Right tools for the job

How tooling manufacturer and service provider A & S Tooling secured more contracts and expanded its operations through carefully planned automation investment.

In a hugely crowded marketplace, regularly investing in new machinery is imperative and with technology becoming more advanced, staying up-to-date is the only way to remain competitive. Many large cutting tool manufacturers produce the highest standard products with world-leading equipment, making it difficult for companies like A & S Tooling to service them.

This, combined with a vastly increasing workload, encouraged owner Jeff Smith to invest in a fully automated production linein order to adapt to ever-evolving technological advances. This would also allow him to keep in line with customer demand and therefore acquire equipment of the same calibre as that of his larger competitors.

Having always been aware of the need to invest, Smith has regularly purchased machines that help with the development of his company. More recently he made the decision to invest in a Walter Helitronic GWC CNC grinding machine, complete with a fully automated robot arm to control the machine.

A fully automated production line such as this minimises the risk of errors and each end product is quality checked twice, once by the machine itself and then by human operators. The use of robotics enables A & S Tooling to run production 24 hours a day, seven days a week, tripling productivity and allowing the company to run more efficiently.

The increased productivity has enabled A & S Tooling to fulfil its backlog of work while taking on more contracts. It also offers the capacity to fulfil these contracts in a shorter time frame. As a result the company is looking to employ additional staff and forecasts an increase in turnover of 25%.

In order to preserve the company’s cash flow during the acquisition, Smith worked with asset finance provider Lombard, to secure a hire purchase facility worth £220,000, which was combined with a government initiative to fund the new equipment.

Traditionally a lot of standard tools are bought abroad and exported due to low costs, but this investment gives A & S Tooling the capability to move into this market with competitive price points, making them more competitive on a global scale.

A & S Tooling’s customers will also benefit from the acquisition. Thanks to the overnight and automated production, the company’s overheads are lower, which will enable it to offer lower prices.

Smith said about the move: “There are many reasons why investment is so important, from the ever-adapting range of tools that we need to keep up with, to the simplicity of just remaining competitive and even in business. Our success is due to our continual investment in new plant – the cost of which would wipe out our cash flow without funding support.”