Sheffield Assay Office

Sheffield Assay Office

With few exceptions, every piece of jewellery for sale in Britain has to be hallmarked at one of the four English Assay offices. At the Sheffield office, established in 1773, each earring, bracelet, chain or ring must be carefully unwrapped, hand or laser stamped, checked then returned to its original packaging.

It’s labour-intensive work and the combination of security considerations and a workforce that swells at peak times, makes implementing a streamlined production system incredibly difficult. It will only be when the company has moved to new premises in Sheffield’s Hillsborough area that the innovation of cutting-edge engineering will make an impact on the 230-year-old company’s heritage.

Since June 2007 a team of academics from MERI has been analysing, studying and deliberating the current manufacturing process at the Assay office, as Professor Terrence Perera explains.

‘We saw an immediate set of issues that were hard to resolve under the current factory layout and operation model. There are distinct problems like how to streamline the hallmarking process of 50,000 matching sets of necklaces and earrings which must be unpacked, stamped then returned to their original wrapping, presentation box and packing crate – as if they’d never been touched. Added to that, these thousands of individual goods are subject to maximum turnaround of two days – that the challenge we were facing.’

Assay master Ashley Carson explains, ‘we are delighted with the assistance and commitment that Sheffield Hallam University has given to the project. It was a great partnership with my team and I am sure that we will see the benefits when our new Assay Office opens in July'.

The process modelling and simulation team at MERI provided design recommendations for the new factory layout and improved process flows. See layout diagram here (VSD, 341KB) (VSD, 341KB)

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