Thursday, October 9, 2014

News: PMS Diecasting go for growth with KTP

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A Rotherham company that formed as a result of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Sheffield Hallam University is maximising the opportunities to develop precision tooling expertise in the region.

PMS Diecasting has been producing high quality zinc diecastings for more than three decades and is one of Europe's leading diecasters. It produces more than 36 million castings annually for the global manufacturer, Gripple.

The Hellaby firm were keen to explore how they could improve their own capability in tool-making and took advantage of the government-backed KTP scheme at the university that enables companies to employ a graduate to help them tackle a business challenge.

The initial focus of the KTP was to investigate the possibility for bringing tool-making in-house, in the hope that it could reduce lead times and costs by around 20%, but a change in strategy meant that KTP associate Luke Scott (pictured, below) was presented with a different challenge.

Gordon Panter, managing director of PMS Diecasting, explained: "Because of changes in the industry, the economics of in-house tooling became less attractive as external tooling suppliers became more competitive. We therefore asked Luke to concentrate his efforts on improvements to our automated production process and procuring new casting machines, as well as developing a product data management system to help us deal effectively with sudden increases in turnover and a variety of changes to the product mix."

Automated systems were designed and implemented, reducing manual handling in hazardous environments and Luke also developed and helped implement a new product introductory process which provides a formal structure for customer requirements and design approval.

Improved production efficiency of 70% and a 30% improvement in quality has helped the company reach a turnover of £5.1m in the last year, generating profits of £320,000.
Following the success of the KTP, the company set up a sister company, GoTools Ltd, which designs and manufactures performance tooling. The new enterprise is in an ideal position to exploit the commercial opportunities of the problem PMS originally identified for tackling via the KTP – that of a lack of precision tooling expertise in the region. GoTools Ltd already has four employees and achieved a turnover of £350,000 in its first year, moving into new 5,000 sq ft premises in 2013.

Andy Millard, who supervised the KTP for PMS Diecasting has moved into the new role of managing director of GoTools Ltd, and Luke Scott has now stepped up into his role of engineering supervisor at PMS and is working towards his Chartered Engineer status and an MSc in Advanced Engineering.

Gordon Panter added: "The KTP has clearly brought some measurable improvements to our operation but it has also helped us to take the management and cultural step changes we needed to move to the next level."

Founded in 1975, PMS developed a precision manufacturing process to produce handsaws that proved so successful that every DIY retail outlet and most handtool distributors sold an "own brand" saw which was made and branded by PMS in Rotherham. In just five years PMS became the largest volume manufacturer of handaws in the UK.

PMS has agreed a further KTP programme with Sheffield Hallam, currently underway, to introduce and embed improvements in the operation and management of high value automated zinc die casting cells, thereby increasing quality, financial and delivery performance.

PMS Diecasting website
Go Tools website
Sheffield Hallam website

Images: Go Tools

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