Coming of age for Arrowsmith
Coventry-based precision engineering firm Arrowsmith is adopting a new culture of innovation, which will create new engineering jobs and safeguard existing roles, after receiving R&D funding and support from the National Aerospace Technology Exploitation Programme (NATEP).
Led by managing director Jason Aldridge, the Arrowsmith team has been working in collaboration with the Coventry and Warwickshire Aerospace Forum, ANT Industries and specialists at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) to develop new aerospace standard threadrolling processes.
By retraining its staff in the new processes and encouraging them to embrace a collaborative approach to innovation, Arrowsmith has safeguarded the jobs of its skilled engineers and started on a path to growth that should lead to new jobs.
The Arrowsmith team was given a tour of the MTC facilities by the MTC specialists who have been working with them, giving the engineers a chance to understand the important role their advanced manufacturing techniques will play in the development of next generation aero-engines and aircraft.
Jason Aldridge explained: “The visit to MTC was, for me, the final proof that the culture of our business has fundamentally changed. Standing shoulder to shoulder with other engineers has helped everyone believe in our own capabilities, and in our own potential. We are moving forward with a more corporate mindset, continually lifting our game, and setting our sights higher. Through this NATEP project, we will become a centre of excellence for aerospace standard threadrolling – and we’ll be working alongside the very best companies in the world, to create cutting edge solutions.
Aldridge continues: “While the aerospace primes are seen to be investing heavily in new technologies, it’s really important that the supply chain keeps up. Advanced engines need advanced engineering solutions at every stage, so this research is crucial for the industry. By working collaboratively, we’re improving the quality and scope of that research, while upskilling our own engineers and sharing our expertise. In order to access the NATEP funding, a customer needed to be on board, and that’s made a real difference too. Working with aero-engine manufacturer ITP Engines UK Limited, gives us valuable insight and focus.
“Most of the research is being done in our own workshop, and the MTC engineers have been working alongside our team. We have all been impressed by their modest attitudes and exceptional knowledge. As a result, we will be manufacturing components that could previously not be made, and we’ll be using precision controlled production techniques that keep quality high and costs down.
“As an SME, it’s often difficult to embrace a culture of R&D, but I believe there’s a massive market opportunity if it can be achieved. Government and European funding is often seen as something which is too time-consuming to apply for, and too bureaucratic. NATEP, funded by the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS), has been a completely different experience. The NATEP technology managers from Midlands Aerospace Alliance (MAA), have helped us pull the project together, and worked with us to set criteria, ensure our paperwork was correct, identify what we needed, and helped us find it. They didn’t push us with an off-the-shelf solution that we would have had to adapt for our business.”
NATEP technology manager for the Midlands, Peter Knight, added: “The advanced manufacturing techniques being developed through this project have enormous potential in the global marketplace.
“It’s exciting to see that NATEP is helping the company as a whole to reposition itself in the market, align its culture with that of its end customer, safeguard jobs and develop a centre of excellence here in the Midlands. It’s so important that we support small manufacturers as they bring innovative technologies to the skies, so we can maintain the UK supply chain’s standing as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world.”
NATEP provides match-funding and mentoring to smaller aerospace companies to work collaboratively across the supply chain and with an end customer, to help bring new technologies to market. The final call for NATEP funding is open until 14 May 2015, so companies looking to get involved can find out more at http://www.midlandsaerospace.org.uk/natep.
Article Source: http://www.aero-mag.com/news/20153/3109/