An engineering firm is being helped to save hundreds of thousands of pounds thanks to a research project with Teesside University.
Mech-Tool Engineering Ltd, based in Darlington, is taking part in a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to investigate ways in which its manufacturing processes can be made more efficient.
Mech-Tool designs and manufactures products that protect people and plant from blast, fire, and heat hazards.
The project has already identified a number of ways in which systems can be made to operate more effectively and is carrying out a review of all the processes throughout the company.
Over the past few years, Teesside University has worked with Mech-Tool Engineering on several projects and has helped the company address some of the challenges it has faced within its business.
The KTP began in August 2013 and KTP associate Barry Moore, a Teesside University BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering graduate and PhD student, began working at the company.
The impact of this project contributed to Mech-Tool winning the Lombard Award for Best Small to Medium Enterprise at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Manufacturing Excellence Awards 2014.
The company acknowledged the achievements of the project and offered a management position to Barry.
He has been supervised by Dr Ruben Pinedo-Cuenca, a project manager at Teesside Manufacturing Centre in the School of Science & Engineering. The centre has a long track record of delivering successful KTP projects and commercial consultancy relevant to industry needs.
The interventions have led to transformational results with businesses achieving significant savings and increased revenues.
KTPs typically last for two years and are a collaboration between a university and a company.
They are part-funded by Innovate UK to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills.
Barry said: “I’ve been looking at how we can make various different functions of the business communicate better. Not just in terms of people-to-people, but also how information flows from start to finish and how we record what we do.
“We‘ve had a few quick wins and, as a result, were able to make some of the larger systems more efficient.
“We’re also looking at making considerable time-savings on some of the processes which we are hoping to roll out towards the end of the year.
“If these are successful they could potentially save up to £200,000 a year.”
Dr Keith Bell, the Director of Operations at Mech-Tool, said: “From the company’s point of view, this has gone very well.
“As well as focusing on the KTP, we’ve also been able to involve Barry in our business management and improvements.
“This has opened up many other opportunities where we’ve been able to use his skills such as looking at how to enhance our floorspace utilisation and capacity planning.”
Dr Pinedo-Cuenca said: “From an academic perspective, this is an extremely interesting project and will certainly help inform our teaching and research.
“The work Barry is doing has helped identify business processes inefficiencies and embed a continuous improvement culture in the business.
“This was achieved by adapting emerging technologies to existing practices and changing the culture of the business. I believe this project has contributed to modernising the practices within the organisation.”