SC21 success unlocks new opportunities for Thermacore

Posted on 1 Sep 2015 by Jonny Williamson

Northumberland thermal management specialist, Thermacore Europe has become one of the first manufacturers in the North East to secure a major quality accreditation for the aerospace and defence sector.

Celebrating 45 years in business in 2015, the firm has taken just seven months to implement a continuous improvement programme that has seen it land the Silver SC21 Award – a journey recognised for accelerating competitiveness and performance in the UK supply chain.

Thermacore Europe is looking to build on SC21 Silver Award success.
Thermacore Europe is looking to build on SC21 Silver Award success.

Backed by strategic support and funding from the Business Growth Service, Thermacore has been able to improve on-time delivery for its global client base, alongside reducing waste and achieving more than £100,000 of annual cost savings.

It has also used the new accreditation to unlock new business opportunities, with a leading civil aerospace specialist now adding Thermacore Europe to its approved vendor list.

Quality HSE manager, Mark Robinson explained: “We first started working towards SC21 in 2011 and quickly became one of the first firms in the county to gain the Bronze Award.

“There was a conscious decision taken to not stop there and, as part of our commitment to continuous improvement, we put in place a three-year business plan that would see us move to the next level.”

He continued: “This is not a small step, but a massive leap and we have invested significant time and money into creating the right strategy and culture.

Thermacore's latest 5-axis Mazak SR800 CNC Machine being set-up.
Thermacore’s latest 5-axis Mazak SR800 CNC Machine being set-up.

“One of the biggest challenges we faced, was seeking involvement from a larger cross-section of our workforce on initiatives such as 5S, which helps to identify and overcome any production issues. Critically, our employees got behind us and we now have higher skilled staff and a more transparent culture across the entire business.”

Thermacore Europe manufactures innovative solutions for electronic cooling; fuel cells; radar electronics, and thermal storage, and renewed its involvement with manufacturing experts from the Business Growth Service to help it move towards the Silver standard.

Tapping into four days of strategic support, the company used the specialist advice to review its current operating procedures and then implement a number of key improvements.

Robinson continued: “There are number of SC21 deployment bodies we could have used, but we like the approachable attitude and impartial feedback we receive from the experts at the Business Growth Service.

“The insider knowledge has also been crucial in helping us introduce a number of best practice manufacturing techniques, such as advanced Kaizen, employee engagement and improved internal supply chain performance through fewer stock movements.

Manual deburring of machined component by Thermacore's Christopher Cockburn.
Manual deburring of machined component by Thermacore’s Christopher Cockburn.

“It has definitely sped up the process by months and made us a much more efficient business in the process.”

Business growth manager at the Business Growth Service, Jim Barr said: “Continuous improvement is something we urge all manufacturers to do, especially if they are looking to compete in the global marketplace.

“Thermacore Europe has recognised this and, using help from ourselves, has successfully started and completed the Silver SC21 journey. This is some achievement for a firm of its size and puts them in an excellent position to take advantage of new opportunities in aerospace and defence.”

It has been an exciting 45th year in business for the Northumberland-based firm, with the company enjoying significant growth in all of its core markets, including aerospace, defence and space.

More than £700,000 has been spent on extending the manufacturing capacity to feature vacuum brazing; new heat treatment processes; 5-axis CNC machining. and a CNC Co-ordinate Measuring Machine in the quality department.

Thermacore is also investing in its employees, increasing its workforce to 65 and launching an annual intake of apprentices and PhD students.