The UK is in the top tier of the global aerospace industry, a position it owes in part to the expertise of smaller firms in the supply chain, such as Coventry’s Arrowsmith Engineering. Maddy White reports.
Founded in Coventry in 1967, Arrowsmith Engineering is a specialist in precision turning, milling and grinding, making components in titanium, magnesium and other metals for aerospace Tier 1 firms and primes. It may be small, but it delivers quality on spec, and on time.
“UK aerospace is a world-class industry, so you have to offer a service that matches that. Even though we are an SME, what we make has got to be comparable with any other company around the world,” Jason Aldridge, managing director at Arrowsmith Engineering, tells me.
The Aldridge family bought Arrowsmith Engineering in 1993. Jason, pictured opposite, with glasses, who is also chairman of the Coventry and Warwickshire Aerospace Forum, had been in the construction business but left to join Arrowsmith 13 years ago and run it alongside his father.
Since the 70s, the firm has supplied Rolls-Royce with engine parts, a relationship Aldridge believes has contributed to the firm’s success and precision-focused way of working. In 2017, he decided that if Arrowsmith was to grow it needed investment, so the company joined ASG Group, with Jason staying on as a shareholder.
Seeing best practice
The move from construction to manufacturing meant that Aldridge had to learn a whole new set of skills, and quickly. The best way to do this, he says, is seeing best practice in action.
The robots will rise
Arrowsmith Engineering has recently invested more than £200,000 in a new CNC machining centre (image above) and robotic cell that will help it boost production speed and increase capacity by 50%. It is the firm’s first investment in robotics and it has been configured to suit the company’s needs: 24-hour manufacturing on a complex component for the aerospace sector.
“In the next two or three years there will be a huge explosion of robotics in the UK and this is important for British manufacturing,” Jason says. “When you start to introduce robotics, your process has got to be absolutely tied down because a robot is not going to be tweaking things. Your engineers have got to get the operation running absolutely perfectly and then the robot can keep repeating the process.”
A fan of automation
The company is using ‘lights-out’ manufacturing to run the machine 24-hours a day, seven days a week so that it can supply more than 200 components every month to its customers. Integrating robots into the operation has also seen the workforce grow 10% to 70 people.
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Monday Apr 1, 2019