Arrowsmith Engineering is using lights-out manufacturing to run a precision aero-engine part 24 hours a day, seven days a week, supplying more than 200 components every month to customers based in Spain and the US. Integrating robots into the process has removed the need for a second machining centre.

Jason Aldridge, managing director, says: “I’m a big fan of automation and don’t’ sign up to the notion that it’s taking jobs; if anything it will make us more competitive so we can take on additional people.

“The Doosan CNC machining centre and collaborative robot system is our first investment in robotics, and has been configured to suit our specific requirements for 24-hour manufacturing on a complex component for the aerospace sector,” he continues. “It has removed the need for an operator to load and unload the parts, and this person has gone on to a different production process that is more skilled. This is just the start of what we hope will be a continuous investment drive in robots.

“It’s made us 15% quicker and given us a 50% capacity boost; that’s some payback already. Automation shouldn’t be seen as something that only the big boys do; SMEs can access it cost-effectively and we need to ‘grasp the nettle’ in order to bring the UK’s productivity in line with international rivals.”

Arrowsmith Engineering is a specialist in precision turning, milling, thread rolling and grinding, providing components to aerospace tier-one suppliers and primes in titanium, nimonics, stainless steel, exotic metals and engineering plastics. The company, which has been supported by Coventry University and Coventry City Council on its latest investment, supplies parts that are used all over the world in aerospace engines, landing-gear sets and air frames. Arrowsmith has been able to boost its export business thanks mainly to delivering world-class manufacturing performance, with OTIF (on-time in full) and quality running at 98.5 and 99.95% for the past 12 months, respectively.

This level of continuing operational excellence has seen the business secure the SC21 Silver Award for the third consecutive year.

“It’s all about pushing the boundaries in what we want to achieve, challenging our staff to drive growth by giving them access to training and the best technology,” says Aldridge. “The SC21 Silver Award is a great achievement for our business and proves that SMEs can compete with the best in the world when it comes to manufacturing excellence. This is just the start, we want to be at £9 million by the end of 2020 and then looking at how we break the £10 million barrier before too much longer.”