Taking the weight out of the equation gives Penso a boost

Posted on 8 Jan 2015 by The Manufacturer

Industry’s drive for lightweight structures has delivered a £4m sales boost for one of Coventry’s fastest growing manufacturers

Penso, which offers an engineering service, has seen turnover rise to over £20m this year after securing new contracts with car makers, railway companies and the defence contractors… all keen to tap into its concept design, feasibility analysis, advanced composite and niche production capabilities.

Boosted by the increase in orders, the firm has taken on 60 new employees to cope with the demand, a quarter of whom are local graduates and apprentices.

The announcements comes on the same day that the 3000th Mercedes Vito taxi rolled off its Woodhams Road production line, with volumes for this model alone set to double in 2015.

Michael-Collins, group sales & marketing director. Penso ( © Daniel Graves Photography 2014).
Michael-Collins, group sales & marketing director. Penso (© Daniel Graves Photography 2014).

Michael Collins, group sales and marketing director, explained: “Providing the next generation of engineering solutions ‘first’ is our unique selling point and this is something we are employing in the automotive sector with great effect.

“The current opportunity is being driven by car makers looking at ways to comply with the European Directive to reduce carbon emissions across their product range to 95gms by 2020.

“Every company has to adhere to these very strict directives or risk being fined huge sums if they don’t comply.

“One answer is to make the vehicles lighter akin to the technologies being used in Formula 1 and aerospace. However, this has only ever been done in low volumes and can be a drawn out process…the real technology challenge is to find a way of improving the cycle time and ensuring it is suitable for mass production.”

Penso, which has held the TS16949 quality accreditation since 2009, believes it has come up with a solution.

This process has reduced manufacturing times to just minutes, making the use of composite materials very competitive against the traditional steels, aluminium and mixed materials commonly used in the automotive sector.

“This technology will open up lightweight structures for the high volume market, a breakthrough that nobody has successfully managed yet within the UK,” continued Michael.

“It is already attracting industry attention as part of Jaguar Land Rover’s Varcity project (vehicle architectures for City Cars). This has received £16.8m of funding from Innovate UK and will work towards developing the next generation of materials for even lighter vehicles.”

Press forming carbon fibre in minutes, not hours.
Press forming carbon fibre in minutes, not hours.

As part of its growth, Penso has invested £6.5m in developing its existing building and installing a new carbon fibre high volume factory, a new plant for lightweight structures and machining centres for rapid tooling.

Using financial support from AMSCI and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP), it has also built a second engineering centre in Coventry and this will house the company’s niche vehicle build centre of excellence.

Michael concluded: “2014 was a major period of expansion for everyone at Penso and the two years look equally exciting.

“We have opened two new facilities this year and increased our headcount to meet the demand for our services and lightweight composites. There will also be be some movement on our first international operation and we have already penciled in a major appearance at the JEC Composites Show in March 2015.”