Spanish expansion
Thanks to a growing demand for KeyKeg and UniKeg, Lightweight Containers is opening a fifth production line, located in Guadalajara, Spain. The Guadalajara plant will be state-of-the-art, with the latest blow moulding technology and machinery, as well as the latest automation and robotics technology.

The plant in Spain will support the large customer base the company has in Spain and other parts of Southern Europe, with construction expected to be completed in time for the plant to be ready to produce in mid-2019.

Anita Veenendaal, Chief Executive Officer of Lightweight Containers, says: “We see service as a crucial element of our success. We aim to provide the best service, keeping stock as close to our customers as possible. The new location and its extra capacity will further improve this service and reduce environmental footprint significantly.”

With the opening of the production line in Guadalajara, Lightweight Containers has a global presence of five production lines and ten warehouses. However, it doesn’t end there for the company, as in 2019 another line will be opened elsewhere in Southern Europe in order to keep up with demands and so that Lightweight Containers can keep offering customers the best possible service and flexibility.

Grand funding for Shropshire firm
After securing a substantial grant from the European Regional Development (ERDF)’s Business Growth Programme, Fabweld Steel Products (FSP) is aiming to grow its turnover by £1 million and create new jobs.

The business was awarded £30,000 as part of an overall £94,500 investment to improve production process and systems at its factory in Telford, Shropshire. FSP, which designs and manufactures fabricated steel access covers and associated drainage products, says the programme of work will result in greater efficiency and manufacturing capacity and should help it win new contracts within the construction industry. That will lead to the creation of five new roles including a sales administrator, laser operator and welder/fabricators.

FSP Managing Director Richard Hilton commented on the difference the funding will make to the company: “The previous layout created bottlenecks in production so the restructure will simplify and speed up processes. We will be introducing new handling equipment and increasing our internal storage capacity.

“Carrying out this programme of enhancements will give us more capacity to win new contracts and allow us to respond more quickly to customer demands. Without the grant funding, we would have had to carry out the work in stages. This wouldn’t have been as effective and would have reduced the opportunities that a quicker production time will bring.

“An increased turnover and market share will ultimately lead to a more sustainable future for the business, our staff and our supply chain,” he added.

The Enterprise Telford team at the Marches Growth Hub Telford & Wrekin supported FSP in its grant application.

Hot stuff
Once hot-forming was a technique that helped protect knights in armour from the crashing blows of their rivals. Now, Ford is applying a cutting-edge version of the same technology to help make its cars safer than ever.

In the first fully automated hot-forming process, Ford has modernised ancient blacksmith techniques, using furnaces, robots and lasers to craft car parts that help keep drivers and passengers safe.

“We are building on techniques used to strengthen steel for thousands of years, incorporating modern materials and automation to speed and refine the hot-forming process,” explained Dale Wishnousky, vice president, Manufacturing, Ford of Europe. “The resulting boron steel safety cell helps to make the all-new Focus one of our safest vehicles ever.”

Boron steel is the strongest steel used in the auto industry – within the car’s safety cell. This helps to create a survival space in the event of an accident. In addition, the use of boron, also found in skyscrapers, helps the new model to achieve a 40 per cent improvement in the car’s capability to withstand head-on crashes.

The hot-forming line – fully integrated within the company’s Saarlouis Vehicle Assembly Plant in Germany – was built as part of a recent €600 million investment in the Saarlouis facility.

Hot forming is an integral part of the production of the all-new Ford Focus that was awarded a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating.

Hot-formed steel pieces are subjected to temperatures of up to 930° C; unloaded by robots into a hydraulic press that has a closing force up to 1150 tonnes; and then shaped and cooled in just three seconds. The boron steel is so strong by this point that a laser beam hotter than lava is used to precision-cut each piece into its final shape.

Significant contract for Teeside company
Mech-Tool Engineering Ltd (MTE) has successfully secured a contract with one of Norway’s leading engineering companies. The contract has been awarded by Aibel AS and will see MTE providing its world-class, bespoke products including fire and blast wall panels as well as wind and heatshields. The products will be designed and manufactured by the company to be deployed on Equinor’s oil field Snorre Expansion Project (SEP).

Located in the North Sea, the offshore vessel was originally set up as the Snorre Project and was expected to retrieve oil for Norway over a period of three years. The project, renamed the Snorre Expansion Project, has recently received an investment of NOK 19 billion (£1.7 billion) leading to the expected lifespan vastly increasing to 30 years. It is assumed that Norwegian businesses have contributed 80% of the investment.

The SEP belongs to Equinor – formerly known as Statoil – with Aibel AS being contracted to provide engineering, procurement, construction, installation and commissioning (EPCIC) for the offshore vessel.

The intelligent enterprise
Zebra Technologies Corporation has announced the results of its second annual ‘Intelligent Enterprise Index’, a global survey that measures where companies are on the journey to becoming an ‘intelligent enterprise’ – one that connects the physical and digital worlds to drive innovation through real-time guidance, data-powered environments and collaborative mobile workflows.

By scoring more than 75 points on the overall Index, the number of companies defined as an ‘intelligent enterprise’ doubled to ten per cent in 2018. The Index measures to what extent companies today are meeting the criteria that define today’s Intelligent Enterprise. Overall, the Index reveals year-over-year growth of Internet of Things (IoT) deployment and investment, highlighting new momentum as enterprises expect less resistance to adoption and increasingly acknowledge IoT solutions as a core component for driving future growth across their organisations.

“As new technologies continue to transform the front line of business, real-time data-driven signals at the edge of operations are empowering front-line workers with the right information to optimise actions and outcomes,” said Tom Bianculli, Chief Technology Officer, Zebra Technologies. “Based on our second annual Index, it’s clear that more companies acknowledge the value of leveraging IoT strategies, and they will continue to propel adoption and investment in the future.”

News in brief
Quality Metal Products
Quality Metal Products (QMP) is one of the UK’s leading Trade only manufacturers of steel storage and materials handling products. Its 110,000sq ft manufacturing facility is based in the heart of the industrial Black Country and boasts some of the most sophisticated lights-out and robotic machinery available worldwide.

The company was established in 1959, and will be celebrating 60 years of manufacturing in 2019. QMP employs 87 members of staff on site, spread between the manufacturing and production departments, accounts, dispatch, sales and marketing.

Since acquiring the business in 2012, the management team has led an extensive programme of investment which has seen over six million pounds invested into new steel punching, panel bending and robotic welding machinery. The most recent investment has been into a large extension into a new warehouse facility which will allow QMP to increase levels of stocked products and to add further best-selling products to the catalogue of stocked items.

Top 3D tech
French 3D print service bureau Erpro Group has announced its first partnership in France with digital 3D manufacturing company, Carbon, following the installation of a Carbon M2 3D Printer.

As the only service provider in France with Carbon’s M2 3D Printer, the partnership will enable Erpro Group to further increase its capability to address large-series production for customers globally and extend its current portfolio of advanced industrial 3D printers. Located within the Erpro 3D Factory – one of the world’s only 3D printing factories dedicated to mass production projects – the M2 is expected to accelerate the adoption of 3D printing for high-volume production.

A key advantage of the partnership provides Erpro Group with direct access to Carbon experts, working closely to fully optimise the use of the M2 across a multitude of industries – from automotive to medical, through to luxury packaging and jewellery applications. In addition, Erpro Group will have access to the latest material developments from Carbon. This is being realised already with the EPU 40 material, which is already in use at Erpro 3D Factory, offering unrivalled elasticity and resilience. Its combination of tear strength, energy return, and elongation makes it perfect for cushioning, impact absorption, vibration isolation, gaskets, and seals.