Updates and announcements from the manufacturing arena

Future gazing
Panasonic Business has opened the doors to its new Customer Experience Centre in Bracknell, showcasing its range of cutting edge B2B solutions both physically and virtually. Situated at the new UK headquarters on Western Road, Bracknell, the Customer Experience Centre is experienced as two zones. The first is an immersive 270-degree interactive presentation space, built around eight separate virtual vertical environments, and a demonstration space that allows customers to get hands-on with the latest Panasonic technology. The showcase delivers a ‘blank canvas’ for innovation, designed to spark conversations around how Panasonic can solve business technology challenges.

Featuring AV design and integration by Sysco Productions, concept development by AB Creative, and content and physical build by Hart Wilcox, the Customer Experience Centre features over 100 items of technology, with the presentation space squeezing an impressive nine laser projectors in to just 50m2 in order to achieve a fully immersive feel.

“By quietly and reliably powering their capability our technology frees businesses to perform to their maximum,” says Simon Grantham, Managing Director of Panasonic UK on opening the Centre.

“We are bringing the latest technology for retail, transport, logistics and entertainment in one place. We hope to immerse visitors into our Panasonic world, inspire their creativity and ultimately prove our solutions can strengthen their business in an increasingly competitive landscape,” he added.

Britain’s first 5G factory trial
The UK’s first live 5G factory trials began at the Worcestershire 5G Testbed on 14th February, in a landmark step towards the creation of smart factories in Britain. The trials mark the first time that British industry has deployed this next generation technology and it is set to completely transform the way the sector operates.

In a huge step on the UK’s journey towards Industry 4.0, the process allows manufacturers to test the potential of 5G investments – from factory floor production, reconfiguration and real-time analysis, to steering a machine’s movements from a remote location.

World-leading engineering company Worcester Bosch is testing 5G for improved factory output, exploring preventative maintenance utilising IoT sensors and data analytics to predict failure. Meanwhile multinational defence company QinetiQ has been designing security into the network and applications known as ‘security by design’.

Leading global manufacturer Yamazaki Mazak is also using 5G to conduct trials that will demonstrate how 5G can be used to enhance factory productivity.

The trials will all test end-to-end application performance, taking initial measures of 5G speeds and latency. The technology offers more than just enhanced speed by providing the low latency, responsiveness and reach needed to transform the world we live and work in and in ways that its predecessors, including 4G, simply couldn’t.

State-of-the-art new factory opens
A leading supplier of personalised workwear for the construction and facilities management industries has opened a new 40,000 square foot factory to increase capacity at its North-East of England headquarters. Workwear Express’ brand new factory space is now open for business following a £3.5m investment, designed to benefit its thousands of customers across a wide range of sectors.

The state-of-the-art building at Belmont Industrial Estate in County Durham, houses advanced new machinery and modern office space. The increased capacity will support the company’s commitment to its industry leading turnaround, including a 24-hour dispatch option.

The business welcomes more than 1500 new customers every week and its new factory will help to meet the growing demand for its products in the UK and around the world.

Managing Director Andrew Ward built the company from scratch, starting by selling work clothing out of the back of a van in 1990. He commented: “The opening of our new facilities is a great step forward for our customers and staff. We recognised a need to increase production and enhance our head to foot clothing solutions for a growing customer base.

“What really sets us apart is our speed of service and competitive pricing. Our multi-million-pound investment is helping us meet the increasing demand for a fast, efficient service and high quality products. The new factory space includes modern machinery and facilities, enabling us to become even more responsive to what our customers want.

“In the last three years Workwear Express has doubled in size and has become the biggest, most modern facility of its kind in the UK. With our dedicated new floorspace, we have even more room for growth. We are excited about the future of the business and this investment means we are able to forge ahead with our expansion plans.”

New plant for Finland
Sweco has been commissioned by Vapo Oy to provide engineering services, procurement and construction management for a new activated carbon plant in Ilomantsi, Finland. The market for activated carbon is growing in Europe. The plant in Ilomantsi will produce technical carbon products for water, air and gas purification, mainly for the chemical and pharmaceutical industries.

“We are very pleased that Sweco will be part of the development of Finnish natural resources into products with a high added value. Vapo’s investment decision to build a new activated carbon plant is important for the Nordic cleantech cluster,” says Erik Skogström, Managing Director of Sweco Industry.

“For Vapo, the most important criteria for the new activated carbon plant is sustainability and minimising environmental impacts. We chose Sweco to design the new plant, as we wanted to have a partner with proven experience in large industrial projects, good schedule management and expertise in environmentally friendly industrial design. We are convinced that together with Sweco we will build a plant that is top quality both technologically and sustainably,” says Jaakko Myllymäki, Managing Director of Vapo Carbons.

Vapo Carbons made the investment decision in December 2018 and the plant is planned to be in operation by the end of 2020.

Finance for growth
Muzinich & Co has provided funding in relation to the acquisition of Fraureuth-based manufacturer Spindel-und Lagerungstechnik Fraureuth GmbH (SLF) through private equity sponsor Avedon Capital Partners in collaboration with SLF’s founders.

Founded in 1993, SLF is a niche manufacturer of specialised spindles and bearings for customers active in industries such as mechanical engineering, food & beverage and motor and pump manufacturing.

This partnership approach is designed to expand new strategic goals, further invest in SLF’s operations and pursue new market opportunities. The ambition of both the founders and Avedon is to further strengthen SLF’s competitive positioning by focusing on attractive end-markets, growing its customer base and fostering international growth.

“After an intense due diligence process, we found SLF’s engineering capabilities, niche product range and underlying strong profitability was a natural match for our lending model,” said Jan Henrik Reichenbach, Head of DACH Private Debt.

The majority of the loan will finance the acquisition from the founders, with a proportion allocated to fund further expansion projects. The founders, who also comprise the management team, have reinvested a significant portion of their proceeds and will move into advisory roles over time.

News in brief
Committed to recycling
Goplasticpallets.com has pledged to recycle every plastic pallet and plastic box it supplies to customers. Furthermore, as Jim Hardisty, MD of Goplasticpallets.com, explained: “We intend to make it as simple as possible for customers of all sizes to recycle their plastic pallets and boxes by offering both ‘drop off’ and ‘collection’ options. Ultimately, our mission is to help businesses create more sustainable supply chains by providing them with long lasting, reusable plastic pallets and boxes, and ensuring they are responsibly recycled when customers no longer need them. Each customer that purchases plastic pallets and boxes from us will receive a certificate – our recycling commitment – this reinforces the responsible attitude we have towards recycling our products.”

ISO 45001 certification achieved
In January 2019, Quartzelec, a leading independent engineering service provider, was awarded the prestigious ISO 45001:2018 Health & Safety Management System certification for key locations and businesses related to its Rotating Machine Services business. Quartzelec’s Rugby and Swansea units, plus the coil operations business – Quartzcoil – are the initial units to receive this ISO 45001 certification, with more undergoing assessment later in the year. Moving forward, Quartzelec is looking to extend ISO 45001 certification for additional UK facilities in Aberdeen, Grimsby and Sheffield later this year.

Legendary service
What More UK is celebrating two prestigious wins at The Housewares Innovation Awards, a well-established scheme designed for businesses in the housewares sector. Not only was the exceptional service of the company recognised, but Tony Grimshaw OBE, Director at What More UK was also crowned Kitchen Hero in the Awards ceremony. Tony commented: “I am incredibly proud of the recognition we have received by our peers. I am really grateful … for the exceptional support from my colleagues over the years and the continued great relationships we have within the industry, both nationally and globally.”