North East firm turns weeks into days with new kit

A North East engineering firm has trimmed weeks from delivery times, thanks to support from an elite team of manufacturing experts.

RDS Engineering is turning weeks into days and days into minutes, thanks to state-of-the-art scanning equipment, purchased with the assistance of the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project.

SAM – which offers a range of support to SME manufacturing businesses in the North East LEP area – also supported the Washington firm via a production planning and workflow management workshop, to help iron out any kinks in RDS Engineering’s internal processes.

RDS managing director, Rob Bone, backed the SAM Project as a vital weapon in the armoury to combat the impact of the COVID19 pandemic has had on manufacturing businesses.

“There are businesses that are going to need all the support available to them as we emerge from lockdown and begin the process of restoring normality,” said Rob. “Projects like SAM are essential to help firms, like ours, take that next step and begin operating on another level.

“We probably would not have been in a position to invest in the new scanning equipment if it weren’t for the support of the SAM Project. However, having done so, and gained new knowledge and understanding via the workshop, we have massively reduced our inspection timescale – in most cases turning weeks into days, which has been a huge manhours saving for the business.”

As well as the new scanner, SAM helped fund a new Hwacheon Vesta 1000+ vertical CNC machine, which has been installed at RDS Engineering’s Washingto HQ.

Established in 1991 by Rob and David Bone, RDS Engineering is an independent supplier of precision engineered components and tooling. Having established a reputation for rapid response and high-quality products to the oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and defence, medical and power generation sectors, the company has set its sights on the pharmaceutical and rail sectors as potential growth areas.

Jess Houston, RDS Engineering office manager, added: “Like every business, our immediate priority is making sure we emerge from the pandemic in a positive way and see no reason that, with the speed we can now accomplish inspection, we can’t expand into new sectors to win business.”

SAM offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “RDS Engineering is a prime example of a company operating successfully in a sector in which our region has particular traditional strengths. However, what sets them apart from many is the desire to drive forward progress and keep improving and streamlining its processes.

“As we look beyond the economic impact of the COVID19 pandemic, we want businesses to know that we are here for them – ready, willing and able to lend our support to the major effort required to get the UK economy back on its feet and moving in the right direction.”

As well as its comprehensive suite of support, the SAM Project also launched an adapted grant scheme to help SME manufacturers looking to pivot during the pandemic, and the organisation is urging eligible businesses to apply for funding before time runs out.

The fund provides support to companies that have had to diversify or adapt in order to stay in business and operational during and after COVID-19, with match funding grants of up to £10,000 available, as well as its normal funding stream to support businesses looking to diversify, or improve products and processes in order to grow.

Applications can be for new capital equipment or external expertise – excluding working capital, salaries, rent or rates – to help their company survive, adapt and sustain themselves through and after the crisis.  Companies looking to innovate and grow are still encouraged to apply even if their capital investment is not specifically as a result of COVID-19.

This could include buying capital kit to help diversify income, bringing outsourced processes and parts manufacture in-house, such as re-shoring parts made overseas to safeguard supply chains, improvements required in manufacturing operations as a result of social distancing measures and government guidelines, or any manufacturing and production specific capital investment to help the company diversify, stay afloat or take advantage of changes in market conditions.  Grants are offered at a 50% rate in County Durham and 40% rate in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland. The current grant fund ends in September 2020.

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing is a collaboration between European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and University of Sunderland, that was set up to support North East (LEP) SME manufacturers to explore and introduce new technology to improve their products or processes.  It was funded with a £2.6m commitment from ERDF and £2.5m from the University of Sunderland, and is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers (under 250 employees), with an annual turnover of less than €50m (£45m approx.)

To find out more about SAM, visit or contact [email protected]