Manufacturing Today Issue 192 September 2021

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Issue 192 2021


Out with the old

Award-winning manufacturer Greene Tweed has remained dedicated to new ideas and high-performance products for more than 150 years Top priority: Why technology shouldn’t be deployed to simply cope with a crisis, it should be implemented to transform, innovate and streamline the entire manufacturing process Create future resilience: Manufacturers need to invest in smart solutions, like IIoT, that automate processes, receive data in real time and quickly highlight machine abnormalities At your service: How certain options can help OEMs adopt Additive Manufacturing and the current offering of turnkey Additive Manufacturing solutions

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Chairman Andrew Schofield

Editor’s Letter

Managing Director Joe Woolsgrove Editor Libbie Hammond Assistant Editor Will Daynes Staff Writers Alex McDonald • Danielle Champ Managing Art Editor Fleur Daniels Art Editor David Howard Advertising Designer Paul Gillings Sales Director Alasdair Gamble Operations Director Philip Monument Operations Manager Natalie Griffiths Research Managers Jo-Ann Jeffery • Ben Richell Kieran Shukri Editorial Researchers Adam Blanch • Mark Cowles Jeff Goldenberg • Mark Kafourous James Page • Wendy Russell Richard Saunders Sales Director Alasdair Gamble Advertising Sales Johanna Bailey • Mike Berger Jessica Eglington • Alex Hartley Theresa McDonald • Reid Lingle Ibby Mundhir • Sam Surrell Office Administrator Jessica Olley

Hello and welcome to the September issue of Manufacturing Today. When commenting in early September on the IHS Markit / CIPS UK Manufacturing PMI, Maddie Walker, Accenture’s Industry X lead in the UK, noted how many ‘manufacturers have already made technology investments, such as automation and 5G connectivity, to become more resilient, streamline production processes and enhance the visibility of supply chains.’ Our features this month touch on these areas – how far along are you on the journey to adopting disruptive technology? I’d love to hear from you! We also have an article that discusses the rise of Gigafactories, which author Lars Carlstrom states are crucial to the supply chain. Lars is Founder and CEO of Italvolt, which is creating Southern Europe’s first gigafactory and the largest in Europe. He’s ideally placed to comment on the sector – read more on page 10.

Libbie Hammond EDITOR

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Our cover story this issue is Greene Tweed,

a manufacturer with a respected pedigree and a determination to keep up with the times. The business practices in three main technology streams: Sealing, Wear/Abrasion/Structural Components, and Electrical and Data connectors, and its material expertise and continuous collaborative approach deliver proven performance in extreme and demanding environments. One of the foundation stones of its prosperity has been an ethos of ‘people first’ – to find out more about the business’ 150 years of evolution from Brent Regan, Greene Tweed’s Vice President Business Operations and Technology Development, turn to page 28.

Issue 192 2021


Out with the old

Award-winning manufacturer Greene Tweed has remained dedicated to new ideas and high-performance products for more than 150 years Top priority: Why technology shouldn’t be deployed to simply cope with a crisis, it should be implemented to transform, innovate and streamline the entire manufacturing process Create future resilience: Manufacturers need to invest in smart solutions, like IIoT, that automate processes, receive data in real time and quickly highlight machine abnormalities At your service: How certain options can help OEMs adopt Additive Manufacturing and the current offering of turnkey Additive Manufacturing solutions

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




FEATURES 6 Automation

To prepare for a future beyond the pandemic, and to protect against events they can’t control, manufacturers need to build resilient manufacturing operations

8 Smart manufacturing

Manufacturers need to let go of their legacy, manual processes to digitally transform the plant floor and use data to build future resilience

10 Gigafactories

Gigafactories are set to become more important over the next three to five years. There is already over 20 being built in Europe alone – and location can be crucial



12 Additive manufacturing

For those OEMs considering additive manufacturing but not sure where or how to start, turnkey solutions offer a simpler introduction to the technology

14 Manufacturing news

Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena


Smart manufacturing


Gigafactories 2 l





Banner Engineering Corp



Greene Tweed



Schumacher Packaging GmbH

Green Bay Packaging l 3




Stolle Machinery




Ricardo Performance Products

Algoma Steel



Extrude Hone

First Fence Ltd

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Ashwood Designs Limited

Modern Welding Company



Titan Trailers Inc

Goodman Manufacturing Company




Vishay Precision Group Canada (KELK) l 5


priority Building manufacturing resilience through industrial automation. By Saar Yoskovitz


ver the past 12 months, global supply chains have been severely disrupted by the ongoing impact of the pandemic, and manufacturers have been forced to adapt fast to survive. But Covid is just one of the latest, albeit the most severe, events to disrupt the manufacturing industry. Extreme weather, political protests, transport strikes, cyberattacks, the impact of Brexit and economic upheaval have all created similar, if more localized, challenges. And all the signs are that disruptions like these will become even more frequent and extreme in the future. So, to prepare for a future beyond the pandemic, and to protect against events that are out of our control, manufacturers need to build resilient manufacturing operations. In 2021, there’s a critical new factor in building resilience: industrial automation.

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In order for manufacturers to future proof their business, they must invest in technology and prioritize automation, not only to help build agility and flexibility but to also to accelerate digital transformation. The latest technologies, from AI to innovations in the supply chain, can help manufacturers to stay ahead of the curve and bounce back quickly from a crisis.

Machine Health is business health

Reliable machines form the basis of any resilient manufacturing operation. Machine Health uses IOT and AI to predict and prevent machine failures. By staying ahead of potential problems, manufacturers can avoid unplanned downtime, slash maintenance costs and importantly, maximize productivity.

Automation multiple AI-based systems including Machine Health, automated vision systems to monitor quality and intelligent process control. Essity has also semi-automated centerlining, determining the best machine settings for a production process using insights from fuzzy logic and predictive models.

Building cyber resilience

In the digital age, cyber threats are top of mind for all organizations and the manufacturing industry is no different. In fact, one in five manufacturing companies in the US and UK have been victims of a cyberattack in the last 12 months. Building a strong cyber resilience strategy is a no-brainer. We’ve seen a rise in manufacturers working together with security companies to not only utilize new tech but to build the strength of these systems. I expect to see a growth in these kinds of partnerships, as manufacturers continue to innovate with new technology.

Agile industrial robots

For years manufacturers have been utilizing robots, particularly for repetitive tasks in hazardous environments. However, robot capabilities are now going well beyond traditional tasks. In the UK, we’re already seeing manufacturers introducing gamechanging innovations with robotics. Arrival, the UK electric van maker taking on Tesla, has deployed robotics to transform its production line and run a unique microfactory. As industrial robots become faster, smarter, and cheaper, more and more companies will integrate this technology to help the workforce to build agile, forward-thinking manufacturing plants.

Automating the supply chain

For example, one of our customers, Colgate-Palmolive, detected rising temperatures in one of their tube makers and reacted to the problem quickly, saving time, money and energy. Overall, this saved them 192 hours of downtime and 2.8m tubes of toothpaste, plus $12,000 for a new motor and $27,000 in variable conversion costs.

Reaching autonomy with AI

Artificial intelligence has the potential to play a prominent role in helping manufacturers leap into industry 4.0 and streamline operational processes. Yet, the reality is that only nine per cent of manufacturing organizations are leveraging AI. AI algorithms can react more quickly to disruptive events, helping build resilience. Essity, one of the world’s largest tissue makers, already leverages

Covid has transformed the global supply chain, and now more than ever before, supply chains are on boardroom agendas. Automation is the future of the supply chain and technology will help to improve efficiency across every step of the process, including procurement, inventory, assembly, logistics, and transportation. AI can help build resilience by providing early warnings of supply chain disruptions and how they will affect supply, demand and capacity. The last year has provided a hard reset for manufacturers and an opportunity to grow stronger, more resilient and resourceful. Moving forward into 2022 and beyond, technology shouldn’t be deployed to simply cope with a crisis, it should be implemented to transform, innovate and streamline the entire manufacturing process. At last, the UK is beginning to emerge from the pandemic. In May, we saw the fastest rate of growth since 1975. To capitalize and maintain this growth and productivity, manufacturers need to prioritize building resilience through industrial automation. v

Saar Yoskovitz Saar Yoskovitz is co-Founder & CEO of Augury, an AI-driven machine health diagnostic platform that offers the world’s first AI insurance policy Guaranteed Diagnostics. Augury has partnered with one of the largest reinsurers of industrial equipment, HSB, to provide cover up to $100,000 for the cost of equipment repair or replacement if the AI system fails to detect a malfunction and alert the customer. l 7

Creating future resilience How manufacturers use smart technologies to survive. By Ben Stewart


nprecedented, foreseen and unforeseen market shifts have made it critical for manufacturers to be equipped for change. From the automotive industry experiencing a shortage of semiconductor chips to the price of raw materials such as lumber skyrocketing due to an unexpected increase in demand, it is difficult to pinpoint which industry has been hurt the most. Before the pandemic, manufacturers were already struggling to meet demand and unable to quickly pivot as that demand changed. Covid and events such as the Suez Canal blockage didn’t create new manufacturing issues, but rather exacerbated problems that already existed. Now, people are wondering how manufacturers will use the events and lessons learned from the past year to move forward. One answer - technology. Manufacturers need to let go of their legacy, manual processes to digitally transform the plant floor and use data to build future resilience.

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IIoT for efficiency

The Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) is the network of physical objects in a manufacturing environment (machines, sensors, etc.) that are digitally connected to each other and exchange data. The data exchanged through the machines, such as movements or abnormalities, assesses the health of each machine and can be compiled in the cloud in real-time. Before IIoT, employees physically monitored these machines themselves and tracked any data or unusual behavior by hand, resulting in more overhead and increased risk of human error. Machines and production lines can fail because of human error or because manual monitoring only took place daily, weekly or monthly when these problems occur more quickly than that. If a machine is performing unusually, manufacturers that utilize IIoT can easily address the issue, saving them money and time. The use of wireless technology, mobile devices and the ability to access key operational data complements IIoT and greatly improves

Smart manufacturing efficiency. Plant status, alarms or dashboards shared in real-time on plant floor displays or on mobile devices gives operators the ability to receive information immediately and act on it quickly. As companies begin to digitize their manufacturing processes, IIoT is helping manufacturing adjust and better plan in a more efficient way. It is estimated that 60 percent of global manufacturing companies will use connected device data for analysis in the coming year, which is evidence that IIoT is already driving unprecedented disruption in an industry notoriously for slow technology adoption.

IIoT for predictive maintenance

In addition to improving efficiency for manufacturers, IIoT also helps manufacturers predict and prevent maintenance issues. Too often, manufacturers are in reaction mode, spending unplanned time to fix an issue with a machine that has morphed into a large and costly headache. Since IIoT provides manufacturers with machine data in real time, they are able to predict when maintenance will be needed and quickly pivot to fix abnormalities before they become larger, more costly issues. An example of the benefits of predictive maintenance can be seen with MPI Corporation, a group of Indianabased companies that handle flat roll material servicing and distribution, metal stamping, heat treating and other finishing processes. At one of the company’s plants, a piece of machinery would occasionally shift out of position and eventually break. It would take that production line offline for days in order to cool the equipment, replace the belt, and bring the machine back up to operating temperature. Once MPI installed an IIoT solution, sensors would monitor if the machinery was beginning to shift and share that data with the manufacturer. As a result, the team could quickly fix the machine, eliminating unplanned downtime and major issues before it was too late.

Not implementing IIoT will cost you

Manufacturers will pay the price for not having an IIoT system in place. If better manufacturing efficiency and predictive maintenance are not strong enough reasons for manufacturers to implement IIoT, what about the money they could potentially save by having these solutions in place? When issues arise on the plant floor, there are large impacts and ripple effects from unplanned downtime and equipment repair. If a machine is out of service for days, on average, it can cost a manufacturer anywhere from $20,000 - $100,000 per day. Companies

can potentially lose $150,000 or more for an issue that could have been solved with an IIoT solution that costs a fraction of that. A recent report found that manufacturers who had an IIoT solution in place experienced a 30 percent reduction in unplanned downtime cost and repairs. Unfortunately, recalls are becoming a more common occurrence for companies in all industries, from food and beverage to automotive and more. In addition to the cost of fixing faulty products, companies can lose customer loyalty. While that may not be easily quantifiable, it is a serious and sometimes a permanent hit to the bottom line that should be considered. With an IIoT solution in place, manufacturers are able to catch quality discrepancies before a faulty product can hit the market, saving companies thousands and perhaps millions of dollars by lowering or eliminating the cost of poor quality.

Why are manufacturers hesitant?

With benefits like increased efficiency, predictive maintenance and reduced cost for potential risks, why are manufacturers still hesitant to implement IIoT technology? For one, manufacturers are extremely pragmatic. Over the past year, there has been hype around IIoT and digitizing the plant floor, but manufacturers want proof of where IIoT can be cost effective and practical for their specific needs. More case studies and success stories are needed for manufacturers to buy in. Additionally, manufacturers have been reluctant to implement IIoT on their plant floors because they have traditionally focused on Lean initiatives and optimizing the processes they can see, rather than looking ahead. Market shifts from this past year have proven that manufacturers need to create plans and consider all scenarios that could negatively impact manufacturing production in order to create future resilience. Lastly, manufacturers believe that they already have employees whose job it is to monitor machines and record data. IIoT is complementary - it is not displacing jobs. IIoT helps automate processes so experienced employees can focus on more complex issues and new business processes.

The future of IIoT and smart manufacturing

Right now, manufacturing plants are running over 100 percent of previous output levels and need to focus on efficiency and the technologies that will help them automate. The plant floor is changing and for manufacturers to keep up with demand and remain agile, they will need to adapt. Manufacturers who can identify areas of their plant that are error prone or have costly outages, will benefit from implementing IIoT and will see a strong ROI. In order for companies to build future resiliency, they need to invest in smart manufacturing solutions, like IIoT, that automate processes, receive data in real time and quickly highlight machine abnormalities before they become costly. v

Ben Stewart Ben Stewart is VP of Product Strategy at Plex Systems. Plex Systems, Inc.® delivers the first smart manufacturing platform that empowers the world’s leading innovators to make awesome products. Plex gives process and discrete manufacturers the ability to connect, automate, track and analyze every aspect of their business - from the shop floor to the top floor - to drive business transformation. l 9

Positive momentum

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Lars Carlstrom addresses the role that gigafactories will play in the wider green industrialization, and demonstrates that they’re only one piece of the puzzle


t seems like almost every day, there is a new car manufacturer around Europe that is throwing its hat into the ring and competing for space in the already overcrowded gigafactory space. Just recently it was formally announced that Nissan would build its $1.38 billion gigafactory in Sunderland. It has also been publicized that Renault has signed a partnership with Envision and Verkor to supply electric vehicle (EV) batteries for its production hub in France. On the surface then, it seems that the auto industry is pushing full steam ahead for the various upcoming climate agreements that have been agreed, including the 2050 Paris Agreement, which sets out a global framework to avoid dangerous climate change. However, saying something and doing something are two entirely different things and while the noises coming from the sector are positive, there are some areas that need improvement.

Gigafactories are crucial to the supply chain

Gigafactories are set to become more important over the next three to five years. There are already over 20 being built in Europe alone and Stellantis – the owners of Fiat, Citroen and Peugeot – have recently added their name to the mix, by announcing that they would be building a facility in Termoli, on the eastern coast of Italy. The growing number of these factories can only be beneficial to the EV supply chain. Currently to build an EV, some of the parts come from Asia, where production is cheaper. However this is clearly counter-intuitive as the batteries have to be shipped halfway across the world, which adds greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. By building gigafactories, in an environmentally friendly manner, the supply chain for European EVs will be drastically reduced, making the whole market more sustainable. However, this tactic is only the starting point, as well as building the gigafactories, we must also consider their location.

Where to build them?

Areas with declining social infrastructure, with good links to EV vehicle production, should be chosen over bigger cities that have stronger infrastructures and more wealth and a stronger economy. Areas that were once hubs of industry are crying out for development and one sure fire way to do this is by bringing jobs and the new, green industrialization to these areas in order for them to rejuvenate. For example, Blyth, a small town on the Northumberland coastline has struggled since its main industries, namely shipbuilding and coal mining went into decline. But now, this is where the UK’s first gigafactory is being built and with it some 5,000 jobs, the local residents are hopeful that the area will soon be more prosperous. This story is reflected in Scarmagno, northern Italy, where Italvolt is building its gigafactory at the old Olivetti site. It is expected to be one of the biggest is Europe and will employ approximately 3,500 people at the factory and up to 10,000 in the wider ecosystem; hopefully reinvigorating the industrial town and bringing it back to its former glory.

There is an argument to suggest that cities like Berlin do not need this kind of support. Whilst building gigafactories is positive, and reports suggest that the one in Berlin will employ 12,000 people and produce 500,000 cars for the European market, there is no reason why this couldn’t be built in a slightly less well developed area, in order to bring the prosperity back to a town more in need.

Bring back confidence

All of this would increase confidence in the European EV industry, likely increasing the number of EVs on the road. As we’ve seen, it would also bring huge numbers of jobs to different countries, economies and sectors, many of which are still suffering from the coronavirus pandemic. We can see this beginning to happen – bigger suppliers and brands are beginning to turn to Europe for their future plans which is great, however it doesn’t stop there. If this positive momentum is going to continue, and Europe is going to become a hub of the electric automotive industry, those in power must be the guiding lights, helping the sector to bring back the supply chain from Asia and continue to build gigafactories in areas that were previously hubs of industry and manufacturing in order to build a more sustainable automotive industry for the future. v

Lars Carlstrom Lars Carlstrom is Founder and CEO of Italvolt. Italvolt is creating Southern Europe’s first gigafactory and the largest in Europe, building 45 Gwh with a possible capacity of 70 Gwh. The factory is the 12th largest footprint in the world with 310,000m2. Italvolt is investing €3.9bn in the Italian economy, creating 4,000 direct jobs and up to 15,000 jobs in the wider ecosystem. l 11

At your service The accelerated adoption of turnkey solutions in additive manufacturing (AM) is a trend that has been predicted to increase. Moshe Molcho looks at how certain options can help OEMs adopt AM and examines the current offering of AM turnkey solutions


ver the last couple of decades, the digitization of our world has rapidly increased. From an age of globalization and just-in-time, we are now entering an age of justin-case and localization. A key trend emerging for the coming decade is aaS – as a Service – or XaaS – Everything as a Service. In certain industries, the aaS revolution has been happening for over a decade. In software, for example, SaaS (Software as a Service) has been gaining ground for two decades and the recent pandemic has turned even the most adamant traditionalists toward SaaS/Cloud and away from on-premise (installed) software. Over the years, we have seen other XaaS adoption emerging such as Hardware-aaS and Insurance-aaS, both quite prevalent recently following Covid-19. AM turnkey solutions are essentially AM as a Service (AMaaS). However, AMaaS is quite different than your (soon to be) run-of-the-mill Manufacturing-aaS (MaaS) because of AM’s effects on the supply chain. AMaaS solutions must also address digital supply chains, not just manufacturing – making them even more holistic: from part selection through adaptation and selling to fulfilment.

From globalization to digital localization

Brands are now turning to local and distributed manufacturing,

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coupled with potential backup/emergency digital supply chains. Both the move to e-commerce and the move to local distributed manufacturing are trends well served by AM. However, answering these needs with AM requires a lot of expertise and, since the AM industry is so fragmented, OEMs must now piece together an end-toend holistic solution from a variety of vendors of machines, process software, IP protection, consistency and tracking, post processing, and e-commerce. They must do all this while also looking for the best of breed for each category and hiring experts or service providers to do the work. This is a tall order. OEMs that have in house AM experience and have, or expect to have, a very large AM footprint can take on this task and create their own in-house solution. But what about those OEMs that are not in AM yet or are not sure how big their footprint will be? In other manufacturing technologies, many turnkey providers and contract manufacturers provide companies solutions for everything. The same is true for AM. Many OEMs struggle to integrate AM into existing processes as they seek to start but with low investment, especially in the current volatile times. Turnkey solutions enable them to start quickly and leanly, while also helping them connect various important building blocks such as, engineering services, material knowledge,

Additive manufacturing turnkey solutions typically emanate from two kinds of expertise: that in a specific industry or that in AM and digital supply chains.

Keeping an expert at hand

In some cases, industry expertise starts with a company that puts together a solution because of a need it sees for itself. The company is then able to offer and provide parts to its own customers in a similar manner. Given customer demand, there are joint ventures and start-ups that, from day one, are aimed only at the industry from which they came. In the maritime industry, for example, Thyssenkrupp & Wilhelmsen established a joint venture for just this purpose in 2020. The companies say this venture brings the benefits of AM technology to shipping firms by reducing the cost of spare parts, lead times and environmental footprint. In such cases, expertise can be applied repeatedly for various OEMs rather than having each OEM develop it independently, which would be inefficient both in terms of time and cost. Deep sector expertise can come from the people behind the solution or from the companies the venture is associated with, like in the case of the Thyssenkrupp-Wilhelmsen joint venture. Some of the required expertise that is extremely important for correct AM production is not sector specific – such as material expertise. Large material companies have entered the AM industry and have developed strong AM materials expertise that can be leveraged for turnkey solutions. All this expertise can help in many of the steps offered by turnkey solutions. A good is example is the aforementioned Replique, which picks the parts and appropriate materials, converts the parts to AM-ready digital form, creates and operates a portal for selling them, and handles the AM production and logistics once the part is ordered. Such a set up can also help in understanding customer specific needs. By being closely connected to BASF’s engineering, material knowledge and expertise in servicing industrial clients from different verticals for decades, the company understands the needs of many applications. Additionally, the company is able to provide simulation tools and in-house knowledge since BASF is also printing parts in its own production facilities.

process integration, e-commerce and many more. Companies like Replique – a venture in Fortune 500 material company, BASF’s Chemovator – offer a turnkey service to industrial OEMs that want to enter AM. Replique provides an industrial endto-end platform for decentralized manufacturing of spare parts which integrates easily into existing processes. The company also has mechanisms to protect IP, monitor quality of produced parts, and provide worldwide order fulfilment. An OEM can start simple at no cost until a part is being sold. According to Replique, IP protection, consistency enforcement, and tracking parts are important elements to include in a turnkey solution since the IP of an OEM is one of its most valuable assets and needs to be protected by any industrial solution. Furthermore, quality parameters are to be tightly monitored when it comes to industrially used parts where OEMs guarantee their clients a certain quality. The quality comes from a combination of AM experience, understanding the industry’s requirements, and tracking to monitor that everything is executed as planned each and every time. While LEO Lane can provide IP protection, consistency enforcement and tracking, it is up to the turnkey solutions to provide the rest using in-house expertise and custom applications. Given this description, it is no wonder that

The bottom line is…

For those OEMs considering additive manufacturing but not sure where or how to star t, turnkey solutions offer a simpler introduction to the wonders of AM. In other manufacturing technologies, contract manufacturing and turnkey services are thriving, which bodes well for the prospects of the AM turnkey providers beyond just the initial foray into the technology. This is a trend that will likely intensify and it will be interesting to see from up close how things play out for these ventures. v

Moshe Molcho Moshe Molcho is Co-Founder and CEO at LEO Lane, an Israel-based business which, via its cloud-based SaaS solution, helps companies to safely use digital inventories and protect their IP by enforcing a consistent, repeatable, secure and trackable digital supply chain for additive manufacturing. l 13

NEWS IN BRIEF Clean winners Yorkshire based cleaning brand, Astonish, has secured the much coveted Manufacturer of the Year Award (over £25m) at the Made in Yorkshire Awards 2021. The brand has had an impressive 12 months, increasing sales by 50 per cent and being voted product of the year by the Great British public. The brand also holds the title of the only British made Vegan and Cruelty Free certified household clean and personal care brand. Astonish also developed a unique anti-bacterial surface cleaner specifically designed for the NHS and donated all of the profits back to the NHS. These fantastic achievements were highlighted by the judging panel and helped the brand secure the award. Astonish has been a stalwart of the industry for nearly 50 years and currently manufactures and ships goods all across the UK and some 30 markets globally.

Fast charge StoreDot is underpinning its leadership in extreme fast charging (XFC) technologies with a patent for revolutionary systems that will decrease EV charging times. These systems are set to significantly improve the rate of miles per minute of charging, which remains a major barrier to EV ownership for many potential buyers. The patent pending technology incorporates hardware and software advances that create a ‘booster’ feature, allowing the battery to analyze the capability of the charging station in real time and to adjust the battery’s ability to carry high current rates. This communication between a vehicle’s XFC battery and charging system means that cells can be charged faster, safely accepting a higher current without overheating. It also has the ability to immediately boost existing infrastructure systems, enabling faster charging, and thus optimizing future fast-charge technologies without the need to upgrade to newer equipment in the near future.

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Military contract In September 2019, Lockheed Martin was awarded a contract to develop the US Army’s Sentinel A4 system, an air and missile defense radar that will provide improved capability against dynamic threats. The following November, Orolia Defense & Security announced the availability of M-Code Military GPS receivers in its flagship SecureSync® – the first Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) approved time server. In May 2021, Orolia delivered a shipment of M-Code enabled SecureSync mission timing and synchronization units to Lockheed Martin, marking another key milestone for the Army program. SecureSync with M-Code provides enhanced resilient positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) capabilities and improved resistance to existing and emerging GPS threats, such as jamming and spoofing. Lockheed Martin selected Orolia’s SecureSync M-Code as the system’s resilient time and frequency reference solution in part due to its modular, open architecture – the same characteristics that are the cornerstone of the radar’s design – making integration a simple process and ensuring future upgrades. “As a trusted Lockheed Martin partner, Orolia is proud to support the development of the Sentinel A4, which will be a key asset to our warfighters for decades to come,” said Hironori Sasaki, President of Orolia Defense & Security. “Making M-Code available now in a readily configurable and scalable form factor is a critical step in advancing our forces out in the field, whether in the air or on the ground.”

US premiere Bostik has opened its new, multi-layer, film blown line in Virginia for durable goods markets, following its recent acquisition of Prochimir, a technical films company. Able to produce thermoplastic films comprised of one to five layers with extensive widths of up to 160” and 250µm thickness, this new line enables US customers to receive locally-produced products with simplified logistics, enhanced supply security and reduced lead time. These high-performance, versatile films, based on EVA, polyolefin, polyester, polyamide and TPU technologies, also provide multi-functionality, making it easy for customers to bond dissimilar substrates together and incorporate barriers, such as waterproofing, into their manufacturing applications. The films’ wide width availabilities also increase cost effectiveness and provide real adaptation for customer needs. They are also designed to reduce lamination process steps by requiring only heat and pressure to bond, are formulated with no VOCs and have a lower application temperature compared to other film types. This means customers are able to improve design options, enhance productivity, increase worker safety and decrease environmental impact. The opening of the new line in Petersburg, VA comes after Bostik announced it was aiming to increase its share of the global thermobonding and durable goods market following the expansion of its specialty hot melts product offering.

Manufacturing News Data is the new gold The lack of analytic capability to process the immense amount of data being generated in factories means that, on average, 98 percent (according to research carried out by machine learning company, Fero Labs) of it is currently going to waste, costing UK manufacturers millions of pounds in avoidable downtime and maintenance expenses. To help companies extract value from their data, reduce costs, improve efficiency and productivity, Atlas Copco Tools and Industrial Assembly Solutions, has launched a pioneering application, which harnesses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to identify risks in production before they occur. The ALTURE app (ALTernate FutURE) is the latest evolution of Atlas Copco’s Smart Connected Assembly philosophy with the objective of error-proofing the production line, thereby increasing throughput by avoiding product rework or downtime. Using raw data captured from smart tooling and integrated controllers (only tool data, result data and tightening traces are collected), ALTURE analyses this using AI and an algorithm in the app. Managers are provided with real-time line performance notifications, as well as any ‘Not OK’ (NOK) tightening trends and recommendations for process improvement. Feedback from over 50 of Atlas Copco’s global customers during a 12-month trial confirmed that the smartphone app was the simplest and fastest means of delivering real-time information, enabling personnel on the shop floor to counterstrike any emerging issues.

Fueling the future

Mexican investment

After thousands of miles of real-world testing in the harsh environment of commercial trucking, Toyota is preparing to further expand its portfolio approach to products by taking its ground-breaking hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric technology from prototypes to production in its efforts toward carbon neutrality. Starting in 2023, a dedicated line at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) will begin assembling integrated dual fuel cell (FC) modules destined for use in hydrogenpowered, heavy-duty commercial trucks. The FC modules bring Toyota’s electrification strategy further into focus as it will allow truck manufacturers to incorporate emissions-free fuel cell electric technology into existing platforms with the technical support of Toyota under the hood. “We’re bringing our proven electric technology to a whole new class of production vehicles,” said Tetsuo Ogawa, president and chief executive officer, Toyota Motor North America. “Heavy-duty truck manufacturers will be able to buy a fully integrated and validated fuel cell electric drive system, allowing them to offer their customers an emissionsfree option in the Class 8 heavy-duty segment.” The dual fuel cell modules, which are a key component of an overall FC kit, weigh approximately 1,400 pounds and can deliver up to 160kW of continuous power. The FC kit also includes a high voltage battery, electric motors, transmission and hydrogen storage assembly from top-tier suppliers. Toyota will also offer its powertrain integration expertise that will help truck manufacturers adapt these emissions-free drivetrain systems to a wide variety of applications in the heavy-duty trucking sector. “This second-generation fuel cell system is necessary for a carbon neutral future,” says David Rosier, Toyota Kentucky powertrain head. “It delivers over 300 miles of range at a full load weight of 80,000 lbs., all while demonstrating exceptional drivability, quiet operation and zero harmful emissions.”

Smurfit Kappa is investing $22 million to expand its corrugated plant in Culiacan, North-West Mexico. It demonstrates the company’s continued commitment to the Mexican market with expanded capacity, capabilities and product offerings for local customers in the fresh produce segment. The investment will modernize and expand the plant, with the installation of high-tech, state-of-the-art machinery and the construction of a new 10,900m2 building that will include a new corrugator and an automatic Rotary Die Cutter (RDC) that will be fully operational by the end of 2021. The facility will produce corrugated boxes made with a moisture barrier that helps resist condensation. These new offerings will also result in more sustainable operations at the facility with reduced use of paper that is 100 per cent recyclable and can be reused at Smurfit Kappa mills. Commenting on the announcement, Jorge Angel, CEO of Smurfit Kappa Mexico, said: “Our Culiacan plant has for a long time been a significant employer in the region, and this will continue to be the case with this new investment, with a need for new operational and administrative roles, and the workforce at the plant expanding to over 300 employees.” l 15

Supporting the factories

of the future A global leader in the field of industrial automation, Banner Engineering’s sensors, LED lights and indicators, wireless, and safety products are relied upon the world over, and are helping to facilitate the modernization and digitalization of the manufacturing industry


he world of manufacturing continues to move at a remarkable rate of speed. Indeed, in 2021 the pace of change is arguably at its most pronounced in recorded history, and much of this is being driven by the modernization and digitalization of manufacturing, which in itself is helping to pave the way for the factories of

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the future. Whether these are referred to as Smart Factories, Connected Factories, or Visual Factories, there are a number of specialized businesses around the world looking to serve their future needs. Banner Engineering Corp (Banner) is one such entity. A global industrial automation technology and solution manufacturer, Banner

has spent the better part of the last 55 years serving the needs of its customers with smart, well-built products and custom solutions, with its portfolio today spanning sensors, lighting and indication, machine safety, industrial wireless, barcode and vision, industrial networks and smart I/O, and connectivity technology. Dana Holmes, Banner’s Senior Product

Banner Engineering Corp

We are extremely confident that the multiple technologies that we are adding across Banner’s various platforms and product divisions are going to help us to further broaden the business’ offering and assist in our customers’ continued growth. They will also allow Banner to remain a partner of choice to those companies looking to leverage the considerable benefits that the factories of the future will no doubt provide

Marketing Manager – Sensors and Safety – goes into detail as to how the manufacturing landscape has gradually evolved in recent times. “In the past, one of the prevailing characteristics of manufacturing spaces has been the use of what you could describe as being ‘stand-alone’ machines, so nothing was linked together, meaning that a lot of important data simply

wasn’t available. The result of this was that maintenance remained very much reactive, as opposed to proactive. Today, there is an overwhelming desire amongst businesses to eliminate downtime and improve efficiencies, and the best way to achieve this is by knowing exactly what is happening on one’s manufacturing floor in real time, and being able

to make better data driven decisions.” Dana’s observations are shared by her many colleagues throughout the business. One such individual is Matt Negaard, Senior Director of Business Development – Industrial Wireless – at Banner. The company’s wireless products connect remote assets, via Banner’s Cloud platform with the people who manage them, l 19

enabling real-time monitoring and management of equipment, and conditions in difficult-toaccess locations. Its monitoring solutions cover vibration, tank level, and temp and humidity monitoring, while product categories include wireless kits, IoT gateways and controllers, wireless sensors, nodes, push buttons, wireless indicators, and predictive maintenance tools. “I have been dealing with products and solutions relating to the Internet of Things (IoT) for close to a decade now, and I can honestly say that the amount of return on investment that is happening within this space – particularly around things like predictive maintenance and asset condition monitoring – is at its highest level to date,” Matt states. “Customers both large and small want to achieve the same goals as far as reducing downtime, improving productivity, and optimizing their operations. What is great about our approach at Banner is that while we provide a full stack of solutions and software while retaining a strong focus on being a hardware company. By intertwining our efforts in both spheres, we are able to create personalized, scalable solutions to move a customer’s data from their machines to large infrastructures, as well as the Cloud, which helps to boost the throughput of their production lines and return their assets to greater health.”

Sophisticated solutions

Banner’s engineers throughout the business are focused solely on developing robust, effective products for the industrial automation space, and as Manufacturing Today has found in talking to several of its senior people, this extends across all of its product divisions. Product Line Director, Robb Weidemann, and Global Product

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Banner Engineering Corp Manager, Doug Pflaum, for instance both operate within Banner’s lighting and indication business unit, which creates products such as industrial LED task lighting, LED indicators, Pickto-Light devices, and Touch Button products. “Just within the lighting unit alone, we are now seeing a dozen or more new products being launched each year to service the needs of our customers around the world,” Robb explains. One of its popular arms, for example, is Banner’s family of Pro products, which enable advanced capabilities and control throughout one’s visual environment. The Pro Series programmable multicolor LED devices offer advanced indication of dynamic machine states, operator interaction, and process statuses. The Pro Series is ideal for those looking for advanced capabilities or flexibility above a traditional factory indicator light and has helped to change the way that lighting solutions communicate with operators. For Doug, another solution of Banner’s that is more than worthwhile highlighting is its Pulse Pro I/O technology, which utilizes Pulse Frequency Modulation (PFM) to digitally represent an analog measurement value from a sensor. By simplifying the connection between the sensor and an indicator or controller, Pulse Pro I/O solves a wide variety of applications where immediate visibility is necessary, and localizes clear feedback for fast visibility and response. “Solutions such as Pulse Pro I/O are perfect examples of providing customers with the means to do more with fewer resources,” Doug states. “The challenges that exist today surrounding domestic and international labour shortages are not a secret to anyone, and products such as these are successfully helping customers and operators in busy, multi-faceted

automation environments to respond efficiently.” On the sensors side of Banner’s operations, Dana goes on to detail how the business has invested considerable time and effort over the last decade or more on its IO-Link sensors and indication systems. For anyone unfamiliar with IO-Link, it is an open standard serial communication protocol that allows for the bi-directional exchange of data from IO-Link supported sensors. Advantages of integrating such a system include standardized wiring, remote configuration, simple device replacement, advanced diagnostics, and increased data availability. “This precise data that we can generate via IO-Link gives our customers insight into what is happening within their manufacturing space right down to the component level,” Dana says. “What we are able to do with some of Banner’s higher end sensors, such as our Q5X Series High Power, Multi-Function Laser Sensor and our Q4X Series Rugged All Purpose Photoelectric Sensor, is provide data relating to things such as the internal temperature or excess gain data to determine the minimum light energy needed for reliable operation. In the case of the Q5X series, these have a very high excess gain level to begin with, so even when the lens gets dirty it can still shoot its laser effectively, and what it and other sensors under the Banner name does is provide a wonderful example of how predictive maintenance solutions can significantly reduce downtime and increase productivity.”

Multiple technologies

For Dana, it is her belief that Banner will continue to focus a great deal of its time and effort on devising additional means of providing its customers with this sort of predictive data and information. “The other big area that we have been honing our efforts on in recent times is our Safety business unit, where we have developed a solution, we call In-Series Diagnostics or ISD. What ISD is, is basically a communication protocol that makes it easy to access diagnostics data from devices in a safety system without special equipment or designated cabling. Users can also troubleshoot machine safety systems, prevent system faults, and reduce equipment downtime.” Banner offers a number of ISD compatible products including SI-RF RFID safety switches, SC10 Series safety controllers, ISD-to-IO Link modules, and 30mm mount and flush mount illuminated emergency stop buttons. It also has a device called ISD Connect, which is a compact T-connector that brings a non-ISD enabled device into an ISD system. As well as connecting conventional emergency stop buttons or safe

mechanical switch contacts to an ISD chain of devices, the rugged design of ISD Connect means that it installs easily, with no assembly or individual wiring required. Looking to what the years ahead have in store for Future Factories, and the manufacturing landscape in general, Matt shares his colleague’s view of what some of the big areas of focus need to be moving forward. “There is a lot of discussion at present surrounding various digital trends, including things like how do we replicate insights for machines onto the Cloud,” he says. “Where the challenge lies in facilitating such aims is in getting access to all of the necessary data, and it is not an understatement to say that it can be a truly herculean effort to just interrogate one’s factory floor, harvest the data, and then do something meaningful with it. A lot of the innovation that we see happening today – and Banner is deeply involved with this – centers on getting easy access to factory floor data, either by examining existing equipment or by overlaying sensors.The anticipated result of this is the ability to achieve the smart delivery of said data to quick, fast, meaningful solutions that you can iterate on quickly and scale with confidence.” Matt continues: “More and more, I foresee that Banner is going to be brought in to provide such solutions for its customers. As such, we will continue to invest significant time and resources into identifying the next generation of technologies that we believe will cause a stir within the marketplace. We are currently seeing the early investment Banner made in Condition Monitoring and Wireless technologies bring in substantial opportunity and revenue.” Robb goes on to conclude: “We are extremely confident that the multiple technologies that we are adding across Banner’s various platforms and product divisions are going to help us to further broaden the business’ offering and assist in our customers’ continued growth. They will also allow Banner to remain a partner of choice to those companies looking to leverage the considerable benefits that the factories of the future will no doubt provide.” v

Banner Engineering Corp Products: Products for industrial automation l 21

Rarified air North America’s leading singlesource supplier of gases, welding equipment, and safety products, Airgas is focused on a future of automation, digitization and sustainability

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acked by the might of its parent company, Air Liquide, Airgas has become the United States’ top supplier of industrial, medical and specialty gases, as well as one the nation’s largest suppliers of welding supplies and safety products. With over 50 plants and 18,000 people at its disposal, the $6 billion business is not only one of the industry’s most successful organizations, but also one of its most innovative. “We are one of very few companies in this industry that is vertically integrated,” explains Chief Operating Officer Andy Cichocki. “We can produce and supply gases to our customers in any form, from pipeline, to large liquid deliveries in bulk tanks, through to cylinder operations. As a diversified solution provider, we are capable of growing with our customers.” A key part of Airgas’ make-up has always been its deep network of production capabilities. In recent times, as part of efforts to further upgrade and improve its production facilities, the company has added new sites in North Carolina, Minneapolis and Pennsylvania.

“Our newest locations can each process upwards of 500 tons of liquid product a day - primarily oxygen, nitrogen and argon delivering them directly to the customer via pipeline, truck, or by way of compression into cylinders as gas at one of our 350-cylinder fill plants. It’s a system well-suited to the shifting demand of the market.” Dedicated to improving the performance of more than one million customers, Airgas serves a diverse range of sectors, including the welding and heavy industrial, energy, life sciences, and healthcare industries. With more than 950 retail branches across the country, the organization strives towards establishing a local presence for customers wherever they are located in the United States. “Our unique service model means we have the ability to work everywhere in the country,” Andy reports. “Supported by a major organization like Air Liquide, we can offer the big capabilities, but with a local touch. It’s a really valuable detail. “Additionally, we often partner with OEMs involved in welding goods and PPE,


and jointly go to market in various localities, making us a total provider. Whatever the product, we have a manufacturer or outlet that can make it happen.”

RADNOR brand

One example of this type of project occurred as recently as April 2021 when Airgas partnered with 3M to launch a new line of RADNOR welding helmets. Combining the rugged reliability and value of RADNOR with the performance technology of the 3M Speedglas brand, the product aims to bring enhanced performance to customers at an affordable price point.

When you combine our local presence; our enterprising, customer-facing teams; our vast production and distribution network; our national infrastructure; our evolving digital channels; and finally, our value-adding expertise, you have a company that is well-positioned to make the best of both the person-to-person B2B environment, and the dynamic, everchanging, digital B2B world “RADNOR is a private label brand for us and its products are born out of input from our key Tier One and Tier Two partner suppliers,” Andy reveals. “Working together on projects means we can deliver quality products at a local level, while allowing the OEMs to

increase their share of the market. Cobranded offerings like the RADNOR/3M helmet are not typical for this industry, but our partnerships act as an alternative to direct OEM purchase, and it’s certainly an innovative way forward. “For as long as I can remember, we have

DuPont For more than 200 years, DuPont’s scientists, engineers and technicians have responded to the world’s safety needs with the best in safety technologies and innovations. We’ve built our reputation on protecting industrial workers, first responders, law enforcement officers, military personnel and many others. Our reach into the market is made possible by strategic distribution partnerships. We are proud to highlight AIRGAS as a strategic supplier partner. Our long-term relationship has been built on shared values of safety and vision for protective apparel. Together we have protected industrial workers on the job for over 25 years! l 23


worked on large co-operative projects with our big strategic accounts, and we always will,” he adds. “These include onsite projects, vending programs, and onsite training with welding specialists for the review of processes in facilities as a way of increasing efficiency. “Whether our solutions are used directly by employees or in conjunction with automation, we want our customers to benefit as much as possible. You might think that increasing the efficient use of our goods leads to clients buying less product, but actually, we find that it brings us return business and a larger share of the market because people find value in what we do.” Complementing Airgas’ strong portfolio of local branches is a multi-channel market mix that includes telesales and web market portals. “The ultimate goal,” Andy says, “is to become an omnichannel organization, capable of servicing customers in any way they wish.” Backed by its expertise in gases, hard goods and safety items, Airgas prides itself

on developing and delivering some of the industry’s most advanced solutions. For example, as the need for medical oxygen has risen since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company has developed and released a number of pioneering products to help serve this demand. These items include INTELLI-OX, an innovative oxygen cylinder with enhanced features and proven reliability that can increase patient safety, optimize time and improve efficiency. “Every gurney in a hospital has an oxygen cylinder under it,” Andy explains. “Traditionally, you had to attach a regulator and monitor to it, but INTELLI-OX cylinders have a unique valve integrated, as well as alarms and gauges to make it easier for nurses and doctors to know if the cylinder is empty or full. It’s a special package for hospitals that we marry through our ALTEC technical solutions group, providing a much safer and easier application of gases. “As you can probably gather, at Airgas, we are not a basic, broad commodity distributor;

we are delivering solutions to help customers become better,” Andy continues. “For instance, we now offer a program called Unlocking the Hidden Cost of Welding to our clients, which can help them find efficiency on the shop floor through increased productivity, improved quality and sustainable cost reductions.”

Dedicated to safety

In 2021, a major shortage of welders in the United States continues to impact companies across the nation. By way of response to this issue, Airgas’ next challenges surround automation and digitization. “Automation is coming in and getting better and more flexible,” Andy declares. “Not only are we bringing a cobot to market at present to help customers experiment with light welding automation, but internally we are also trying to digitize a lot of our own processes, from the paper in our offices, to how we run our plants, all the way through to how customers interact with us.”

Ansell Ansell are a safety company, and protection is at the heart of everything we do. Our products and services inspire confidence in people everywhere and enable businesses and workers to perform better. Ansell’s mission is to provide innovative safety solutions in a trustworthy and reliable manner – creating an ‘Ansell Protected’ world. Ansell is honored to partner with Airgas to provide safety solutions across the industries they service, including metal fabrication, energy and chemical, construction, and food and beverage. Together, through Airgas and our AnsellGUARDIAN® service, we can guide you in identifying risks and hazards in your specific work environment to provide better safety for your workers, increased productivity, and lower costs. We strive to help address industrial safety challenges and deliver measurable protection and business improvements for the workers in your organization.

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No matter how much the business grows and changes over the next decade, Airgas will be guided by its culture and core principles, which include speed, local accountability and responsibility, and safety. The latter, Andy argues, has always been the firm’s top priority. “Safety is paramount in everything we do,” he asserts. “Nothing is more important. We

are handling flammable, dangerous products at pressure and customers expect us to be experts that are flawless in safety.” Such dedication to safe working principles is illustrative of the high regard in which Airgas holds its workforce and its clients. Highly people-centric in its approach, the firm continues to support local communities in

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2021 through a High School Welding Education Initiative and far-reaching efforts to establish Airgas as a more sustainable, environmentallyfriendly operation. “We use a lot of energy in our work, but if we can use less, we will be a better, more cost-effective company that positively impacts the environment, our communities, and our people,” Andy remarks. “We are at the beginning of a long journey with alternative fuels like hydrogen and we are already partnering successfully with customers and suppliers for the safe handling and efficient application of these resources. Whether it’s helping people use new fuels efficiently, assisting them in monitoring emissions, or participating in the use of alternative fuel with a modernized truck fleet at Airgas, there are going to be a lot of opportunities for us in the future.” As Airgas gears up for the next decade, Jay Worley, President of the firm’s West Division, is set to take over as Chief Operating Officer in October 2021. Ready to oversee the transition towards more digitization, automation and efficient sustainability, Jay is confident that the

Airgas organization can be optimistic about the future. “I believe that the outlook and future prospects for the company are really compelling,” Jay states. “When you combine our local presence; our enterprising, customer-facing teams; our vast production and distribution network; our national infrastructure; our evolving digital channels; and finally, our valueadding expertise, you have a company that is well-positioned to make the best of both the person-to-person B2B environment, and the dynamic, everchanging, digital B2B world. “In summary,” Jay concludes, “I think we are going to continue evolving in a way that optimizes our customers’ competitiveness through the use of digital technology. We hope to do it sustainably, preparing ourselves sufficiently for the transition that the whole world is heading into.” v

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Out with the old

Despite its age, Greene Tweed is keeping up with the times. By remaining loyal to new ideas and supporting the growing potential of its staff, the company is proud to develop, manufacture, sell and support innovative elastomeric, thermoplastic component solutions

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Greene Tweed


reene Tweed, which started out in the compounding market, has refreshed itself to become a significant leader in several industries.The business now has prime technologies streams that have come together to ensure it continues to provide system level solutions for the industries it supports. Brent Regan, Greene Tweed’s Vice President Business Operations and Technology Development, guides us through the journey that has led his business to become the award-winning manufacturer it is today; from the family-owned start-up that produced buggy whips in New York 152 years ago, to the manufacturer addressing some of the toughest applications for semiconductors, aerospace, defense, energy and industrial markets across the globe. “We are key with our sealing technologies in providing environmental protection, we keep environments from each other to ensure things like health & safety, productivity, reliability, uptime, yield is not comprised. We also protect equipment, and power and extract data from these harsh environments with our wear, abrasion, structural and electrical and fiber optic connectivity solutions,” Brent says, “Whether it be in semiconductor to keep prospective contaminants out of the chambers, and ensure that the contents, l 29

Greene Tweed

particularly the more dangerous chemicals, are not leaked, or in our energy, aerospace and defense or industrial markets high end, sealed, rugged, material and product solutions is what we do.” In order to produce such offerings, Greene Tweed practices in three main technology streams, Sealing, Wear/Abrasion/Structural Components, and Electrical and Data connectors. In ‘Sealing’, Greene Tweed is one of the industry leaders in perfluoroelastomers, which are also known as FFKMs. “We supply all our industries with high-end Chemraz™ elastomer products with tremendous material properties and strong capabilities to withstand different medias, pressures, temperatures or other process or environmental conditions that impact performance. We use our expertise in materials, various designs and geometries as well as unique manufacturing process to solve problems for our customers,” Brent continues. “With both Chemraz™, our industry leading FFKM, as well as other elastomer and plastic solutions like Fusion™ and Arlon™ that we put into

assemblies, we can create incremental, innovative fast solutions that require small changes to solve a problem with existing designs or provide complete product family development efforts creating entirely new product solutions.” Its second stream of ‘Wear/Abrasion and Structural Component replacement’ concerns thermoplastic and thermoplastic composites. These technologies are considered disruptive technologies and can serve as the replacement of metal with materials that are stronger, lighter, and more environment friendly. “You can imagine these would be incredibly useful for sectors like the airline industry that requires weight reductions in engines or other components for overall system and environmental performance,” Brent adds. “Lighter means less fuel, taking complex multi piece shapes and molding them into stronger, lighter single piece solutions saves overall maintenance, assembly and improves performance. Whether it be replacing heavier more complex shapes or providing innovative composite bearing, bushing or other

wear and abrasion products our composite solutions provide not only strength and weight differences but overall performance in pump and compressor efficiency and energy usage by employing these innovative solutions. “Finally, we have our third technology stream, which is fiber optic and electrical connectors. In this aspect, we will take the high-end plastic materials as well as our sealing experience that we have and produce a line of electrical and fiber optic connectors called Seal-Connect™ for the extreme conditions of oil and gas drilling and completions systems. These products need to be highly specialized to tolerate abusive scenarios, vibrations, pressures, and extreme temperatures when you are thousands of feet underground. So, we make connectors that provide the electric power and what we do is to take specialty materials, compound and adjust them, add further components to strengthen them, and then mold the parts according to what our clients require to solve their particular problem. In one instance, for example,

Accurate Precision Plating During the past decade, Accurate Precision Plating (APP) has formed a close working relationship with Greene Tweed (GT) by cooperating with GT engineers, supply chain, and management to create, enhance, and fine tune plating specifications to meet GT’s expectations. This collaboration has enabled both companies to benefit, develop, and promote the continuous improvement of quality to the highest level. APP continues to evolve with GT’s growth alongside other customers. Moving forward, APP seeks to strengthen its business relationship with Greene Tweed in both current and new opportunities while matching GT’s meticulous demands in plating. APP will continue to seek and acquire the latest technology in equipment process and testing to support its commitment to excellence, and to better meet demand. APP will add a new Plating Line to support an increased capacity for customer growth. Furthermore, Accurate Precision Plating shall continue matching industrypremium turnarounds while maintaining overall excellence and satisfaction in plating.

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what would traditionally be a glass-to-metal connector, we remade that out of a very high-end thermoplastic for greater reinforcing capabilities, utilizing a proprietary cross-linked material to create Arlon 3000XT™ that expands the limits of standard PEEK plastics into extreme pressure and temperature capability,” Brent explains, adding that understanding compound material science with the various ways in which they can be molded into shape is a skill that ultimately sets Greene Tweed apart from its competitors. Whether it be elastomer or thermoplastics, the combination of the materials, design capabilities and manufacturing processes is what enables these unique components to be shaped according to the necessary requirements for effective and long-lasting solutions.

Upgrades and improvements

Producing unparalleled elastomer and thermoplastic products is owed to the 150-yearold infrastructure that serves as the heart of the business. “It makes for quite an interesting story because we’ve acquired our assets and equipment over time, but of course this older infrastructure needs a touch up every now and then, so it’s currently undergoing a massive rejuvenation. Over the past three years, as part of our RIGHT-FITT initiative we are significantly complete in the full automation of our infrastructure. Through the use of transformative robots, cobots, machine automation, AI and MES we have been able to significantly upgrade and automate our facilities. A great example of the full automation was our composite R&D facility of a full robotic cell where we do most of our initial prototyping, robot, and automation work. We are in the midst of our five-year strategic plan, which will finalize the automation of all our facilities including looking at the supply and demand curves, our integrated business planning processes and the potential need for a new facility heading into the later stage of our plan,” he shares with Manufacturing Today. “Most of the infrastructure dates back 50-to-60 years, we do have more modern facilities that have been built in the past five years, but even in the older areas almost all of the equipment has been upgraded, brought in new, and we’ve built additional supporting facilities during this transition,” he says. From a product standpoint, Brent explains that one of the lines which demonstrates the full extent of the automation and digitization capabilities of the company’s enhancements is called ONX. “Traditionally, most of our solutions in the semiconductor industry, which is extensive and includes a lot of harsh operations, medias, pressures, temperatures, involve serious amounts of innovation. Recently, we’ve made a new, unique composite material in

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Greene Tweed which there’s enormous movement, molding and pressing in the manufacturing processes involved for the materials to make these compounds. Thankfully, for that, we have a full robotic cell to complete the operation for us. So, now we’re moving to the automation and digitization of things in our factories and we can incorporate a higher level of innovation to new materials that have not traditionally been used in the semiconductor industry, which can soon be introduced to industries that we previously may not have been able to reach,” he expresses.

People first

These developments sound like substantial investments, and Brent would agree that they are. However, he also adds that they are a sign that, despite Greene Tweed’s 150-yearold history, the company is keen to refresh the ‘dull, dirty and dangerous’ jobs for a safer environment in which its employees can not only work, but work in a safe, energizing and technologically interesting environment. “Our business is a tightly knit community that began with family and has continued as a business that treats its people like family. With this tremendous background of humanity and care for people, Greene Tweed’s culture is one that prioritizes its staff. I worked with a multi-national business before being taken on here and I honestly noticed such a huge difference with the company culture, and I think that comes down to the fact that it is family owned, which means that there are great ideals and a wonderful sense of ‘people first’ in everything we do. In line with what we’ve been speaking about, what has really impressed me is how well thought out the transformation has been to ensure the team is still cared for. The management still looks to that family ethos as a leadership technique and takes into consideration generational growth. It’s still important from quarter-to-quarter that we are growing because this is what will encourage a ten-year vision for the organization and for the attainment of our five-year strategic plan,” he says. This approach is clearly what serves as the foundational strength for the company’s prosperity. As it looks further ahead to the continuation of its future, Greene Tweed is choosing to explore mobility as an overall market, and because it facilitates the supply for different aspects across a multitude of industries, while also pushing innovation boundaries, many

opportunities are opening for the business. Where traditional aerospace sectors involve narrow and wide body airplanes, the industry is now expanding into materials used for aircrafts closer to the ground; drones, air taxis, standard planes and then, of course, the higher altitude planes that are sent into space. These materials require considerations regarding their weight and strength, while also keeping the environmental impact of manufacturing as low as possible. “As we continue to focus on our key industries like semiconductor which is seeing and will continue to see explosive growth, we are actively pursuing adjacent market spaces that our current solutions and development capability match. Market spaces like Mobility, an increasing hydrogen eco-system, batteries, alternative energy, and others. So, those are

the areas that we’d like to grow in. We tend to do our best when we look to what’s new and innovative, which is why we have seen a significant amount of our success in the semiconductor industry, because it continues to push its technology towards partners that can develop just as quickly,” Brent says. As Greene Tweed continues to strive for state-of-the-art processing capabilities in order to keep its pace with an ever-changing sector, it is excited to sustain its success in servicing its industries with passion and dedication. v

Greene Tweed Services: Elastomer, thermoplastics and thermoplastics components manufacturer l 33

The total package Exciting developments are underway at the Schumacher Packaging plants; a new expansion at the facility in Greven, Germany, as well as the business’ progression in enhancing its ecommerce strategy to facilitate future growth


he German family business, Schumacher Packaging, considers itself an outstanding packaging manufacturer that came to life in 1948. Although established by Wulf Schumacher, Björn and Hendrik Schumacher have taken

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over their family’s legacy and under their leadership, the company has surpassed its own expectations to be one of the leading packaging companies in Europe. Björn, who is now the company’s Managing Director, discusses with us the strategies and innovation

that have led to the company’s progression as it continues to strive for a turnover goal of €1 billion by 2022. “We made an acquisition in Birmingham, England, two years ago that has allowed us to have a more geographical set up in Europe that supports

Schumacher Packaging GmbH Greven plant

Björn Schumacher, CEO Schumacher Packaging Group

our customers both locally and internationally. I feel that acquisition set us in a strong position to provide the level of capabilities that we do,” he begins. Headquartered in Ebersdorf bei Coburg, Upper Franconia, Schumacher Packaging is currently led by the third generation of Schumachers and specializes in customized packaging systems made of corrugated and solid board. With 26 sites spread across Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, England and the Netherlands, the business is one of Europe’s largest family-run companies in the sector, and it keeps getting bigger. Recently, the company has implemented new developments at its Greven plant, which was originally built in 2014. According to Björn, it was always in the pipeline to double the production capacity, l 35

Schumacher Packaging GmbH but as a result of the business’s recent impressive growth, the vision is coming into fruition.

Unique technology

While the company’s strategy at the beginning of 2021 was to remain cautious regarding its investment planning owing to the uncertainties inflicted by Covid-19, at the same time, the demand for corrugated board packaging exploded, propelling the business forward and giving it the go-ahead for Greven. These expansion developments are now underway and the production facility is quickly becoming one of the world’s largest multi-mega plants to date and replacing its Ebersdorf headquarters. By the end of June of this year, approximately €70 million had gone into creating 200 new jobs and a 7000 square meter expansion of the production

area. Following that, the company is building another 14,000 square meters on the factory premises. Björn is happy to share that completing a project of this scale would not have been possible without the assistance of one particular partner: BHS Corrugated, a global provider of mechanical and plant engineering, lifecycle service and digital solutions for the complex requirements of the corrugated cardboard industry. In his opinion, the mission for Schumacher Packaging has always been to pioneer digital print technology, which has only recently become a highly innovative avenue. Although it is still fairly new to the industry, Björn believes it is the future of printing. “These printers are much more flexible, they don’t require any additional set ups, and they support a level of convenience that is equivalent to any other office printer,

except it is a much bigger size,” he shares, “This is why BHS is a crucial partner to us. The family-owned company is based in Bavaria, which means that geographically, they are very close to us, while globally, they are a massive business and at least 50 percent of packaging plants around the globe use its machines. This, I feel, makes them market pioneers. Relationally, we enjoy a close cooperation with BHS; if they invest in anything new, the owner is immediately on the phone with me and wants to know if Schumacher would be interested in being a pilot customer, which is essentially how the Greven story began,” he adds. He continues to highlight that BHS is passionate about the industry moving away from directly printing on the corrugator. This is how it came up with a way to combine Schumacher’s corrugator with a digital print machine and produce paper reel prints before the paper

The RSR®- digital printer at the Schumacher facility in Greven

BHS Corrugated BHS Corrugated is Schumacher Group’s long-standing partner in providing solutions for the corrugated industry. The cooperation ranging back to over 50 years has since been based on a principle embedded in the corporate philosophy of BHS Corrugated: to significantly increase the corrugators’ productivity and boost profitability. The joint mission is mirrored in reality. Peak performance and numerous records have already been achieved by the corrugator, designed by BHS Corrugated, at Schumacher’s main plant in Ebersdorf, Germany. During the many years of collaboration, BHS Corrugated contributed to Schumacher Group’s internationalization, e.g. by supplying plants in Poland or making major investments in England. The long-standing partnership drives mutual performance of both companies. The currently largest and most challenging joint project is the expansion of the plant in Greven, Germany, where in addition to a new corrugator (design speed of 450 m/min), the world’s first digital printing machine from BHS Corrugated has been started-up. Furthermore, roll handling at the Greven plant will in future be realized via a fully automatic shuttle system. Both partners are thus setting a milestone in the corrugated industry. Key to success? Trust and innovative spirit represent the cornerstones of the partnership and form the foundation for long-standing future collaboration.

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Schumacher Packaging achieved EcoVadis platinum status for its facility in Wrocław/Poland

runs into the machine. “In Greven, we have a massive digital print machine that has been built with the assistance of BHS, which, as far as I know, is the first and only one of its kind,” Björn expresses.

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New technology of this level has also encouraged the company to push itself further and explore opportunities in the ecommerce market. “It’s really the future of marketing for the packaging industry. The truth is that Schumacher

has always been ahead of the industry when it comes to the capabilities of our machines, which has given us the space to understand the needs of the ecommerce sector. Accordingly, we have set up our mills, machines and technologies to be able to serve that specific market segment. If we look at our portfolio, which ranges from major to very niche industries, about 30 percent of fast moving consumer goods, like food or automotive industries, supports our revenue. This is why we are taking the opportunity to invest another third of our turnover into ecommerce. Although these products have helped the standard economy grow from two to five percent, ecommerce has grown at least 10 percent or more, and for our business, this means that we have seen a huge increase since October of 2020,” he notes. However, for Björn’s team, this means that the past few months has been incredibly busy. “Thankfully, it is cooling down now because people are going on holiday and spending their money elsewhere, which is good because that gives everyone in the warehouses a bit of breathing space,” he expresses.

Schumacher Packaging GmbH Aside from its innovation in creating packaging solutions for the international market, the business is equally as excited to support its green strategies. This, in the words of Björn, comes down to the advantages of being a family-owned company, because the business is able to fulfill important decisions with very few bureaucratic barriers. “We investigated our status regarding our carbon footprint and then we looked into all the areas where there was room for improvement. Additionally, the market is actually pushing us to do this. It is no surprise that becoming eco-friendly is a massive demand across all industries,

which is why companies like EcoVadis are doing fantastic work in helping businesses achieve better green practices,” he notes. The Parisian company is depended upon by many specialty stock list companies like Nike and Amazon, who use EcoVadis to ensure that their suppliers are taking sustainable steps, whether this is with regards to the use of water or electricity, or whether the company is ethically sound in how it treats its people. “These businesses don’t want to leave a negative impression at their own risk, especially because many of us are web-based portals. With EcoVadis, we are proud to announce that we have made the necessary

Papier- und Kartonfabrik Varel (PKV) Schumacher Packaging and Papier- und Kartonfabrik Varel (PKV) have enjoyed a trusting partnership for many years, for which we are very grateful. PKV are a medium-sized family business with about 600 employees, and produce cardboard and containerboard for the German and international packaging industry on the basis of recovered paper using the latest environmentally-friendly technologies. We are at the heart of the packaging solutions of many well-known products. With an annual production capacity of over 925,000 tonnes on four production lines, we are one of the largest production sites in the European paper industry.

adjustments and continue to do so across all our sites. This is how we were able to receive fantastic ratings that range from bronze medal, up to a platinum, which is the highest level that we recently received in Poland,” he shares.

Quick thinking

Additional advantages to being a flexible company encompasses the ability to facilitate quick decision making, hands-on management, the agility to respond to market turbulence, and keep employees motivated on a personal level. As one can imagine, these measures proved quintessential when the pandemic struck businesses across the world and forced many industries to reimagine their operations. “Our team urgently and very quickly faced the challenge of adapting to the fast-changing circumstances. So, we made greater capacities available; our employees were fantastic in committing themselves to getting the job done and our suppliers have been just as reliable and supported us by delivering more than we expected,” he explains. l 39

The RSR®- digital printer at the Schumacher facility in Greven

Further to this, the business was also able to take on another supportive venture in helping customers remain safe by producing plexi-glass windows that were soon used as partitions in hotels, restaurants and offices. “We invested in this product made of paper with a corrugated window in between and we set up a web shop as well to make them available to as many clients as possible. We thought that partition walls in restaurants and administration sectors were urgently needed and they were quite successful in Germany,” Björn notes.

Increased integration

Now, as the world veers away from the worst of the Covid-19 crisis, Schumacher Packaging is determined to refine its operations to a world-class standard. In doing so, it hopes to incorporate greater in-house abilities to become a more independent business. “The next plan is to stabilize our supplies, which will begin with investing in our own paper mills. At the moment, we have two mills in Poland for

Hörmann Logistik Acting as a general contractor, Hörmann Logistik implement innovative warehouse logistics solutions ranging from automatic high-bay warehouses or miniload warehouses to conveyor technology, control and warehouse management systems for various industries. The corrugated board industry is one of the most important industries where we realized a lot of full automated high bay warehouses for finished goods and vertical storages for raw material in several countries and for several customers. With special storage solutions we are able to store in a flexible way different sizes of load units, without any pallet or up to 12 pallets under the load.

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Schumacher Packaging GmbH recycled paper, and those facilities are producing around 50 percent of our needs. However, at the rate that we are growing, we need to adapt. The biggest problem in our industry, which has not been made easier by the pandemic, is acquiring raw material, and as long as we are integrated within the supply chain, we face the risk of suffering from the difficulties that our suppliers face. “As an integrated company with our own paper mills, we can guarantee our customers a high level of supply security and develop a stronger trust in our name. This is why the next step is to invest at least €100 million into our paper mills and expand the capacity at one of our sites in Myszków, which will double our capacity within the next two to three years,” Björn shares. As a company that already hosts an expansive infrastructure, it will be interesting to catch up with Björn again in a few years’ time to learn more about how no box is big enough to contain the potential of Schumacher Packaging. v

The RSR®- digital printer at the Schumacher facility in Greven

Schumacher Packaging GmbH index.html Services: Packaging manufacturers l 41

Go Pack Go! A full-service packaging firm built on a culture of innovation, Green Bay Packaging is much more than just a box company


amily-owned, vertically integrated and diversified, Green Bay Packaging (GBP) has been delivering innovative packaging solutions for customers across the United States since 1933. Established in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and guided by the vision of its Founder, George Kress, the company grew quickly, driven by a focus on customers and a steadfast desire for continuous improvement. Today, in 2021, GBP is led by third generation President and CEO, Will Kress. Under Will’s leadership, the company offers a variety of products, including corrugated packaging, in-store displays, folding cartons, coating label stock and containerboard. No matter how much it has grown, the company has always remained dedicated to the development of its products and forestry resources, with a focus on quality and sustainability.

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Green Bay Packaging

“There are many things that set GBP apart from the competition, and it varies a bit in each product category, but the common thread is our quality process and our commitment to product development and continuous improvement,” Vice President of National Sales & Marketing Rick Luftman says. “This strategy has helped us provide our customers with innovative solutions at the lowest total cost for nearly a century. Within the corrugated packaging space, we are currently pioneering and advancing Retail Ready Packaging, E-Commerce Packaging, POP, and Digital Printing. GBP is now considered a leader in many of these areas.” Operating from 37 strategic locations across 15 states, GBP’s infrastructural portfolio consists of corrugated container plants, folding carton operations, recycled and virgin linerboard mills, pressure-sensitive label manufacturing, specialty converting operations, and timberlands. After

breaking ground on a brand-new recycled containerboard mill in Green Bay, Wisconsin in August 2018, the company opened the doors to the facility in March 2021, completing the project on time despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic. “The new 100 percent recycled containerboard facility replaces an older, smaller,

existing mill in Green Bay,” Rick states. “The new machinery will run several grades of both linerboard and medium and includes one of the widest machines in North America. The mill itself boasts an industry-first, 100 percent circular reclaimed water system that will not draw from, nor discharge water into, the adjacent Fox River and is considered one of l 43

the most sustainable paper mills in the world. “Many of our customers are currently experiencing high demand and require shorter lead times, so we are in the process of building greenfield sites, expanding several of our facilities and adding more converting equipment to help service our clients more effectively. From an e-commerce perspective, we are adding two-sided print capabilities, which not only offers more options for product identification, but also provides marketing with additional space to print messaging, utilize high graphic printing, and provide an improved box opening experience for consumers.” As Rick points out, GBP is resolute in its determination to take care of the environment – a key feature of the business instilled early on by its Founder. Consequently, the launch of the company’s new eco-friendly paper mill will not be the last of its sustainability-related activities in 2021. “Thanks to the work of George Kress, we like to think that GBP was environmentally friendly before it became fashionable,” remarks Executive Vice President Bryan Hollenbach. “We have always designed our facilities to be that way in spite of the increased cost of equipment. “In the longer-term, we have a goal of getting to Zero Landfill at all our converting locations by 2025. Corrugated is the most recycled substrate in the world, which puts us at a great advantage in this area.” The strength of GBP’s convictions, and the bravery to put these beliefs into action, is born out of the company’s culture. Working in conjunction with a skilled and motivated workforce, the company’s leadership team aims to maintain the organization’s founding spirit, while endowing employees with the space to grow as individuals. “We are extremely proud of our company culture,” Bryan declares. “We believe in providing a vision for our employees, while giving them the resources to do a great job. We get out of their way and let them make decisions, make a difference, and show pride in their work. We do not micromanage; we work hard to reduce layers and let our people take ownership of what they do. This is a vital part of forming a motivated workforce and a key to our success.

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Green Bay Packaging We work on this together every day.” Having kept its workforce safe and the business healthy throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, GBP retains a strong presence in a competitive industry. With a superior product and an enthusiasm for delivering the best service to its customers, the company is confident that its culture and approach are a perfect fit for getting through challenging periods, as well as the good times. “We are privately held and think long-term,” Bryan explains. “We invest in our company at a healthy rate and look for the right opportunities to grow. “Our approach to business and our culture will not change. We will continue to be the right provider of superior packaging and service to many customers, and we will take advantage of openings as they arise.” v

Green Bay Packaging Services: Full-service packaging company

Flint Group Packaging Inks Flint Group Packaging Inks supply the global packaging industry with an extensive portfolio of inks, coatings and service solutions. Sustainability and the well-being of our planet and societies are paramount. We are committed to supporting packaging markets with responsibly-built products and sustainable solutions designed for circular economies and we have continuous improvement programs in place to reduce our environmental impact now and for future generations. Our manufacturing platforms employ Lean Management techniques backed by operational excellence, enabling us to deliver robust and consistent products. With a strong focus on service and support, we can deliver optimum results worldwide. l 45

Delivering innovation Having maintained its impressive growth trajectory throughout the past 18 months, Stolle Machinery Europe is poised for further success in the coming years

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Stolle Machinery l 47


t was almost a year ago – back in September 2020 – when Manufacturing Today previously featured Stolle Machinery Europe within the pages of this magazine. Headquartered in Carlisle, UK, the business is a part of Stolle Machinery – the world’s leading supplier of two-piece can and end-making machinery for the canmaking industry – and is well equipped to serve beverage, food can, and end makers on a truly global basis. Stolle Machinery’s high-speed machines have long been seen as being the backbone of canmaking operations worldwide, primarily due to their proven productivity and reliability. The organization provides complete solutions at any level – be it from individual machines, line modules, and rapid service with OEM parts, to the design, build, and commissioning of a complete facility – while its technical leadership means that its customers always receive equipment boasting the latest engineering advances and improvements. What this all means is that canmakers around the world know that with Stolle, they have a partner that wholeheartedly supports their productivity and profitability.

At the time of the aforementioned previous coverage, it was Stolle Machinery Europe’s Executive Vice President, Steve Higginson, who this publication had the pleasure of speaking with. Now, roughly 12 months on, it is with great excitement that Steve is able to update us on what the intervening months have been like for the company and its parent organization. “Over the last year, Stolle Machinery, including ourselves and its other international divisions, have experienced what can best be described as a steady increase in commercial activity,” he notes. Of course, what makes the above fact all the more impressive is that it has occurred during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. As Steve reveals, however, Stolle Machinery Europe took very specific, targeted measures in order to face down, and ultimately overcome, the challenges it faced. “What we did from the outset of the pandemic was to form a Crisis Management Team, which initially was meeting on a daily basis, and eventually weekly in order to stay on top of the latest developments,” he says. “It has been this team’s job to provide every possible guidance and level of protection to our staff and our customers during the pandemic.

“Indeed, we have ensured that we have been able to go above and beyond Government guidance on dealing with the virus and its risks wherever possible, and we made it our mission to maintain regular communication with our people across the business, while also examining all possible ways and means of balancing conditions so as to minimize any financial impact on our employees. “In some ways, being restricted from travelling around has actually helped to strengthen relationships and understanding between our various teams and locations, and considering everything that we have faced since March 2020, I would say that we have adapted extremely well during a time of considerable crisis. For that, I am very proud of everyone in our business.” By very much adhering to the philosophy of the wider Stolle group – which is to operate through the pandemic with the maximum amount of protection for its people, and with minimal interruption to the business – Stolle Machinery Europe has managed to continue to serve its customer base with the same level of quality and professionalism that it has come to expect.

Insight and experience

For those less familiar with Stolle Machinery Europe, it is a major hub for genuine Stolle OEM parts, field service, and complete technical support for can and end lines. It also provides rapid response services, and stocks a wide inventory of spares for 24-hour delivery of parts when needed. Modern machining and assembly facilities can refurbish dies and machinery for the entire EMEA region, including the use of a specialized SIP vertical boring and milling machine for die sets. Meanwhile, a staff of experienced engineers support all of the different services offered by Stolle Machinery Europe, including machine and container R&D, mechanical design, and all related fields. Stolle Machinery Europe is also the hub for three additional groups: Stolle Global Systems, Stolle EMS, and Stolle Conveying Systems. In the case of the former, Carlisle is also home to its headquarters, from which Stolle Global Systems provides turnkey design, construction, upgrades and process analysis for can and end facilities worldwide. The group possesses extensive experience in everything from new installations on green or brownfields, to facilities redesign, to individual machine module analysis and remediation. Meanwhile, many of its team are former can plant employees and managers themselves, providing each with the insight and experience to understand the intricacies and practical ramifications of can and end line layout and construction.

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Stolle Machinery From initial concept to commissioning, the Stolle Global Systems team uses a proven six-step process of project management that delivers results with single source responsibility. These steps are preliminary engineering, detailed engineering, production preparation, installation and commissioning, start-up and qualification, and aftermarket support. At the end of the day, the Stolle Global Systems group has two primary focuses, facilities construction and process analysis, and no matter what a customer may require, they can be assured that their work will be done quickly and efficiently. This group is experienced in designing and building beverage can and beverage end lines, food can and end lines, aerosol can lines, and lines and machines for other drawn containers or products. Stolle Global Systems also offers tooling RBC Bearings Founded in 1919, RBC Bearings’ guiding philosophy is to provide our industrial customers with unique design solutions to complex problems and an unparalleled level of service, quality, and support. Our partnership with Stolle Machinery exemplifies this principle. As Stolle continues to push the performance and production boundaries of the can-making industry, we are right by their side, developing cost-effective, long-term engineered solutions to the technical bearing challenges that inevitably arise.

OptimusWasher 5120

and can/end design and optimization services with complete technical support throughout the process. It offers a range of value-added services that can keep any can or end plant running smoothly and profitably. Whether a client needs an analysis of lines or machines using its sophisticated software and experience, or tooling l 49


design for cupping, DWI and DRD systems, increased metal economies, enhanced usability and lowered costs are the results. Stolle EMS, on the other hand, is responsible for the design and manufacture of a wide range of thermal products, including Optimus washers and dryers, DecoCure pin ovens, and InterCure internal bake ovens.The aforementioned washers have been a particularly strong source of revenue in recent times for the overall business.

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Sophisticated technology

The Stolle Optimus Can Washer is designed to wash, treat the surface, and rinse two-piece beverage cans after they are discharged by the bodymakers/trimmers. Each multi-stage washer is custom-designed to meet specific customer requirements, which may include additional rinse stages, heated stages, counterflows, and backflows. Manufactured within a specificallydesignated Stolle plant, this washer features

continuously-welded construction from European-sourced 316L stainless steel, while base frames and pump platforms can be specified as either mild steel (with two-part epoxy coating) or stainless steel. The Stolle Optimus Can Washer comes complete with an automatic height-adjustable vacuum transfer unit, tipped can reject conveyor, modular heater skid, and Stolle coalescers. All of these components are integrated into the control system that is operated from a user-friendly HMI. Critical features of the washer include, reduced can spoilage through more precise adjustments and controls, fine auto-adjustment on hold-downs, Intralox main and holddown belts, and optimum flows and systems pressures (resized pipework, pumps and valves) to reduce water and chemical usages. It also boasts ultrasonic flow meters, full process control at each stage, and VFD control on all pumps/fans and butterfly valves in pipework to allow for the fine tuning of the washer setup. Further to all of the above, the washer provides for reduced carry-over between stages, incorporating independent blow-off systems

Stolle Machinery after each stage to remove solution and water from the dome of the can, and independent belt vacuum systems and brush systems that assist in minimizing carry-over of solutions from one washer stage to another, thus improving conductivity profiles. Lastly, its reduced washer footprint saves plant floor space, allowing for an increase in capacity in the same – or in many cases smaller – sized area. “In the time since 2019, we have increased our production capacity of said washers from five units, to the point where today we are in the midst of producing no fewer than 26 units, all while also incorporating a robust quality improvement program,” Steve highlights. As a matter of fact, the company’s position is, that it actually finds itself in the midst of planning production runs in order to fulfil orders for as far in advance as 2024.

Customer requirements

Stolle EMS is also responsible for building the Stolle E-NCKR modular die necking system, as well as coolant filtration systems configured to fit any bodymaker module. In addition to several facilities in Altham in the UK, Stolle

InterCure Oven

EMS also boasts a large manufacturing facility in Gliwice, Poland. Last, but by no means least, Stolle Conveying Systems designs, manufactures, installs and

commissions complete conveying systems for high speed two-piece beverage can lines, as well as for food cans and other types of specialized container production.

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Working with canmakers around the world on everything from large turn-key conveying system projects, to smaller designs and projects, Stolle Conveying Systems has developed specialized conveyors to efficiently move product between each step of production, from cups, to wet cans, bright cans, decorated cans, and finished necked cans ready to be palletized. Each conveyor unit is custom designed and built for the customer’s unique production requirements and machinery specifications, using the highest quality of materials and components. Stolle conveying equipment for a typical two-piece beverage can line includes, cupper discharge air table, cup elevator, cup handling systems and re-circulating cup systems, bodymaker infeed sweeps, and bodymakerto-trimmer interconnecting conveyors. They also possess – among other items – washer/ drier discharge turnover units, basecoater and decorator infeeds, inside spray machine infeeds, an internal bake oven infeed, necker infeed, discreet light tester and vision inspection system conveyors, and a vacuum transfer unit. Stolle Conveying Systems’ facility utilizes

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Stolle Machinery the latest machinery and technology in order to meet the requirements of its customers, and to adhere to the highest standards of manufacturing. All of its products are designed, manufactured, installed, and commissioned by highly experienced expert engineers, each of whom are well versed in meeting – and exceeding – customer expectations. Speaking with Steve, it is extremely heartening to hear that virtually all of Stolle’s sites throughout the world currently find themselves exceptionally busy. Steve puts a lot of this down to the business being able to ensure its customers are provided with the right products to meet their respective needs, when they need them. “Our ability to ramp up supply during busy times is particularly unique to Stolle,” he states. “Indeed, a core part of our company strategy is to meet demand by further growing our footprint and generating multiple supply locations. “For our part, Stolle Europe will continue to build equipment, in addition to adding to the systems side of the business. We also continue to invest in our people, our infrastructure, and our supply chain as part of a multi-pronged

effort to meet the ever-increasing demand for our industry-leading products.”

Future plans

One thing that has stayed consistent over the years has been Stolle and Stolle Machinery Europe’s reputations for delivering innovation to its fields of expertise. Such achievements do not come without their challenges, however, and Steve is perfectly aware of what the business may have to overcome going forward when developing the solutions of the future. “The constantly evolving nature of people’s skill sets always poses a challenge, and we also recognize that lines are running faster than ever before, with more complex variations, and that our products will have to continue to provide the widest possible operating window. To this end, we will be focusing in on areas of advanced technology such as Artificial Intelligence, and on utilizing Predictive Maintenance programs,” he points out. As far as where the coming months and years will take Stolle Machinery Europe, Steve reveals that it plans to hold a steady course in the near-term. “Our order books are looking

very good indeed through to 2023, and all of the forecasts that we have seen to date suggest that activity will remain high into 2025,” he says. “Looking even further ahead, the business fully intends to remain the largest supplier to the industry, operating from a growing number of global outlets, each of which will be supported by the latest technology available.” With this mind, Steve has one final statement that he wishes to make. “I think with the ownership and leadership of the business that we have, we can count ourselves as extremely for tunate to have had the financial health necessary to allow for ongoing, substantial investment at such a critical time. That, ultimately, has been to the benefit of not only our customers, but also to the wellbeing and security of our biggest asset, which is our people.” v

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Something to meow about

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Whisker Jacob Zuppke

On a mission to make life for pets and pet parents endlessly better, Whisker is the proud manufacturer of some of the world’s most innovative pet care products


world-leading pioneer in the development of highly functional pet appliances and accessories, Whisker solves problems for pet parents, making pet care easier and more enjoyable for all. Formerly known as AutoPets, the company recently underwent a major rebranding process, meaning its products now all fall under the same banner. Consequently, Whisker is now the standalone home for a growing portfolio of intuitive pet solutions, headlined by the world-famous Litter-Robot. In existence for 20 years, the Litter-Robot has transformed the lives of more than 600,000 people worldwide. An automatic, self-cleaning litter box for cats, the Litter-Robot sifts waste within minutes to greatly reduce unpleasant odors and the tracking of dirty paws in homes. WiFi-enabled for use in conjunction with a mobile app, the Litter-Robot helps users save time and money, while ensuring that pet parents never have to scoop a litter box again. l 55

“The Litter-Robot is the number one automatic litter box for cats and it has been for a very long time,” declares President & Chief Operating Officer Jacob Zuppke. “In recent years, we’ve also introduced the Feeder-Robot, cat litter subscriptions, pet furniture and a range of great refined pet accessories as well.” Over the course of the last half-decade, Whisker has experienced phenomenal 1000+ percent growth and the business found itself up by more than 100+ percent in the first quarter of 2021. In order to stay ahead of this soaring demand - fueled primarily, Jacob says, by investment in marketing, along with growing education and increasing awareness of the company’s products - Whisker recently invested $9 million in upgrading its Wisconsin manufacturing facility. “In line with our growth and our aims to double down on US-manufacturing, the investment in manufacturing will be directed towards adding 160,000-square feet to our existing Juneau, Wisconsin facility, which currently sits at 60,000-square feet, giving us a total of 220,000-square feet of proud US manufacturing,” Jacob reports. As Jacob hints, all Whisker products are designed,

assembled and serviced in the USA. Quick to celebrate the ongoing success of the firm’s Wisconsin and Michigan locations, the President and COO believes that domestic production has played a vital role in helping Whisker to thrive in spite of the challenges presented by Covid-19. “Covid-19 made us realize, more than ever, just how important it is to be making our products here in the US,” Jacob reveals. “We were not nearly as delayed as some manufacturers who couldn’t arrange transit, putting us in a position to better support our deserving pet parents (customers). “The expansion in Juneau means we will soon be able to hire around 500 new employees in that area, and further adds to our credentials as a homegrown American success story; a domestic manufacturer people can trust.”

Product innovation

Support from Whisker’s customers and suppliers has also been integral to the company’s recent success. Thanks to long-term relationships with partners like New Berlin Plastics - which continues to update its production capabilities in order to keep

component quality high - Whisker has the confidence to stand behind its Litter-Robot for the life of the product. “We have a customer-first mentality and we really take care of our pet parents,” Jacob says. “One of the things that separates us from many of our competitors, particularly in the litter box space, is that we truly stand behind our products. A $500 litter box might seem expensive on the face of it, but when you know that the manufacturer is going to support you in the long-term, both in and out of warranty, it makes you feel a whole lot better about the purchase, and 20,000+ positive online reviews corroborate that point. “Much like when you buy a household appliance, like a dishwasher or a washing machine, customers don’t just focus on price, but on the serviceability behind the product and whether it is made by a trusted brand. The same goes for a pet appliance like the LitterRobot. Luckily, a great group of partners and suppliers enables us to back every single item with a long-term promise of customer support because we believe in the product, its quality and its longevity.” In order to stay at the head of the market in the years ahead, Whisker is determined to focus on the elements and factors of its operation that have helped carve out its rise to the top. Accordingly, innovative product development will remain at the forefront of everything the company does. “The second we stop innovating is the moment we will fall behind as a business,” Jacob asserts. “Without great engineers and product developers, we would have no future, and that is why we will be doubling down on engineering investments as well. In 2015, we had only two engineers, but now we are up to 28 engineers and still growing. Product innovation and doing things differently has got us where we are today and will get us where we need to go in the future.”

Digital plans

A strong believer in the idea that pet parenthood can always get better, Whisker will continue to work tirelessly to solve problems as it strives to remain a worldwide leader in connected pet care, delivering meaningful insights that lead to smarter decisions for pets. Twenty-two years since Founder Brad Baxter inherited two cats and discovered the inconvenience of litter scooping, Whisker is ready to build upon its significant collection of existing achievements. “At Whisker, we will continue to invest in high-funnel marketing, and particularly in the

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Whisker education of consumers and why they need the Litter-Robot. That is a major focus for us,” Jacob remarks. “We will also look for deeper product integration with our mobile app. As with all Internet of Things products, while the physical hardware typically solves the problem, the consumer views the software as the interface. Therefore, even though the Litter-Robot does a lot of great things for consumers and solves the problem of the litter box, pet parents will continue to interact with the appliance through ever-improving versions of our app. “Finally, we hope to plough further investment into our engineering team, specifically in the area of software,” Jacob concludes. “In three-to-five

years’ time, we want Whisker to be recognized as a world-class manufacturer and product developer. “By 2025, it is our aim to have an omnichannel presence and a full digital insights platform. Most importantly, we want people around the globe to know the Whisker name and associate it with the most innovative pet products on the market, sold directly to international consumers.” v

Whisker Products: Innovative pet care products

Fox Cities Builders Fox Cities Builders thrive on the use of technology every day to manage the building construction processes. We communicate with our customers what’s happening, why it’s happening and when things are happening. In 2019, Whisker (formerly AutoPets) chose to partner with the Fox Cities Builders team and broke ground on a new 30,000 sqft addition to expand their existing manufacturing facility to further develop and grow their distribution network. The next phase began in 2020 and included new renovations & expansion to offices and employee areas. With their focus on technology to be a worldwide leader in connected pet care, we have once again teamed up with Whisker, and on Tuesday, June 1, 2021, we broke ground for a brand new 160,000 square foot manufacturing facility that will connect to their existing facilities; bringing their total to 220,000 sqft! Congratulations Whisker, we are proud to partner with you! l 57

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Ashwood Designs Limited

Redefining furniture B

oth designers by profession and with extensive backgrounds in the UK’s upholstery manufacturing space, Richard Smart and Stuart Youngs came together in 2005 to establish Aberdare, Wales-based Ashwood Designs Limited (Ashwood). Invited to join AIS – the UK’s largest furniture buying group – in 2006, within five years of its founding the company had achieved a turnover of £10 million. Now, in 2021, Ashwood is well and truly among the leading UK furniture manufacturers, supplying market leading retailers as well as independent buying groups. The company has very much been built upon an ethos of innovative design and using high quality materials, with its furniture combining

technical prowess with a bespoke approach. “From the conception stage onwards, we constantly strive to come up with new and exciting products that incorporate the very best in both existing and new fabrics,” Richard – Director and Co-Owner of the business – begins. “Whether it be our collections of loungers, twisters and swivel chairs, our Forever range of 100 percent recycled fabrics, or our revolutionary Aquaclean Technology that allows you to clean everyday stains using only water, at Ashwood we have been pioneering products since our first day in existence!” While being a trusted UK manufacturer comes with a degree of in-built reputation for quality, Richard goes on to point out that carrying a strong level of innovative flair and

Since 2005, Ashwood Designs Limited has been producing bespoke upholstered furniture in the picturesque Welsh valleys. Today, its talented and passionate team remain at the heart of a company with significant future growth potential creativity goes a long way when a company is effectively competing for market share against the rest of the world. “Since we introduced the likes of Forever and Aquaclean, others in the industry have subsequently come to market with their own sustainable fabrics or similar technologies,” he notes. “What we continue to find, however, is that one of the first things that draws a customer’s interest is the color or fabric of a piece of furniture. As such, it is more important than ever that Ashwood remains wholly in tune with current trends and fashions, and that we apply these to products that are reliable and offer value for money.” Ashwood’s designs constantly evolve to reflect how people live today, whilst l 59

continuing to reflect the company’s quality and craftsmanship. “One of the things that we are always looking to do with our products is reflect the choices and styles that the UK public like,” fellow Director and Co-Owner Stuart adds.

“For every customer who is drawn to more contemporary ranges, there will be those that are interested in the more traditional, classic options. So, in order to cater for all groups, and to match all manner of tastes, we have cultivated

a diverse range of upholstery.” It is clear from the above, therefore, that innovation is a key word to use when explaining what makes Ashwood unique, but as Stuart goes on to state, there is much more to it than just that. “Guided by a truly high-quality product portfolio, we are always looking for opportunities to target new market sectors that we believe we can bring good value to. We then combine this with a fantastic, highly-skilled workforce, who we continue to invest heavily in via advanced training and development, and equipping them with the latest in CNC and cutting technologies.”

Product showcases

The company has similarly made it an area of considerable importance to maintain strong, mutually beneficial relationships with its suppliers. “A high percentage of those businesses that make up our supply chain today have been partners of ours for a considerable length of time,” Richard says. “As a rule, we work with people that we can trust, after all with each Ashwood product we sell, we are at the same time selling our reputation, so it is imperative that we have complete confidence in every party involved. On the flip side of the coin, our relationships allow our suppliers to bring forward innovation to us, which we can potentially make greater use of, so it is very much about creating a two-way street between us and them.” Since the turn of 2020, Ashwood’s business – like every other – has at least in some part been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially shutting down virtually all of its operations at the onset of the first UK lockdown in March 2020, production

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Ashwood Designs Limited

activity recommenced in May 2020 in line with a number of its key retail partners taking deliveries. “We were fortunate that even prior to the pandemic we boasted a very safe working environment in which our people

carry out their jobs,” Richard details. “Once we were able to bring our people back onto site, we did so in a gradual manner, building back up to full capacity over a period of time so as to allow everyone to maintain a safe

distance. That, alongside with readily available PPE, helped to create an environment where everyone felt safe to be in.” Stuart also says: “The new working practices that we initiated in the wake of Covid-19 l 61

Ashwood’s ability to “roll with the punches”, as Stuart puts it, is clear to see, and having emerged from what is – hopefully – the worse of the Covid-19 crisis, its sights are now set on the months and years ahead. September brings it the seasonal exhibition calendar, starting with the Associate Independent Stores (AIS) Home show, before heading into Longpoint (The Long Eaton Guild of Furniture Manufacturers’ bi-annual trade show), and then the Autumn Furniture Show at Stoneleigh Park, Warwick, in October 2021. It is across these events – and others – that Ashwood will be showcasing its latest products, observing the launches of its peers, and networking in order to get its name further out there.

Growth potential became the norm very quickly indeed, and have been accepted and embraced by everyone at Ashwood. In the time since reopening, we have gone on to experience a boom in business, with terrific order volumes right across our customer base, to the point

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where we have needed to increase capacity. We have in fact increased our production space by over 50 percent, to 80,000-square feet, including investing in a state-of-the-art woodmill, which sits within a new, additional, 20,000-square foot facility.”

“Beyond this, we are looking forward to things like increasing our exposure to the leather upholstery arena, by unveiling a new leather recliner product, as well as introducing additional new fabrics and models to our retail buying group partners,” Richard enthuses. “We are actively looking to grow company turnover

Ashwood Designs Limited

over the next three years. To make this a reality, we are pursuing an aggressive strategy of engaging with potential new clients and group accounts. We feel passionately that we can do a lot more here, and having increased our manufacturing space we have every intention of keeping that full, with the potential to re-site our cutting and sewing operations allowing us to plan for even higher levels of demand.” The last word is left to Stuart, who reinforces the above message. “We feel that there is a real opportunity to grow market share, on the back of which we believe we can increase production here at our facilities, as well as our design and sales functions. We also want to tap into more internet-based business, which will only become a more important area in the years to come. So, there are a lot of avenues for growth for Ashwood, and we will be doing our best to capitalize upon all of them.” v

Ashwood Designs Limited Products: Bespoke upholstered furniture l 63

The modern way As the largest steel tank manufacturer in the United States, Modern Welding Company approaches its 90th anniversary bolstered by some of the industry’s most advanced production capabilities

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Modern Welding Company Glasteel II underground fuel storage tank being installed


ess than a year from now, in 2022, Modern Welding Company (Modern Welding) will celebrate its 90th anniversary. After nine decades of continuous success, the milestone will offer the organization and its people an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and longevity of one the manufacturing industry’s true innovators. Established in 1932, Modern Welding started life as a welding repair shop in Owensboro, Kentucky. The timing was perfect. As the Great Depression left many Americans with limited cash and resources, demand for repair work – as an alternative to purchasing new products – grew, and consequently, Modern Welding flourished. Strengthened by a string of acquisitions, Modern Welding grew quickly from the 1940s through to the 1970s, with the business performing increasingly more structural work for the coal industry as well as activities for hydrocarbon fuel storage. Decades later, in 2021, the company is the largest steel tank manufacturer in the United States. Boasting a huge and varied product range, Modern Welding’s core offering includes ASME pressure vessels, aboveground and underground storage tanks, water and grease filtration systems, structural steel, mine support arches, and custom steel plate fabrication. Additionally, the firm’s sister business, Modern Supply Company, provides quality industrial and welding supplies, gases, and general equipment. l 65

“We have a long and vibrant history at Modern Welding,” explains Corporate Business Development Manager, John Loucks. “We have really drilled into different markets and industries over the years, from hydrocarbon fuel storage tanks, to ASME pressure vessels, to structural packages. We do a lot of unique customer projects, a range of different jobs, and we are always willing to tackle new challenges – that is really what helps to set us apart from the competition.” Supported by subsidiaries nationwide, Modern Welding operates from eleven US locations, stretching from Florida to California. “Collaboration is key,” John says. “Our subsidiaries often work together on large jobs to reduce lead times and streamline the delivery and installation processes. The strategic positioning of our subsidiaries allows us to have a nationwide footprint and assist our customers, no matter their location.” Modern Welding’s newest facility is its Modern Custom Fabrication plant in Fresno, California. Admired across the industry, the site

is one of the most advanced of its type in the world. “Our California facility is very cutting edge,” John confirms. “We’ve moved a few miles away from our previous site in Fresno and built the brand-new location from the ground up. It’s a state-of-the-art facility with top-of-the-line equipment. In collaboration with manufacturing suppliers, we looked carefully at our production process and the result is a very streamlined, very efficient, well laid-out operation.”

Customer relationships

By continuously updating and upgrading its capabilities, Modern Welding has been able to remain at the forefront of product development and technical innovation in the manufacturing industry for nearly a century. Investment in the latest technology has proved especially fruitful of late. “We are always looking to utilize new software and find innovative methods to improve our fabrication processes,” John reveals. “We understand the importance of updating

our technology and staying ahead of the curve.” On a more personal level, Modern Welding also invests time and money in strengthening relationships with its customers. According to John, establishing better connections starts at leadership level and feeds down into the processes and practices of each of the company’s subsidiaries. “Our relationships with customers are very professional,” John asserts. “We look at each of our subsidiaries carefully - from the sales team to the technical department - to ensure that each location is in-sync and that they work seamlessly with our clients. Responsive and quick to react, our teams are always on top of change orders and customer requests. Everyone works together to ensure that the customer is happy. At the end of the day, client satisfaction is the ultimate goal.” The unity for which Modern Welding has become famous proved particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic. In spite of the challenging circumstances, the business, well-acquainted with the benefits of strong

New set of plate rolls at Modern Custom Fabrication

Row of ASME pressure vessels at the Custom Fab facility in Fresno

New Modern Custom Fabrication facility in Fresno, CA

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Modern Welding Company teamwork and communication, not only survived, but thrived. “Things have obviously been very difficult lately because business is best done face-to-face, but we have effectively utilized various social platforms to stay in tune with one another and with our clients,” John reports. “Our subsidiaries always collaborate efficiently with one another, but from a teambuilding standpoint, we have done a great job working through projects and helping our customers in a time of need. We’ve performed exceptionally well considering the situations that have arisen.” As we head deeper into the second half of 2021, Modern Welding continues to push the

envelope in terms of progressive, pioneering product development. As popular as ever with its clients, the company recently received approval from Underwriters Laboratories as a manufacturer of UL-142 Rectangular Tanks up to 14 feet tall. “We had been testing a very large rectangular fuel storage tank and, upon completion of the test and acceptance by Underwriters Laboratories, Modern Welding is now the only manufacturer in the US that can build a 14-foottall rectangular storage tank,” John states. “It’s quite an accomplishment for the business and another example of the way in which we are always brainstorming and innovating in every

CMF Founded in 1920, CMF has transformed into being driven by a culture that accepts being responsible for the success of every person we touch. CMF has three manufacturing/distribution facilities – Youngstown, OH / Orange, CA / Saginaw, TX; propelled by an amazing group of individuals that make up the Commercial Family. We are the largest privately held tank head manufacturer in the USA, with the broadest and most diverse set of capabilities in the market. As CMF continues to partner with Modern Welding Co., we strive to identify the unmet needs that leads to unending possibilities for continuous growth and improvement.

plant and with every technical manager. We all want to improve our products and that will remain a focus throughout the next decade.” Next year, in 2022, when Modern Welding turns 90, the company might reminisce for a moment upon its triumphant past, but the firm’s mission will remain the same; Modern Welding’s quest for market-defining innovation continues. “There is always something interesting and unique going on at Modern Welding. It’s a great place to work,” John declares. “Going forward, our team nationwide aims to improve our processes and come up with new forwardthinking product lines, built for the future. The Covid-19 pandemic might still be around, but we understand that if we keep communicating well between the plants and making sure that everyone is on the same page, then we will continue to make quality products that help our customers.” v

Modern Welding Company Products: Steel tank manufacturer l 67

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Ricardo Performance Products

Maintaining peak performance Having successfully navigated the unwelcome combination of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit during 2020 and 2021, Ricardo Performance Products is now channelling its efforts towards aiding its customers’ journey towards greater electrification


hat a difference two years makes. In the time since Manufacturing Today last documented the activities of Ricardo Performance Products, in late 2019, a great deal has occurred. From the first global pandemic in a century, to the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), these events have also occurred at a time when major industries such as the automotive sector have been spearheading an ever-accelerating adoption of electrification. “I can only speak on behalf of Ricardo Performance Products when I say that it has been an extremely exciting period in our history,” begins the business’ Managing Director, Martin Starkey when we caught up with him in early September 2021. For those unfamiliar with it, Ricardo Performance Products specializes in highperformance, niche volume manufacturing for complex, precision, electromechanical products, from individual components through to complete powertrain systems.

With over 40 years of experience in delivering precision manufacturing, advanced assembly, and industrialization consultancy, the business operates in a cross section of industry segments including high performance automotive, motor sport, defence, aerospace, and rail.

Being prepared

Speaking with Martin now, it is hard to reflect on the last couple of years without referencing the two big defining events of our time in the UK, namely the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. “The impact of both of these is still ongoing to this day,” Martin correctly states. “For us, Covid-19 has been predominantly what I would call an internal facing issue, with our primary concerns throughout being ensuring that our staff are kept safe while the business continues to operate. We also had to evolve the ways and means in which we communicated, engaged and worked with our suppliers in order to secure products and associated services in what was an unprecedented period for everyone.”

Adding further context to the above statement is Ricardo Performance Products’ Head of Procurement, Ian Morris. “The sheer magnitude of the pandemic cannot be understated, and realizing this early on meant that we immediately began reaching out to our global supply chain partners,” Ian notes. “We worked extremely closely with them to take the sometimes tough, but necessary decisions around things like project delays and extended lead times, navigating those tough times until the summer of 2020, when the world started to wake back up. In the months thereafter, we experienced an incredibly positive recovery – above expected levels – and the challenge since has very much been to get the supply chain back up to speed in order to meet demand.” As the pandemic continued to take its toll, the close of 2020 also marked the end of the transition period between the UK and the EU. As both Martin and Ian state, the issues surrounding Brexit were far from over, however. “Such was the nature of the issue

Martin Starkey

The changes instigated by and linked to electrification will undoubtedly be profuse, and we are very keen for Ricardo Performance Products to be a trailblazer in this field. It is important to note, however, that in spite of the size of the shift that we anticipate, internal combustion engines will not disappear overnight l 69

that we effectively came back to work at the beginning of January 2021, still with a great deal of unknowns ahead of us,” Ian details. “The whole Brexit experience has been one massive learning curve, which has required significant investment to navigate, but it has been our determination to manage this – as well as the strength of our supply chain – that has resulted in a level of stability being maintained consistently within Ricardo Performance Products.” Martin adds: “We put a great deal of effort into making sure we were as ready and prepared for all Brexit eventualities as possible long before the UK left the EU. In advance of the transition period coming to an end, we further stepped up communication with our clients and suppliers, and took steps including the bringing forward of shipments of materials and components so as to make sure that our clients were not disrupted at the turn of the year. Additionally, we built up our own inventory of raw materials and components to give ourselves a buffer should shipments face further delays, and we invested a great deal of time and resources into training and upskilling our people, and thanks to that I am pleased to say that we have more than survived Brexit so far.”

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As Martin alludes to above, the business’ people have played a fundamental role in driving its recent performance. “We are lucky to be blessed with a fantastic, highly-skilled and highly-motivated team here at Ricardo Performance Products,” he enthuses. “We are immensely proud of how they have responded to the challenges faced in the last two years, and they themselves can also be proud, not only of that, but also for contributing to hugely important schemes that have been enacted here such as the mass production of face shield PPE for frontline workers during that initial wave of Covid-19.”

Innovative solutions

Martin also wants to point out the ways in which the company is continuing to tackle skills gaps in the industry, namely through apprenticeship and graduate schemes. “We firmly believe here at Ricardo Performance Products that you can never do enough to bring the next crop of talent into the industry. To that end, our work with apprentices and graduates, as well as the ongoing training of our existing employees, will remain as strong as ever. This past year alone has been our biggest in recent history when it comes to welcoming people onto our graduate program,

and we have been thrilled to be able to hold our first ‘Apprentice of the Year’ scheme, which is another way of recognizing the next generation of workers coming through Ricardo Performance Products and the value they create.” As mentioned earlier in this article, Ricardo Performance Products today finds itself at the centre of a multi-industry push towards greater electrification. “This has been something that we have found especially exciting,” Martin declares. “Motor sport has been at the forefront of these innovative efforts to move in the direction of the UK’s Net Zero agenda. For our part, we have had success to date in bringing electric drive units to Formula E, and in developing hybrid transmission products for our clients, as just two examples. Meanwhile, in our largest market of high-performance vehicles, we are increasingly seeing the engine technology that we manufacture becoming part of hybrid drive systems, which will also have a positive impact on the environment, and we are now building ever-smaller, high power units that will complement the architecture for hybrid electric vehicles. “In the defence sector, we are involved in a number of large e-drive projects, while in

Ricardo Performance Products

the aerospace arena we are seeing more and more opportunities around how the industry hopes to utilize electrification technology in one form or another to produce the next generation of highly efficient engine and transmission products for both manned and unmanned flights.”

monitoring, maintaining and improving upon our activities and operations. At the same time, we will continue to be proactive in the way we develop and grow a supply chain that is fit to deliver greater electrification to our various markets, and ensure that our existing one is ever-more sustainable.” v

Ricardo Performance Products Services: Transmission systems, engines, and components

Maintaining flexibility

Ian comments further: “The changes instigated by and linked to electrification will undoubtedly be profuse, and we are very keen for Ricardo Performance Products to be a trailblazer in this field. It is important to note, however, that in spite of the size of the shift that we anticipate, internal combustion engines will not disappear overnight. To that end, we need to ensure that we continue to modernize and improve our existing supply chain, while establishing one best suited to future industry needs.” Moving into the final third of 2021, and with a keen eye on 2022 and beyond, Martin and Ian discuss where Ricardo Performance Products’ focus sits. “It is mostly about maintaining maximum flexibility for our customers, which has proven to be particularly invaluable over the last 12-to-18 months,” Martin points out. “Despite the challenges that they continue to face, the vast majority of our customers continue to have very ambitious plans for the short-to-medium term future, and it is our responsibility to support them to the very best of our abilities.” Ian is correct to note that the world is by no means through the Covid-19 pandemic, and that it and the ongoing ramifications of Brexit will mean that the next year or so will remain challenging and unpredictable for everyone. “As such,” he concludes, “our tactical objectives will be centred around l 71

Cold rolled coils

A zeal for steel Committed to continuing its rich 120-year steelmaking tradition, Algoma Steel is an expanding, community-focused manufacturer with its sights set on becoming Canada’s leading producer of green steel


s the world begins to bounce back from the restrictions and struggles brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Algoma Steel is entering into a new age of its long and storied history. In December 2018, the company emerged from credit protection with new ownership under a professional board of directors and a CDN$300 million investment commitment in the modernization of its Sault Ste. Marie facilities. Thanks to this multi-million-dollar capital injection, Algoma was able to start work on three new projects in 2020. The first of these projects saw the company upgrade its flagship direct strip production complex, increasing capacity from 2.1 million tons to 2.4 million tons. Secondly, Algoma commissioned its second Ladle Metallurgy Facility, adding an extra 100,000 tons of capacity. Finally, the funding will allow for the modernization of the organization’s plate mill, a project that is well underway and will be completed in late 2022.

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“The improvements and upgrades we are making will undoubtedly benefit the business on a few different levels,” explains CEO Michael McQuade. “There will obviously be an increase in product volume, which we can use to service more of the Canadian market, as well as further enhancements in quality.” Michael adds; “We’re a significant producer of hot and cold rolled sheet, but we see steel plate as an important product for us going forward, particularly with the infrastructure spend we are seeing and the broader stimulus spending expected in Canada and the United States. “When it comes to heavy construction and mining equipment, there are strict abrasion resistance requirements for steel that we can deliver on. We also see a really strong market in bridges and other government-sanctioned infrastructure. In short, we’ll be participating in a very important segment of an animated growth market for the foreseeable future.”

Despite being engrossed in this complex in-house overhaul to help unlock the future potential of the business, Algoma has refused to slow down its wider activities in 2021. In July for example, the Government of Canada endorsed the company’s Transformation Plan for Green Steel, committing up to CDN$420 million towards Algoma’s efforts to become Canada’s leading producer of green steel. As part of this plan, Algoma proposes to transition from its current blast furnace fed-process to electric arc furnace steelmaking, in a move that could cut its emissions by around 70 percent. “As a fully-integrated steel manufacturer, we are part of a carbon-intensive industry,” Michael acknowledges. “Algoma and the Canadian Steel Producers Association are committed to the aspirational goal of achieving Net Zero by 2050, but we recognize that the technology to get us there doesn’t exist at scale, so we need to work very closely with the government, and with academia, to explore the options.” Algoma plans to use proven electric steel manufacturing as a feasible and significantly less carbon-intensive method for making its products. The organization will now collaborate with both federal and provincial governments to make that potential a reality.

Algoma Steel Shipping Loader-Stocker John-David Albury completes an inventory check on a coil of floor plate bound for transport

“Electric steelmaking processes are right in line with Canadian government regulations to reduce carbon emissions, and in our case, the carbon reduction potential they will offer us represents about 11 percent of what the federal government has committed to for 2030 and 100 percent of what Ontario has targeted in the same program,” Michael says. “In Ontario, coal-fired power plants have been decommissioned, so we are becoming a very green province. We will be able to use this clean electricity in our production process and, with steel being the most recycled product on the globe, we could end up being one of the greenest of the green.”

In the longer term, around three-to-five years from now, we want to be well on our way to the conversion from carbon-intensive steel manufacturing to an electric arc method offering a significant reduction in emissions. The future will see us becoming a more sustainable steelmaker, with a far improved environmental footprint, which in my opinion, will position Algoma to become a greener, more successful manufacturer for generations to come Algoma Welcome Arch – past and present; Constructed by Algoma Steel trades people and gifted to the community

Confidence to invest

The self-belief at Algoma, and in turn, the confidence to invest in the business, spawns from the people that make the company great – its customers, its suppliers, and its workforce. A diverse and loyal client base, some of which has been with the company for more than 20 years, has stuck by Algoma through the difficulties of the Covid-19 pandemic, while long-standing vendor relationships have never been stronger. Most of all, the company’s employees remain the heartbeat of Algoma, as they have done since 1901. l 73

“There’s a big northern pride element in our workforce, I think,” Michael states. “Our people are proud of the company, the industry, and of the whole Algoma region - so much so that we have many second, third, and even fourth generation employees. People recognize the importance of Algoma Steel, but also relish good paying jobs and that’s why we are one of the main drivers behind the economic engine of this region.”

Enduring relationships

Turret at the Direct Strip Production Complex – Algoma’s cornerstone asset

Plate processing through the pre-leveling descaler in Algoma’s 166” Plate Mill

As a key player in the establishment of core industries in Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma region in the early 1900s, Algoma Steel has always enjoyed a deep, intrinsic connection with the people of Northern Ontario. This enduring relationship is reflected in the sheer volume of local community projects and charitable schemes in which the company takes part. “A founding member of the United Way here in Sault Ste. Marie, we’ve been running campaigns for over a century and we’re probably about a fifth of overall money raised for a whole host of causes and agencies across our community,” Michael declares. “That includes the backing of poverty reduction programs, removing barriers to work, and making sure that people have the support they need to make the most of their lives. “As the largest employer in the region, our partnership with academic institutions is very important, not only for ongoing professional development for our employees but also for the next generation of steelmakers that we’re looking to recruit,” Michael continues. “We have a very robust apprenticeship program, a graduate engineer trainee program and we also have scholarships in place at Sault College, Algoma University, and the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. It’s very important that we work with regional post-secondary institutions because jobs within the steel sector are evolving, process automation and electronics are taking over from manual tasks, so we need to prepare the steelworker of tomorrow for the future.”


In 2020, Algoma became an active participant in the Algoma Vaccination Support Council, promoting vaccination in the local area and providing meals and moral support for vaccination clinic personnel working long hours. With the pandemic now, hopefully, in the rearview mirror,

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Algoma Steel Jason Chanas, Senior Pulpit Operator in Direct Strip Production Complex finishing pulpit

McKeil Marine For over 10 years, McKeil Marine has been handling cargo movements of steel coils, scrap and HBI for Algoma Steel. Diligent oversight of dock logistics for efficient loading and discharge operations are critical to minimize time in port and ensure adherence to schedules for inventory management. McKeil’s tugand-barge units have proven versatile assets for Algoma Steel’s needs, enabling access to shallow water ports and dock locations. Tugs Sharon M and Leonard M with barges Huron Spirit and Niagara Spirit visit several ports to complete cargo operations for Algoma Steel, including Sault Ste Marie, Detroit, Windsor, Toledo, Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago.

Michael knows that the business will remain community-focused as it continues to grow and expand. “We are in the process of completing a merger with Legato Merger Corp that will provide us with an estimated USD 300 million in equity capital and see Algoma return to being a publicly traded entity,” Michael reveals. “In the longer term, around three-to-five years from now, we want to be well on our way to the conversion from carbon-intensive steel manufacturing to an electric arc method offering a significant reduction in emissions. The future will see us becoming a more sustainable steelmaker, with a far improved environmental footprint, which in my opinion, will position Algoma to become a greener, more successful manufacturer for generations to come.” v

Algoma Steel Products: Steel manufacturer l 75


hris Kloepfer is the son of the man who brought the hopper trailer to Harley, Ontario back in 1973. Mike Kloepfer was a farmer back

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in the 1970s, and travelled south where he saw the potential of long haulage trailers to help move grain across Canada. Once word travelled amongst his community of what he was building,

business grew and Mike established Titan Trailers (Titan). By 1994, he was able to purchase a 40,000-square foot factory in Tillsonburg. Together with his family and employees, they

Titan Trailers Inc


innovation Titan Trailers Inc has become one of the largest trailer manufacturers in Canada and with determination and ambition, this family-owned business is hot on the tracks of continuing with its impressive expansions

have gathered best practices from across the world and brought innovation to the manufacturing industry to solve challenges for their customers.

“At one point, we went to a trailer convention show in Germany and found that they were using extruded aluminum panels to build trailers, so we came home and decided to give that

a shot. That is how our Thin wall range was created,” Chris begins, “Basically, it’s a hollow core extruded panel that runs horizontally instead of vertically, and we are one of very few l 77

businesses in the industry that do this. A couple of years into building this product, we got one of the biggest waste haulers in the US to order a trailer from us and he switched over about 98 percent of his fleet to Titans. He had faith in our work and that has really encouraged us to keep going.” But the drive to push forward the business name did not end its journey there. In 2000, Titan sent a trailer to England, which grew into an even greater success. Now, it builds approximately 120 trailers a year in the UK, with a 60,000-square foot manufacturing warehouse facilitating this. “Although our trailers are more expensive than others, they last longer and they are of a great quality, which I believe is why people appreciate them. We build walking floor trailers for garbage, wood chips for aggregates, we do tipper trailers, hydraulic cylinders, and of course

We were thinking of building a belt-out trailer and exploring frameless dumps. This will hopefully be supported by our growing sales in western Canada. Above that, we do also want to strengthen our facilities in the UK and sustain the growing demand for our trailers across the pond, but that will take time our hopper trailers. We are starting to build more and more hopper trailers for grain and feed product, like dad wanted when he first started out,” Chris shares.

One might assume that developing a product of this size may leave behind a substantially larger carbon footprint, however, Titan has implemented measures to ensure that its operations adopt the greenest strategies possible within its capacity. “We are always trying to go green. When we build a warehouse, we do what we can to save on energy in small ways that end up making a huge difference, like installing underfloor heating and clear doors to let in more sun for example. Our trailers are also lighter than your conventional steel trailer, which helps cut down on carbon emissions, and the side walls are smooth, with minimal drag. We build trailers with rounded fronts for fuel economy, for emission purposes. On the other hand, it’s important to remember that certain aspects of the manufacturing industry will struggle to find greener alternatives, but I feel that it’s important to play our role in whatever way we can,” he says.

Sophisticated equipment

It goes without saying that manufacturing trailers that stretch up to 53 feet in length requires workshops that are just as massive. Four years ago, the company purchased a 250,000-square foot windmill factory that used to belong to Siemens in Tillsonburg. “Alongside that one, at the location where I manage, we also have a fabrication department that is about 100,000-square feet. Then, on the other side of the wall, we build the hoppers, dumps and round trailers. As all of our panels run horizontally, we need big equipment to produce the trailers, and machine and process them. In order to get this done efficiently, we have two 60-foot milling machines that are special and unique to our manufacturing requirements,” Chris notes. Not only are Titan’s facilities built to manufacture these impressive trailers, they also come equipped with the technology to support damages, of which horizontal panels hold a

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Titan Trailers Inc greater risk. “This is why our trailers are on the pricier side of the market. We have to buy an extrusion that is 50 feet long because if there is a scratch or dent on that panel, it pretty much has to be scrapped. So, we have a couple of big break presses; there’s a 600 ton, a 500 ton and a 320 ton one. The 320 ton is brand new, while the 600 and 500 are all steel and slightly older. We also recently bought a ten-kilowatt fiber laser, which has been immensely beneficial to us; it cuts quickly, it’s accurate, there is no heat effect, and it’s fully automated to load the sheets on its own. We used to run a twin-head hypothermia high definition plasma and when we installed our laser, it took a huge chunk of the work from the plasma, and it has the capability to run day and night,” Chris explains.

Growth trajectory

According to Chris, establishing this well-oiled machine of a company that prioritizes cutting edge innovation, did not happen overnight; around-the-clock dedication to research and development has gone into ensuring that Titan’s trailers are of a world-class standard.

This, he shares, is especially true for its Thinwall trailers. “We are constantly trying to figure out better ways of manufacturing and discovering new markets that might suit our product. Our Thinwall comes equipped with a tongue, chamfer and groove, so it’s 100 percent welded on the inside and out. We offer different thicknesses on the skins to better support customers who are hauling contents that are more aggressive or abrasive, and in addition to that, we can configure the trailer to make the bottom panels thicker than the top, which helps save on weight,” Chris highlights. The product is so popular that despite the challenges brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, Titan is busier than it has ever been. “I think our biggest problem has been stabilizing our supply chain. We’ve struggled with sourcing air fittings, axels and extrusions, but I believe that this is owing to the fact that everything has kicked back into gear again after a year of being brought to a halt. Now that businesses are trying to get ahead, supply chains are doing their best to keep up. But that’s not stopping us

– we’re staying as strong as ever,” he says, and he isn’t wrong. With new projects on the horizon, Titan Trailers is focusing on maintaining the same growth trajectory it has had since its inception. “We were thinking of building a belt-out trailer and exploring frameless dumps. This will hopefully be supported by our growing sales in western Canada. Above that, we do also want to strengthen our facilities in the UK and sustain the growing demand for our trailers across the pond, but that will take time. At the moment, we are happy to keep improving the trust in our name and our product, and let our expansions grow organically like they have been doing since the day my dad got this business started,” he concludes. With that, we look forward to catching up with Titan in the future to see where else business has been hauled to. v

Titan Trailers Inc Services: Bulk commodity trailer manufacturer l 79

Good thinking Trusted by experts and committed to affordable quality, Goodman Manufacturing Company has been providing customers with energy-efficient indoor comfort products for over half a century


n the heat and humidity of 1950s Houston, excited by the launch of his new business, Harold Goodman made a prediction: “We will revolutionize the heating and air conditioning industry with the highest-quality equipment, manufactured by the best-producing workforce and sold for the best value in the market.” Sixty-seven years later, it’s safe to say that Harold was right. In 2021, Goodman Manufacturing, the business that bears its Founder’s name, is not just a worldwide leader in residential and commercial HVAC solutions, but an American institution. Inextricably linked with its hometown, Goodman thrived in the hustle and bustle of Houston and both company and city grew rapidly throughout the second half of the 20th Century. Having established a sparkling reputation as a provider of innovative, premium quality, energy-efficient indoor climate management solutions for commercial and industrial customers, the business took a major leap forward in 2012 when it was purchased by Daikin Industries, a member of the global Fortune 1000.

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In the years that followed the acquisition, Goodman began to take advantage of Daikin’s state-of-the-art Texas Technology Park – one of the most technologically advanced HVAC facilities in the world. By 2016, the 4.2-millionsquare-foot Texas Technology Park had consolidated Goodman’s HVAC manufacturing, engineering, logistics, and customer support operations under one (very large) roof. Beneficial to Goodman for a multitude of reasons, the move helped the firm improve its efficiency, quality, communication, delivery and responsiveness so that it could better meet the needs of its clients. Soon enough, as Daikin reinforced its global commitment to local, incountry manufacturing, the first Goodman air conditioning and gas furnace units arrived off the line, marking the beginning of a strong, longlasting relationship that continues to see Daikin and Goodman provide environmentally sound solutions for human comfort.

Standout products

Committed to quality, Goodman and its parent company remain heavy investors in the organization’s processes and machinery.

ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 certified - the latter an illustration of the firm’s concern for the environment - Goodman facilities will be perfectly positioned to provide reliable, high-performing products for years to come. Whether it’s the removal of heat through the use of cooling products or the creation of heat for warmth, the efficient movement of heat is a basic premise of the HVAC industry and the sector revolves around the thermodynamics of heat transfer. Strengthened by tireless research and development, Goodman has long been recognized as a heat transfer expert and the firm’s proficiency in this area is reflected in its extensive history of successful products and solutions. Among its long list of innovations in recent years, Goodman can claim responsibility for a number of standout products that have helped to revolutionize the market, including the industry’s only ultra-durable, dual-diameter, tubular gas furnace heat exchanger. In addition to this, the company continues to provide high-efficiency air conditioners and heat pumps with its patented SmartCoil™ condensing coil, ComfortNet™ Communicating Control systems, all-aluminum evaporator coils, a full line of indoor air quality products, as well as commercial heating and cooling systems providing comfortable indoor environments for businesses, restaurants and stores from coast to coast.

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Goodman Manufacturing Company

With demand for smart home automation swiftly rising, in January 2021, Goodman partnered with Google to launch the Nest thermostat E + Goodman program. Designed for Goodman’s extensive independent dealer network in the United States, the new offering marks the first time Google has offered a cobranded product and experience with a HVAC manufacturer.

Innovation recognition

As well as producing monthly, tailored, Nest home reports covering system performance and energy efficiency updates, the product can alert homeowners if maintenance or servicing is needed. Furthermore, by providing dealer contact information and a means to book an appointment online with a Goodman brand dealer, the Nest thermostat improves the chances of customer retention.

“The Nest thermostat E + Goodman pairs effortlessly with new Goodman equipment, from base efficiency air conditioners to high-performing, multistage ComfortBridge™ products,” explained Rob Barnes, Vice President of Product Marketing for Goodman, in January 2021. “The product is enabled with Google Assistant so that homeowners can easily adjust their indoor comfort by using the ‘Hey, Google’ prompt with devices like a Nest Hub display, Nest smart speakers or even a mobile phone with the Google Assistant app. Both HVAC contractors and homeowners will find tremendous value with this Goodman-branded Google Nest thermostat - from service alerts customized with dealer contact information to a five-year limited warranty.” The early success of the Nest thermostat E + Goodman has not gone unnoticed by those in the industry. In July 2021, national HVAC

trade publication The Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News awarded the Goodman brand a Gold Residential Controls’ Dealer Design Award (DDA) for the innovation. Established in 2003, the DDA program honors excellence in HVACR product design. “These awards give us a unique opportunity to recognize the outstanding research and development efforts that go into many of the products serving the HVACR industry, and the awards issue of our magazine gives readers an opportunity to read about innovative installation and service solutions,” declared ACHR News Publisher Mike Murphy at the time of the announcement. In order to support its growing product offering and ever-increasing status, in January 2021, Goodman moved to expand its presence in the Northeast United States with the acquisition of Robinson Supply Company. The

Würth Industry North America Würth Industry North America (WINA) is a $1 billion division of the Würth Group, the world’s largest fastener distribution company. As a part of the Würth Group, founded in 1945, WINA is a privately held, family-owned business that believes collaboration and partnerships make business better. They have strategically aligned a collective of companies across North America that allow industries to have better planning, parts management, and inventory accuracy. As industry solution drivers, WINA offers products and services including inventory management, engineering assistance, quality control, vending, safety supplies, kitting and assembly, structural fasteners, 3D printing and additive services, digital Kanban, and MRO/industrial supplies. With over 420,000 parts in their international supply chain, WINA provides each customer with an extensive global reach and a local feel from deep investments in a network of locations across the United States, Canada, and Mexico. For more information on Würth Industry North America, go to

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purchase of Robinson - an existing distributor of Goodman, Amana® and Daikin residential unitary and light commercial products in the Northeast - will see the company add Goodman controls, air quality products, parts, plumbing and accessories throughout its seven branch locations across Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. “The acquisition of Robinson supports our growth strategy and is a key step in expanding our distribution footprint in the Northeast,” remarked Ardee Toppe, Senior Vice President and President of Goodman, Quietflex and PTAC Business Units, in a press release. “Goodman and Robinson have enjoyed a great

relationship since 1994, working with one another as separate entities. As we embark on this new chapter, I am confident that our greatest successes are ahead of us as part of the same organization.”

American legacy

Designing, engineering and assembling its products in the USA, Goodman is proud to be an American business and has remained in the country while many of its competitors have moved abroad. Goodman has always believed that HVAC workers in the US can compete with anyone in the world, and backed by its talented, experienced workforce, the company

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is set to continue building upon its iconic American legacy for decades to come. As a company with a Better Business Bureau ‘A’ rating, more than anything, Goodman remains a manufacturer that can quickly and efficiently solve problems and resolve complaints for the homeowners and dealers with which it works. Based on 16 performance factors concerning the firm’s customer service and product knowledge, the Better Business Bureau rating should provide Goodman customers across the nation with peace-ofmind regarding the company’s entire line of heating and cooling solutions. So confident in the quality and longevity of its products is Goodman that the company has become renowned for offering Lifetime Compressor and Heat Exchanger Limited Warranties, Ten-Year and Two-Year Unit Replacement Limited warranties, and a Ten-Year Parts Limited Warranty on selected products. The thinking behind these guarantees is simple: Each Goodman product is tested three times, including an actual run test, before it leaves the assembly line. The company can

Goodman Manufacturing Company offer such all-encompassing warranties because Goodman builds its products to last. According to research, many homeowners are completely unaware of the HVAC system currently opeating in their home. Moreover, when it comes to replacing their existing HVAC system, up to 90 percent of homeowners rely on their local HVAC dealer to source the most suitable brand and system for their home. This means that, every day, local HVAC dealers put their reputation on the line when they make a recommendation to a homeowner. As a result, dealers are always striving to make the best decision possible for every homeowner they serve, and it is for this reason that an ever-increasing number of dealers are recommending Goodman. v Sanhua Sanhua have established strategic supply and cooperation relationship with world-leaders refrigeration and air-conditioning manufacturers, such as Daikin. Our long-standing cooperation begins in the 1990s. After sustainable growth over the last three decades, Sanhua have made significant progress to introduce a comprehensive range of controls and line components for the air conditioning and refrigeration industries, and gradually step onto the global stage.

Goodman Manufacturing Company Services: Air conditioning and heating l 85

Excellence only Despite the challenges it has faced over the past couple of years, Extrude Hone is pushing itself to be an innovative industry leader, with continued international growth that will sustain its legacy


etermined to help shape the solutions of its customers, Extrude Hone has been specializing in edge blending, shaping and fine-flow tuning, and surfacing services for over half a century. Its Global Marketing Director, Bruno Boutantin, has become an expert himself in the finishing industry and is proud to share with us the inner workings of the company’s extensive capabilities, as well as how it is establishing itself across continents.

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In the early 1960s, Larry Rhoades, Extrude Hone’s founding father, brought to the business abrasive flow machining (AFM), which has gone on to become one of the company’s specialties. The process embraces a wide range of applications that vary from critical aerospace and medical components, to a high volume of part production. Advances in media formulation and tool design, coupled with new capabilities in processing and automation, have established the abrasive flow processes as a way of fulfilling

Extrude Hone

added the technology for deburring,” shares Bruno. Although these three core technologies lay at the heart of the business’s operations, the pioneering spirit instilled by Larry, which has continued to spur on its innovation, has also allowed it to stretch its services around the globe.

Problem solving

tough manufacturing requirements. “Larry really was a visionary,” begins Bruno. “In fact, for a company that came to be what it is because of his work, I am incredibly proud of how we have upheld the original level of commitment to innovation for non-conventional manufacturing processes. On top of the AFM installation, he also introduced electrochemical machining (ECM), which was originally created by a German company and is used predominantly in the automotive field. Following this, he also

According to Bruno, Extrude Hone is passionate about moving to where its customers are, which is how it came to own offices in the United States, Europe and Asia. “We have contract shops, manufacturing centers, and sales and service bases. The reasoning behind this is because we investigate what technologies are being used internationally. To leverage the ECM (electrochemical machining), when we see new developments happening, we look into how we can address different materials that we may not yet be able to process with this technology, and we focus on enlarging our market to find new applications to facilitate this. We have developed a simulation software to speed up the feasibility test. It’s so good that it could fully replace a real physical test in most of the cases. It also helps to evaluate ECM at a lower cost. We also take that back to our contract shops to offer this technology to more people,” he says, continuing to discuss that this methodology is what has lead the business to expand its services to more industries than only the automotive. Seven years ago, 60 percent of the company’s business depended heavily on the car industry. However, that income has dropped to 35 percent as Extrude Hone has encouraged inner transformations to address new markets. “We’ve become very successful within the medicine sector, which could be everything from prosthetics to die utilities. For example, since Covid-19 arrived and personal protection has become so important, we have been supporting the die manufacturing that are used to make the fiber that is used for mask manufacturing,” he says. Even more recently, the business also supported the manufacturing process of ventilators, which opened up opportunities for new component exploration outside of its usual sectors. “We had never done something like that before and it has now broadened our horizons to industries we previously did not consider. Additive Manufacturing is also a growing market for us. In aerospace; we have just been awarded RocketDyne and MBDA UK’s innovation award to participate in one project that is related to additives, which is incredibly exciting,” Bruno adds.

Of course, the capacity to service the spectrum of sectors that Extrude Hone does is owed – partly – to its infrastructure. Its historic Pennsylvania headquarters houses the essential machining used for its AFM technology. “This facility was created to address AFM and Microflow - the fuel system version and now it goes far beyond that. There are capabilities there to service micro holes down to 50 microns with micro flow processing. We also built some very large equipment, which is used in aerospace to help us with our clients in the US. In Europe, the birthplace of electrochemical technology, we design and build our advanced ECM tooling and we put together customized machines, which involves highly specific equipment. Our bases in Shanghai, China are used to leverage the manufacturing. Then, we have our skilled engineering and design team in Bangalore, India, which is also tied to additional contract shop facilities with all our technologies, and we also support the big original equipment manufacturing tiers in that region. This is the beauty of being a truly global company; our clients are so far-reaching. In addition to these big bases, we are also present in Japan, the UK and Brazil. Ultimately, wherever we can, we try to offer extensive support, which means that we tend to move with the customer to wherever they need us,” Bruno informs. It goes without saying that a network of this size requires a well-oiled team to keep the l 87

engine running, and likewise, Extrude Hone is dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment in which they can work, regardless of where they are located. Coincidentally, this is also driving the company’s initiative to be a greener business. “We want the people who are working for us to feel connected to a community and we’ve seen that there is a growing need for a better working space; whether that’s ensuring that our operations are more suitable for the planet or improving company policies, we are motivated to make those changes. For example, our AFM has been adapted to be more environmentally friendly in terms of the media, which concerns our abrasive machine, I believe that what truly sets us apart is our curiosity for the science, which is encouraging for people who begin their careers with us. It’s about discovering how we can use our technology with different materials to address broader markets and to solve a wider portfolio of problems, and many of our employees relate to that,” he expresses.

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This inquisitiveness is what led the business to develop a digital approach that serves to accommodate a problem inflicted by the Covid-19 crisis. With in-person events being prohibited, Extrude Hone introduced a virtual booth, which provides potential clients with a portal into the company’s offerings from around the world. “We are a small company and even as soon as 2019, we did about 26 physical events, which were complex and expensive. The investment of doing trade shows is always a big question mark. So, we asked: ‘how could we develop something that would release a little bit of the burden while still providing that experience that would still be truly interesting for customers?’ That’s when we created the virtual booth. “Firstly, we offer a place where people can discover the hardware we sell, the service we offer as though we were presenting from our usual expo booths, with the additional bonus of 3D imagery. For example, some of our parts are located inside helicopters and we can project

and blow up those images on a screen and go inside the turbine to showcase our work. We also invite our customers to a Teams call and we work with them for one hour in this booth, speaking with them about what they find interesting and providing them with a guided tour. The driving inspiration is that we can offer a good match between 3D animations and digital content, mixed with human interaction and thorough discussions,” Bruno says. Ultimately, for him, it is about maintaining a balance between upholding the company’s reputation and pushing innovation to a larger audience. “The reality is that for the foreseeable future, we will be at less physical events. Most companies are only allowing a few of their employees to go to shows, which, although it has brought the costs down hugely, is also going to have a negative impact on our interaction with possible clients. This is why we are proud to offer this service to everyone. I think it will bring greater opportunities for us, mainly because we can offer this to everyone and we can be present 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Bruno explains.

Passion for innovation

Now, as Extrude Hone gears up for the years ahead, it is reevaluating its strengths in order to sustain its international growth. While Bruno notes that the company will increase the business’ size, he is determined to see Extrude Hone infiltrate as many industries as possible. “We need to get back to the servicing capacity that we had in 2018, by 2024, but covering additional new markets; we still have a journey to embark upon. We’ve noticed the transformation happening in the automotive industry. Although it may only be a third of our business, this is

Extrude Hone

a third that we want to serve well, and the changes happening within the sector are proving to be quite a challenge, so we need to embrace that. We made a big step with the development of our contract shops, but we cannot have one of those on every corner of the globe so we are thinking about designing something that will

truly bring the price for our equipment down, while also allowing more companies to access it. On top of that, we were struggling with material limitation regarding our ECM capabilities, that we will soon overcome. This is a big area where we want to focus our research. Overall, our strategy is basically to digest these transformations but in

order to do so, it is crucial to be well positioned. Above that, we are going to maintain the same passion for innovation with which Larry began the company. This will serve us well for the future and I am quite excited for where we are heading,” he shares. No matter what, Bruno is confident that Extrude Hone will remain a resilient and strong company; resilient because its customers uphold those expectations, and strong because the people working within the business depend on those at higher levels to lead confidently throughout the challenges it may face. Taking this into account, as well as its persevering passion and relentless curiosity, there is no doubt that Extrude Hone will keep its furnace burning. v

Extrude Hone Services: Machine manufacturers for material finishing l 89

Swinging for the fences Although the business is only a little over a decade old, First Fence continues to put in an exemplary effort in growth and the refining of its service delivery to ensure that it supports its clients to the best of its abilities 90 l


n five years’ time, Vinny Kotecha, the Managing Director of First Fence, would like to see his business supporting as much in-house manufacturing as possible. “The plan is to have state-of-the-art machinery, further development into manufacturing capabilities and a national distribution center as well. Through everything we do, the one vision that will remain clear is servicing our customers with excellence, but in order to do so, we need to ensure that as far as possible, we are providing what we can to fulfil their fencing needs, which means going back to our roots,” he shares, which, fortunately, is not too long of a journey.

Since First Fences’ inception in 2010, the specialist in fencing has challenged itself to grow from strength-to-strength; beginning in a driveway, moving into a container yard, expanding to a small business park to finally pitching its headquarters at Kiln Way, Derbyshire. “Initially, we sourced a fair share of our materials, because in those days, the industry was quite far behind the times in terms of the variety of services that were on offer,” he says. Vinny started First Fence as joint venture with his brother Umesh, following a transition from the service industry which served him in good stead to identify

First Fence Ltd

areas within the business that would elevate its marketing operations, as well as assist in broadening the business’s horizon regarding best practices for its customers. “The first issue I noticed was the lag in our service delivery, typical of the industry. I didn’t understand why there was a lead time on our products, so to counter this, we introduced a standard range that we kept in stock at all times, and that enabled us to meet customer demand without falling behind on orders,” he expresses.

Reliability and trust

Another problem the team faced was the inconvenience customers faced when finding a supplier that could supply the whole range of products needed. First Fence was not yet offering gates within its catalogue. “You can imagine having gaps in a fencing construction can be quite frustrating; the customers had to work with two different companies, which again enforces a lead time of about five-to-six weeks to complete the project, so what we started to do was manufacture our own gates, which thankfully turned out to be a brilliant addition,” he expresses.

I would like to us to be in control of our subcontracting areas. We are looking at putting in an investment of £30 million into our future growth in order for us to continue to do what we do best: serving clients exceptionally, and in my opinion, the only way we can do that is to be in control of it all from one site. So, that is really what I have envisioned for our future and, hopefully, it will lead us to exploring greater opportunities for European branches The venture in implementing gate manufacturing within the company’s operations then opened up a few more doors for First Fence to investigate; particularly in ecommerce. As far as the competition was concerned, many websites only supported price lists and contact information for their respective businesses, making First Fence a pioneering company within its sector when it introduced a fully functioning ecommerce website. “If we talk about it now, it seems intuitive, but ten years ago we worked in a completely different landscape. We then focused on improving our standardization in order to keep fulfilling immediate customer

needs as our clientele significantly expanded,” and he didn’t stop there. “We were also the first people to build a totally automated delivery ticket service. From nuts and bolts, to more demanding orders, everything was ticked off by the drivers. We then brought someone in to check against each line to make sure we delivered everything we said we would. What that enabled us to do was guarantee that every time there was an issue, we could fall back on the paperwork to track the product and determine whether the delivery was successful or not. It enabled us to strengthen the sense of reliability and trust l 91

between us and our clients,” says Vinny. For him, each of these measures, a new ticket delivery system as well as phone recordings to keep track of exact order details, were put in place to ensure that First Fence was taking every necessary step to guarantee trust in its name, which fueled the progressive expansion into recruiting a technologically focused core team to work collaboratively in increasing First Fence’s capabilities. “We didn’t stop there, if there was an addition to our inhouse order processing system that would increase efficiency, we built software to our exact specification. Combined with product research across the market to make products available within our portfolio, we bought our own fleet of vehicles and employed more staff to do in-house welding. This ensured that we had the control to give the customers exactly what they needed, when they needed it,” he expresses.

Team developments

Throughout these developments, First Fence went on to become more than just a fencing manufacturer and distributor. Aside from acquiring its small fleet of vehicles and a software division, the business has additionally made impressive purchases of warehousing facilities in order to provide a more robust service for clients across the UK. “We opened a depot down in Dartford in January 2015, and in August we purchased another one in Tipton. In Bristol, we bought a new head office and manufacturing facility, which is approximately 40,000 square feet. What that enabled us to do was secure a stronger spread across the country, bring in more stock and also be able to move our products between depots with greater efficiency,” he says. “Towards the end of 2018, we bought a site in Scotland because it was further out and we were trying to overcome the conundrum of wanting to service a greater region, but not being able to reach certain areas logistically. So, we opened up that site and began to supply to places like Aberdeen and Inverness with more reasonable delivery costs for our customers,” he says. This then laid down a sturdy foundation for the business to take its marketing game up a notch. “We’ve launched an offer in which we guarantee to deliver on time and if we don’t, we give our customers their money back and they can have the products they ordered for free,” Vinny shares. In addition to its property expansions, First Fence purchased TND Galvanizing, a business that was part of its supply chain, and through an extensive £2 million regeneration investment, rebranded the manufacturer to First Galvanizing

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bringing with it Andrew Mitchell, who has more recently transitioned from the role of Group Business and Special Projects Manager to Director, to provide further expertise for business opportunity. The motivation behind this venture was to allow the company to strengthen its in-house capabilities. Furthermore, another move to buttress this investment included the recent opportunity to develop a new site at Canvey Island, which unfortunately coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Vinny and his team were able to power through and ensure that the business stuck to its intended schedule. “Despite the difficulties, we pushed on. We did exactly what we were supposed to and we completed the site in good time. We moved into Canvey in April this year, and so far, we have already grown the whole business by 83 percent, which tops last year’s fantastic growth. We then brought another two-and-a-half acres of land in Canvey, which we are in the process of concreting to give us a bigger yard. Above all of that, we bought another site in Nottingham to give us the opportunity to develop more warehouses. I do have to note that throughout the stress of these moves and adjustments, our team handled it all remarkably well. Changing to new systems is not easy but it was absolutely the right choice because it started to give us a lot more control of our costs, manufacturing and stock, which is definitely going to help us moving forward,” he explains. Director, Stacey Grice shares some of First Fences’ core values in regards to their staff development. “Of course, none of our achievements would have been possible without the fantastic First Fence team. From the start we have prided ourselves in a culture that allows people to develop within their careers and challenge themselves. This means that many of the staff working with us tend to spend a long time here, and the more the company continues to grow, the more opportunities we get to open up for them. For example, I have someone who runs the accounts department and she began her journey with us in reception; she now manages £35 million plus worth of business. I, myself have progressed from working within the accounts department to General Manager and now Director. Throughout First Fence we have some fantastic people who are passionate about having an exemplary work ethic and they are the ones keeping our wheels turning,” she shares. This is why Vinny and the core management team are confident that the company’s ambition to be an in-house manufacturer is plausible and have invested in the necessary tools to propel the business forward. Vinny in particular is determined for First Fence to continue to

First Fence Ltd

expand its borders. “I would like to us to be in control of our subcontracting areas. We are looking at putting in an investment of £30 million into our future growth in order for us to continue to do what we do best: serving clients exceptionally, and in my opinion, the only way we can do that is to be in control of it all from one site. So, that is really what I have envisioned for our future and, hopefully, it will lead us to exploring greater opportunities for European branches,” he says. In the space of just over a decade, First Fence has paved an impressive

timeline to strengthen its business and believes there is no doubt that its future will remain on a similar trajectory. As the construction industry continues to thrive, his company is excited to remain a key partner in providing unparalleled safety and security for all of its clients’ fencing needs. v

First Fence Ltd Services: Fence manufacturers l 93

Giving Both Barrels Since being founded in 1929, Xaloy has developed into a premium brand of bimetallic barrels and screws


s the inventor of bimetallic castings, Xaloy has worked for more than 90 years to offer superior workmanship, engineering experience and a strong, continuously growing, portfolio of patented and proprietary products to its customers. Its growth journey includes the acquisition of Spirex in 2009, and joining forces with Nordson Corp. in 2012. Nordson sold the company to Chicago-based private equity firm, Altair Investments, earlier this year. Thanks to decades of experience in the industry and dedication to embracing innovation, Xaloy has perfected bimetallic casting technology. Xaloy is a major contributor to the global supply chain of plastics equipment manufacturers and processors, according to Xaloy chief executive officer Kamal Tiwari.

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Looking into the future, we have plans for investing in new machines and capacity, reopening facilities and crosstraining employees, so Xaloy can continue to seamlessly serve its customers, while ensuring the health and safety of its employees

Below: The Xaloy booth at Chinaplas 2021 in April displays some of Xaloy’s screw and barrel technologies and manufacturing capability. Xaloy has more patented screw/barrel/materials focused on plastics processing than anyone in the industry

The company’s product lines have three distinctive categories: • Bimetallic injection and extrusion barrels • Bimetallic and tool-steel injection and extrusion screws • Bimetallic and tungsten-clad extrusion twin barrels and injection-unit components, such as non-return valves, end caps, nozzles, and nozzle tips “What truly sets us apart is our innovative,

proprietary technologies that provide solutions for polymer-processing challenges, advanced-wear and corrosion performance coatings that improve product life,” Tiwari emphasizes, adding that Xaloy is founded on innovation. “Our global commercial teams are actively engaged with customers to identify gaps in our product lines, or new processes, that require a different solution to the product development funnel.”

To keep products personalized, Xaloy invites its customers to bring new polymer compounds they are working with or their processing problems to the company’s innovation center. “There, we can simulate the problem in real time and test screw and or valve configurations that may solve the problem,” explains Mark Colella, director of engineering at Xaloy. “At times, we may only simulate the problem, but the testing often shows the path to a solution utilizing Xaloy design technologies.” l 95

In addition, the company’s global team of application engineers and experienced sales personnel provides onsite process solutions to customers. Xaloy’s relationship with its client base works to ensure the best possible outcome for both parties, says Seeni Congivaram, Xaloy vice president of commercials. Take one of Xaloy’s most recent projects, for example. “We recently had a project with a customer utilizing our tungsten-cladded product that does finishing work post Xaloy-cladding. The part is utilized in the resin-compounding market space and requires very tight tolerances in its final state,” describes Congivaram. “We worked together with this customer, sharing machining and measuring techniques and touring both facilities to fully understand each company’s challenges. Through this collaborative effort, we created a path that should solve the problem and minimize process time for both companies.”

Collaborative relationships

Xaloy’s unique production and engineering capabilities are combined with a truly global supply chain. Keeping the company international is important, stresses Chris Shelton, vice president of global operations for Xaloy. “Xaloy manufacturing sites are strategically placed to support our customers around the globe.The Austintown, Ohio, site manufactures primarily for the Americas region with additional support to EAME and Asia as needed,” he says. “The facility in Chonburi,Thailand, manufactures for Asia and EAME primarily, with additional support to the Americas as needed. Both manufacturing facilities have very similar equipment with the best available machining technologies in key areas of our manufacturing process.” Maintaining global diversity also means that Xaloy can keep the best people. Most recently, it has been working to relocate its twin-barrel product line from Austintown to its Pulaski, Virginia, facility, which was on the verge of closure when Altair acquired it. It has relied on many longtime and former employees to make the shift. “With the ability to bring back a knowledgeable and willing workforce already trained in barrel manufacturing, this has provided a huge advantage to the operation and our customers,” Shelton

notes, adding that the people behind Xaloy are fundamental to the company’s success. “Xaloy makes high-precision products using complex, state-of-the-art equipment that requires a high level of skill and training,” Tiwari says. “Our people are our lifeline, and we are a very employee-focused company. We focus on frequent and transparent communication. We have quarterly town hall meetings to communicate performance to our operational, commercial and financial KPI’s.” To safeguard the company’s potential and invest in the future of manufacturing, Xaloy provides a path for direct-labor career growth. This system is regulated via a capabilities matrix that weights each process by degree of difficulty and proficiency level, according to Trudy Cheney, global human resources director at Xaloy. “The concept is that the more processes a person is trained to do and the more proficient they are in each, the more pay we offer,” she explains. This speaks to the synergistic and supportive nature of Xaloy’s company culture. “We strive for an open and collaborative relationship with our team members at all levels. It is important for each person to have a voice and for us to create an environment where they are comfortable sharing their input, so that we can continuously improve our business operations,” she says. “We work diligently to recognize each person as an individual.”

Future focus

Xaloy’s relationships with its suppliers are just as integral,Tiwari says.These strategic alliances are focused on collaboration, and ensuring the supply base works together for each other’s mutual benefit. “It is important that collaboration exists in the partnership so the correct synergies are built and quality information flows between businesses,” he says. With great strides being made in both product innovation and collaboration, Xaloy is now focused on ensuring the sustainability of its success. “Being in the plastics business today is tough, with the many articles on plastic pollution in the oceans, bans on plastic grocery bags and other products in various areas of the world,” Tiwari acknowledges. However, he and his team are addressing these hurdles head-on. “Our best ‘green’ strategy is to utilize our

Top image: Greg Cordy from the Austintown facility performing a turning function on one of Xaloy’s new CNC lathes to remove scale from raw bar stock Center image: Medium sized barrel spins on the Xaloy centrifugal casting furnaces. This process is necessary to create a strong, even, metallurgical bond between backing and inlay materials Bottom image: Quality supervisor Ernie Peluso puts his stamp of approval on a large, jacketed barrel with X800 inlay. A very complex design, but one well within the capabilities of the Xaloy barrel manufacturing team

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Xaloy technologies to help those companies in the world that have a passion and vision for recycling plastic products to provide sustainability in our industry,” he explains. “There are very large challenges in plastics recycling with productwear performance and screw designs capable of achieving significant output.These demands play directly to who Xaloy is and our future focus on innovation.” Xaloy has remained pragmatic and intuitive in the face of a sustainability crisis and maintained its success even through the turbulence of Covid-19. “A variety of emotions hit our workforce, from disbelief at first, to fear, realization and frustration,” Tiwari notes. “Through all of that, we continued to communicate, put policies and procedures in place to protect our workforce and did what was necessary to maintain some normalcy in the workplace.” In navigating the pandemic, Xaloy’s commercial teams also worked together to prioritize any orders to help manufacture critical medical products. “Everyone in the company was aligned and driven to process these first,” he explains,

adding that as the world continues to battle the pandemic, Xaloy continues its proactive approach. “Looking into the future,” says Altair partner Andrew Brickman, “we have plans for investing in new machines and capacity, reopening facilities and cross-training employees, so Xaloy can continue to seamlessly serve its customers, while ensuring the health and safety of its employees.” Xaloy is a company driven by a goal of developing product and process solutions that will reduce the environmental impact of the plastic sector whilst also meeting the needs of its clients on a global scale. It aims to be a worldclass company in all respects. “We see Xaloy not only as a profitable company,” notes Brickman, “but one with strong leadership, and a stable workforce of good, high-quality, skilled, determined people who will continue to build the company’s future.” v

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Working precisely R With a vision to be the leading provider of sensors for rolling mills, KELK has a laser-like focus to be experts in precision, quality, and service for the steel and aluminum industries 98 l

ecently, KELK has taken a great leap in its industry with the introduction of turnkey closed-loop crop optimization systems that improve yields and reduce scrap for steel manufacturers. ‘Cropping’ is the process by which rolled steel bars have their head and tail cut so they can be safely rolled through the finishing stands. Considered the most complex product to date supplied by KELK, the new KELK solution integrates several key technologies including a crop imaging system, laser velocimeters, hot metal detector and a crop shear controller. With almost 150 crop optimization systems installed in steel mills worldwide, KELK products are known for delivering highest levels of precision in the process of cutting the head and tail of the bars rolled into sheet metal.

According to George Oprea, Company President, with KELK systems, customers can save money from the first cut, which can accumulate to millions of dollars in yearly savings. “One of our crop optimization systems paid for itself in terms of cost savings in less than a month. This is what we call an efficient, accurate and reliable system,” he says. Founded in 1953, George Kelk Corp specializes in the design and manufacture of state-of-the-art sensors that are used mainly in steel and aluminum rolling mills and mining applications. The company joined publically held Vishay Precision Group (VPG) in 2013 as Vishay Precision Group Canada. “We have over 100 dedicated employees, many with multinational backgrounds and many who have worked for KELK for decades. This helps differentiate us

Vishay Precision Group Canada (KELK) lathe and one double spindle horizontal turning center. There are also a couple of conventional machines as well,” says Oprea. Since KELK’s products are used by steel producers in some of the harshest manufacturing environments on the planet, more than 70 percent of its sales are for products supplied with an industry-leading fiveyear warranty, which the company refers to as ‘Rollmax’. “If our products are installed according to agreed-upon specifications with the customer, then they will be repaired or replaced for the next five years after installation, regardless of what created the damages. They could be dropped from a crane, by accident, while being moved from one place to another, for example, and KELK will repair or replace them at no cost to the customer. Such a warranty is unique in our industry,” Oprea details. Two of the most recently acquired machining centers by KELK are double palette, and in many cases can be operated in a ‘lights off ’ mode to finish the job unattended during the night, similar to the capability of the company’s turning center. From Oprea’s experience, customers are under

substantial cost and competitive pressures, which makes this level of manufacturing capability a necessity. “Competitive cost structure in manufacturing and faster production lead-time are key to keep winning and growing in this market, and we are very well positioned to supply our products with very competitive prices for many years to come,” he states.

Factors for success

In terms of its supply chain, KELK also developed successful relationships with a variety of suppliers, from providers of forgings and premachined blocks, to the electronic components distributors. According to Oprea, what makes the supplier relationships so successful is good communication and mutual respect for each part’s interests. “One of the factors contributing to KELK’s success as a business is the reliability of our major suppliers. Having materials at the requested times, with minimal delays and at reasonable prices provides us with the means to satisfy our own customer’s needs,” he points out. Along with its suppliers, other key factors driving the company’s growth and success

from our competitors, and, above that, helps us serve geographically diverse markets, with around 98 percent of our sales outside of Canada,” explains Oprea. KELK provides two major product offerings: strain gage-based technologies, which are used for roll force measurement and tension measurement systems, and optical sensors that measure precisely width, speed and acceleration, and detect the position of the bar, strip, and section products in rolling mills. “By combining a number of KELK optical sensors and using the KELK-developed crop shear control software, we are able to help our customers improve yields through the precise trimming of transfer bar in hot strip mills,” he adds.

Competitive edge

According to Oprea, a key factor that enables KELK to deliver its market-leading solutions is its investments in manufacturing technology and processes. “We operate a double palette CNC horizontal machining center, a double palette vertical machining center, two single table vertical machining centers, one vertical CNC l 99

Vishay Precision Group Canada (KELK)

includes the existence of a large installed base of KELK load cells, tensiometers and optical systems at existing customers. This generates a stable and solid revenue stream through orders for new projects but also for spare parts. Additionally, the company invests intensively in new product development in its optical system business, which has become

a new growth engine. This, Oprea claims, is reflective of the strategic focus of KELK and its parent company, VPG, to deliver products with the highest reliability and accuracy in the industry. Of course, these go hand-in-hand with its dedicated and hardworking employees. “Our employees are so very committed and do not change jobs often. The longest employee still working

at KELK has more than 35 continuous working years at KELK, while the record holder has been working in our company for 49 continuous years.” One element of its long-term growth strategy is to continue to grow and cultivate its markets geographically. KELK is looking to expand its borders in India’s market at least threefold, while maintaining solid growth in China and exploring new applications in mining and casting. In order to facilitate this process, Oprea notes that the business is investing in new products in the optical area, increasing in-house production capabilities to be more competitive in cost and production lead-time, horizontal growth, and expanding product line-ups in both up and downstream. With these plans in place, the future for the VPG Canada (KELK) looks bright. v

Vishay Precision Group Canada (KELK) Services: Sensors for Steel and Aluminum Rolling Mills 100 l