Innovation through KTP leads to creation of specialist sister company
Rotherham-based PMS Diecasting is one of several independent zinc die casting companies in the UK, supplying a variety of customers with high precision, small and medium die cast components. Having experienced a 50% growth in turnover in the three years prior to the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, PMS were keen to explore how they could improve their own capability in tool-making, thus reducing their dependence – and its associated problems – on external suppliers.
The initial focus of the KTP was to investigate the possibility for bringing tool-making in-house, in the hope that it could reduce lead times and costs by around 20%, but a change in strategy meant that Associate Luke Scott was presented with a different challenge.
'Because of changes in the industry, the economics of in-house tooling became less attractive as external tooling suppliers became more competitive,” explained Gordon Panter, Managing Director of PMS Diecasting. “We therefore asked Luke to concentrate his efforts on improvements to our automated production process and procuring new casting machines, as well as developing a product data management system to help us deal effectively with sudden increases in turnover and a variety of changes to the product mix.'
The results of Luke’s work were quite remarkable. Automated modular clipping stations were designed and implemented to reduce manual handling in hazardous environments. This not only improved health and safety, but also allowed energy recovery by returning hot sprues and gates to the crucible.
Luke also developed and helped implement a new product introductory process which provides a formal structure for customer requirements and design approval. This IT-based Advanced Quality Planning (AQP) system allows clear visibility for customer requirements, drawing release, manufacturing plans and any special tooling requirements.
Either of these innovations alone would have been a significant achievement for the company, but together they have put the company in an excellent position for growth. Improved production efficiency of 70% and a 30% improvement in quality has helped the company reach a turnover of £5.1 million in the last year, generating profits of £320,000.
'The KTP has clearly brought some measurable improvements to our operation,' said Gordon Panter, 'but it has also helped us to take the management and cultural step changes we needed to move to the next level. The AQP system in particular has been fundamental in underpinning methods of communication and joint working practices across sales, quality and production functions.'
Following the success of the KTP, the company has now set up a sister company, GoTools Ltd, which designs and manufactures performance tooling. The new enterprise is in an ideal position to exploit the commercial opportunities of the problem PMS originally identified for tackling via the KTP – that of a lack of precision tooling expertise in the region. GoTools Ltd already has four employees and achieved a turnover of £350,000 in its first year, moving into new 5,000 square feet premises in 2013.
Andy Millard, who supervised the KTP for PMS Diecasting has moved into the new role of Managing Director of GoTools Ltd, and Luke Scott has now stepped up into his role of Engineering Supervisor at PMS.
'Luke exceeded all our expectations in the enthusiasm and professionalism with which he undertook the KTP, taking the changes in programme direction and the introduction of substantial management processes in his stride,' said Gordon Panter. 'Whatever he was tackling, he always managed to be inventive and think outside the box and we’re delighted that he has joined us as a permanent member of the team.'
Some of the specific achievements of this innovative KTP programme include
- Increase in profit of £135,000 three years after project completion
- Establishment of new sister company to maximise the opportunities to develop precision tooling expertise in the region
- Improved staff awareness of the die casting process, the industry and associated problems of short lead time
- Better access to the supplier network and wider exposure to specialist equipment suppliers
- New teaching materials developed, including industrial case studies and industrial visits
- KTP Associate employed full-time by the company – he has achieved Chartered Manager status and is working towards his Chartered Engineer status and an MSc in Advanced Engineering
- Agreed a further KTP programme, currently underway, to introduce and embed improvements in the operation and management of high value automated zinc die casting cells, thereby increasing quality, financial and delivery performance
Find out more about our Knowledge Transfer Partnerships here.