burning off the excess inventory back down, critical shortages and delivery issues persist. To ‘keep the boat afloat’ throughout the pandemic, many teams have felt forced to make quick, sometimes frazzled decisions to patch up any ‘leaks’ in their operations, quickly free up cash, and get products to customers. Unfortunately, the antiquated tools and processes used to guide these decisions aren’t cutting it anymore. To survive in today’s complex environment, leading companies are rapidly adopting cloud-based technology to digitally transform their supply

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chains and quickly adjust to demand changes when disruption hits. These tools can combine advanced analytics and purpose-built workflows to help teams proactively manage inventory levels and collaborate better internally and with suppliers to prevent shortages and make more confident and effective decisions, especially when operating with a smaller team.

Where spreadsheets fall short

Most factories today are still managing millions of dollars’ worth of inventory with basic tools like Excel or custom business intelligence reports. But these tools have significant limitations - as brought to light by the global pandemic. Performing inventory optimization in static spreadsheets, with data pulled from disparate systems, is often incomplete or inaccurate, forcing teams to make decisions based on bad information. Data in these tools is also inherently vulnerable to inaccuracies, both from unstandardized calculations and processes and the messy consolidation of disparate reports and systems. And with no real way of prioritizing what needs to be done immediately, or to hold people accountable for those tasks, when crisis hits, the boat often ‘sinks’—and fast. At best, these tools will show you

Inventory management To boost resiliency, establish operational command, and enable the factory to ebb and flow to meet market needs - instead of continuously patching a leaky boat - every single team member should be able to anticipate and understand: l Which products or materials could be at risk of a future shortage today, and a few weeks from now l What’s causing a shortage, and how to address it to avoid disruption l Where inventory may be in excess and how to prioritize the top actions to improve turns l The Plan for Every Part to maximize delivery performance while minimizing excess inventory The benefits of having this level of intelligence are impactful. It creates stronger supplier partnerships based on trust and credibility. It gives factory teams the knowledge of where to diversify suppliers and look to their other sites to maintain a steady stream of materials. And it helps manufacturers boost efficiency during a time where the industry is operating with fewer people while complexity continues to grow. Ultimately the ability to stock the factory with an optimal level of inventory cuts costs, preserves cash, and prevents shortages, while still meeting customer demand.

Stopping the leaky boat

One week you’re struggling with excess inventory, the next you could be facing a critical shortage. It can feel like as soon as you address one problem, another concern arises. This never-ending focus on ‘sealing the leaks’ prevents teams from working on strategic, high-value activities that are arguably even more critical during these uncertain and challenging times. It’s time to break the cycle. With the right insights and technology, factory teams can understand the why behind a particular problem - such as bad data, a change in demand, an incorrect ordering policy, or a supplier performance issue - and quickly address the root cause instead of spending hours or days trying to figure it out. They know which problem to solve first, and what to prioritize right now, instead of getting lost in a sea of information. And they can develop an inventory optimization plan and strategy for the next several months, based on up-to-date predictions, where they’ll have the biggest impact on the business, their weekly goals, and more.

Putting the wind back in the sails how bad you are performing, but they do nothing to tell you how to improve. Leading manufacturers understand static tools don’t enable the visibility and proactive decision-making required in today’s dynamic environment. Every team needs a clear view of the facts so they can collaborate in real time, quickly troubleshoot and prioritize actions, get tangible insight into the actions colleagues have taken, and more. It’s not enough for one person to look at a spreadsheet and assign out tasks and responsibilities based on best guesses. Factory teams are realizing the value of predictive and prescriptive analytics in helping them be decisive and confident in managing their inventory, so when disruption hits, they can act in a moment’s notice and limit the impact.

Establish operational command at every level

If Covid-19 has reminded us of anything, it’s that we should be prepared for sudden changes in demand and disruptions with suppliers at any given time. Some industries - such as medical devices and technology - saw exponential increases in demand due to pandemic impacts. Others, like aerospace, experienced substantial drops - in some cases tenfold decreases.

It’s time to ditch the ‘keep the boat afloat’ mindset when it comes to managing and optimizing factory inventory. By parting with outdated methods, companies can reshape the factory to be proactive and resilient. The new approach - centered on equipping teams with predictive insights and actions at their fingertips - enables the factory to put wind back in their sails and glide through whatever rough seas come its way. v

Richard Lebovitz Richard Lebovitz is the founder and CEO of LeanDNA, the only purpose-built analytics platform for factory inventory management. This factory-first solution empowers supply chain professionals to dramatically reduce excess inventory, deliver on time, and establish operational command across their organizations, delighting customers and unlocking new business growth. For more information about the Austin, Texas-based company, visit l 9

Time to pivot How can manufacturers boost their resilience in a post-Covid world? By Frank de Jong


usinesses have done a brilliant job during the pandemic, with many reacting with unprecedented agility and awareness, by switching up their product lines. Manufacturing has been central to retaining business and fulfilling demand for new types of products during the last six months. Gin companies have pivoted to produce hand sanitizer, a vacuum cleaner company has developed new ventilator designs and an electronics giant has star ted producing face masks. A whole host of companies around the globe have risen to the challenge and rapidly repurposed their production lines to meet acute shor tages, from PPE and other medical supplies, to household hygiene products. As well as bringing in critical revenue during the resulting downturn, pivoting like this has also bolstered the feeling of community spirit in helping to combat Covid-19. The lasting results are clear : the manufacturing industry will benefit long-term from this burst of innovation and collaboration.

Adapt to survive

Of course, drastic changes to product lines come with challenges, from initial design through to production. Regulatory bodies must now be willing to flex the rigid rules usually in place, wherever

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possible, to suppor t manufacturers, as businesses make the best out of a bad situation and work towards a common good. For example, the UK Government’s Medical and Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA) published guidance on the ‘minimally acceptable’ performance standards required for ventilator designs so manufacturers are clear on what requirements they must meet. Advanced digital design and 3D printing are just a couple of the innovative technologies that have enabled companies to produce medical-grade visors for healthcare and personal service professionals - and these must meet strict criteria. Technology can enable all par ties to be more resilient, with this consideration in mind.

Ensuring flexibility in the manufacturing model

With social distancing measures in place and workforce safety front of mind, manufacturers must be able to react to the derailment of their usually efficient supply chains and production lines as workers ease back onto the factory floor. Gar tner repor ts that up to half of workers will be unable to continue their jobs on site as a result of the distanced safety measures now applied, which creates a significant problem as most factories are not fully automated or designed to be operated remotely.

Planning and forecasting McKinsey highlights that the response taken to this situation will be crucial, with digital capabilities appearing critical to the solution. It argues that manufacturers must act now with the ‘flexibility and resilience needed to mobilize in unfamiliar territory.’

Unlocking the value of Industry 4.0

Prior to the pandemic, it could be argued that digitalization was a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’, but things have changed. Companies must accelerate their moves towards a digital-first strategy and look to scale up their automation throughout - not only on their production lines, but also in the back office. Industry 4.0 underpins resilience by providing real-time visibility into raw materials, workforce and products. Smar t, connected technologies that can enhance automation, machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, production-line monitoring, predictive maintenance and analytics for smar t decision-making will be essential in providing the real-time intelligence manufacturers need for future resilience. Multiple sections of the production line can be enhanced to speed up production, switch product lines, improve quality control, create more personalized products and reduce downtime. Not only this, but AI and machine learning can be utilized to continually monitor and assess production plans. Augmented Reality (AR) can be deployed to speed up training for assembly tasks and assist with complex assembly tasks or the maintenance of equipment. Naturally, with new technologies come challenges and as IoT proliferates within the industry there are security issues to consider too, as more devices become connected. Chief among the considerations are ensuring an organization’s IP is protected and that customer information is secure. In addition, IT and operational technology (OT), traditionally separated, must now integrate to encourage a more collaborative, secure environment.

results on speed, cost, precision and materials. Technology will also play a role in improving health and safety and reducing human-to-human interaction whilst social distancing is still a significant factor in keeping the risk of virus transmission down. In this emerging low-touch economy, manufacturers must take this oppor tunity to instigate a strategy of digital-first operations. This will not only improve their resilience, but also give them the clear visibility of their operations overall: order status, inventory and supply chain, as well as workforce needs. This will allow them to adapt accordingly when disruption occurs in future and help them to weather any storm. v

A return to domestic manufacturing

With the complications resulting from the pandemic hitting supply chains and the complex transpor tation logistics of many manufacturers triggering concern about dependencies on other nations, there is talk of a turn back towards domestic manufacturing in some sectors. Governments will inevitably see this as a route to greater sustainability for critical supplies and hail it as good news for hitting environmental targets, with resulting reductions in many enterprises’ carbon footprints improving responses to the climate change threat. Alongside robotics, which will also help to optimize operations, reduce costs and increase speed, resilience can be built within the supply chain with an increased reliance on nearshoring. According to a recent EY survey, 56 per cent of businesses believe this may trigger a ‘reversal in globalization’ through major supply chain restructuring to enable greater agility.

From the ground up: resilience in the supply chain

One of the hardest lessons from Covid-19 has been that resilient supply chains are crucial. Manufacturers must implement and regularly update robust risk management and business continuity strategies, and also ensure that processes and tools created during the crisis management period of the pandemic are formalized. Supply chain vulnerabilities must now be monitored constantly and over time, stronger supplier collaboration will also help to reinforce the supply chain ecosystem to boost resilience across the board. Technology will, of course, be the key enabler here, with techniques such as 3D printing gaining traction as manufacturers look to improve

Frank de Jong Frank de Jong is Senior Digital Business Consultant at Orange Business Services, a network-native digital services company and the global enterprise division of the Orange Group. It connects, protects and innovates for enterprises around the world to support sustainable business growth. With companies thriving on innovation, Orange Business Services places its customers at the heart of an open collaborative ecosystem. l 11

News in brief Vital equipment Bluetree Group, has taken delivery of England’s very first meltblown machines.This groundbreaking move means the business can create the vital bacterial filtration layer of its face masks, or ‘meltblown’, in-house. As the Covid-19 outbreak has progressed, meltblown has become one of the scarcest materials in the world, with many countries banning its export. Installation of two of the machines at the company’s Rotherham factory will enable the team to produce 100 tonnes of meltblown each month and provide the country with a constant and reliable source of surgical face masks.

Capsule investment

Leading global provider of integrated healthcare solutions, Lonza, has invested $93m in its Capsules and Health Ingredients (CHI) Division to enable the company to expand its overall production capacity of capsules within CHI’s Capsugel portfolio by 30 billion capsules annually. Production capacity will be increased across Lonza’s global manufacturing and supply chain network to help further strengthen the company’s position as a leading global supplier of capsules. This investment will be made over two fiscal years, 2020 and 2021, across eight global Lonza manufacturing sites, including Greenwood (USA), Puebla (MX), and Suzhou, (CN).

NHS support

PFF Packaging Group has been selected by the UK Department for Health and Social Care to manufacture disposable aprons to supply the NHS with the much-needed PPE. The contract will see the business produce over 360 million plastic aprons across a nine-month period, from its manufacturing site in Washington, Tyne and Wear. Kenton Robbins, Group Managing Director commented: “PFF was quick to recognise that we have the in-house production, quality control and logistical expertise to accommodate the new line. Some 210 million plastic aprons are needed every week by NHS frontline and social care staff. With production well underway, we feel we really are making a difference. PFF is proud to be helping the NHS as well as creating opportunities for work in these most challenging of times.”

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Vaccine advancement Announced on October 6th by the Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC), the UK Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now approved the second of two GMP manufacturing suites that house VMIC’s specialist vaccines manufacturing equipment - resulting in two fully equipped, approved manufacturing suites to make a leading Covid-19 vaccine candidate. As part of the national response to develop vaccine for Covid-19, the two suites established with VMIC equipment will be operating at 1000L scale and will be dedicated to the manufacture of a leading Covid-19 viral vector vaccine candidate. The suites, operated by Oxford Biomedica, are located in their commercial manufacturing centre, Oxbox, in Oxford, UK. Supported by government funding through UK Research and Innovation, the collaboration between VMIC and Oxford Biomedica signed in June 2020 enabled the UK to establish a rapid deployment centre or ‘Virtual VMIC’ whilst the permanent VMIC facility was being built. The aim being to rapidly build capability in the UK to manufacture a vaccine for Covid-19 rather than wait until VMIC’s permanent facility opens in 2021. Dr Matthew Duchars, Chief Executive, The Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre, said: “This is a milestone moment in the UK’s fight against Covid-19. These suites, which house VMIC equipment, will have the ability to make tens of millions of doses of the current leading vaccine candidate.” Pic Courtesy of Pall Corp

From scrap to powder 6K and 6K Additive, the world’s leading developer of microwave plasma technology for the production of advanced materials, has been awarded a Phase ll SBIR program from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), following the strong success of its Phase I.The Phase II program supports the development and commercialization of a domestic and commercially scalable supply chain for strategic high performance metal powders from scrap sources. Utilizing 6K’s proprietary UniMelt microwave plasma platform, the program will demonstrate 6K’s capability to source, process, and reclaim nickel superalloy scrap components, shop scrap, and used powders for conversion into aerospace grade powders.The new powders will be used to additively manufacture real-world, discrete printed parts which will demonstrate functionality in test beds or systems. Dr. Aaron Bent, CEO of 6K, commented: “As a company we are certainly pleased with the award, but more importantly, we’re proud as an organization to help our country create and control a domestic supply for alloys such as nickel used for emerging production methods like additive manufacturing.The recent Covid-19 pandemic highlights the importance of controlling supply chain and the renewed need for domestic production to avoid interruption of critical supplies.” 6K has recently commissioned its new 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art metal powder production facility and will begin shipping traditional powder products in the fall of 2020.

Manufacturing News Green delivery Global provider of transport and logistics solutions XPO Logistics has invested in purchasing ten additional mega-trucks and 280 semi-trailers in Spain, strengthening its eco-friendly fleet capacity. Mega-trucks have the potential to reduce carbon emissions by up to 20 per cent compared with traditional trucks, as each 25.25-metre vehicle is able to transport 65 per cent more freight per trip. Commenting on the deal, Massimo Marsili, managing director, transport – Iberia, XPO Logistics, said “We’re proud to be a green transport leader in Spain, where our commitment to reduce emissions serves our customers and helps to protect the planet. Our fleet investments integrate the latest innovations into our operations, allowing us to grow the business while

delighting our customers and contributing to a greener future for freight transport.” XPO will use its 25 mega-trucks to cover routes in its less-than-truckload (LTL) network, expanding service between Valencia and Malaga, Barcelona and Madrid, and Seville and Granada. The company is a leader in LTL pallet transport in Spain, with over five million pallets delivered in 2019. The new semi-trailers will be used for full truckload and LTL service across the Iberian Peninsula and Morocco. Each 13.6-metre unit has the capacity to transport up to 25 tonnes of freight using best-in-class transport technology for safety and efficiency. The expansion increases XPO’s semi-trailer fleet to approximately 2400 units.

Driving Industry 4.0 AT&T has added Nokia’s end-to-end industrial-grade capabilities to its AT&T Private Cellular Networks solutions. Now businesses across the United States can build private networks through AT&T using Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) spectrum and Nokia infrastructure. Both Nokia Digital Automation Cloud and Modular Private Wireless platforms will be offered by AT&T. Raghav Sahgal, President of Nokia Enterprise, said: “We have a long and storied relationship with AT&T, and now we’re tapping into our joint enterprise expertise to help businesses realize the Industry 4.0 opportunity. Nokia is a leader in private wireless deployments, giving us tremendous insights into the challenges and requirements for deploying this technology across multiple industries. We look forward to working with the AT&T team to bring these insights to businesses.” Private networks are increasingly important for businesses – especially in Industry 4.0 environments with a lot of connected devices, where privacy, data control and performance are all crucial. AT&T’s on-premises edge portfolio, which already includes 5G-capable AT&T Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC), is expanding to offer these additional private cellular solutions with Nokia to meet those Industry 4.0 needs. This is a great solution for enterprise customers – including manufacturing, logistics, energy and education – that want to use CBRS LTE private wireless solutions as part of their networking strategy. It can support enterprises in building a more agile business that keeps pace with shifting demand, accelerates digital transformation, and unlocks new IoT opportunities with reliable and predictable connectivity for people, machines and sensors. l 13 Christopher Nieper

Process in focus MRO inventory management and its impact on operational efficiency. By Mathew Devitt


n today’s increasingly competitive marketplace, inventory management has become a critical tool of both smart and lean manufacturing methodologies. While some parts of inventory management such as raw materials, work-in-progress and finished products are often closely monitored and tracked, MRO (maintenance, repair, and operations) is often overlooked. This can leave an organization scrambling to find replacement parts or quick-fix solutions in a desperate attempt to keep a process up and running when machines break or are pulled offline for routine maintenance. Depending on industry, estimated MRO expenditures range from three to 40+ percent of overall procurement budgets, although the bulk lies between three and ten percent. While the amount of money spent on MRO may not seem significant, the impacts of failing to effectively manage MRO inventory can be. If a production line goes down and an effective MRO strategy is not in place, production lines halt, workers are idle, and precious time and resources are wasted. So, how do we facilitate an environment where MRO resources are tracked and treated with the same consideration as other procurement expenses? The most critical step in ensuring an effective and sustainable MRO strategy is to establish MRO best practices. These practices include setting KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), establishing a centralized location for storage and a tracking database for fast distribution, educating staff on the importance of effective resource allocation, and maximizing resource versatility.

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Critical KPIs to ensure successful MRO include accurate inventory, identification of obsolete inventory, supplier roster contribution, costs of emergency purchases, and revenue lost due to production shut downs. Numerous software packages on the market today offer reliable ways to track MRO inventory. For example, ERP systems can be used to automate reordering of supplies as items are moved out of inventory. Companies can also make inventory management easier and improve service times by focusing on deep relationships with few suppliers. Establishing effective storage centralization and asset tracking facilitates a more accountable environment for asset management and distribution. Companies with large, globally distributed production networks can effectively balance efficiency and tracking with rapid response times by relying on regional centers. This distribution of MRO inventories across a global warehouse network along with periodic balancing of stocks helps minimize obsolete inventory while maintaining stock on hand for maintenance and repairs. Training staff to anticipate and identify issues early on can facilitate an environment focused around proper resource allocation through planned maintenance rather than emergency repairs. In order for this environment to be effective, the implementation staff including floor managers and maintenance must work synergistically with the procurement staff to understand and achieve common goals. This can add extra pressure to workers whose goals are focused on meeting production deadlines and ensuring quality, but this pressure can be relieved if inventory and

Alicat Scientific procurement managers work with maintenance and floor managers to understand key areas of concern, they can better meet their needs and anticipate MRO requirements more effectively. Resource versatility helps to create a robust and functional production line where resources can be reallocated as production changes and maintenance and repair is required. This not only limits the number of resources needed, but also allows for rapid swaps in process instrumentation with minimal downtime. Consider the following real-world example of the benefits of resource versatility. Mass flow meters and controllers are components in many manufacturing applications where gas flow needs to be measured and tightly regulated. While simple, these components are often dedicated devices applied to a single gas type, requiring recalibration prior to repurposing. However, if the device can be switched without recalibration, the single replacement unit suffices for all applications within a given flow range. This reduces the amount of stock necessary in inventory. It also increases the speed with which you can replace a broken unit and get your process running again. When it comes to inventory management are you managing all of your inventory or just the pieces that go out the door? Efficient maintenance, repair, and operation inventory management is just as crucial to the efficient operation of a facility as your raw materials, work-inprogress, and completed products. Developing effective MRO resource management strategies such as tracking and distributing inventory effectively, training teams to work more synergistically to minimize emergency orders, and understanding how to improve resource versatility can reduce the stock required to be kept on hand creates a more efficient working environment. v

Mathew Devitt Mathew Devitt is Marketing Manager at Alicat Scientific. All Alicat mass flow instruments are interchangeable with similar devices and include a Gas Select™ feature that allows on demand switching between 130 gases in addition to custom programmed gas mixes, all with no warm-up time. Boasting a stable measurement and control range of 0.01 – 100 per cent and an accuracy of 0.6 per cent of reading on most instruments means never having to sacrificing accuracy of measurement for speed and versatility. With such a wide measurement and control range, in many cases Alicat units can replace multiple thermal gas flow meters or controllers. All Alicat flow instruments are backed by a lifetime warranty. l 17

Smarter together

The brands that make up Baxi Heating have been manufacturing industryleading heating and hot water systems for over 150 years. Now, in 2020, it is spearheading a movement within the market towards smart, energy efficient, low carbon solutions

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n the UK and Ireland, Baxi Heating has become widely known for its portfolio of some of the most respected brands in the heating industry. Part of the BDR Thermea Group – a world leading manufacturer and distributor of smart thermal solutions for domestic and commercial use – the business provides integrated solutions for heating and hot water, including boilers, electric water heating, solar thermal, combined heat and power, heat interface units, and digital applications. Its market leading brands include

Baxi Heating

the likes of Baxi, Potterton Commercial, Main Heating, Heatrae Sadia, Megaflo, Remeha, Andrews Water Heaters and Packaged Plant Solutions. Immensely proud of its heritage, Baxi Heating has also always been at the cutting edge of innovation in the heating industry, and today finds itself at the forefront of supporting the energy transition towards a zero-carbon economy by 2050. It is this commitment towards a sustainable future – as well as a number of other factors – that attracted Karen

Boswell OBE to the role of Managing Director of Baxi Heating UK and Ireland, which she officially assumed in September 2020. Karen joined the business from Hitachi Rail UK, where she oversaw rapid growth, and in conversation with Manufacturing Today she explains why Baxi Heating represents the perfect career move for her. “Throughout my career to date, sustainability has always been at the forefront of my thinking from an operational and leadership point of view. Any organisation I work for also has to have an

intrinsic importance towards society, and as we all know, heating matters to people and their day-to-day lives,” Karen details. “Baxi Heating’s heritage speaks for itself, and it is hugely exciting to be involved with a business that has true UK manufacturing excellence at its heart.” In preparation for the UK’s move towards net zero emissions by 2050, the company itself has been working to strengthen its own position in recent years, moving towards a ‘One Business’ model. This has involved an absolute drive and determination to l 19

Baxi Heating

Bertelli & Partners consolidate, simplify and modernise Baxi Heating in order to bring it closer to its customers and make it easier for them to do business with the company. “A really good example of our efforts has been the consolidation of our manufacturing operations onto one site, that being our Preston facility, making it our centre of manufacturing excellence if you will,” Karen adds. “As part of this move, we have invested considerably in our facilities for boiler and cylinder manufacturing, and consolidated our manufacturing of plant rooms and utility cupboards for our larger commercial customers into one dedicated area. Meanwhile, from a sustainability perspective, having all of our production and logistics infrastructure in one location will help to reduce transportation costs and carbon emissions output. Therefore, we find ourselves in a great position today, where we have a strong manufacturing base

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from which we are able to produce total solutions for our customers, while ensuring that we remain an agile and intuitive partner that is easy to work with.” Being easy to do business with, and working hand-in-hand with its customers and installers to increase simplification of use of its products – while also continuing to identify ways to bring added value to its installer base and end users – has helped Baxi Heating to build its market share. This is true even in the face of the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. “Here at Baxi Heating, we have adopted what I would call an end-to-end service chain approach,” Karen continues. “What this means is that we work extremely hard to look at the various touchpoints that are vital to our operations, such as design, supply chain, manufacturing, logistics, distribution, installation and servicing, when refining our products and services. This

Since 1995 (year of B&P foundation), we have always been focused on flame control as announced in our first slogan: ‘flame sensing & control specialists’. Now, we can say that our electronic controls equip a wide range of heating appliances, from wall-hung domestic gas boilers to the next generation hydrogen boilers. Our constant growth may be witnessed by our long-term partnership with Baxi UK, started in 2010 after consolidating and expanding our teamwork with Baxi Italy, which began in 2005. Now, we can proudly say that our products are inside many Baxi boilers models, and B&P is the key supplier of electronic controls for Baxi UK. This mutual experience gave us the opportunity of developing an exclusive and specific Electronic Gas Air Ratio Control (EGARC) for the Full Hydrogen boiler. In recognition of this, BDR THERMEA Group presented B&P with their ‘Award for Innovation’ in 2018. l 113

Unica mmp Twenty years of trade relations with Baxi mean a continuous search for the best technological and aesthetic solutions with particular attention to each single detail in order to always offer the best solution. Mould design and making, multi-material moulding, screen printing, hot stamping, pad printing, assembly, all these are part of the service we offer to Baxi. Unica mmp means cutting-edge technologies that are perfectly integrated into a production process that has no margin of error as its goal is the ability to always find the best balance of time, quality, cost and service. Unica mmp: a reliable partner for technopolymer moulding yesterday, today, tomorrow.

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approach has helped our products to achieve reliability rates in excess of 99.2 per cent, and we have every intention of working towards 100 per cent reliability in the near future.” In addition to the above, the company is also significantly bolstered by a strong, passionate workforce. “It is not trite at all to say that people make an organisation, and if

years like 2020 have taught us anything, it is that this has never been truer,” Karen enthuses. “For my part, I believe that providing said people with a great environment to work in is also of huge importance. Here, we aim to drive empowerment and accountability, while providing all of the necessary skills and support to succeed, all while applying

Baxi Heating

a ‘customer first’ mind-set. I believe it is so important that our team feels a deep affinity not only to our brand, but to each other, and that when this happens you can be assured of some pretty special results, which in turn translates into great business!” Turning our attention back to Baxi Heating’s ongoing efforts to help bring about change within energy transmission, Karen goes on to highlight four ‘mega trends’ that she and the rest of the company are currently focused on. “These mega trends, which are helping to drive developments in the wider market, are energy transition, digitalisation, the shift in global economic power, and sustainability. In the case of the latter, a clear pattern has emerged in recent times where businesses are looking for products and solutions that deliver

benefits in a more sustainable way, and there is lots of evidence around to show that those companies that operate in a really sustainable manner are going on to thrive.” A key contributing factor to the UK’s ability to meet its net zero emissions target by 2050 will be the decarbonisation of the gas grid. “If we are to meet that target by 2050, I believe that we have to undergo a massive step change in how we heat our homes and businesses,” Karen states. “While I do not feel that there is a single silver bullet solution – rather it will require a broad mix – what we do know is that some 85 per cent of UK homes today rely on the natural gas grid for heating. There is a growing consensus that repurposing the grid to transport green gas, such as hydrogen, offers a low disruption


With the Baxi Assure range, we offer a complete service and support programme for new build and social housing customers, which includes elements such as the design of their heating systems, installation, training advice, technical support and aftercare.” l 23


As the UK heads towards meeting its emissions targets by 2050, using products such as our heat pumps and cylinders, and the hydrogen boiler technology that we are developing will be key to ensuring that the country achieves its goals

option towards decarbonising the existing building stock. “At Baxi Heating, we are currently doing some incredible work in developing and testing boilers that run on 100 per cent hydrogen, as well as devising a system that will allow us to utilise this technology and repurpose it into people’s existing boiler set

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up where it will run through the existing gas network. We are very much at the forefront of this exciting new technology, and are also part of a number of important working groups such as the Hydrogen Taskforce – a group of leading companies pushing hydrogen into the mainstream in the UK – and the government funded Hy4Heat project.”

Baxi Heating The company similarly plays an important role as part of the Ubiquitous Storage Empowering Response (USER) project, a consortium that includes Levelise, Ecuity Consulting, Energy Systems Catapult and Durham University. The project itself is testing innovative technology that uses Artificial Intelligence in 350 homes that have a hot water cylinder to help balance the electricity grid every time the householder turns on their hot tap or takes a shower. This effectively turns traditional hot water cylinders into grid-interactive water heaters that are context aware. The USER project is unique in that it is compatible with almost any hot water cylinder with an immersion heater, and Baxi Heating is using its Megaflo Eco cylinders in the trial. Baxi Heating’s industry-leading work in the fields of hydrogen boilers and water cylinders are just a couple of examples of its innovative flair coming to the fore. Others include the company’s patented Baxi IFOS In Flue Outdoor Sensor and its recently launched Baxi Assure range. “The Baxi IFOS is a really important innovation that provides installers

with an easy and cost effective way to comply with the requirements of Boiler Plus when combined with a timer and temperature control,” Karen says. Saving energy and reducing carbon emissions, the Baxi IFOS can also provide additional SAP benefits for new build developments. Meanwhile, the Baxi Assure range of

products, launched in October 2020 especially for the newbuild and specification market, is designed to offer a complete, single branded solution for a home’s domestic hot water and heating requirements. With its range including compact, discreet boilers, air source heat pumps and cylinders built with easy maintenance in mind and with innovative l 25

Supply Technologies Supply Technologies delivers for Baxi Supply Technologies has a proud association with Baxi Heating that stretches over three decades. Through the provision of its innovative and highlyresponsive Kanban System, the company ensures that the extensive range of components required to produce Baxi boilers are always available to ensure the highest levels of manufacturing productivity. With a Supply Technologies specialist permanently deployed to Baxi’s facility in Lancashire and local support less than three miles away, the company employs its globally respected Total Supply Management programme to ensure Baxi operatives can build its market-leading range of products ‘better, smarter and faster than ever before.’

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energy-saving features as standard, each Baxi Assure product is specifically designed to be cost-effective, energy-efficient and reliable. “One of my goals is for Baxi Heating to be known not just as an organisation that supplies great products, but also as one that provides excellent total service solutions, and the Baxi Assure range is a perfect example

of this thought process being brought to life,” Karen continues. “It marks the first time that the company has offered a complete service package in this way, and is another step in our drive to make it ever simpler for our customers to do business with us. With the Baxi Assure range, we offer a complete service and support programme for new build

Baxi Heating the response that is needed within the UK at this difficult time to keep people safe, whilst ensuring that they continue to have reliable access to heating and hot water. Longer-term, a principal area of focus will remain the issue of energy transition to a decarbonised future. “As the UK heads towards meeting its emissions targets by 2050, using products such as our heat pumps and cylinders, and the hydrogen boiler technology that we are developing will be key to ensuring that the country achieves its goals. As such, we at Baxi Heating need to ensure that we are fully ready for that demand, and so we will continue to do all that we can to demonstrate our unrivalled capabilities in these areas,” Karen concludes

Baxi Heating Products: High efficiency heating and hot water solutions

and social housing customers, which includes elements such as the design of their heating systems, installation, training advice, technical support and aftercare.” 2020 has seen Baxi Heating face the difficulties posed by the emergence of Covid-19 head on. “From the off, in March, this organisation did some pretty impressive things in short order in response to the pandemic and the way it changed people’s lives almost overnight,” Karen affirms. “This began with getting our non-manufacturing side of the business set up to work remotely, whilst ensuring that there was no interruption in our services to our customer base. At the same time, from a manufacturing perspective we worked quickly to make our facilities – which stayed open throughout the nationwide lockdown – Covid-19 safe environments to operate in. “Externally, we also did a lot of important things, such as prioritising boiler repairs for vulnerable people, providing hot water products for the newly constructed Nightingale Hospitals, and tasking our R&D department with using 3D printers to make frames for face masks for the NHS, and parts for respirators for our sister company in Spain. We have also carried out lots of work to maintain regular contact with our customers, finding new ways of engaging with them through online tools.” So, in the short-to-medium term, it is clear that the company will continue to support l 27

Continuous generating gear grinding process in action

Brewed to perfection

Known for their reliability, ease of use and low cost of ownership, de Jong DUKE’s coffee machines have led the charge in delivering innovative solutions that are now seen the world over

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de Jong DUKE


ow in its fourth generation of family ownership, coffee machine manufacturer de Jong DUKE has been a stalwart of Dutch engineering excellence since it was established back in 1897. Headquartered in the Netherlands, and with facilities also in the United States, its founding father was J.M. de Jong, a blacksmith from Alblasserdam, and it was his inventiveness and technical prowess that started the company along what has been a storied journey. In 1931, the company was taken over by A. de Jong Jr. – an entrepreneur in his own right – and it was under him that the first coffee vending machines were sold and distributed through a subsidiary company, DUKE Vending. l 29

de Jong DUKE’s new factory, logistics facility, R&D & competence center and offices in Sliedrecht in the Netherlands

“Initially, the machines sold by the company were imported from the United States, however it was soon decided that they would be manufactured here in the Netherlands. From then on, the manufacturing of coffee vending machines and coffee equipment has been our lifeblood,” explains Managing Director, Maurits J.C. de Jong. What would follow would be countless firsts over the decades, giving de Jong DUKE its well-earned reputation for creating innovative, reliable and easy-to-use solutions for what it refers to as ‘out-of-home coffee enjoyment’. In 1971, for instance, the first European filterfresh® machine was built by the company in the form of the Vendking-brewer, delivering a system that would make every cup of coffee as fresh as the last. Later, in 2003, de Jong DUKE would go on to launch its patented CoEx® brewer. Featuring one brewing system that is capable of making two distinctly different coffees – coffee and espresso – this revolutionary creation has gone on to be replicated countless times. On top of that, in 2009, the company also became the first manufacturer to launch a coffee vending machine with a ten-inch touchscreen, which has again since become a feature of nearly every machine produced today. “When it comes to innovation, we have always been a forerunner and this has come as a result of our boldness as a business and a willingness to be daring in bringing our ideas to fruition,” Maurits continues. “We remain a very forward-thinking organization – to the point where we are usually planning our future

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de Jong DUKE de Jong DUKE LLC (for North America) in Taylor, MI, USA

several years in advance – and it is this, coupled with our honesty, the reliability of our products, and the loyalty we display to our customers that continues to make de Jong DUKE such an appealing partner to work with!” The company’s range of coffee machines include its award-winning Nio with its easy-touse and stylish design, the ultra-modern EDGE with its intuitive touch screen, and its Virtu, Zia and Siro series’, which each come in a variety of sizes to fit various applications. de Jong DUKE’s machines are supported by its ConnectMe telemetry system that was launched in 2009. ConnectMe allows customers to access statistics about their machines remotely, to check their operational status, alert them of errors and prompt the refill of ingredients. Over the years, de Jong DUKE has been presented with multiple awards, not only for some of the above-mentioned products, but also its business growth. In 2016, 2017 and 2018, the company received the FD Gazellen Award for being one of the fastest growing Dutch businesses. In that time, it has also been the recipient of the European Business Award 2018 and 2019, has received prizes such as the Reddot Award, IF Award, and the European Design Award for the Nio, and has even been recognized by Inc. Magazine within its Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing United States-based businesses in 2018 and 2019. In its home country of the Netherlands, de Jong DUKE’s operations are now based within its Sliedrecht facility. Opened in February 2020, it features a factory, logistics facility, R&D and


We cannot escape the fact that much of our business is made up of our machines being sold into offices and other workplaces, and therefore with restrictions such as working from home, Covid-19 has had a major impact upon this

competence center, and offices. From here, the company focuses primarily on the engineering and final assembly of its products, and their delivery to customers, with much of the other manufacturing processes being outsourced to trusted partners. “We have excellent, strong relationships with all of our suppliers, and the combination of their manufacturing skills and our strengths in engineering and logistics provides us with a fantastic degree of flexibility. This allows us to quickly upscale or downscale depending on market demand, and to deliver custom-made orders when contracted,” Maurits details. One of de Jong DUKE’s commitments over the years has been to achieve sustainable growth through the reinvestment of a portion of its annual turnover. As a matter of fact, the amount that the company does reinvest is around twice the average of others in the Netherlands. The new Sliedrecht facility is the perfect example of this in action. “We are

Above: one of the Virtu medium range Far left: Production at the new factory, Sliedrecht, NL l 31

Top: Virtu, for an effortless coffee experience at work Above left: Virtu 82 series with 2 bean cannisters Above right: The V’Eco coffee machine

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proud of the fact that this is what we consider to be a sustainable building,” Maurits says. “The heating and cooling of the building is run through a climate ceiling that is linked to electric heat pumps, which in turn are powered by solar panels. This enables the facility to be fully

self-sufficient in terms of power generation. It is a feature that also fits into our ACT2 program, which is designed to ensure that de Jong DUKE and its products plays its part in contributing to a sustainable future. “Our investment also extends to our people, who are the biggest asset that we have, and we spend a lot of time and resources on making sure that they can do their job properly. As well as giving them the tools and equipment, we also support them in terms of their education and development as employees. We have worked hard to create an open, transparent culture in which everyone can feel safe, is consistently well informed, and is given the time and platform to speak up about what matters to them. We get to know all of our people closely, and the feedback we get from them is that they appreciate the welcoming atmosphere that we have created in which everyone feels valued.” In what we come as little surprise to anyone, 2020 has been one of the most challenging years that any business has had to face, and the same goes for de Jong DUKE. “The biggest obstacle we face is the uncertainty that exists in the world at present,” Maurits confirms. “We cannot escape the fact that much of our business is made up of our machines being sold into offices and other workplaces, and therefore with restrictions such as working from home, Covid-19 has had a major impact upon this. “Fortunately, we are a healthy company.

de Jong DUKE Below: The Nio double cannisters and illuminated ingredient canisters

While we will continue to supply machines into offices, hospitals and the like, we are now also spending more time and resources on moving into the leisure side of the market, getting more of our machines into locations such as bars,

restaurants and catering establishments. We have long been a very successful organization, and we are optimistic and confident that, by moving in a slightly different direction in terms of opportunities, we can recapture growth.�

Below: The Zia offers excellent taste

de Jong DUKE Products: Coffee machines l 33

Seeing the future clearly

Continually striving to improve the quality of its products, processes and services and fill its unique role in providing solutions that use optics as an enabling technology - Optikos Corporation has well and truly earned its reputation for being ‘The Optical Engineering Experts®’


ounded in 1982, Optikos Corporation (Optikos) can rightfully – and proudly – refer to itself as ‘The Optical Engineering Experts’. The company’s engineering team is the largest independent optical engineering group in

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the world, enhanced by opto-mechanical, electrical, software, and R&D engineers that form teams capable of solving and executing complex applications of optical technology to organizations globally. Optikos customers seeking engineering design and product

Optikos Corporation

development expertise benefit from the company’s deep experience working on literally thousands of projects ranging from inception and design feasibility of an optically based product, to manufacturing and volume production. Meanwhile, those who require

optical testing capabilities can choose from the company’s standard and custom metrology products, or its in-house IQ Lab™ services, to help them to assess the performance of optical assemblies and camera systems. Today, applications that utilize the kinds of

products and systems created by Optikos range from medical devices and diagnostics to automotive cameras, missile seeking testing systems, geospatial mapping technology, and beyond. This was far from the case, however, as recently as two decades ago, and the l 35

Optikos Corporation Below: Stereo Endoscopic Distal Imager

Lenox Laser Lenox Laser is a precision laser drilling company specializing in small hole technology. It has been a critical supplier of optical apertures and flow control orifices for device and instrument manufacturers worldwide for over 40 years. Lenox Laser has enjoyed continued success as an Optikos supplier over the past 15 years. The keys to the successful relationship have been the experienced engineering and production teams’ ability to recognize requirements, communicate effectively, and quickly develop the processes needed to meet the high-quality standards expected in a time-sensitive manner. Lenox Laser continues to expand its capabilities and processes to help fulfil the changing needs of industry-leading customers.


Below: Optikos Design Review

Whether it be in the fields of life science, consumer products, industrial instrumentation, geo-spatial imaging systems, military guidance and targeting systems, security, or the automotive sector, you will be hard pressed to find an area of industry today that isn’t touched by optical technology

company’s own growth has run parallel to the greater adoption of optical technologies, as President and Founder Steve Fantone goes on to detail. “It is true to say that among the broad range of markets and technologies that we now cover, many did not exist 20 years ago,” Steve says. “For instance, back then, CMOS (Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor) sensors were only just beginning to be realized, but you could already see that they would eventually supplant CCDs (charge-coupled devices), and sure enough that began to occur, initially in high-end applications such as military solutions and costly medical devices. As CMOS sensors became more affordable, so too did they become ubiquitous, to the point where

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today they can be found throughout a wealth of industrial and consumer products.” For its part, Optikos has spent the last several decades being what Steve calls a ‘purveyor of the application of optical technology’. “What differentiates us, is that we take a broad system view of optical technology and the markets or industries in which it can be applied. Whether it be in the fields of life science, consumer products, industrial instrumentation, geo-spatial imaging systems, military guidance and targeting systems, security, or the automotive sector, you will be hard pressed to find an area of industry today that isn’t touched by optical technology.” The efforts of Optikos to help facilitate this technological expansion have, in part,

Below: Gene Sequencing Optical Engine

Below: 6-Channel Multi-Spectral Imager

contributed to the company today occupying a unique market niche. Something that has also proven invaluable has been its ability to engage and interface with clients from all walks of life. “One of the things we recognize is that every client’s corporate culture will be unique, and rather than looking to modify that culture in any way, we have committed ourselves to having an adaptive system of doing business that allows Optikos to become a part of a strong, integrated partnership,” Steve explains. “We also have something internally that we call The Optikos Experience, and this reflects the way that we want to form long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with not only our

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clients, but also our suppliers, employees and the broader community. We want all parties involved to have a positive and memorable experience when working with us, and for our clients this includes being respectful of their intellectual property – so that they get control over what they pay for in terms of services rendered – and emphasizing that we are with them for the long haul.” Such has been the success of the Optikos approach to doing business that the company has registered growth of approximately 82 per cent over the last three years alone, a feat that has been recognized by its listing in the prestigious Inc. 5000 list of North America’s

fastest-growing privately held organizations. In speaking with Steve, he pinpoints the life sciences and automotive sectors as being the primary sources for this growth. In the case of the former, the company has begun to move into a greatly expanded facility – adding a 25 per cent increase in overall floor space – including additional clean space dedicated to life sciences projects and precision optical assemblies. “We made a strategic decision around six years ago to put extra emphasis on these particular fields,” Steve details. “Today, in Massachusetts, we are peer residents within one of the world’s leading life sciences hubs and have formed a good degree of knowledge in how best to work alongside a group of clients whose core competencies rest more in chemistry or biotechnology, rather than optics. This means opening up our entire breadth of services to them, from design and prototyping, through to manufacture and production, and giving clients access to the wealth of expertise at our disposal. “In terms of our automotive industry presence, if someone had said 20 years ago that we would now have self-driving cars that have a dozen cameras and optical sensors inside them we would probably have considered them from another planet. This scenario, of course, is now a reality, and the widespread use and adoption of optical technology in vehicles has also driven the need for test instrumentation in order to assure appropriate imaging quality and sensing over demanding environments. We continue to work with companies supplying the industry to improve the performance and lower the cost of enabling technologies such as LIDAR which will only further increase the optical content of motor vehicles.” Surrounding Steve is a passionate, dedicated team of individuals. Some of these men and women have been with the company for over two decades and offer unrivalled product development, technical expertise and experience on a daily basis. Alongside them is a younger contingent of employees, and Steve is particularly proud of the fact that Optikos provides them with career opportunities that would otherwise take decades to realize in larger organizations. “Our people are empowered at an early point in their careers here,” he says. “They are encouraged to work alongside some of the most experienced people within our industry as we cultivate their journey, giving them the chance to confront the types of challenges that we believe will make them successful.” Designated as being an essential business

Optikos Corporation Below: Geospatial Mapping Lens

by defence, life sciences, and security clients, Optikos remained operational through 2020 when other companies were forced to shut down as a result of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions. Its employees responded quickly and efficiently to the challenge of keeping operations running, and with activity levels increasing as the weeks pass by, the company has every reason to be optimistic about what the future holds, especially in the markets that have been highlighted above. “When I look at an industry such as life sciences, it is clear that spending on technology in this field will only increase in the years ahead, and the same goes for automotive imaging, sensing, LIDAR and cameras,” Steve enthuses. “One of the great things about the optical industry is that we are very much at

the forefront of the implementation of many technologies, and a particular strength of Optikos is that we see product development from the point of product inception, all the way through to shipping it out of the door and servicing it in the field. That is a mindset that is different from most product development firms. “As a business, we are also of the view that we want to always be on hand to support our clients in achieving their respective goals. This means, while we do offer a full spectrum of services, if one should only want Optikos to carry out the design element of a project, then we are more than happy to do so. Clients are rational, and if they see that it makes business sense for us to take on additional tasks such as manufacturing or production then we will

take that work on gladly as it serves all parties’ interests. Alternatively, if we identify that we are not in fact the right company for that client or its requirements, then we will do all that we can to help them to find one that is. We look to align our interests with our clients, because at the end of the day, we want them to be successful and it is truly their success that helps ensure our own.”

Optikos Corporation Services: Thermal processing sevices l 39

All star cast

An acclaimed aluminium diecaster, trusted by a host of international prestige brands, CastAlum is a forward-thinking company that is now leading the charge in utilizing additive material technology

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t was in the winter of the year 2000 that ground was first cut on a greenfield site in Welshpool, Mid Wales, which would become the home of CastAlum, an internationally recognized aluminium diecaster. Originally supplying cast only parts to a single customer, the company has since expanded to supply a range of high pressure and ‘squeeze cast’ products to clients in the UK, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and beyond. CastAlum’s components are cast, cast and machined, assembled and tested in-house, and today find

themselves within vehicles produced by the likes of VAG, BMW, Ford, General Motors, Fiat, Porsche, Mercedes, Jaguar Land Rover and other prestigious marques. “CastAlum is a naturally proactive and aggressive business, and one that has built its reputation upon being best in class and producing particularly challenging products,” explains Engineering Director, Paul Dodd. “Ours is not a foundry that makes what I would call ‘punch and crunch’ products, but rather we target higher end, higher added-value components. With regards to high pressure diecasting, we have ten fully automated high pressure diecasting cells in the range of 1000to-2000 tonne locking-force, each with its own integral bulk-melting tower furnace and in most cases up to four robotic devices. Where previously we focused on steering gears, we have more recently increased our knowledge base to specialize in more transmission-type components. “Squeeze casting wise, we have three fullyautomated cells in the range of 1600-to-1800 tonne locking force for the manufacture of

HMC Engineering HCM Engineering are proud to have worked alongside the team as CastAlum since their beginnings in Welshpool over 20 years ago. At HCM Engineering, we have been designing and manufacturing the large complex tooling and foundry equipment that CastAlum require, as they continue to operate in the premier league of die casting, making parts other countries can’t make. It’s refreshing to see real investment in the latest plant and equipment for additive manufacturing. This enables the supply base to up their game and trail blaze behind CastAlum as an industry leader and provide cutting edge foundry equipment. l 41

indirect squeeze castings in aluminium, again with their own individual integral bulk-melting tower furnaces and robotics. These allow us to produce heavier, more structurally dense parts for transmissions that are heat treatable. Core products made from this process include steering knuckles, and power take-off covers and housings where elevated mechanical properties are required.” In the last decade in particular, CastAlum has invested heavily in the development of new products, processes and capabilities. One of the most exciting elements of this has been its investment and understanding of additive material technology to aid with conformal cooling. This has allowed the company to change what is viewed as feasible within its field. “We began our additive journey in 2013, spurred on by the experiences of one of our favoured tool makers, and we could immediately see a range of benefits and huge potential from it,” Paul continues. “Where we did face a challenge was in replicating the technology over a number of tools running at the same time and gaining consistency. It quickly became clear to us that, whilst there was a huge appetite for additive technology, there was little actual knowledge out there as to how to best apply it. Add to that the fact that, while it was mostly suited towards use on refined, skeletal, lightweight structures, we wanted to use the technology to produce heavy, dense lumps of tooling with a complex water course running throughout. This, ultimately, led to us forming

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Having the technology and experience under our own roof means that we can look to offer help to anyone out there that is looking for ways to manage temperature through conformal cooling, whilst maintaining our competitive advantage a tri-party consortium – via Innovate UK – in conjunction with British engineering company Renishaw and Coventry University.” The objective of the consortium was to gain an understanding of how best to apply additive technology to steel tooling, how to make the process repeatable, and to identify its limitations in conducting these tasks. It also has provided CastAlum with the knowledge needed to create a solution that gives it considerably more design freedom in terms of cooling. “Dealing with the heat generated by the casting process is a considerable challenge,” Paul affirms. “We are pouring aluminium at around 700 degrees, injecting it at huge speeds and pressures, cooling it down as quickly as possible, and starting the pattern all over again. With that can come certain quality defects if the cooling process is ineffective, including soldering, leak paths and enhanced porosity. With the vast l 43

majority of the parts we make having pressure tight requirements, ineffective cooling has the potential to cause costly downtime. “One of the University’s contributions in Coventry to the consortium was to identify the optimized cooling geometry and heat transfer at which we can run the additive material technology in order to generate our products in various different geometric shapes and sizes. This knowledge gives CastAlum a massive competitive advantage.” Today, CastAlum can proudly boast that it is the first aluminium caster in the UK (and possibly in the whole of Europe) to have introduced additive material capabilities to its own premises, and as Rhys Jones – Additive Manufacturing Project Manager – reveals, this has the opportunity to give the company farreaching potential. “Having the technology and experience under our own roof means that we can look to offer help to anyone out there that is looking for ways to manage temperature through conformal cooling, whilst maintaining our competitive advantage,” he says. “For

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example, we have held some initial discussions with a company that is relatively local to us that is in the process of converting electric vehicles and is having to deal with the issues of the heat generated by electric motors, drive systems and batteries. So, as a potential next stage in our own development, we could look to assist such companies with their cooling, before possibly developing castings that solve their problems entirely.” Looking at how 2020 has played out for the business, Paul details how CastAlum has been fortunate in the fact that, coming into the new year, the company was seeing what he describes as a natural reduction in output as various programs were coming to an end. “This meant that the potential effects of the lockdown that began in late March as a means of combating the Covid-19 pandemic were greatly reduced,” he adds. “Since the UK started emerging from lockdown, we have seen a fairly quick bounce back in activity in most areas, picking up build orders for a couple of new programs. These programs are currently focused around engineering activity, so will not turn into sales and production activity for another six months

or so yet, however they look very promising.” With 2020 also marking the 20th anniversary of CastAlum’s inception, it seems as opportune a time as any to enquire as to what the longterm future holds for the business, and it is clear from speaking to Paul that the company sees itself remaining class leading, not only in regards to the incredible advances it is making in additive material technology, but in all aspects of its work. “Since the year 2000, we have marked the last two decades with a pattern of steady, consistent growth,” he proclaims. “Having spent the last 18 months or so bringing existing programs to a conclusion, our outlook for new programs that will require components and solutions to challenging problems sees us on a predicted, progressive growth spell through to 2025 and beyond. “For CastAlum, our mission is not to be the cheapest, rather it is to be the very best, and testament to that approach perhaps best comes from the fact that the programs we find ourselves picking up are typically not new ones. Rather, they are existing programs where the customer has yet to succeed in overcoming their casting or cooling challenges, and they

ultimately turn to CastAlum, because we have a proven track record of success. So, in the long-run, we expect growth to eventually return to pre-pandemic levels, and we will continue to ensure that we remain the supplier of choice for complex components, all while providing a rewarding place of employment for our workforce!”

CastAlum Services: Aluminium diecasting T: +44 (0)1938 557557 l 45

Keeping us connected At the forefront of the UK’s high-tech manufacturing sector, IQE Group Plc is the leading global supplier of advanced wafer products and material solutions to the semiconductor industry


As a scaled global manufacturer, IQE has built an enviable reputation for its unparalleled depth of specialised process knowhow and expertise in the development and manufacture of highly advanced semiconductor materials technologies

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IQE Group Plc


ounded over 30 years ago from a single manufacturing operation in South Wales, IQE has grown into a world-class organisation with a global footprint spanning Europe, Asia, and the USA. Home to around 650 employees, and listed on the FTSE AIM index, the company’s core business is the design and manufacture of compound semiconductor wafers. Also known as ‘epiwafers’, compound semiconductor wafers enable a broad portfolio of today’s technology products, including mobile

handsets, telecommunications infrastructure, connected devices, and infrared and sensing applications. Recipient of numerous accolades over the years, including a 2019 Raytheon Premier Supplier Excellence Award, and a 2020 BAE Systems Gold Tier Award, IQE’s technologies address three vital application themes: connectivity, sensing, and energy. Ubiquitous in their use, today, the company’s Photonics and Wireless business units supply customers in the Consumer Mobile, 5G Infrastructure, l 47

IQE Group Plc

Aerospace & Defense, Automotive, Cloud, Networking & IoT, Healthcare and Industrial markets. “As a world leader in Photonics technologies, IQE’s product and intellectual property (IP) portfolio is broad and includes the likes of Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs), Indium Phosphide (InP) and infrared products,” explains Group CEO Drew Nelson. “VCSELs in particular are a key component in telecom and 3D sensing systems and their applications include high speed data centre infrastructure, facial recognition, proximity sensing and LiDAR timeof-flight sensors on mobile handsets, in-cabin and environmental sensing for autonomous drive vehicles, and 3D image recognition.” Virtually all wireless communication has been enabled by IQE technology and the company’s work covers certain electronic radio-frequency (RF) devices that enable

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wireless communications such as power amplifiers (PAs). These include, but are not limited to, mobile communications, base stations, mobile networks, WiFi, smart metering and satellite navigation systems. Recently, IQE’s wireless products have taken on a more prominent role in enabling 5G systems and connecting devices globally. No matter what the project, the firm prides itself on working closely with clients to customise epiwafer structure and substrate characteristics, ensuring they meet each customer’s individual requirements, work optimally with their fabrication processes, and ultimately yield competitive, consistent, and highly reliable semiconductors. “At IQE, we have created a competitive advantage through superior quality, scale and a strategy of serving the entire market as a materials solution provider,” says Drew, on the topic of IQE’s success. “As a scaled


IQE is continually striving to improve manufacturing efficiencies by deploying state-of-the-art procedures and practices, improving the skills of our workforce, as well as implementing proprietary methodologies and new product introductions to help our customers achieve their own efficiency objectives

PROVIDING INNOVATIVE ‘NO GRIEF’ CONTRACTING Thanks to a successful client relationship that CMB established with IQE in 2015 at their St. Mellons plant, we succeeded in working alongside them again on the unique and large-scale project in Newport. Over the last 3 years, CMB have worked as principle contractor in regenerating the former LG plant that sat empty and without purpose for 20 years, turning it into what is now a successful semi-conductor foundry. Today, there stands 10 production bays in operation with the potential of reaching 100. The project is currently valued at an estimated £41 million and we are pleased to have been asked to propose maintenance services to carry on our attendance and relationship with IQE to further develop and improve on this project. This award-winning project has been important to us at CMB in recognising our progress in leading the way in providing infrastructure and specialised services to the semi-compound conductor industry.

CMB Engineering have enjoyed unprecedented client respect and support. The Company’s portfolio of past and present projects illustrates a significant volume of “repeat business” which is the reward for the competitive nature and no-grief culture that we adopt.







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Nouryon Nouryon is a strategic partner of IQE and supplies deposition chemicals used in IQE’s Epi-processes. Nouryon’s HPMO business is specialized in the production of high purity metalorganic sources based on aluminum, indium, gallium, zinc and magnesium. Our products are used in a wide range of industrial and consumer applications, including computers, solar cells, sensors, data-communication, LEDs , smartphones and tablets. We take pride in partaking in IQE’s journey. It’s our mission to supply the highest quality products and services to make it possible for our customers to develop and produce even better performing electronic devices.

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global manufacturer, IQE has built an enviable reputation for its unparalleled depth of specialised process knowhow and expertise in the development and manufacture of highly advanced semiconductor materials technologies. “The global semiconductor industry operates to exacting standards, requiring

products of the highest quality with uncompromising reproducibility and repeatability. The Customer Qualification process represents a significant investment for IQE and our customers, both financially and in respect to the time required for completion. Therefore, once a product and relationship are established, this becomes a

IQE Group Plc

CS Clean Systems (UK) Ltd.

significant barrier to entry for competitors. “IQE also has the ability to leverage its global manufacturing footprint by qualifying tools in multiple production locations worldwide,” he adds. “This unique global reach means we are well positioned to adapt to changes in global technology markets, and being in close proximity to our international

customers helps ensure security of supply in their chosen location.” When it comes to the company’s operations, IQE is geographically diverse and can be found at nine sites across three continents. Following significant investment in the firm’s Global Infrastructure Capacity Extension Program in 2019, IQE’s universal

CS Clean Systems (UK) Ltd. are a key supplier for the IQE Newport Mega Foundry, covering all the toxic gas abatement needs for this facility. Topof-the-range CLEANSORB® CS200PD PRIMELINE DUAL Systems have been supplied for 24/7/365 continuous pointof-use toxic gas abatement for the exhaust lines from MOCVD Reactors in a demanding production environment. Fully passive CLEAN-PROTECT Abatement Systems are installed for the removal of toxic gases in the event of an emergency release. CLEANSORB® LABLINE Systems are in use for gas cabinet vent purge detoxification. These products are regularly serviced and maintained by CS UK’s Service Team. l 51

I.C. Solutions I.C. Solutions provide specialist cleaning solutions for the manufacturing, commercial, retail and hospitality sectors based on 45 years of experience. ICS Director Gary Pesticcio says “… we are proud to be a key supplier of specialist cleaning services to IQE and have been working together for a number of years to develop a bespoke solution for their specific needs. The manufacture of sensitive and delicate electronic components requires the very highest levels of environmental controls and cleanliness; we wish IQE continued success for the future.”

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site capacity continues to increase, allowing the company to serve new and emerging highgrowth markets. As part of the expansion program, IQE established the ‘Mega Foundry’, a state-of-theart, 30,000 square metre facility in Newport, Wales. Leased by IQE as an empty shell, the site was made ready for production in less

than 15 months and now has the capacity to house 100 high-volume production tools. Focused at present on serving the 3D sensing market, the Newport facility also has the ability to meet increasing demand for compound semiconductor materials in the future and provide world-class wafer products. “We manufacture using Metal Organic

IQE Group Plc Chemical Vapor Disposition (MOCVD), Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) and Chemical Vapor Disposition (CVD) technologies, and offer our broad product portfolio across our multi-site operations. This represents a powerful competitive advantage in a market where qualification barriers are high,” Drew states, delving deeper into the firm’s production processes. “IQE is continually striving to improve manufacturing efficiencies by deploying state-of-the-art procedures and practices, improving the skills of our workforce, as well as implementing proprietary methodologies and new product introductions to help our customers achieve their own efficiency objectives. The introduction of an Executive Management Board earlier this year is already making strong progress in driving operational efficiency within the Group, with a focus on new product introductions, revenue expansion and cost management.” Committed to technological leadership through research and development, IQE has developed an unrivalled intellectual property portfolio and process knowhow. Consequently, the firm continues to offer innovative new products and technologies that enable its customers and meet the needs of the industry at large. In order to ensure that the right products are developed and introduced, the firm employs a rigorous phase-gate governance framework, which relies on the expertise of all relevant functional groups in the company, such as its Business, Technology, Operations, Finance and Quality departments. The result is new products that are efficient and effective, positioning IQE for significant growth and maximum return on its investment. A trusted partner to some of the world’s biggest brands, IQE has remained resilient throughout 2020’s Covid-19 pandemic. After being designated as a ‘critical infrastructure provider’ by US and UK Governments in March, production has continued at all the firm’s global sites with no restrictions, due to the critical role manufacturing is known to have on the economy. To support these production efforts, IQE assembled a dedicated Business Continuity Sub-committee early in the year and the Group continues to monitor risk indicators and external guidance today. Given the diversified nature of the firm’s global operations, operating conditions have differed across IQE’s various sites, but implementation of appropriate measures to ensure the safety of all staff has been universally adopted, with social distancing and temperature

monitoring present at all locations. Despite the difficulties, Drew declares that the company has remained successful. “Ensuring the health and safety of our workforce remains our primary concern, so our sites continue to operate at minimal staffing levels and only where essential for production. We remain flexible too and

continue to monitor the situation closely,” Drew reports. “In terms of some of our achievements this year, while I cannot name our customers for confidentiality reasons, we recently announced the successful development of an IQGeVCSEL 150™ technology for 6” Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs) on l 53

Camtek Camtek is a leading manufacturer of metrology and inspection equipment and a provider of software solutions serving the Advanced Packaging, Compound Semiconductors, Memory, CMOS Image Sensors, MEMS, RF and other segments in the Semiconductors industry. With eight offices around the world, Camtek has best-in-class sales and customer support organization, providing tailormade solutions in line with customers’ requirements. Camtek offers tailor-made solutions to address the challenges of Compound Semiconductors processes. With state-ofthe-art technologies, it helps its customers deliver defect-free products to meet the industry most stringent reliability requirements.

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Germanium (Ge), a critical step in the pathway to 200-millimetre and 300-millimetre VCSEL technology. We have also launched new technologies for more efficient power amplifiers, low resistance buried contacts, with applications in high frequency RF Filters and other technologies such as GaN, with a clear focus on driving technological innovations

relevant to the booming 5G sector.” Although IQE is a technology driven business, Drew believes that the company’s true strength lies in the expertise of its workforce. Supported by a culture of integrity, accountability, excellence, and teamwork, the daily collaboration on display within the company’s team of industry experts makes for

IQE Group Plc Below: IQE Group CEO, Drew Nelson

planning and decision-making processes,” Drew asserts. “This includes designing energy efficiencies for new facilities, existing facilities, and facility expansions. In addition, many of our products are designed to reduce power consumption in all the applications in which they are deployed, from higher efficiency power amplifiers, to more efficient data storage and transmission. “This work is all part of our ultimate goal over the next three to five years,” he continues, “and that is to become by far the largest, most profitable and most effective advanced materials solution provider in the semiconductor industry.”

IQE Group Plc Products: Advanced semiconductor wafer products

an organisation with a powerful competitive advantage, and yet one that is also constantly improving. “2020 has proven to be a difficult year for us all, but we are ensuring we keep our staff motivated by focusing on keeping them connected,” Drew remarks. “We have several internal communication tools and initiatives that we are using to keep everyone in touch with one another and aware of what is happening throughout the global IQE Group. IQE is dedicated to supporting positive physical and mental wellbeing amongst our staff and offers access to medical assistance through our Employee Assistance Programme, as well as our Wellbeing Group.” Looking ahead, IQE plans to take advantage of its reputation and market standing as it develops technologies that support a sustainable world. Among the company’s green objectives are minimising the environmental impact of its operations and encouraging waste reduction. This is in line with IQE’s internationally recognised ISO 14001 Environmental Management System, which provides a framework for the continual improvement of environmental management practices and ensures compliance with regulations. “We closely monitor our consumption of electricity, gas and water at all facilities, and look for opportunities to integrate environmental considerations into our business l 55

Below: Stolle EMS Coolant Filtration System

Canny business Already receiving bookings for 2022 and beyond, Stolle Machinery Europe offers the food and beverage industry a comprehensive package of services that help turn investments into a reality


ounded in the USA, Stolle Machinery is the world’s leading producer of machinery for can and end manufacture. As part of its global footprint, the company has expanded its operations across multiple continents, establishing offices and facilities in Latin America, China, India, Asia-Pacific, and Europe. Headquartered in the United Kingdom, Stolle Machinery Europe serves food and beverage canmakers throughout Continental Europe, the British Isles, the Middle East, and

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Africa. Though the company’s main facility is situated in Carlisle, Stolle Europe has an additional UK location in Altham, as well as another plant in Poland. Led by Executive Vice President Steve Higginson, the company’s success is built upon its unique positioning in the market; with the exception of a palletizer, Stolle Machinery offers every piece of equipment - including conveyance - necessary for a can line, along with design, layout, installation, and commissioning services. “Stolle Europe provides the organizational

glue between the equipment supply and the customer’s requirement for cans,” Steve explains. “When you buy that kind of equipment, somebody has to specify it, plan its placement in a factory, install it, commission it, and then get that process operational. In other words, it’s a bit like buying all the ingredients, but you don’t know how to cook. Somebody has got to turn the ingredients into a finished dish. That’s where we come in. Of course, we do have competitors, but they have to get their equipment from somewhere else, and

Stolle Machinery Europe Below: Air conveying

Below: Inspection Conveyor

also, they are not can makers. We have got the can making experience and the end making experience. There is nobody else like us. “When an independent manufacturer comes to us and says, ‘I want a can factory’, our usual response is ‘how many cans?’ and ‘what sizes?’. If they want a billion cans, we know that they need a 3000 a minute can line and we will then design and install around it. The person requesting the factory more than likely does not have the experience in the industry, but it doesn’t matter, because we can fill in those gaps. In addition to bringing the nuts and bolts of a project - the design, the layout, the utilities you will need and where they should be - we are bringing a wealth of experience that turns someone’s investment into a reality.” Serving not only as a regional hub for genuine Stolle OEM parts, field service, and complete technical support for can and end lines, Stolle Europe is a hub for three

key supplementary groups: Stolle Global Systems, Stolle EMS, and Stolle Conveyance Systems. Acquired over time, these subsidiary businesses now collaborate under the Stolle Europe umbrella. The result is a business that, as Steve suggests, not only offers vast machining and assembly facilities, but also turnkey construction, upgrade, and process analysis services for the can and end manufacturing industry. Traditionally focused on businesses with whom Stolle Europe has already established a relationship, the company’s targeted acquisitions strategy has driven growth and facilitated diversity in its product offering. “Stolle Conveyance Systems, which was ECI Cumbria, was a company involved in our layout design, so as our systems business grew, the natural progression was for them to become part of the family,” Steve remarks. “EMS - now Stolle EMS – was an existing manufacturer of can washers, ovens, and

component machines that were missing in our portfolio. These key can line elements were not manufactured in the US, or Brazil, or Vietnam, or China where our other facilities are, but they were manufactured in Poland and the UK, so it was a natural sequence of events for Stolle Europe to absorb that company too. “Over time, the acquisitions have led to us become a highly diverse operation,” Steve adds. “There are now many different elements to our business, including the spares and aftermarket activities, which were worth $1 million in 2006, but are now in excess $30 million. We have our conveyance business, which is the hardware that conveys a can from one machine to another, and that plays nicely into our systems work, which covers some of the line layouts and design services we offer for factories. We offer a service department and rebuild facilities from Carlisle, and all our sites have equipment build capabilities.” Supported by investment from its parent l 57

Below: Vortex Compound End Liner

Below: Stolle E-NCKR

company in the US, Stolle Europe benefits from over 60,000 square feet of manufacturing space in Carlisle, where the company produces all its conveyance and has the ability to rebuild various pieces of equipment, including diesets, bodymakers and decorators. Washers are produced in Altham, which is also home to Stolle Europe’s Precision Machine Shop – an

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innovative site currently working on two R and D bodymakers called The Canceptor and also the launch site for the new Stolle necker. “Among our recent purchases was a new Mazak turning machine for our Precision site,” Steve reports. “We are very lucky in that we’ve been well looked after by Stolle Machinery in terms of providing investment. There is, of course, a process to go through, but we’ve been kept well abreast of our ability to fund what is an actively growing market.” Together with the significant financial backing, outside influences beyond the company’s control have also been instrumental in Stolle Europe’s expansion, Steve claims. “As a business in the middle of the supply chain, we’re very much dependent on how our customers perform. Over the last couple of years, demand has been driven by pressure on plastics, causing people to turn to metal packaging as a result. The Covid-19 situation has had an even bigger impact because people don’t want to re-use packaging, whereas metal packaging is single use. It gets recycled, and in some cases, it can end up in the material in a can plant within two to three weeks. “Changes in people’s shopping patterns have benefitted the company too,” Steve notes. “Shoppers have been buying in bulk because they could only go out once every so often, so two-piece food cans have been popular, but also beer and beverage cans as well because pubs and social outlets have been closed or restricted, and a two-piece can is the best package to keep drinks safe and fresh.” Though 2020’s Covid-19 crisis has presented Stolle Europe with new opportunities for growth, the company would not have been able to take advantage of the increase in demand were it not for its swift adaptation to new ways of working. Within days of the virus’ outbreak, Stolle Europe formed a crisis management

Stolle Machinery Europe Below: Stolle Concord Decorator

Above: Optimus Can Dryer

team that quickly agreed to implement safety initiatives above and beyond government recommendations. Meeting daily, the crisis team guided the company through lockdown, ensuring the safety of Stolle’s employees and the long-term health of the business. “Alongside the implementation of government mandated social distancing and PPE usage, we have been fortunate to avoid any lay off situations and any furlough instances were kept to an absolute minimum. We have also taken additional initiatives for the wellbeing of our employees and will continue to do so, as they are critical to our business. “We’re a global organization and obviously the travel restrictions have had a significant impact on how we do business, but it’s given us a chance to develop our standard operating procedures and that will benefit customers in the future. We’ve provided some technical assistance for clients over video calls, and our global network of offices means we still tend to be able to support customers locally. No matter what, our primary objectives from a crisis management point of view have always been to look after our staff and ensure the survival of the business.” An industry veteran, Steve’s experience has been invaluable throughout 2020 and has enabled the company’s smooth expansion in a time of global upheaval. Also responsible for Stolle’s Asia-Pacific office in Vietnam, Steve was part of a team in 1995, when the first

two piece and end manufacturing facility was installed in Vietnam. Having played a role in a number of landmark industry projects over the years, Steve is ideally positioned to lead Stolle Europe into the future. What will that future look like? Steve cites a factory constructed by Stolle Europe for Quality Pack in Hungary as an example of what the company is capable of achieving. “It began with an independent manufacturer that already produced their own beverages, and wanted to make their own cans,” he recalls. “The result was a pioneering greenfield factory. It was the first two piece can and end plant in Hungary.” Completed in 2018, Quality Pack was a full turnkey project where Stolle Europe was responsible for providing systems services that included equipment, full mechanical and electrical installations, startup and commissioning of the can and end lines, production ramp-up, and training of plant personnel. With demand for cans increasing, and projects like Quality Pack earning

the company more admirers across the industry, Stolle Europe is preparing for its best decade yet. “In the next few years, we will be continuing our systems program, as well as integrating the acquired businesses into one big operating model,” Steve declares. “Due to the demand for cans, we expect to see more manufacturing opportunities in the UK in the future, which will create more jobs, so we are currently recruiting. Some of our products are already sold out through 2021, so we are also increasing capacity, both in terms of manpower and space to help provide more, helping us to fulfil customer programs which already seem buoyant into 2023. “As so many things change, we will remain a people business. We have a wealth of experience across our business groups and strong management teams, that doesn’t make us better people it just means we have different responsibilities. We place great value on the input of our employees because we are a family as much as anything.”

Stolle Machinery Europe

Services: Manufacturing, design, and turnkey systems for the can and end manufacturing industry l 59

Reliable refrigeration A member of the global Daikin Group, J & E Hall utilizes over 120 years of refrigeration expertise to develop its innovative solutions, which continually set the benchmark for quality, reliability and energy efficiency


oday, J & E Hall is one of the world’s foremost refrigeration solution providers, however its long-standing history dates back as far as 1785. It was then that John Hall began what was initially a one-man workshop in Dartford, Kent. Under his stewardship, the company soon became known for manufacturing steam engines and gun carriages, which were exported to Europe and Asia. It was not until the 19th century that J & E Hall first manufactured the cold air machine that would earn it its reputation for refrigeration innovation, which still stands to this day. “Our key activities include the design, manufacture, installation and service of

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refrigeration and HVAC solutions,” explains the company’s Managing Director, Andrew Bowden. “Our business is essentially split into four distinct areas, these being Projects, Products/Spares, Service, and Complementary services such as compressor remanufacturing, motor rewind, cable harnesses and machine shop services.” In the case of the company’s Projects activities, J & E Hall designs, manufactures and installs bespoke systems for a number of global markets including the chemical, petrochemical, pharmaceutical, brewing, beverage and food industries. Its bespoke packages operate from 20kW to 6000kW, using all forms of refrigerant

including ammonia, CO2, HFC and HFO. J & E Hall’s industrial products include the award winning HallScrew single screw compressor, which is sold worldwide for industrial refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump systems. The company also manufactures commercial products for convenience store and cellar cooler applications, a field in which it stands head and shoulders above its competition as UK market leaders. To support not only its products, but also those of other OEM’s, the company supplies a comprehensive range of spare parts. In addition to the above, the company has a network of ten UK service centers, through

J & E Hall which it provides installation, service and maintenance to a host of different sectors to help improve refrigeration plant performance. Among its services one can gain access to 24/7, 365 days-per-year customer support, planned preventative maintenance and emergency care, system inspections and asset management, and ammonia risk assessments and training. “As a long-established company, we like to think that our depth of engineering knowledge and customer application experience helps us to stand out from the competition,” Andrew states. “The industry as a whole is currently focused on low global warming potential (GWP) natural refrigerants, but J & E Hall has been developing this technology for nearly 100 years already. Ammonia is a versatile, effective, and efficient natural refrigerant, and is a green alternative to more commonly used industrial refrigerants. Primarily, it is a natural refrigerant which does not deplete the ozone layer and has excellent thermodynamic qualities, which give it a wide temperature range. “Our first ammonia compressor was manufactured in 1922, and today we are still

developing ammonia compressor technology, because there are so many benefits. With zero ozone depletion and zero global warming potential it is a future-proof alternative to high GWP HFCs. Ammonia is also more efficient than some other refrigerants, which can make a significant impact on energy bills. This can make a big difference to the bottom line at a largescale cooling operation.” The production facilities that make up the core of J & E Hall’s manufacturing activities are varied depending on product category. Since becoming part of Daikin Group, these facilities – all of which are ISO certified and have stateof-the-art metal work machinery with advanced automated processes in place – have been integrated strategically to maximize production efficiencies. “Our HallScrew compressors are manufactured in factories based in Italy and China, which also build applied products – specifically air conditioning chillers – that have these compressors at the heart of their respective systems,” Andrew continues. “These factories are then supported by our applied development center, based in the UK, and its

A4E Systems The Engineers at A4E Systems have worked closely with J & E Hall for eight years and in addition to this our relationship stretches back years prior to the formation of our company. This partnership is built on a long-lasting understanding of what J & E Hall and their customers expect from their suppliers and is driven by our shared values, foremost of which is to put customers’ needs first. From the tendering stage to project execution we provide support and have open dialogue between our organizations to ensure our service delivers a both a technically sound and cost-effective solution. Our mission in alignment with J & E Hall’s is to work together to deliver exceptional service, products and solutions for our customers. l 61

testing and R&D facilities. Meanwhile, our market leading condensing units are manufactured at facilities in Malaysia.” The company also has a subsidiary business in the UK – Coulstock and Place Engineering – which offers complementary services to both J & E Hall and its customers. The total footprint of this facility stretches to 20,000 square feet, with services ranging from compressor remanufacturing, electric motor rewinds, and machining solutions, to cable management such as prewired assemblies. One of the company’s core values revolves around ‘Customer Focus’, meaning that its customers are at all times considered its number one priority. “We follow a consultative approach here at J & E Hall of anticipating future needs through constant engagement, which also aids the development of new and innovative products,” Andrew says. “Our task is to find out what our customers need and propose solutions to resolve their problems.” Such an approach as that described above has resulted in the company playing a key role

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in projects all over the world, with its products being installed in more than 80 countries to date. Highlights among the many examples of its work include, its involvement in EDF’s Hinckley Point Nuclear Power Station Project, where it will supply 11 chillers for various applications for the plant with the project spanning over four years, and in its work with the CERN Project, where it supplied chiller cooling at -70 degrees centigrade with a total capacity of 192kW for the Large Hadron Collider Project. J & E Hall has also supplied numerous chillers for critical applications for British naval forces and various international naval fleets. In the district heating space, on the other hand, the company has carried out work such as a critical heat pump installation for a particular customer, which maintains and operates a district heating net in Basel, Switzerland. Here, oil and gas boilers create most of the energy, supported by a heat pump. The customer in question wished to increase the amount of renewable energy used for the district heating, so installed a larger heat pump and new

woodchip burners. The pump supplies the base load of the district heating, and is the sole heat generator active over the summer months. J & E Hall supplied heat pumps with capacities ranging from 835kW to 1600kW to cool water temperatures from 2°C to 19°C (depending on the time of year) and hot water temperatures from 40°C to 75°C. As well as its customers, J & E Hall also has an outstanding track record and reputation for looking after its people and promoting their development. One of the ways it furthers the growth of its employees is through what it calls People-Centered Management. “This refers to the tacit knowledge, or corporate culture, that Daikin has cultivated through its many years of corporate activities since its founding, and serves as the basis for all corporate ideals including corporate principles, our group philosophy, and the annual group policy,” Andrew details. “With belief in the unlimited potential of people, and based on the conviction that the source of a company’s competitiveness is its people and that the cumulative growth of each individual is the foundation of a company’s growth, PeopleCentered Management is a line of thinking which draws out the enthusiasm and understanding of our employees, which in turn strengthens and raises the capabilities of the organization.” The company can also take great pride in its efforts in developing the career paths of young people and women in particular. “We have a number of women within the business in key engineering roles and do all we can to help them develop their skills and position within the industry,” Andrew enthuses. “We actively encourage and support our female engineers to join industry bodies and networking groups so they can become part of the industry’s decision making process, and help young female engineers join the refrigeration sector. A number of our female engineers – and their work – have been acknowledged by engineering bodies, with one of our engineers named in last year’s list of the Top 50 Women in Engineering (WES). “We also invest heavily in our apprenticeship scheme and have gained a reputation for training young people in the industry, with generations of refrigeration engineers having benefited through the years. J & E Hall has always placed a high level of importance on introducing new blood to the refrigeration industry. With age levels among employees continuing to rise, this has never been more needed. At the same time, we ensure that we reward our staff for their loyalty, and have an established long service award program, with at least two of our employees reaching 55 years’ service. Many of our

J & E Hall employees stay with us for many years, which is a testament to our strong company culture.” As Andrew himself states, the key to the company’s success moving forward is listening to its customers and aligning with global megatrends. “Since the introduction of the F Gas regulations, J & E Hall has been in consultation with its customer base to update their installations with available greener alternatives and energy efficient solutions in products and contracting,” he reveals. “This direction forms the basis for the research and development team to introduce products that improve customer processes, save energy costs and minimize environmental impact. The Kigali Agreement is a reaffirmation of a global initiative to mitigate climate change. As a result, this has fast tracked the development and acceptance of low GWP refrigerant based products in various market segments, ranging from commercial to industrial sectors. J & E Hall already has existing natural refrigerant products available and is in the final stages of developing a range of low GWP products. A five-year plan is in place to grow the

products business further and launch several new products within the UK and internationally to meet our customers’ requirements.” Andrew concludes by explaining how future prospects for the refrigeration sector remain strong for several reasons. “Firstly, the UK and other developed countries are looking at energy efficient and environment conscious products to update their process from legacy equipment. Secondly, developing countries are investing heavily in their infrastructure with cold chain considered as a key pillar of investment to reduce food wastage and make the food supply chain more efficient. J & E Hall’s international market penetration puts us in strong position to deliver solutions to overcome these challenges.”

J & E Hall Products: Refrigeration and HVAC solutions

Document Network Services We are Document Network Services, a nationwide provider of printers, photocopiers, document management, IT services and telephony solutions. DNS have been proud to supply J & E Hall over the last 20 years and throughout this time our Xerox print solutions have increased productivity, improved office print production and delivered costs savings whilst supporting their growth initiatives. We work with many businesses in a variety of industries and if like them, you too would like to simplify, automate and streamline your business process, please give us a call on 0845 034 0895 or visit our website to find out more: l 63

In a league of its own A subsidiary of world-renowned innovator Kaiser AG, Kaiser Premier is an established provider of hydro-excavators and is the US leader in recycler technology


ounded in May 2017, Kaiser Premier was formed when company President Dan Weber partnered with the CEO of Kaiser AG, Markus Kaiser, to purchase US firm Premier Oilfield Equipment. The transaction was beneficial for both parties. For Kaiser AG, the investment gave the Lichtenstein-based company a local presence in the US marketplace. For Kaiser Premier, the partnership provides support from an internationally renowned parent company with over a century’s experience in the manufacture of excavators and sewer cleaning vehicles. Located in Fort Morgan, Colorado, Kaiser Premier manufactures state-of-the-art recycling sewer cleaners and hydro-excavating equipment

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to serve a variety of markets, including the municipal utility, gas and oil, industrial and construction sectors. Proven to be effective construction and infrastructure support tools that help increase productivity and perform in the most demanding applications, Kaiser Premier products benefit from proprietary technology recognized in Europe and modified for use in the United States. At present, Kaiser Premier’s product portfolio contains several truck mounted hydro-excavators known as the CV Series. The company also manufactures the popular and versatile AquaStar recycler, as well as offering trailer-mounted hydro-excavators. With the power and knowledge of Kaiser AG behind it,

Company President, Dan Weber

Kaiser Premier continues to introduce some of the industry’s newest, most cutting-edge equipment year on year. “Our technology is probably the most advanced on the market,” declares Dan Weber. “It is that technological advantage, as well as superior customer service, that separates us from our competitors. “On the customer front, we like to look at ourselves as being in the emergency business. When our customers’ equipment is not functioning properly, it is essential that we get them up and running as quickly as possible. It’s a part of our culture,” he states. “On the technology side of things, our equipment runs in a wide variety of difficult applications and the

Kaiser Premier

reliability we provide is extremely important to our clients. Additionally, we are always adjusting and improving our products to suit customer requirements, which means each of our product lines offers its own key differentiators.” The philosophy of continuous product improvement that Dan alludes to has recently yielded major updates to the firm’s CV Series of hydro excavators. Among the improvements are a redesigned rear door and increased dumping height to expand debris offloading capabilities and facilitate more efficient unloading. Kaiser Premier’s trailer-mounted excavator, the TerraVac Xpose800 Hydro Excavation Trailer, is a new product that operates with a unique rear door locking mechanism that guarantees pressure offload capabilities without any leaking. The company has also introduced air and water into its hydro excavators, allowing customers to excavate using only air, only water, or a combination of both. When it comes to the sewer cleaning arm of the organization, the key differentiator is more unified; everything is built around recycling. “Recycling in this industry is an emerging technology in the US, but it is a technology that has been used for some time in Europe through

Kaiser AG. A traditional sewer cleaner might jet fresh water at a volume of up to 130 gallons a minute, so not only are you wasting water, but within 30 mins, you have to stop, break down, go to a hydrant, come back, and re-run. With recyclers, you continually use the water in the sewer, or the water you brought with you, and you never have to stop until the job is completed. Your efficiencies in cleaning can be up to 100 per cent greater, and there are significant fresh water savings, which is a very positive result for the environment. “Additionally, we are able to run the recyclers with less horsepower than is normally needed to run truck-mounted sewer cleaners, but with the same output as our competition. As a result,” Dan continues, “you have fuel savings over typical sewer equipment. We also have liquid ring vacuum pumps, which have been developed and manufactured internally, and that are uniquely suited to recycling sewer waters. This proprietary technology differentiates us from all other manufacturers in the US, Europe, or anywhere else in the world. It allows you to clean some of the most difficult applications, like pipes full of grease and roots, without clogging up the system. Operators can continue to

function all day long without having to stop to take care of clogging or maintenance issues.” As a company that helps enable hydro excavation – a less environmentally intrusive practice than traditional, mechanical excavating – and offers sewer cleaners capable of doubling production whilst saving up to 15,000 gallons of fresh water a day, Kaiser Premier is innately in the business of sustainability. With more and more companies looking to make cost-savings, as well as environmentally positive choices, Kaiser Premier is seeing increasing demand for its services. “Underground infrastructure in the US is quite old in many places and so significant funding is going towards correcting that at the moment,” Dan reveals. “With the technology we can bring to the table, we can help businesses make these projects more efficient and save millions of gallons of fresh water in the process. There is interest in our products throughout the country, but it is heightened in areas where water conservation is a big issue, like on the West Coast, throughout Colorado and in the South.” To support the growing demand, Kaiser Premier operates a 100,000-square foot, fully l 65

EXCO International LLC Having been a partner of Kaiser Premier for well over a decade, we’ve had the fortune of experiencing the evolution of their successes. Kaiser Premier’s vision of integrating technology to an industry that was set in their ways, along with creative leadership, is the reason they have become global giants within their field. Their foresight gave us the opportunity to integrate wireless control systems and continue to adapt electronics and controls in order to keep ahead of the curve. Their growth has been a great contribution to our growth.

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integrated manufacturing facility capable of fabrication, engineering, and assembly, including paint. Along with increasing the complexity of its manufacturing processes, Kaiser Premier has recently introduced SAP enterprise software into the firm, which is already providing Dan and his team with better control over accurate reporting, inventory and cost. A centralized

tool crib has also improved efficiency on the manufacturing line, ensuring the correct materials are available for timely product assembly. Such a well-equipped, modern site has been greatly beneficial to the business in dealing with the challenges of 2020. “Covid-19 has obviously made this a difficult year and we have had to learn how to shift our

Kaiser Premier

business approach, both in how we call on our clients and how we manage our personnel internally,” Dan reports. “We have successfully implemented all the precautionary steps in line with governmental guidelines to help minimize the impact of the virus on our operations, but Covid-19 has still impacted our markets, specifically the gas and oil sectors, and this has forced us to relook at our manufacturing priorities. “As a company, we made a decision to aggressively invest in product development over the last six or seven months and what we really did was speed up the product development cycle by converting some of our manufacturing capabilities to product development. We are now launching some of those products as a result.

“Most importantly, we have stood by our employees throughout, including supporting medical coverage for those that might have been laid off for a period of time. We have now been able to rebound and continue to employ most of our workforce. Thankfully, we are beginning to see an increase in demand, particularly in the municipal and utility markets.” Having made it through the most difficult stretch of 2020, Kaiser Premier is now looking to increase its market reach and penetration by introducing its customers to new advanced technologies. According to Dan, a more diverse offering, a wider client base, and further growth in sales are the core objectives for the business over the next five years. “That’s the overall goal in a nutshell,” he asserts, “and doing it all in a culture that

supports teamwork, diversity, and creativity. We intend to add more product models to service other markets in the US and we will continue to leverage the technological expertise that our parent company brings to the table. Together with Kaiser AG, Kaiser Premier will always produce and adapt technology that, in one form or another, supports the unique needs of the US market.”

Kaiser Premier Products: Hydro-excavators and recycling sewer cleaners l 67

Sleepworkers A company on a quest for comfort, Purple Innovation’s range of mattresses, pillows, and seat cushions have propelled the company to the head of the market


nly the Pearce Brothers, Terry and Tony, know whether they caught anything on their 1989 fly fishing trip to the Rockies. What we do know is that the trip kickstarted a chain of events that would eventually lead to the founding of Purple Innovation, one of the world’s most advanced comfort technology organizations. Drawing on their relative experience – Terry in manufacturing and design, Tony in advanced aerospace materials – the brothers embarked on a partnership in the early 1990s that proved highly successful in developing cushioning solutions for wheelchairs and

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sporting goods. Not simply satisfied with their technology being licensed by the likes of Nike and Top-Flite, the Pearces went in search of a new cushioning technology that could be produced at a much lower cost. A breakthrough arrived in 1996, when the brothers invented Hyper-Elastic Polymer. Originally designed for use in hospital beds and wheelchairs, the Pearces adapted this unique, pressure-relieving, hyper-elastic gel for consumer mattresses, stretching it into a form called the Purple Grid. “The Purple Grid solves the problems caused by normal mattresses that prevent great sleep,” explains Purple Innovation’s Vice

President of Engineering and Manufacturing, Andrew Clarke. “It’s the only comfort innovation that is instantly soft where you want it, firm where you need it, and comfortably cool all night. Purple’s mattresses are longer lasting, and our unique grid structure allows airflow, creating a better sleep experience and true innovation in the mattress category.” Today, Purple Innovation, the company resulting from the Pearce Brothers’ efforts, specializes in the development of mattresses, pillows, and seat cushions. After going public in 2018, the company is now headquartered in Lehi, Utah, where the company also boasts 670,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

Purple Innovation


Our founders led the way in the development of technologies and systems that were aimed at improving comfort in the world around us

These production facilities are designed to handle large scale compounding and house Mattress Max™ machines, which allow Purple to make Hyper-Elastic Polymer large enough to cover a king-sized mattress at an affordable cost. Purple hopes to improve its manufacturing capabilities in late 2020 with the addition of a new 520,000 square foot facility in Georgia to help with increasing consumer demand. “We are very close to opening the new site in McDonough, Georgia, which will allow us to better serve our customer base in the South and on the East Coast,” Andrew says. “We hope to have the facility operating by the end

of this year and are on track to hire more than 360 employees to staff it. “When it comes to production in Utah, our engineering teams are currently working on the next generation of equipment and providing design updates for improved assembly and efficiency. These lines are designed and manufactured here in the USA. The technology developed by the Pearce Brothers is constantly being refined by a large group of engineers and controls specialists, including Purple’s own internal machine and fabrication shops. We also benefit from new world class distribution and fulfillment systems to allow ease in getting product to our customers.

“As a team, we have been fortunate to work with some really good equipment vendors and they have been able to support us at our aggressive and dynamic pace,” he adds. “The Maintenance, Engineering and Manufacturing teams are now fully engaged in a new software package that manages equipment maintenance through to production performance of our lines. The software implementation was driven through the teams and was adopted quickly, winning this team awards for the speed and use of the system.” The introduction of Joe Megibow as CEO at Purple in 2018 has seen the company expand a multifaceted omnichannel strategy, as well l 69

Purple Innovation Atlanta Attachment Company In an economy that is increasingly challenged by labor shortages, Atlanta Attachment Company (AAC), specializes in developing controls and solutions that automate machinery to improve operator efficiency, reduce labor costs and boost quality control. Built on ‘Sudden Service,’ R&D and engineering expertise, AAC is a collaborative partner that effectively integrates its team of professionals with its customers to provide the best insight, technical expertise and solutions to effectuate customers’ business strategies. Specializing in equipment for a wide range of projects – from a single piece of sewing equipment to a fully automated manufacturing line – AAC’s world class product line drives tangible results on the manufacturing floor.

as launching into retail with the opening of its own showrooms. To date, the company has sold over one million mattresses and has products available in over 1900 retail locations. No matter how the business changes and evolves though, Andrew believes it is vital for Purple to stay true to its roots as an innovator. Innovation, he says, will always be the key to Purple’s success. “Our founders led the way in the development of technologies and systems that were aimed at improving comfort in the world around us,” he declares. “Over and over again, prior to starting Purple, these technologies have been licensed out to major players in their own arenas to make a difference for their customers. As we grew from a licensing company to a product oriented, customer focused company, our processes have begun

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to solidify with this new (to us) emphasis on finished products at scale. We have been able to develop products like our Harmony Pillow as we identify real customer needs and build from there. We have been able to pull from decades of technologies and processes development, which gives us a huge advantage, to creatively solve real customer product problems. As we continue to grow and expand our contact with end users, we are also continuing to develop this process into a more robust product development system.” Despite the challenges presented by Covid-19, the expansion Andrew mentions has continued for Purple in 2020 – a year of explosive growth for the company. With many consumers making the shift to working from home, Purple’s innovative comfort solutions have seen an increase in demand, resulting


As we temporarily closed some retail locations, our retail staff shifted focus, responding to online sales and support. Shifting them from in-store to online helped us meet growing demand on the e-commerce side of the business l 113

Andrew Clarke, Vice President of Engineering and Manufacturing

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in the company working harder than ever to keep up. Since January 2020, Purple has hired over 900 new employees and is still looking to add more new faces to its warehouse, fulfillment, and production teams. Though the company was forced to temporarily furlough some

team members in the early stages of the pandemic, the creation of new products, such as face masks and emergency relief beds, kept the majority of the manufacturing workforce employed throughout. Similar adaptations were made on the retail side of the business. “As we temporarily closed some retail locations, our retail staff shifted focus, responding to online sales and support. Shifting them from in-store to online helped us meet growing demand on the e-commerce side of the business. We went back to our roots and focused on direct to consumer rather than wholesale in the marketplace, which was met with great demand from our customers,” Andrew reports. “We also implemented strict measures to keep our employees safe – staggering shift times and contracting an industrial cleaning service to regularly sanitize the manufacturing facilities. It all means that we are now in a position to invest in better talent and better resources, improving project management and corporate processes to facilitate more successful outcomes. We want to empower our employees to keep growing and keep maturing this business.” Though complex science and engineering lies at the heart of all Purple’s products, the company would not exist without people – the customers looking for comfort and the employees providing it. This fact has been made ever clearer to Andrew and his team during the lockdowns and remote working environments of 2020, but the company has endeavored to keep its workforce connected and its positive culture of engagement and development intact. Debates over a daily Question of the Day - ‘Is cereal a soup?’, for example - grew into the establishment of a new Company Culture team that now organizes programs and events to help increase employee satisfaction. These events

Purple Innovation

include the recent renting out of a drive-in movie theatre for the whole company to attend with their families. For many employees, the occasion marked the first time since March that they were able to interact safely with one another from a distance. With many workers across the globe experiencing stressors like never before, Purple has, in response, forged a strong partnership this year with BluNovus, a free service for employees and their families that helps improve emotional wellbeing by proactively addressing mental health and addiction. Additionally, Andrew suggests that the company is developing more fun ways to interact with its staff before the end of the year too, with the ultimate goal being a happy, motivated workforce ready to take Purple Innovation to the next level of its growth.

“We can’t wait to surprise our employees on December 12th when each of them will receive a gingerbread house in the mail so each of us can decorate and celebrate National Gingerbread House Day. It’s just another little token that strengthens our togetherness, as we continue to build our culture.” Andrew states. “At the heart of everything we do is a quest to find answers to the question: ‘how can we give comfort?’. Externally, that looks like our products. Internally, we’ve found that being agile and flexible to our employees’ needs is paramount. We’re leading with a human-centric culture where we give employees the space to work the way they need to, while trying to have as much fun as we can along the way. Together, we will continue innovating and creating comfort solutions in all facets of life.”

Purple Innovation Products: Mattresses, pillows, cushions, and other comfort solutions l 73

Aero engine experts

Specializing in the manufacture of turbine technology, Leistritz is using innovation to overcome the challenges of 2020


aving been in business for over 100 years, Leistritz has had time to compile a deep product portfolio supported by generations of manufacturing experience. Back in 1905, the company began life as a producer of steam turbine blades, before turning its hand to blades, vanes, disks, and airfoils for aero engines at the end of the Second World War. Today, Leistritz is an organization of around 1700 employees operating across four divisions: Pump Technology, Extruder Technology, Production Technology, and Turbine Technology.

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These areas combine to serve a wide variety of industries, from the automotive to pharmaceutical sectors. Turbine Technology, Leistritz’s oldest division, accounts for 800 staff members and contributes €100 million to the business each year. Valued and trusted by its clients, Leistritz’s turbine unit works with some of the world’s leading engine manufacturers, including Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney, as well as Tier One suppliers like MTU, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, and groundbased turbine manufacturers such as Siemens. Speaking to Manufacturing Today, Leistritz’s

Managing Director, Bernd Kretschmer, explains the secrets behind the company’s enviable client base. “Sometimes people ask me why so many of these companies use Leistritz,” begins Bernd. “A lot of it is down to our ability to produce components that these businesses need in their engines but cannot manufacture themselves. Unlike work in our self-designing business units, the turbine and compressor blades we produce have been designed and specified by our clients. We operate as a technology and service provider in that sense and, thanks to

Leistritz AG

our manufacturing capabilities, we offer clients the freedom to design solutions that they might previously have thought unfeasible. We have production technologies in place that allow us to use materials in a geometry that, by other common production methods, is very difficult and almost impossible to get. “As a business, we have been in the market for more than 100 years now,” Bernd adds. “In order to stay in the market that long, you must have the capabilities to perform good work, you must be reliable in what you are doing, you must be competitive, and you must have

something that sets you apart from the masses. If you can combine these elements, then you have a justification to stay successful.” Equipped with the latest machinery and technologies, Leistritz’s network of production facilities help to set the business apart from its competitors. With two locations in Germany, one in Croatia, and another in Thailand, the company’s manufacturing sites house a huge collection of mechanical machining methods, including forging, milling, grinding, etching, and coating capabilities. These more traditional manufacturing techniques are combined with rare, cutting-edge processes, such as electrochemical machining, a touchless procedure that can create large volumes of airfoil quickly, cheaply, and with high repeatability. “The electrochemical process is one of the highlights of our operation, for sure,” Bernd asserts. “There are two versions:

electrochemical machining (ECM) and pulsed electrochemical machining (PECM). As a principle, the chemical process is the same, but the pulsed version involves switching the electric currency on and off during the procedure. The equipment we use for that is developed and built ourselves; you cannot buy it on the market. It’s a very special thing. “In September 2020, we signed a contract with Pratt & Whitney worth more than €120 million for the manufacture of four different compressor vanes and this is due to the fact that they recognized we have the PECM process,” Bernd reveals. “The client needed much better quality than they could achieve in their own facilities and they were delighted by the parts we produced, going so far as to say they had ‘never seen such good compressor elements’. This is why we won the contract.” l 75

Artifex With decades of experience as technology partner for surface finishing solutions with elastic bonded polishing and grinding tools ‘Made in Germany’, we co-operate and support the broadest spectrum of metal processing industries. Whether primary work such as deburring, descaling and deoxidising, or targeted superfine features like satin surfaces and mirror finishings, surface functions including roughness, hardness and haptics belong to our expertise. Even delicate surface requirements ranging from compliance with medical prosthesis directives to aerospace safety regulation meet with our know-how. Thanks to our close co-operation with Leistritz AG for several years, we developed our market-focused approach and offer precise solutions for a productive win-win situation.

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Leistritz’s success with electrochemical machining is all part of the firm’s ongoing development as it strives for the most innovative ways of working. The result is that the company’s clients never have to

compromise on their visions as Leistritz continues to find ways to make what was previously impossible, possible. “Vanes on compressor systems used to consist of many individual blades, which

Leistritz AG

were installed in the casings. Or alternatively, you would have individual airfoils that could be mounted by bracing, or other methods, into segments,” Bernd says. “Nowadays, we have technologies in place that allow the manufacture of very precise vane segments out of one single piece of material. Similarly, on the disk side, in the past you had disks and blades separated, but nowadays you can produce it as an integrated part, which is a so-called ‘blisk’ - a blade and disk combination. “Some of our recent innovation has been focused around complex leading edge technology. If you look at the big fans on modern aero engines, the huge fan blades are no longer full metal components but fiber composites. Nevertheless, they have metal leading edges to make them more robust against foreign object damage and wear and tear. Historically, the manufacture of these metal leading edges has been very expensive and difficult, but now we are in the middle of development for a method that will allow us to manufacture the edges much more smartly and cheaply than is currently possible.” Though the ground-breaking technologies on show at Leistritz have been instrumental in the company’s success, Bernd is eager to

express that the firm would be nothing without its people. No matter how technologically advanced the business becomes, the Managing Director believes that the human side of operations will always be at the company’s heart. In Bernd’s words, ‘the machine itself does not create the success’. “It’s like if you have a race car,” he explains. “The car alone does not make you the winner - you need to have the right drivers. This is something we really take care of and we have an excellent support team with an extremely high level of experience, which of course is needed to train the young engineers regularly joining our teams. If you start with a company like us that is working on high-end technologies, it’s something you can’t learn at university or through apprenticeships. These are special processes and the knowhow needs to be transferred from the existing staff to the new employees. For most of these employees, once they are with us, they stay with us. We have a very low fluctuation and turnover rate, so people are happy to work with Leistritz and we have dozens of staff members who celebrate 25 or even 40-year anniversaries with us.” This strong foundation has been especially important throughout 2020 and the

accompanying impact of Covid-19 on the airline industry. Since March this year, the market has seen a severe downturn, to the point where today, around 90 per cent of flights and passenger traffic has been cut over the last seven months. Consequently, aircraft manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing have reduced build rates by up to 60 per cent, and aero engine manufacturers have followed suit at a similar rate. Thanks to the diversity of the company’s offering, and a spate of new business, Leistritz has not suffered to such an extent. Though the firm, understandably, is currently experiencing less demand than usual, Bernd is confident that the aero engine market will rebound. “Based on our growth perspective, the technology developments we are pursuing, and the size of the company, we have the chance to win some workshares that, so far, have been covered by competitors,” Bernd reports. “We also do a lot of work for military applications, which didn’t experience a drop like the civil air engine business, so there is a great degree of stability there. It may take some years for the civil market to return to the levels of 2019, but we know it will recover. There is a demand globally. People like to travel. “Despite the crisis, we have an aggressive growth plan and are developing technologies that allow our customers to choose us as their preferred source. We are also considering setting up new facilities, possibly in Thailand, where we already have a low-cost base, which would help us to produce in larger volumes and become even more competitive than we are today. When it comes to machinery, we are now working with handling robots that can go through the whole process, from measuring equipment to putting parts into the machines. Automation is an ongoing process and we need it in our organization for process capability and for cost reasons. “Due to the nature of our work, we can’t grow our customer base any further because there are no engine manufacturers with whom we are not already doing business,” Bernd summarizes. “However, there is always room for growth and the technology never sleeps in our world. It is an ongoing development and we need to keep moving forward to stay competitive.”

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Lead masters

Servicing a wide range of customers from the nuclear, construction, healthcare, and mining sectors, Royston Lead’s modern approach to specialist lead production is changing the way the industry thinks


ith its usage traceable as far back as the Prehistoric Age, lead has played a vital role in human history. Forged and developed into countless different products and applications across the years, the material remains as popular and versatile today as it was in the beginning. Nevertheless, due to the lead industry’s longevity, and the familiarity of its core material, many people have, over time, developed a number of misgivings about lead. As a progressive company doing things differently in a very traditional industry, Royston

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Lead’s mission is to change the way we think. “Let’s be honest,” begins Ian Crabbe, Royston’s Managing Director, “if you say lead to anybody, they will think almost instantly of lead pipes by the Romans. Following that, they usually believe that, because the material is so old, everything that lead could be used for has already been invented. “At Royston Lead, we respond to these arguments through the way that we operate. Firstly, we have deliberately employed skillsets from outside of the lead industry to give us a fresh perspective on what we do. Our

Sales Manager, for example, has a different background and has brought along a focus on customer care, our service offering, and many other things you would not traditionally associate with a manufacturing business. We are highly client-centric, and working with a close network of partners, we aim to find solutions for any customer request. “Secondly, as we move into more automation and better controls in our manufacturing process, we have not only been able to improve quality, but also our in-house health and safety performance and our environmental

Royston Lead


We are never afraid to use modern production techniques, like automation, in what is a very historic business, and we have found that it not only helps productivity, but also quality control because you have a system that has better checks and gives you a better understanding of what your clients want

performance too. Robotics and better tooling take people away from tasks where previously they were close to lead work or interacting with the material in a way that we would rather limit. You actually get to a point where you start to see lead in a slightly different light. It’s infinitely recyclable and low energy in terms of using old scrap lead to create new products, and as such, it is part of the modern world’s circular economy.” Originating from a boilermaker called George Royston & Sons, Royston Lead began to focus on lead production in the mid-1900s,

and by the turn of the century, had become a global supplier of lead-related products, from anodes to window sash weights, sealing materials for the industrial sector to lead ballast for use in shipping. As the business progressed through good times and bad, its offering grew, allowing the firm to become a valued supplier to a variety of industries across the globe. Its success led to a buyout and by 2015, Royston Lead joined a group of top UK lead businesses, alongside the EnviroWales smelting facility in Ebbw Vale, and rolled lead sheet distribution businesses servicing the construction sector in

the UK and Europe. It was at this time that Ian joined Royston, tasked with reviewing what the company did well and what could be improved to make the organization more profitable. “When I joined the business, we were doing about £8 million in turnover and our focus was mainly on the domestic market,” Ian recalls. “The first thing we did was analyze each area of the business, sector by sector, focusing on how to rebuild the company’s skills, sales proficiency and production capabilities. One of the things I noticed was that the anode business that had been so strong in the latter part of the previous l 79

Royston Lead

century wasn’t really all that active. I ended up heading out to South America, which had always been a great market for us, and tried to understand what we could do to improve sales of our anode products. We refocused our sales and support presence in the region to address the issue, began to rebuild that business, and then moved on to do a similar thing with lead shielding, looking more globally, getting the products back up on to their feet again in regions like Continental Europe and the Middle East. “Over the last five years, we’ve increased our turnover to around £20 million, moving from an almost wholly domestic business to one that is now broadly 50/50 between domestic and export sales. It’s surprised some people, but our products travel extremely well and it allows us to approach those international markets efficiently and easily. It’s also helped by the fact that the price of lead is set by the London Metal Exchange, so everyone in the world is working at a very similar lead price. By looking at innovation, process efficiency, and quality, we are now able to compete, not just on a national stage but on an international level too. Last year, we sold into southern Africa, South America, Europe, the Middle East and India.” Year on year, Royston Lead strives to improve

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and update its products and processes, adding new technologies or services to its already comprehensive offering. Since Ian joined the firm, Royston has focused on anode products, shielding for the medical sector, and most recently, ballast and specialist ballast for the shipping industry. Driven by a culture of continuous improvement, Royston challenges its employees to always ask ‘why?’ when it comes to the company’s technologies and production methods. The approach continues to help the firm find better ways to operate, and despite the maturity of the lead industry, Royston has lodged two new patents in the last 12 months. As part of the company’s evolution, Ian explains that Royston is looking to introduce more automation and robotics in its manufacturing processes. “We have decades of knowledge in this business and we always try to make the most of that, but we also understand that there is room to do things differently and space for new ideas,” he states. “We are never afraid to use modern production techniques, like automation, in what is a very historic business, and we have found that it not only helps productivity, but also quality control because you have a system that has better checks and gives you a better understanding of what your clients want.”

By combining the experience of its workforce with modern manufacturing processes, Royston has built what Ian calls a ‘client-led ecosystem’ supported by strong supplier relationships and the latest technology. The resultant increase in turnover has allowed Royston to feed more funds into Research and Development and new product creation. “Looking forward, there are more process improvements and automations that we want to implement, primarily in the casting side of the business, but also in other areas,” Ian adds. “There are three automation projects which are currently nearing completion. We have the automated production of anodes, which uses a patented technique, including the robotic handling of the semi-finished product and the finishing of the product on an automated system. At the same time, one of our ballast customers procures a substantial amount of material from us, so we’ve introduced an ABB robot with a changeable head, which allows us to cut the material to shape and package it in an automated process line. The final project is stamped products, for which we have put an automatic stamper with a robotic offload facility to allow us to make products more quickly and efficiently.” In a year dominated by Covid-19, Royston

Adomast Adomast has built a solid reputation over the last few years for manufacturing and suppling an extensive range of high performance construction chemicals for today’s demanding construction requirements. Its chemicals are used widely across all categories of construction and civil engineering projects, including recently, Hinkley Point C power station and Tideway. Adomast has been an ISO 9001 & ISO 14001 approved company for many years, where top-quality customer service is at the heart of the business, offering next day delivery service to over 90 per cent of the UK, including direct to site delivery if required. Adomast also offers a bespoke product service to its customers, fitting specific construction applications or projects. Adomast sends its congratulations to Ian Crabbe and all his team at all Royston Lead. Adomast is proud and delighted to supply Royston Lead with its Patination Oil and Metwash.

has maintained sales as a consequence of the global nature of its business, continuing to receive orders from overseas customers, even while the UK market slumped. Among other things, a rise in demand for lead shielding in the medical sector has kept the firm busy throughout 2020 and, as a company working with lead, Royston’s already stringent health and safety procedures made for an easy transition to a Covid-safe working environment. Though a degree of business uncertainty remains - fueled not only by Coronavirus, but also Brexit - Ian is confident that Royston’s focus on quality and customer service will spur the business on to further growth. “In terms of quality, if you take anodes as a classic example, many of our customers say that we have some of the best anodes, if not the best anodes, in the world,” Ian reveals. “What’s clear is that we produce one of the best products in that particular market, so it’s important for us now to understand why it is best and what we can do to make the product or service even better. “We do see the Covid-19 hangover being a little bit longer than any of us had hoped, and along with any other manufacturing company in the UK, we would most definitely welcome progress in our relationship with Europe at the end of this year, but we also believe that change brings new challenges and opportunities. As long as you are awake, listening to your customers, and preserving those key relationships, change allows you to find new ways of working and sometimes those new ways are better than the old ones.”

Royston Lead Products: Specialist lead products l 81

Leading the way Known and trusted by leading companies across the United States and internationally, STARC Systems delivers great looking, reusable, temporary containment solutions that are also now helping combat the spread of Covid-19

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liminating the disruption of renovation. That is the primary goal that drives Brunswick, Maine-based company STARC Systems (STARC). Established in 2012, its founder Tim Hebert was always concerned with the amount of dust, debris, and time needed to build temporary containment on sensitive or patient occupied healthcare renovation projects. It was through this that he identified an opportunity to create a better solution than traditional drywall. “As a contractor in the healthcare sector, Tim was all too aware of just how wasteful the traditional drywall containment was, in terms

of both time and costs, and how disruptive it was to the facility when later tearing it down and throwing it into a landfill,” explains STARC CEO, Chris Vickers. “What he came up with was a reusable, telescopic, modular panel system that can be used in a variety of applications, not only in the healthcare arena, but also in markets such as corporate offices, airports, data centers, biotech facilities, and educational institutions.” The original patented design would go on to become known as RealWall™. Named as such for its real wall appearance and construction, it remains the premier containment solution on the market, and

STARC Systems

the only system of its kind that is sound attenuating, reducing renovation noise by up to 50 percent. “RealWall™ is the premier solution available today,” Chris confirms. “It features a durable three-layer construction, a rugged galvanized steel back, sound attenuating foam core and a clean, white painted aluminum front face. Its ease of installation – with a simple lift and drop panel connection – means that two people can install 100-feet of wall in as little as one hour.” The more recent addition to STARC’s product range is its equally impressive LiteBarrier™ system, which is the most durable and easiest to use containment

solution in the lightweight category. “We knew from speaking to our customers that there was a need for a slimmer, more lightweight durable partition at lower upfront price for projects that don’t require noise reduction,” Chris continues. “LiteBarrier’s™ anodized aluminum frame and fibreglass-reinforced polymer partitions feature lift and drop airtight panel connections. Like RealWall™, LiteBarrier™ comes with a multi-year warranty and has been equally as well received by our customers.” With the temporary modular containment market being a relatively new one – Chris believes it is about ten years old – it makes the


The demand for our solutions required us to effectively triple our production volumes in the space of around four weeks. As it would happen, we found that the challenge posed by this really raised our game. Our team did a fabulous job in reacting to what have been unprecedented times l 83

growth and success of STARC and its products all the more impressive. This is especially the case when seeing that the company has now been listed on the Inc. 5000 list of the United States’ fastest-growing private companies for the last two years. Its most recent listing in August 2020 comes as STARC has posted three-year growth of an incredible 438 per cent. “When the company was first started, very few people knew that this type of product even had the potential to exist. A lot of education was needed to demonstrate the benefits of modular containment,” Chris says. “In 2018, we made big investments in both marketing and our sales organization across the country. That, I believe, was one of the key drivers in helping to inform healthcare and nonhealthcare contractors of the value of modular containment and unique STARC solutions.” With its panels being capable of creating instant negative pressure isolation rooms at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in early 2020, STARC found itself inundated with more and more requests for its systems. Having been deemed an ‘essential’ business back in March 2020, the company refocused all of its production on instant isolation solutions to dramatically increase the number of units available for healthcare facilities, helping to protect more healthcare workers and patients, and reduce the spread of Covid-19. “The demand for our solutions required us to effectively triple our production volumes

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STARC Systems term,” he notes, “our vision will continue to focus on innovative solutions that help make facilities safer. Given recent events, everyone in the world has significantly more need for infection control. We are one of a select group of businesses that have answers to these challenges.”

STARC Systems Services: Temporary containment and infection isolation solutions in the space of around four weeks,” Chris reveals. “As it would happen, we found that the challenge posed by this really raised our game. Our team did a fabulous job in reacting to what have been unprecedented times.” STARC’s efforts in helping to fight the spread of Covid-19 in healthcare settings have also received a boost this year, with the company being one of ten applicants to be selected for investment by Maine Technology Institute (MTI) from its state-funded Maine Technology Asset Fund 2.5. The award will help fund automated manufacturing equipment to reduce machining bottlenecks, manage a larger, more complex product assortment, and increase the availability of equipment and labor for R&D on isolationspecific solutions. The company is understandably excited about the award, as it knows that innovation has been – and will continue to be – vital to its success. “We realize that everything begins with solving the pain points of our customers. We spend time with our customers understanding the environment they operate in, what their needs are and how our solutions can be of help,” Chris adds. “We have several innovative solutions in development that we are very enthusiastic about.” As the company looks ahead to 2021, Chris says that STARC intends to make further investments across the business, while looking to increase its market share in different industry segments as well as internationally. “Longer- l 85

Mastering ones’ craft

Innovation runs through the heart of Tinmasters. That is why it continues to invest in the most up-to-date equipment, technology and processes to keep its customers one step ahead


hen Manufacturing Today last spoke with Richard O’Neill – Chief Executive Officer of Tinmasters, the largest independent metal printer in the UK – in the summer of 2018, the company had just completed the installation of a new piece of equipment that it hoped would extend its capacity and capabilities. “The equipment in question was a state-of-the-art, highly automated, six-colour Metalstar 3 print line with AVT inspection technology,” Richard recalls when we caught up with him again in October 2020. “Prior to its installation, we were very

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much operating at nearly full capacity and at times having to turn away orders. The addition of the Metalstar 3 line almost immediately brought with it growth in terms of new sales, which as you can imagine we were extremely pleased with.” For those who may be unfamiliar with the name, Tinmasters provides its customers with the type of top quality, service reliability and compliance assurance that one would come to expect from a master in the field of metal printing. With a range of services including metal procurement and stockholding, coating, slitting and various printing options,

the company’s expertise covers mainstream and bespoke requirements, high volumes, contingency assignments and last-minute orders with short lead times. In the little more than two years between the two above mentioned conversations, much has occurred within Tinmasters, as Richard goes on to detail. “The first major development came in August of 2018, when a decision was made to acquire what was then our number one competitor in the UK, Afon Tinplate, with a view to it operating under the Tinmasters brand.” Afon Tinplate offered Tinmasters the opportunity to further strength and expand its



Tinmasters was the first business of its kind to install a four color – and later a six color – print line in order to meet the demands our customers set us, and this has continued with our move into digital printing

own metal printing and coating services across a wide range of high profile customers, and the company would go on to spend the next 12 months or so integrating the pair. With this complete, the end of 2019 brought with it another defining moment for the business, when the decision was taken to restructure its operations in Wales by consolidating onto one site. This involved the closure of its Caldicot facility and a move of its entire operations to its newer Swansea site. “The most obvious reason for choosing Swansea was the fact that it represented twice the space of our original site, allowing for room

for future expansion,” Richard explains. “This was a massive undertaking for us, and one that was challenging enough before Covid-19, but I am happy to say that it proved very successful, with six complete lines transferred in total, including the Metalstar 3 line which we managed to move in 65 days, which is a remarkable achievement in itself!” The move to Swansea was completed in June 2020, and with the dust settled and normal activity now resumed, Richard can reflect on the other benefits and efficiencies it has created. “Having two sites that were 65 miles apart meant that we often encountered a certain level of duplication in terms of activity and what we were paying for, be it rent, insurance or operating costs. Now being based at one location obviously provides us with clear cost savings, but what it also does is give us a greater degree of flexibility and ability to adapt to market changes or demands.” Tinmasters now also finds itself in a better position than ever before to invest in and adopt new technologies in order to further improve upon its output and efficiencies. “One area of significant investment that we have increased this year is in the field of digital printing,” Richard continues. “This is an area that we have been exploring for a number of years now, and has culminated in the installation of a Fujifilm Acuity B1 press, which is now printing

commercial orders. This particular piece of equipment marks what we believe is a game changing moment when it comes to the quality output needed to support metal packaging. “A major motivation for us in purchasing this press is to explore digital inkjet printing as the ultimate sub 500 sheet solution. When it comes to smaller print orders or bespoke print designs, we feel that digital offers significant benefits over traditional offset lithographic printing. These include significantly reduced make ready and set up costs, and fantastic color consistency from the very first sheet to the last, so we are very excited about what digital printing capabilities can bring to the table for ourselves and customers with smaller, more bespoke orders.” Tinmasters has been working with metal for more than a century now, and the aforementioned advances in different printing techniques highlights that there is plenty of life left in this particular craft. As Richard is also all too willing to point out, metal packaging also deserves greater recognition for its environmental credentials. “There are a couple of things for me that separate metal packaging from other formats,” he states. “The first is its recycling rate. Metal is one of the most recycled packaging materials available, and this is because it is very easily recycled. Secondly, is the fact that metal is infinitely recyclable. Unlike other l 87


and longer-term future holds for Tinmasters. “I think as we head into 2021, there will remain a fair amount of uncertainty and disruption as a result of Covid-19 and its impact, particularly in the first half of the year. We do, however, have hopes of selling our Caldicot factory during the early part of 2021. “Beyond that, we see ourselves continuing to grow, and within the next three-to-five years we would expect to be seeing substantial growth in our top line. This will come from not only increasing our share in existing markets, but also making headway in new ones, perhaps driven by the expansion of digital print technology. In regards to this, we also believe that in around a five-year timespan we could also see a further technology transition within our business, led by advances in digital packaging.” Summing up Tinmasters’ decades of success, Richard highlights two key elements that have proved priceless to the company. “Firstly, it comes down to customer service, so really focusing all of our time and effort on establishing what it is our customers need from us, and how we can best deliver this to them. Secondly, it is also about innovation. Tinmasters was the first business of its kind to install a four color – and later a six color – print line in order to meet the demands our customers set us, and this has continued with our move into digital printing. Together these qualities have brought about the success we have had, and that we will go on to have moving forward.”

formats, which eventually degrade to the point that they can no longer be used again and thus end up in landfill, metal can be used over and over again. “One other thing that I think people can often miss with metal, is that it is proven to provide superb protection to the products stored within. This is especially important when it comes to food products, where metal shields

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from things such as UV light – which is why lots of craft beers come in metal cans rather than glass bottles – and oxygen. The latter usually translates into longer product shelf lives, which is a big positive in a world where today we need to do all that we can to reduce the problem of food waste.” As we approach the latter weeks of 2020, Richard is asked to foresee what the short

Tinmasters Services: Metal printing, coating and associated services


nca Digital is a UK based leader in the development, manufacturing and servicing of inkjet printers for graphics and packaging. In addition to print engine technology, Inca also provides solutions for material handling and image workflow. Based in Cambridge, Inca was started with venture capital funding in 2000 as a spin-out from Cambridge Consultants Ltd. Since its formation, Inca has successfully launched a wide range of inkjet products and celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Inca launched the world’s first wide format flatbed UV inkjet printer in 2001. 2007 saw the beginning of the revolutionary Onset Series flatbed printers, which has developed over the years leading to the launch of the Onset XHS Series in 2019. Since the introduction of the Onset M / Acuity B1 in 2017 its high print quality and accurate registration has found many applications including industrial labels, instrument panels, stencil coating and sheet metal decoration.

Since 2005 Inca has been part of the SCREEN Group of Kyoto, who sees inkjet as a critical technology for their future business. Inca received Queen’s Awards for Innovation in 2005 and for International Trade in 2005 and 2013. As a UK manufacturer, Inca maintains high quality build standards with strict quality control measures to ensure their products meet their customers’ expectations. It is Inca’s customer-focussed development approach which has helped establish the relationship with Tinmasters, a market leader in metal decoration. Inca was introduced to Tinmasters through their interest in digital printing and the Onset M product, which is sold through Fujifilm as the Acuity B1 printer. Matt Brooks, Head of Products & Solutions at Inca Digital believes Inca and Tinmasters have a shared vision of the benefits inkjet technology could bring to metal decoration. With the development of the Acuity B1, Matt thinks there is an opportunity to meet the expectations of Tinmasters’ market, which is dominated by offset lithographic printing. It is hoped the Acuity B1 is the first step into inkjet printing for Tinmasters and that will lead on to further innovation in their partnership with Inca. Inca’s success has been driven by a successful marriage of a development mind-set with an astute commercial awareness. They are proud of their ability to apply inkjet printing technology to meet their customers’ needs.

Inca Digital Printers Ltd, 515 Coldham’s Lane, Cambridge, CB1 3JS Point of Contact: Matt Brooks, Head of Products & Solutions Email:

Steely Success With its headquarters in the heart of the UK, the Unitech group of companies is a leading supplier of stainless steel and aluminum equipment to the hygiene conscious industries


riginally formed in 1991 as Wednesbury Catering Equipment, the group has expanded significantly over the years and now operates from nine sites in the UK, and offices in Dubai and the US. With its 90,000 sq. ft. headquarters in Burntwood, Staffordshire, the company specializes in the design and manufacture of production and cleaning equipment for the food, beverage and pharmaceutical sectors, and is also one of the largest privately owned suppliers to the catering industry. A vastly experienced workforce means that Unitech can also offer full turnkey projects across the globe. As the group has grown, it has added

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complementary divisions – Unitech Conveyors, Unitech Washers, Driver Southall, Unitech Machinery, Scomac Catering Equipment and Unitech Projects. One of Unitech Engineering’s divisions, Unitech Conveyors, designs and manufactures an extensive range of conveying systems. Covering a wide range of market sectors including packaging, canning and bottling, brewing, and confectionery, the company’s conveyors are mainly supplied as a stainlesssteel construction, however a primed, mild steel is also made available for dry environment applications. Using a common aesthetic design, every conveyor produced at Unitech is not only

efficient, but pleasing to the eye, and the combination has won the firm many ‘bluechip’ customers on the lookout for innovative high-quality. A dedicated team of project managers and engineers are always on hand to take clients from the initial feasibility study, right through to handover, and automation and control systems are supplied by an inhouse team to ensure optimum performance. Furthermore, all major PLC manufacturers’ equipment may be incorporated into Unitech conveyor systems, including that from Siemens, Allan Bradley, Telemecanique, and Mitsubishi. Perhaps Unitech’s most notable conveyor project to date was carried out in 2017 when the firm was contracted by Heathrow Bakery


to produce a spiral accumulation system for its baguette baking line. After encountering repeated problems at the packaging end of the line resulting in stoppages and soiled products, Heathrow Bakery needed a system that could divert and hold goods when the line was stopped to help avoid product wastage. In line with this brief, Unitech set to work designing a system with two luffing conveyors to enable products to be diverted from the line to a spiral accumulation system, where they could be held temporarily before being moved back to the main line when it was up and running. The framework of the system was constructed predominantly from 304 grade stainless steel and includes over 300 metres of 800-millimetre-wide modular belt. In total, the system took four weeks to design, eight weeks to produce, and one week to install. On completion, its total height measured 3340 millimetres, with spiral diameters of 4526 millimetres, and a total length of 10,176 millimetres. For Unitech, the Heathrow Bakery system is still looked upon as a landmark project and is indicative of the conveyor division’s ability to create impressive professional systems, on time and on budget. As a member of the Processing & Packaging Machinery Trade Association (PPMA), ISO9001:2008 and Safe Contractor accredited, Unitech is a tried and trusted partner for some of the food, beverage, and pharmaceutical sector’s biggest names, including l 91

Warburtons and Morrisons. In July 2020, the company finished work on one of its largest recent projects – the manufacture and installation of six bespoke lifting and tipping units, complete with enclosures to handle 350-kilogram euro bins. Unitech’s client for this project, a specialist process engineering company called Briggs of Burton, required the manufacturer to create the units to a height of 8.4 meters, the tallest Unitech has ever produced. The lifts, which are ATEX rated and manufactured from 304 grade stainless steel, were installed two weeks ahead of schedule

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at a large production site in Lincolnshire, which produces a range of canned products including baked beans, vegetables, fruit, pulses, pasta and meatballs. Designed for a highlevel hygiene environment, the lifts include a reduced number of parts to allow for less routine maintenance and offer the client a choice of recipes depending on the products being tipped. Originally part of Unitech Engineering, Unitech Washing Systems Limited was formed in 2018 due to the divisions’ successful growth in the design and manufacture of hygienic

washing systems for the food, pharmaceutical and logistics industries, including Traywashers, Pallet washers, Tote Bin and Dolav washers, along with the provision of service, spares and support packages. From its 20,000-square foot facility in Brownhills, West Midlands, Unitech Washing Systems has recently completed the build and installation of six high speed Traywashers for a major UK supermarket, significantly increasing the capacity and efficiency of washing its store and home delivery trays. The features of these machines incorporate High flow and self-cleaning filtration, high pressure label removal and Air knife drying systems. They have also removed the need for pre-sorting returned trays into different heights, with the introduction of a self-adjusting guide rail system, saving the client time and labour cost. Another success for Unitech Washing Systems is its overseas exports, with crate and pallet washing systems, where reliability is paramount. Many machines have been installed in the Middle East and African markets, where Unitech Washing Systems and its Lebanese and Polish based partner Technica, who provide a full range of high quality crate and pallet handling equipment, have installed full turnkey wash plants for several blue-chip companies. This has included robot handling, de-stacking, re-stacking and inspection systems. With Unitech Washing Systems back up and service, these handling and wash systems are also offered within the UK market.


Unitech In August 2020, Unitech Washing Systems announced a brand-new partnership with Cleaning Technologies Group LLC (CTG) of Cincinnati, Ohio, which will see CTG become a distributor of Unitech’s food industry washing systems and hygiene equipment in the United States for years to come. With over 100 years’ industry experience in industrial cleaning Technology, CTG’s knowledgeable sales and aftermarket service teams will provide installation services, maintenance packages, and aftercare support for all US Unitech customers. In addition, Unitech Washing Systems have taken over CTG’s UK based operation, which will expand their interest in engineering component cleaning systems with the Ransohoff and Blackstone Ultrasonics brands, and offer service and support for CTG’s UK and European based clients. Throughout 2020 - a year like no other Unitech has worked tirelessly to support the food industry and keep businesses running in line with government restrictions. In April, leading manufacturer of convenience foods Greencore Atherstone required a solution to Covid-19 induced social distancing requirements at its facility, so it turned to Unitech for an answer. After consulting Greencore, Unitech was able to manufacture and install multiple protective screens with stainless steel frames and clear plastic sheeting. The screens allowed employees along the lines to continue working efficiently, whilst staying protected. Following this, several other major food suppliers have employed these social screening systems, which have allowed clients to safely maintain operations in these difficult times. The flexible nature of Unitech’s

manufacturing processes, and the ability to adapt has kept the company busy throughout 2020, and it will no doubt to continue to drive growth at home and abroad for Unitech in the future.

Services: Supplier of hygienefriendly stainless steel and aluminum equipment l 93

History and heritage Inventing, developing, designing, and manufacturing returnable transit packaging (RTP) for more than 60 years, Schoeller Allibert is a market leader in RTP solutions, with active operations across the globe


orn out of a belief that more could be achieved together, Schoeller Allibert was formed through the acquisition and consolidation of some of the industry’s most successful returnable transit packaging (RTP) manufacturers, including Schoeller, Wavin, Perstorp, Arca, Linpac, Allibert, and Paxton. The result is a business that is, today, one of the largest producers of RTP for material handling in the world. “Due to the fact that the company has been shaped by such a large group of quality RTP firms, Schoeller Allibert has a history and heritage unlike anyone else in the industry,” explains UK Operations Director Jackie Johnson. “The knowledge and experience

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in the company helps us to provide our customers with value in their supply chains through the products we produce. I believe that what truly sets this organization apart from its competitors though, is that we are very customer-centric in how we operate. We are a solution-based provider, as opposed to a company that makes boxes. For us, it is all about the solution, not the individual product that may eventually come to function in that role.” Though Schoeller Allibert is headquartered in the Netherlands, the company’s UK branch - where Jackie is based - is located in Winsford, Cheshire. Acting as the centre for all UK production, the Winsford facility has recently benefitted from a significant program of

investment directed towards both machinery and people. According to Jackie, the aim is to drive the site towards becoming a vital part of Schoeller Allibert’s efforts to deliver ‘the latest generation of returnable packaging solutions’. “In terms of technology, we are an injection molding manufacturer, so any technology related to the manufacture of injection molded products is key for us,” Jackie remarks. “The investment we have received recently will go towards increasing the automation of our facility, but we will be doing so in conjunction with developing our people. We are working very closely with our operations teams to deliver an upskilling program for our staff that is designed to work hand in hand with any automation or new technology that we


Schoeller Allibert Limited

Though we continue to take advantage of the appropriate automation opportunities, our main focus right now is on investing in people because people are what makes a business successful. It might sound like a cliché, but it is true, and there is a reason why so many companies see it as a key to success

bring into the site. This enables employees to develop and enhance their skillset to move from manual roles to those where they can acquire greater technical knowledge. For example, operators can, and have, developed from assembly roles to engineering apprenticeships. Additionally, investing in our technology, automation and people helps us to continue our absolute focus on quality consistency, driving innovation, reducing lead times, and achieving excellence in health and safety.” Focusing on customers across seven key market segments - agriculture, automotive, food and beverage, food processing, retail, industrial manufacturing, and pooling Schoeller Allibert offers a comprehensive range of standard and bespoke RTP solutions, from foldable large containers to pallets and dollies. No matter what is being manufactured, when it comes to RTP, Schoeller Allibert has become synonymous with high quality, durable, sustainable products that contribute to efficient supply chains through lower transport costs, reduced waste, and enhanced green branding. “In a traditional manufacturing facility, you have a production plan and a work order and a product is developed around that,” Jackie

states. “At Schoeller Allibert, we do things differently and try to bring the customer closer to the people who are preparing the machines or doing assembly work – the people actually manufacturing the product. Rather than being told about order number 22341, our staff know the name of the customer and often have an understanding of their business - this is their product, their colour and this is the specification. It means that the customer is always part of the process.” The emphasis Schoeller Allibert places on its clients is supported by a central innovations team dedicated to improving customer supply chains – a department that Jackie claims is ‘the strongest in the business’. With the ability to design and develop new products from concept to production, the innovation team regularly works closely with customers, offering supply chain solutions that reduce cost, reduce environmental impact, and add value. Among solutions the innovations team has helped to implement in recent times are the introduction of Euroclick stackable containers, the Schoeller Allibert System Integrator (SASI) range of containers and the new eCommerce ready Maxinest® Etail product. Schoeller Allibert has also begun supplying Maxinest crates to Cleveron picking robots adopted by several major retailers. It is a step into the future for a pioneering product that, in many ways, laid a foundation upon which the RTP industry has grown. “Originally created and introduced to the retail market by Paxton’s, one of Schoeller Allibert’s consolidated companies, the Maxinest has been in the market for over 20 years,” Jackie reports. “It is a proven, sustainable product that has spawned a lot of me-too versions over the years. “What strikes me about the Maxinest is that it facilitates an efficient supply chain that becomes invisible at the point of sale, ensuring that the product retailers are looking to promote is forefront and not the packaging in which it is kept. As an RTP solution, the Maxinest also contributes immensely to reducing carbon footprints because it is l 95

Champion Mouldings Champion Mouldings Ltd are a 4th generation family run business, which has been in operation for over 50 years. Champion Mouldings Ltd have rapidly become recognised as an innovator in the plastics industry. We have manufactured and supplied Schoeller Allibert with their requirements for injection mouldings and blow moulding components at the Winsford site for over 30 years. Over the years many changes have occurred within Schoeller Allibert and Champion Mouldings have been there to support them. We at Champion Mouldings Ltd, pride ourselves on the good working relationship we have developed and maintained over the years.

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recyclable and it nests when it is empty, so you are optimizing your return logistics space. For me, that is what makes our product essential in the marketplace.” Being so well established in the market has been greatly beneficial to Schoeller Allibert throughout a year that Jackie admits has been challenging from an operational perspective. Though the Covid-19 pandemic has led to many staff being forced to work from home, the Operations Director says she is proud of

the way the company’s workforce has adapted and responded. “I think it has been a real success in the way people have approached it,” Jackie declares. “The commitment and effort people have put in to ensure that we still deliver quality work and support the team onsite has been very encouraging. Under normal circumstances, you could go and have a chat with somebody if you wanted to look at optimizing the run of a production plan or something like that, but

Schoeller Allibert Limited “Though we continue to take advantage of the appropriate automation opportunities, our main focus right now is on investing in people because people are what makes a business successful. It might sound like a cliché, but it is true, and there is a reason why so many companies see it as a key to success,” Jackie asserts. “All our operators are getting opportunities to do business techniques courses and apprenticeships, which will only serve to benefit this organization. Ultimately, we want Schoeller Allibert to be recognized as a company with the capability to deliver a lean efficient plant supported by a highly competent and committed workforce. We’re not far away from achieving that.”

Schoeller Allibert Limited Services: those tasks have had to be done remotely. Our teams have created new ways of doing things. They have looked at new templates and adapted how they work to support the operation when they are not there. People have engaged before being instructed. It’s been a story of ownership and responsibility.” The post-Covid-19 outbreak environment Jackie describes is reflective of Schoeller Allibert’s larger culture of inclusion and teamwork. This ethos, and the workforce’s belief in it, was illustrated in 2019 when the company experienced labor availability issues during its peak season. After launching an initiative called Project Unity, the whole business came together to support operations and achieve a shared goal. Jackie has seen similar togetherness in 2020. “We supply into some key areas, such as food, retail, and supply chains for the NHS, so it has been an extremely busy time for us, but our team has got right on board. In particular, some of our employees got together in their own time, took some redundant material, and manufactured their own tool to create visors for the NHS. The business supported the group as they produced and assembled the visors and we eventually supplied them free of charge to local hospitals and care settings around the area. That is the sort of culture we’ve got - a can-do culture focused on the customer and overall success of the business.” Having cultivated such a dynamic, efficient, and united workforce, Schoeller Allibert now plans to focus on providing its teams with skills for the future. As employees embark on academic and vocational upskilling and

multiskilling programs over the next 12 months, Jackie is confident that the company will remain at the head of the RTP industry for years to come.

Returnable transit packaging solutions l 97

Harvesting success GRIMME UK is a sales and service subsidiary of the GRIMME agricultural machinery brand, known for its potato, beet and vegetable technology

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hile GRIMME UK can look back at 27 years of history, its parent company - family owned German root crop and vegetable machinery manufacturer GRIMME - has been a market leader in its segment since its establishment in 1861. By the time GRIMME set up its sales and service subsidiary in Sleaford in 1993, the UK market was already familiar with the quality, innovative nature and reliability of its products, as it had been exporting machines to the UK since the 1960s. Once its market share had grown substantially, GRIMME UK was born, and benefitting from that impressive legacy and

pedigree, it has grown from a seven-person business to an organization with almost 100 members of staff and a bespoke facility in Swineshead. This location was originally constructed in 1997, but further additions and developments have been ongoing, including new workshops and stores, and a new Technicom training center, which was officially opened in 2015. More recently, the company has invested considerable capital into a new site in North Yorkshire, as well as a new Scottish facility. Patrick Grote, Managing Director, gave Manufacturing Today some more details: “In Yorkshire we are currently halfway through a build project for


a new workshop and warehouse facility for the business-to-consumer (B2C) side of the business, which looks after the sales and service of GRIMME machinery in the Yorkshire and Humber area. The project features bespoke built premises on a 4.5-acre site on the outskirts of Market Weighton. With regards to Scotland, we are currently looking for a new location to re-locate our B2C team currently based in Fife to the Dundee area in order to better look after our customer base in Scotland,” he said. At the heart of the success of GRIMME is its range of extraordinary agricultural machines, and as Patrick states, the company’s number

one aim is to be ‘the first port of call for all root crop and vegetable growers when it comes to their mechanization needs.’ “Providing machinery for all specialist operations involved in the root crop chain, GRIMME offers bed forming, destoning, bed tilling, potato planting, vegetable and beet seeding, harvest and handling equipment,” he added. “In-house, we have over 40 members of staff in service and around £6 million worth of parts on stock, as well as a vastly experienced dealer network.” The company manufactures around 80 per cent of its machines components in-house or through its subsidiaries INTERNORM and RICON. “This high level of in-house

manufacturing is achieved through GRIMME’s manufacturing depth with metal, PU and web fabrications,” emphasized Patrick. “This not only helps us remain flexible and able to adapt to demand, but also means we are very self-sufficient.” Patrick also gave credit to the GRIMME team, without whom the business could not achieve any of its current success. “A business is only as good as its employees and we are extremely fortunate to have a group of dedicated, committed and vastly experienced staff,” he agreed. “We have a great mix of ages in our business and a very flat hierarchy, which means that our staff can have open, honest l 99

conversations with one another. The keys to a successful culture are transparency through clear direction and measurable objectives, direct and open communication from top down and bottom up, trust through employee empowerment and a solutions-orientated approach to challenges faced. Our innovative approach to product development, integrated full-line sales offering and our industry leading after-sales set us apart from our competition.” In fact, product development is at the very heart of the GRIMME operation, with innovation and new solutions being given priority since the day the business was conceived. “Product development is engrained in our DNA,” Patrick confirmed. “With a staff of over 200 technical designers, some of whom have been with the business for over 25 years, we have a very experienced team of engineers across our group. Our four-stage product development process ensures the products we bring to market have withstood intensive testing and are proven concepts. We pride ourselves on our practical, in field approach to product development, which we combine with new techniques such as SCRUM project management in order to achieve the best results. “Recently we have further expanded our product offering for our customer base to include more bespoke handling, packing and storage solutions by forming a strategic partnership with the British Vegetable Handling

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manufacturer Haith Group,” he revealed. “This is an exciting development as it means we are now able to offer fully integrated solutions to the post-harvest sector to our grower base. On top of this, our partnership will also provide current Haith customers with a more localized after sales back up through our network. As a family orientated, innovative manufacturer Haith Group is a partner whose business values are very similar to our own.” Having raised the issue of business values, Patrick then moved onto the environmental side of operations at GRIMME, and the green strategies it has on the agenda. “As a vegetable and root crop machinery manufacturer we have a large degree of social responsibility in that our products are essential to the food supply chain,” he said. “A significant part of our product development is focused on improving efficiencies within on-farm operations, especially the use of inputs such as fuels, lubricants, fertilizers and pesticides. Alongside this, soil health is a major part of development with reducing soil compaction and the intensity of operations to prevent soil structure breakdown at the forefront of our minds.” As Patrick so rightly pointed out, as a vital cog in the agricultural machine, GRIMME plays

an essential role in the nation’s food supply chain, and the importance of this came to the fore just as the UK Covid-19 lockdown came into place. “This arrived right in the middle of our crop establishment period, so our business was under a lot of pressure to keep the after sales side of the business running,” said Patrick. Thanks to its adaptability and quick reactions, GRIMME was able to organize its processes and keep working. “Operational staff in service and parts remained in work either on site or with our customers, whilst our administration and sales teams worked from home. The introduction of masks and social distancing has since enabled us to return all staff to work in time for our main harvest season from September onwards. On the manufacturing side of things, our main factory in Germany was very proactive in reacting to the situation introducing masks, staggered shift patterns and home working for all non-manufacturing staff. Due to our high level of in-house manufacturing and key worker status we were able to keep our manufacturing running and our supply chain open.” Looking at the product list that is now available from GRIMME, and the variety and range of equipment the company has created, it is clear that this is a company that

invests significant time and money into thinking of innovative solutions that will benefit its customers, at the same time as working more harmoniously with the natural world. Going forward, Patrick predicts that it will remain focused on satisfying its customers’ needs. “As a business, our primary aim is to make our customers businesses more profitable by providing them with advanced mechanical solutions and ensuring their downtime is kept to an absolute minimum,” he concluded. “At GRIMME UK our focus is around ensuring this and we will continue to build on this through measures such as programs of preventative maintenance, increased reliability and cost predictability. Within the next five years, we hope to have further nailed down our position as the dominant market player in the Potato sector, but to also establish this market position in the Beet and Vegetable sectors, too.”

GRIMME UK Services: Agricultural machinery manufacturer l 101

Gas giants


Founded in December 1999, Holtec Gas Systems (Holtec) is today an internationally recognized, experienced designer and supplier of nitrogen generation systems

We believe strongly that the strength of one’s reputation goes a very long way, so we are very passionate about making sure all of our customers are happy customers


oltec Gas Systems (Holtec) was the brainchild of its President, Thorstein Holt who – with many years of experience in the field of gas separation under his belt – recognized an opportunity in the market for a company that would be able to provide the most efficient nitrogen generators around. More than 20 years later, Holtec has designed and fabricated solutions for a variety of industrial, food and

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beverage, and manufacturing applications worldwide, and continues to provide a complete turnkey solution, from concept to engineering design, fabrication, commissioning, and personnel training. Nitrogen generation has been shown to provide an affordable, energy-conscious alternative to liquid nitrogen/high pressure gas cylinders. Holtec supplies both membrane and PSA type generators – either as standard models or custom-built in accordance with precise specifications – that are ready to hookup to a compressed air supply. It also provides engineering support, as well as repair services for existing installations. “Our customers are – and have always been – our number one priority, and we make it our mission to respond rapidly to existing customers needing support, as well as new customers needing proposals,” Thorstein

explains. “Our experience in the gas separation industry dates back to the early 1980’s, and our employees have an in-depth knowledge of nitrogen generators that helps them to design, build, service and support all of our products. Based on the broad experience of our team, we come up with new ideas to improve our products to make them more efficient and user friendly. “We spend a significant amount of time on research and development to improve the system efficiency to reduce air consumption, and therefore lower the operating cost to make the return of investment time shorter than that of our competition. We focus, as well, on building long lasting systems, which require very little maintenance. So, in summary, reliability, efficiency and customer service are the main differentiators that have contributed to Holtec’s success.”

Holtec Gas Systems

Left: Kenneth Jones, Co-Owner and COO and right: Thorstein Holt, Owner, President, and CEO

Effective research and development has also been of constant importance for Holtec and its ability to produce the most efficient, user friendly and durable systems on the market. “Over the last decade, for instance, there has been a continuing movement towards pressure swing adsorption (PSA) type nitrogen generators being the technology of choice,” Thorstein states. “Holtec’s strength was in building larger PSA systems marketed under a series titled HNS, however, in 2017 we launched what has become a highly successful smaller product line designated HNBS, and this has allowed us to further cement our reputation for being a one-stop-shop for generators of all sizes.” At the same time that the company has been increasing its physical product range, it has also been developing important supporting technology, such as its HoltecConnectTM and

EnergyAssistantTM features for PSAs. The former is a remote monitoring and control tool that allows the company to operate and troubleshoot its nitrogen generators from anywhere in the world, which has become particularly useful in these challenging, Covid-19 dominated times. The latter, meanwhile, turns Holtec’s generators into variable capacity systems, where users can save up to 60 per cent of their air if they only consume 40 per cent of the rated capacity. Also in the case of PSA technology, Holtec has also developed and proved-out a comprehensive and accurate design simulation program to ensure its system designs perform as predicted every time and at the optimum efficiency. As a result of having this simulation program, there is now no longer a need to run costly factory acceptance tests for large systems, as they consistently meet or exceed the guaranteed performance.

One of the biggest recent developments involving Holtec was its announcement in June 2020 that it would be investing some $3 million into purchasing and updating a 50,000-squarefoot facility in its home of St. Charles, Missouri. “This investment represents an immediate increase in shop floor space of over four times our previous location, with an additional equal amount of space that is currently being leased to a tenant,” Thorstein details. “We looked at a lot of properties before we found one in St. Charles that met our requirements. One was for it to have high ceilings, so we could install a large overhead crane, which is already in place. By having this capability, we can assemble larger nitrogen generators in-house with increased efficiency to reduce cost and fabrication time. A larger forklift truck was also purchased to increase our production capabilities. Another big investment was a large air compressor so l 103

we can test large nitrogen generators as well, without having to charge our customers extra. “Other benefits include the fact that, previously, we had to store parts and materials at several different locations in Illinois and Missouri, whereas now everything is stored under one roof. This reduces storage, shipping cost, and production time, and increases our manufacturing efficiency. We have therefore been able to reduce the price and delivery time of many of our nitrogen generators to make us even more competitive. We have a big back yard where we are able to build large containerized nitrogen generators, which was a more difficult task at our old location.” Having the right infrastructure and technology in place is, of course, of vital importance for any business, but as Thorstein goes on to highlight, it is the people that make up Holtec that are the most important element of all. “Our products and services are provided by our employees and their creativity, and without them there is no business,” he proclaims. “Purchasing our new facility shows our employees that we are in this for the long run, and it has energized everybody in a very positive way. Not only has it led to increased efficiency, but also to new thinking and even a more pleasant working environment. We have also found that, with Covid-19, having a bigger place makes it easier with social distancing to keep our critical business in operation.” At the time of our conversation with Thorstein, the company was in the midst

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Holtec Gas Systems

of preparing to appear as a speaker at the Growing Global 2020 – Globalization in Transition online interactive event on September 25, 2020. “The Growing Global event is hosted annually by the World Trade Center of St. Louis,” he tells us. “We have been working closely with them for many years, and they have connected us with Missouri’s Department of Economic Development and other resources to help Holtec and other Missouri businesses grow their export business. At this year’s event, we will share our experience in order to help other companies understand the important aspects of growing their export business. We expect it will be a good opportunity for us to connect with many possible local customers, as well as new suppliers.” Looking beyond the Growing Global 2020 event, Thorstein feels that with its new facility having lots of space for expansion and growth, Holtec is in a good place to further grow its sales and distribution network, and in turn, add

new employees to its team so that it can meet increased production demand. “We have the potential to double or triple our revenue in the next several years, and therefore get the best use out of our new facility,” he adds. “Effective research and development will be needed to continuously improve our nitrogen generators for this to become a reality.” In looking ahead to the future, Thorstein is also able to reflect on the past and on the success that Holtec has had. “When I started this company in my basement more than 20 years ago, it was a very different time,” he reminisces. “Not many people had the special blend of nitrogen generation technology expertise and manufacturing experience to field a competitive nitrogen generator product. Since then, the landscape has changed drastically. Where Holtec has led the way, many other companies have attempted to follow. We have outlasted many of them, but every day we are hearing about others just starting. Our goal is to outlast these too.

“We will do so by spending a lot of time brainstorming, testing, discussing, debating, and sometimes even yelling at each other about how to create the best quality, yet affordable, nitrogen generator. We believe strongly that the strength of one’s reputation goes a very long way, so we are very passionate about making sure all of our customers are happy customers. Our promise is very simple. When we sell a nitrogen generator, it’s going to do what we said it would do; and if by chance it’s not right, we will make it right. In 20 years of business, that has never been an issue, so it’s not a scary or bold claim for us to make, ever.”

Holtec Gas Systems Products: Nitrogen generation systems l 105

A source of pride With nearly a decade of experience, CanSource is the leading shrink sleeve label maker for aluminum cans in the United States, specializing in custom packaging for the craft beverage industry


ince the business was founded nine years ago, CanSource has produced over 200 million sleeved cans. It provides the highest quality container and packaging solutions for craft beverages, with the overall ambition to make sure that every product is presented and delivered in the best possible package. Having begun its life as a craft brewery canner, CanSource brings a unique perspective to the industry, understanding that craft beverages are special because their makers add in a little extra touch during the creation process of each and every batch. To acknowledge the craft makers and their skill, CanSource takes inordinate care to ensure that the sleeves and artwork that surround a can replicate the craftsmanship and quality of the beverage inside. Thanks to this philosophy, CanSource now works with craft beverage makers of all sizes and types, from makers of craft beers, wines and RTDs, to artisans of non-alcoholic craft beverages like

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sparkling water, cold brews and kombucha. The end-to-end container and packaging solutions from CanSource include sourcing for all aluminum can sizes, label design, custom label printing, and shrink sleeve packaging. With the first stage - the can - CanSource partners with manufacturers across the USA, so that it can supply its customers with the widest variety of shapes and sizes of aluminum cans at the highest quality. Preferred pricing is available, thanks to the business’ ability to leverage the combined purchasing power of its clients. This capability to order at scale maximizes cost savings for clients and means that timely delivery can be relied upon. The look and feel of a can is a major part of attracting customers to try the product and CanSource has an in-house team to provide design support and services to its clients. Specializing in the intricacies of craft beverages packaging, graphic designers review all artwork files to make sure they adhere to the correct

accuracy and specifications required. The team can also provide guidance when and where needed. Where CanSource’s expertise really shines out is in the area of shrink sleeves for aluminum cans. The benefits of this service are one of the cornerstones of its success, as shrink sleeve solutions are not just flexible but also payback in multiple other ways, too. They offer a fast turnaround, often twice as fast as printed cans, with the process from final artwork approval to delivery in as little as four to five weeks. Small or large batch runs are possible, as are low minimum orders, and this can be the ideal solution for seasonal or small specialty batches. Shrink sleeve also provides high quality digital printing, with crisp graphics and vibrant colors that printed cans struggle to achieve. Three-hundred-and-sixty-degree graphic coverage is possible, as are matte and custom finishes. Shrink film is also a very durable option and offers one of the very best

CanSource ways to present a craft beverage in a can. From the details above it is clear that CanSource offers its clients a wide variety of choices and options, but to keep them coming back it also has to back this up with superior customer service. This extends to not just fulfilling its clients’ needs, but also going that extra mile – filling out a form or reaching out with reminders – just to facilitate the process from beginning to end. The company mantra is ‘to always do right by the customer’, and this is taken seriously by all members of the team. In fact, the team of industry veterans that make up the staff of CanSource share a passion for handcrafted products, and features beer lovers, wine connoisseurs, kombucha fanatics, cold brew fiends, sparkling water purists and everything in between. The tastes may be diverse but the years of experience producing custom shrink sleeved cans means that they have mastered their roles, understand the craft beverage industry and know what it takes to consistently deliver the highest-quality sleeved cans and how important it is to maintain a seamless supply chain flow. Vendor partners are held to the same high standards internally

and this is proven in the quality and value consistently delivered by the CanSource team. It may have started life as a home-grown mobile cannery for breweries, but such has been the growth and evolution of CanSource that it has become the leading provider of shrink sleeved aluminum cans in the US, running four facilities strategically located across the country, in California, Colorado, North Carolina & Pennsylvania. Priding itself on being a turnkey custom container and packaging solution provider for all craft beverage needs, and offering competitive, flat-rate pricing that is 100 per cent straightforward, the business is able to serve customers from around the country with efficiency and speed. From can sourcing to design to sleeving, CanSource really can deliver it all.

CanSource Services: Shrink sleeve label maker for aluminum cans

Ska Fabricating Ska Fabricating designs and builds reliable, automated packaging line equipment that is hand-crafted to make craft businesses’ lives easier. From depalletizers and palletizers to automated equipment for pre- and postfill applications, we provide innovative solutions for organizations that need to automate their packaging process. “Ska Fabricating and their team of engineers have been phenomenal. Truly. I have been working with countless engineers and project managers from other agencies for other pieces of the production puzzle, and Ska has been the only one to not only meet their claims, but go above and beyond any expectation.” Ashley Howen Aurora Hemp-Infused Elixirs. l 107