Founded in 1866, Heap & Partners is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers and distributors of fluid control equipment. Its valves are used by companies across a number of business sectors.
It is investing £500,000 in a series of new machines and a portable automated robot at its factory in Birkenhead. It will allow the company to manufacture products overnight unmanned and lights out for the first time.
The move comes as the firm embraces the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ – the rise of smart technology in manufacturing. Company bosses say automation in manufacturing is key if Britain is to compete with competitors in low-wage countries.
The investment is set to reduce staff’s time spent on mundane and time-consuming tasks, while enabling the company to design, manufacture and launch new hi-tech products.
Heap has designed a system with its new 5-Axis machining centre and automated robot as it looks to find flexible solutions to address all requirements of the manufacturing process. The robot, stationed at the machine, is fully integrated so that it controls every aspect of the machining centre, enabling work to be carried out outside of office hours.
This includes controlling the powered doors, automated vice and operation of the machining centre. The robot also has an integrated vision system to ensure it is correctly aligned, allowing it to load and unload the machine.
Heap & Partners plans to invest further in automated technologies in 2021 to enable staff to focus on new product development, all with the view to increasing productivity and job satisfaction.
Managing director David Millar, said: “We’re aware that the companies who adopt new and emerging technologies will be best placed going forward as we get to grips with the challenges presented by 2020 and 2021.
“Countries that embrace automation tend to have stronger manufacturing industries and in turn employ more people in the sector as a result. Staff are now free to concentrate on more interesting work while the robot takes on the grunt work.”
Paula Basnett, chief executive of Wirral Chamber of Commerce, added: “A tiny proportion of SMEs have invested in automation to improve their business processes. With this investment, Heaps is blazing a trail that other businesses should follow.”