As part of its commitment to driving operational excellence and manufacturing efficiencies, leading welded steel mesh manufacturer Siddall and Hilton Products has invested in two innovative automation projects designed to further streamline its processes and accelerate the company’s journey to being recognised as a world-class manufacturer.
The Yorkshire-based business, which is the UK’s largest manufacturer of industrial welded mesh and perimeter fencing panels, partnered with Sewtec, a global market leader in bespoke machinery and automation, to develop a robot to automate the process of packaging and banding its finished product – it is believed to be the only robot of its type in the UK.
The innovation follows the commissioning of Siddall and Hilton Products’ EVG-LGR102 welding machine in August 2021 which has a significantly faster throughput than other production lines on site, causing subsequent ‘bottle necks’ in the process as conventional product handling methods were simply not quick enough, resulting in inefficiency and unnecessary downtime of around 10%. Sewtec was identified as an automation partner and, together, the two businesses developed a technical solution to the issue with a fully integrated pallet de-stacking device introducing pallets into the production line automatically.
A five axis robot has also been integrated into the production line to ‘pick & place’ and rotate if necessary the mesh after welding and automatically stack on to a pallet; once the pallet is fully assembled, it is automatically transferred to an in-line automatic banding machine where edge protection is applied and the product banded, presenting a complete pallet/package at the end of the production line for either warehouse and or dispatch.
Having started the automation project in June 2021, it passed the factory acceptance stage and was installed into the production line in summer 2022. It is now fully operational.
Siddall and Hilton Products’ robot which automates the process of packaging and banding its finished product is believed to be the only robot of its type in the UK
Andy Dawson, operations director at Siddall & Hilton Products, explains: “We’re well aware that automation will play an important role in helping us realise our determination to be a world-class business with these projects marking our first significant step into robotics. Following the commissioning of our newest £2m welding machine last year, the need for a swifter, automated stack and wrap palletiser came into start relief – in some instances the line is 90% faster than conventional mesh welding machines when producing standard panels, and our operators have needed to keep stopping the line whilst they unload and pack the products.
“Having looked at different automation companies, we were really impressed by Sewtec in terms of their concept, level of know-how and communication. They have more than lived up to our expectations and, all being well, this is only the beginning of what we can achieve together.
“By investing in this sophisticated technology, we have been able to recover the efficiency losses of around 10% whilst also improving the overall health and safety of our employees through a reduction in manual handling. It is forward-looking projects such as this which will help make us more competitive globally and form a vital part of our ambitious growth plans.”
Andy Perks, head of sales at Sewtec, commented, “We’re really pleased to be working with Siddall & Hilton Products. The two businesses align perfectly and we’re off to a great start on this automation journey. With so much scope for future endeavours together, we are confident there will be further exciting projects ahead.”
Processing over 22,000 miles of wire a month, Siddall and Hilton Products is the UK’s largest manufacturer of industrial welded steel mesh for high-security fencing, general fencing and industrial mesh panels. With a heritage stretching back 127 years, the company is continuing to grow its workforce with the recruitment and training of new mesh operators as well as a range of development programmes to upskill its team.
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