Wolstenhome Machine Knives Ltd
Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) achieves the 'impossible' and leads to major cost savings.When KTP associate Michael Bennett was testing equipment at Wolstenholme Machine Knives to find the best way to weld different thicknesses of stainless steel, he discovered he could use the laser to weld in configurations that were beyond those thought possible.
A new process for halving costs
A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) - based around welding in dissimilar metals in a joint configuration using the laser welding - led to a completely new process for welding the knives used in food processing and packaging. Michael's astonishing discovery led to an early intellectual property application by this long established Sheffield based company.
Further developments of this new approach led to significant improvements in the production of bimetal scrapers, including a 50% reduction in manufacturing costs.
Under the guidance of university experts, Michael worked with the company - which manufactures and sells high grade straight, circular and formed knives for a wide range of industries - to help them implement and embed Computer Numerical Control (CNC) bending and laser welding into tray knife and scraper blade production cells integrated with automated handling systems.
After his initial discovery, Michael went on to train the machine operators and to produce operator manuals, working closely with a range of company employees, including the production engineer and engineering director, to increase the production efficiency. Overall, the introduction of lean principles into the company's production processes resulted in a 50% reduction in cycle times and a remarkable 100% increase in equipment utilisation leading to a significant improvement in performance.
Michael also went on to develop new laser etching techniques which could be applied to curved surfaces, resulting in considerable print cost savings.
The KTP with Sheffield Hallam University provided the company with a number of clear business benefits
- laser welding technology has led to higher quality and more consistency
- new skills and technology have broadened the company's manufacturing capability
- improved efficiency has led to more competitive pricing
- there has been an increase in market share - since the KTP project began in April 2008, Wolstenholme has seen a 22% increase in its tray knife orders
- gross margin is three times as high in the scraper knife product range, leading to increased profits
- improved efficiency has led to annual savings of £70,000 in materials costs.
We are now producing better quality products in greater volume more efficiently - with no increase in labour costs. Lead times have also been reduced and we have seen a significant decrease in material costs.
David Clowes, Engineering Director
Working with the company on this ambitious project has been very rewarding. The industrial application of our technical expertise has provided innovative solutions for the company that have led to new business and the project has generated exciting laser welding research opportunities for the university.The relationship with the company has also enriched our teaching activities and provided the company with opportunities to work with students on further projects.
Professor Alan Smith, Head of Business Development