University and business collaboration produces 24 hour turnaround
12 Aug 2021
Mersen UK Teesside’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) venture with Teesside University has decreased turnaround time for the firm’s low volume, high precision engineering products to a single day.
Mersen tapped the university’s expertise in a two-year project, overseen by senior Lecturer and enterprise fellow (Materials Engineering) in the institution’s School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies, Dr David Hughes,.
The company, a global expert in electrical specialties and advanced materials for high-tech industries with more than 50 industrial sites and 16 R&D centres in 35 countries, was seeking to to increase revenue from low volume, high value sales, to maximise manufacturing profitability and grow its market for highly variable precision graphite parts ithrough shorter lead times.
Explained Hughes: “Clients have regular low volume, high value requirements, stringent focus on accuracy, tolerance, traceability and short lead times that were not previously achievable within Mersen’s (or most of their competitors) operations.
He added that Mersen recognised the need for more intelligent manufacturing systems and processes to ensure sufficient flexibility, automation and integration of the ‘Strangers’ pipeline of one-off production of specialist parts
The Innovate UK-funded KTP project introduced an Electrical Discharge Machining (EDM) webstore offering customers a one-day turnaround time, a significant improvement compared to previous lead times.
Mersen said enhanced data collection and analysis offered significant opportunities for optimisation and increased digitisation including robotic process automation (RPA).
The project is led by Knowledge Transfer Partnership associate Daniel Pybus – who has subsequently enrolled on a PhD at the university.
“Developing knowledge and tools to collect, measure and monitor production data has been an important development which has allowed Mersen to identify opportunities for optimisation by analysing accurate, real-time data,” explained Pybus
“Whilst traditional manufacturing processes are reactive and disruptive, the KTP project has built the tools required to become more predictive to enable a more flexible, dynamic manufacturing process with less disruption.”
Stock cutting traditionally done by eyeis also being replaced by a developing evolutionary algorithm that suggests an optimised cutting order. This enables Mersen to improve profit margins by maximising raw material utilisation and has shown savings of 20% in current trials.
“The KTP partnership has provided the company with the means to identify and solve complex problems to improve efficiency and accelerate growth, as well as helping Mersen to expand its industrial network and giving the opportunity to support digitisation and development in the local region,” said Mersen UK Teesside managing director Andrew Freer.
“Critically, all these capabilities aim to provide a competitive advantage that will secure Mersen’s place in the European market post-Brexit. Without this advantage, new trading arrangements could otherwise mean that our products and lead times are less attractive in Europe.”