Tag Archives: North East

Clearly Drinks caps off record year with ambitious growth plans

A North East soft drinks manufacturer has seen sales fizz after investing £6million into a new canning line and entering into its best year to date.

Clearly Drinks, which manufactures its own branded products as well as providing a contract bottling service to some of the industry’s biggest names, is expecting revenue to double this year after tripling its capacity to 160 million litres over the last three years.

The continued investment by the company into its award-winning Sunderland plant is part of a wider investment programme which has seen the company expand into new markets, differentiate from its competitors, increase sustainability and launch new product lines.

Led by chief executive Mick Howard, who joined the company in 2018 having spent over 30 years in senior technical roles overseeing the operations of major brands across Africa and Europe including SAB Miller, the investment is the largest in the company’s 135-year history, helping futureproof the firm and bring it in-line with industry standards.

Mick said: “To make such an investment during a pandemic was a brave and courageous decision however it is one that has really paid off for the business. 

“Not only has it helped us bring new products to market but it has also seen our headcount exceed 100 employees and made the business much more agile. It’s a really exciting time for everyone involved with Clearly Drinks.”

Founded in 1885, Clearly Drinks originally started life as Fenwick & Sons before rebranding to Villa Drinks, a name synonymous with the North East which is still remembered fondly by people across the region and who’s iconic ghost sign adverts can still be seen on the gable ends of red-brick buildings across Tyne & Wear.

Today, the company employs over 100 people and remains deep-rooted in the local community by creating apprenticeships for local people through its annual recruitment programme and supporting local charities such as the Salvation Army, as well as maintaining a strong working relationship with Sunderland College.

Mick added: “Having been born and raised in the North East, I know the story behind Villa and was delighted when I was approached to take on the mantle of helping steer this historic business into the 21st century.

“I knew how much the company meant to the local community and its employees, therefore we made it our mission to ensure everyone was on board with our growth plans while continuing to invest in the community and give back to those that have given so much to this business over the past century.”

As well as investing in a state-of-the-art canning line, the company has also purchased a new pasteurisation unit and nitrogen dosing system which have led to the creation of 10 new jobs and helped the company land its largest contract to date with a national wholesaler.

The total investment, which is over £6.5million, was supported by the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project, which provided technical support to help the company integrate the new technology into its business, as well as a £50,000 grant towards the purchase of the new pasteurisation unit.

“The support from SAM was fantastic,” Mick said. “The process was super-simple and allowed us to not only tap into funding to help de-risk our investment somewhat, but also receive the technical expertise required to ensure we maximise the potential of the new equipment and technology.

“For a business like us, in the current landscape, it can be quite hard tapping into funding and support when you’re looking to scale and the team at the SAM Project really went above and beyond to help us.”

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project is a £10.9m collaboration between the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University of Sunderland and the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, supporting the implementation of product and process development and the introduction of technology within the SME manufacturing base in the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) area.

Roger O’Brien, project and technical lead at the SAM Project, said: “Clearly Drinks is a real North East success story and we’re delighted to have been able to support the company on its incredible growth journey.

“The investment in the new canning line and pasteurisation unit will not only help make the business more sustainable but it will also allow it to realise its potential and continue growing its presence across the globe. We’d like to wish them all the best for the future.”

Jig and Fixture 3D Printing

Stratasys – Additive for Jig and Fixtures

Find out why more and more SME manufacturers are embracing additive manufacturing and why your business should be the next to benefit.

Additive is proving to be a vital part of many manufacturers tool sets. Increasingly, there is a trend to use additive for using 3D printing for rapid production of jigs, fixtures, and assembly aids.

Join Chris Andrews (3D Printing & AM Consultant for SYS – Stratasys Platinum Partner) to explore how companies are moving fixturing production to additive. As one of the longest established companies involved in 3D printing, Stratasys have a broad range of machines and materials, including fibre reinforced printing. Composite materials are ideal for fixtures as they can offer additional strength and stiffness to the part.

Date and time

Wednesday, 22 June 2022 09:00 – 12:00 BST

Location

The Industry Centre, Sunderland SR5 3XB

Book your place here.

Metal 3d printing

Desktop Metal – Metal 3D Printing from Desktop to Production

Join Desktop Metal and the SAM Project to discover how metal 3D printing can help you take designs from your desktop and put into production.

Paul Gately (Strategic Accounts Director, Desktop Metal) will explore the exciting range of metal additive solutions which they offer. Paul will look at their systems that are suitable for desktop fabrication for small numbers of items as well as their Shop and Studio systems that can produce quantities suitable for a production run of parts.

Date and time

Tue, 7 June 2022 09:00 – 12:00 BST

Location

The Industry Center, Sunderland SR5 3XB

Book your place here.

 
SAM Innovation and Growth

SAM Features in The Journal

The SAM Project featured in The Journal, published in Newcastle in a special feature in March 2022.

The article covers all of the areas of expertise offered by the the project with an introduction to the Technical Team, alongside case-studies featuring companies who have received support.  There is also information about the grant funding the project offers.

The full supplement can be downloaded here.

Creative design studio a cut above the rest

Creative design studio a cut above the rest

A North East creative design studio is cutting a path to success after investing in new equipment to expand capabilities and explore new markets.

Cabinet of Curiosity Studio, which specialises in public art commissions for the arts and heritage sector, worked with the team at the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project, to engage with technical experts and upgrade its cutting machinery, enabling the business to unlock new opportunities and support batch production.

Based in South Shields, the studio was established in 2010 by designer maker Caroline Collinge and architect Edmond Salter, after they were selected as finalists for a Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) competition, which was exhibited at the National Theatre in London.

Since then, Cabinet of Curiosity Studio has worked with museums such as the V&A, arts and heritage organisations such as the Thames Festival Trust, as well as local authorities and universities across the UK to create art exhibitions, installations and participatory activities, with a focus on architectural themes and nature inspired design using materials such as paper and wood.

Working with technical experts and academics at the SAM Project, Cabinet of Curiosity Studio attended a digital manufacturing course to find out more about the skills and knowledge needed to manufacture products on a larger scale, before tapping into grant funding to invest in a CNC Router and additional accessories for its laser cutting machine.

Caroline said: “We have worked on some fantastic projects over the years, helping our clients engage with a wider audience through arts and design. All elements of the design and making is carried out at our studio, using laser cutting fabrication techniques and CAD software.

“Before the pandemic, I attended a business event in Durham to find out about the support we could tap into, which is how I came across the SAM Project. We wanted to ensure Cabinet of Curiosity Studio was one step ahead, and the digital course and funding has enabled us to invest in equipment to craft more detailed designs, use a wider range of materials and recycled materials, as well as explore new income streams and batch production.”

Caroline and Edmond are currently working on two projects with local authorities. One is supported by a grant from Durham County Council, fabricating laser cut kits for families to take away and build their own miniature market gardens to grow fresh produce, and the other in Milton Keynes, using laser cutting equipment and wood materials to create a nature themed art trail along cycleways.

She added: “Cabinet of Curiosity will continue to work on arts and heritage projects, but we’re also looking to move our business towards creating products for people to purchase. Supply chains have been disrupted by the pandemic, and more and more people are wanting to support UK and regionally made products and businesses.

“With the help of the SAM Project, we decided to innovate and continue to adapt the business, and we hope to translate some of the work we’ve previously produced into beautifully decorative wooden items for the home.”

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project is a £10.9m collaboration between the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University of Sunderland and the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, supporting SME manufacturers in the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) area to improve their products or processes and introduce new technology.

Roger O’Brien, project and technical lead at the SAM Project, said: “We are delighted to have been able to help Caroline and Edmond to explore the next steps for their business and invest in the equipment needed to continue innovating and creating unique and bespoke products. 

“The SAM Project was launched to support the region’s SME manufacturers and help them innovate and grow, and It’s fantastic to see Cabinet of Curiosity taking advantage of new opportunities and embracing new technologies to improve their processes and outcomes.”

Roger Thomas SAM Project University of Sunderland

Meet our AR and VR Expert

Virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) are mature technologies that are quickly moving from ‘proof of concept’ to being widely adopted across the industry.

However, while there’s been strong take up by large manufacturers, particularly those in aerospace and automotive, adoption by smaller UK companies has been less widespread.

It can often be difficult for small companies to identify where such technology can add value to their operations and identify a potential return on investment.

Through my role, I help the region’s SME manufacturers to understand how VR/AR and other digital technology can help overcome business challenges, improve onboarding, staff training and also corporate decision making.

For those unfamiliar with VR, it is an immersive experience delivered via headset and is increasingly being used to accelerate employee training; setting completion tasks against virtual scenarios i.e. by re-creating technically involved or hazardous scenarios in which an apprentice or similar can undergo training ‘risk free’. It is also increasingly being used for remote design review and collaboration, meaning users in different parts of the world can enter the same ‘virtual’ space, in real time, to discuss CAD design iteration, factory layout and a whole host of other actions.

AR essentially uses devices to ‘overlay’ digital content into the real world, this can be CAD, simulation/ animation, video, audio, and documentation (such as PDFs).  This type of ‘digital twinning’ (utilising Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) devices) is giving rise to ever more effective application scenarios; such as maintenance monitoring, remote inspection, asset tracking, field servicing and predictive maintenance (using live sensor data), guided training/ instruction, and job completion tracking.

As the cost of both VR and AR technology continues to fall, they are beginning to bring clear value to company’s core operations by making them more sustainable and scalable. There are many systems to choose from and SAM can support in identifying the right solutions. A company can also visit our Digital Factory at the University of Sunderland and directly experience using the technology first-hand.

Facilities include different VR headsets, Microsoft HoloLens 1 & 2, large area scanning to produce point cloud and thermal analysis (i.e., of factory environments), tablet devices, 3D scanning for part analysis and commercially available software authoring environments. 

Alongside our specialist support, the facilities also provide a no-risk opportunity to explore the potential that a range of digital technologies might bring to your operation and establish a roadmap for timely and cost-effective adoption. Visit us today to find out how your business could benefit.

RIchard-Eynon-AMAP

Meet our Electronics and Industry 4.0 Expert

Richard Eynon, Industry4.0 and Electronics specialist at the SAM Project, helps SMEs understand and embrace the latest innovations.

Despite the many technological advances that have transformed the manufacturing industry over recent years, many SMEs are still reluctant to invest in the latest Industry4.0, digital and electronic innovations due to a common misconception that you need the budget of an OEM in order to purchase and run the latest software and machinery.

Having accumulated over 20 years’ experience working with transducers in a variety of industries, I have seen the impact cost effective and retrofittable cyber-physical devices can have on SMEs, especially when it comes to productivity. For example, using Internet of Things (IoT) connected devices such as condition monitoring equipment, which include Vibration, Temperature, Humidity, and Proximity Sensors.  These devices can help SMEs monitor performance of their machines and identify potential breakdowns and failures before they happen, resulting in less machine downtime and increased productivity.

Our Acoustic sensors can also be used to validate (audio) data from the connected devices, with an option of further in depth spectrum analysis and can also be intrinsically safer to locate where physical access may be a problem.

This wide industry experience over many years has essentially made me ask better and more relevant questions to help manage and determine a successful design solution, which generally can exceed internal or external customer (client) expectations.  Many design concepts require multi-skilled individuals or groups to solve them and being within the SAM Project – and having access to our colleagues with their broad industry experience and a wide network of industry contacts – can quickly determine the validity of an idea from proof of concept to manufacturability.

SMEs interested in learning how new technologies such as conditioning monitoring can benefit their business can also trial the technology themselves at our state-of-the-art factory areas at the University of Sunderland. Boasting over £1million worth of market-leading equipment, one of our most popular devices is a Portable Monitoring System.

The equipment is small and cost-effective but is a great introduction for SMEs wishing to learn how to implement digital data gathering into their business without breaking the bank and our test factory provides the perfect opportunity for companies to de-risk any future investments in new technology.

All of this equipment is completely free for manufacturers to try out. So, if you’re thinking of investing in any new machinery or software over the year ahead, why not de-risk your investment by paying us a visit?

Artech Lighting

Capital investment leaves manufacturer beaming

A County Durham business is hoping to establish itself as a leading light in the world of manufacturing, as it continues to invest in the region and increase its global footprint.

Artech Lighting, based on the outskirts of Durham city, has invested in a Ultimaker S5 Pro 3D printer as it looks to bring the production of many of its lighting components back to the region, creating a number of new jobs in the process.

Additive manufacturing, a term for industrial 3D printing, is the process where a three dimensional CAD model is turned into a physical object. For Artech, this will bring several benefits, the most significant will be to reduce costs and lead times for parts as well as making in-house prototyping more efficient, making the company more competitive on the global stage.

Since its launch in 2017, Artech Lighting has made a commitment to support UK manufacturing, producing 100% of its product range at its facility in Durham and securing contracts to supply some of the world’s most high-profile developments, from the Dubai World Trade Centre to The University of Edinburgh and cinemas across Saudi Arabia. 

Stuart Hylton, managing director, said: “As one of the very few lighting manufacturers left in the UK that produces 100% of its products within our borders, we are incredibly proud to stamp our products with the Made in Britain marque and to fly the flag for UK manufacturing.

“While many businesses were hit by supply issues during the pandemic, we saw our business grow three-fold, as developers across the globe began to seek out products that not only offered sustainable delivery and lead times, but were also environmentally sustainable, and we would never have been able to achieve this had it not been for the fantastic work of our team over the last few years.

“Looking forward, the investment into our new 3D printing system will allow us to bring the production of even more components in-house, creating more highly skilled jobs, further driving down our carbon footprint and massively improving productivity, and we’re excited to see what the future holds.”

The purchase of the 3D printer was supported by matched-grant funding from the ERDF-backed £10.9 million Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project led by the University of Sunderland.

The project is a collaboration between the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the University of Sunderland and the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, supporting the implementation of product and process development and the introduction of technology within the SME manufacturing base in the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership (NE LEP) area.

“The support from SAM has really been fantastic,” Stuart added. “Not only did they provide the funding required to invest in the machinery, but their guys also guided our design team through the entire process of identifying the right kit and ensuring we saw the maximum possible return on our investment.

“Prior to engaging with the programme, we always knew that embracing additive manufacturing would be key to sustaining the future of our business over the coming years, however the support from Carl and the team at SAM has helped us to achieve what we thought we would in three years, in just three months. I can’t recommend them enough.”

Artech Lighting is also making significant investment of its own into a series of factory upgrades, purchasing a second paint plant, press brake, profile roller and punch tool, as well as making substantial upgrades to its IT network.

Stuart said: “The Artech brand continues to be a major industry disruptor. We are willing to compete with the more recognised brands and offer equal or better quality, output, delivery and efficiency, but with significantly less cost with the added peace of mind that you are buying a UK manufactured product. It is a strategy that is working, as recognition of the Artech brand continues to grow.”

Carl Gregg, product and process design specialist at the SAM Project, said: “It’s been a real pleasure working with Stuart and the design team at Artech on this project.

“The SAM Project was set up to help the region’s SME manufacturers innovate and grow by breaking down the barriers to embracing new technology and to see Artech not only increasing its global presence, but also creating highly skilled jobs in the region following this investment, shows just how much of an impact the programme can have on those that engage with it.”

Meet our CAD/ CAM specialist

Ian Barrett, CAD and Engineering Specialist, tells us more about his role and how the SAM Project can help SMEs embrace CAD and CAM technologies.

Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM) technologies were developed in the ‘80s and are now widespread across the industry, helping improve practicality and productivity for businesses the world-over.

Throughout my career, all of my roles have involved some form of design, especially during the early days of CAD adoption, from developing consumer products to large scale heavy engineering projects. I also have a vast knowledge of prototype manufacture (both rapid prototyping and small batch production) and testing.

This has helped me establish an excellent working relationship with customers and colleagues who – as a result – trust my judgement when it comes to all things CAD and engineering.  A business’ needs must be managed, and I take responsibility to gather the relevant information, design or fit a solution to overcome any issues, put them in place and ensure the manufacturer is satisfied and that – more importantly – the problem has been solved, and not just with a ‘sticking plaster’, so to speak.

Due to my experience, knowledge and role, I am actively involved in a whole host of engineering projects, carrying out design layout, concept and prototype design, design for manufacture studies, drawing creation, FEA studies and providing additional information to customers who may require support that is over and above the usual role of a design engineer.

The SAM Project, our Prototype Factory, at The Industry Centre, and most importantly, our staff, allow the region’s manufacturers to experience and benefit from technology and knowledge that – in usual circumstances – would be difficult to access. Especially for small businesses. It’s also all under one roof and on their doorstep, at absolutely no cost to their business.

Recent success stories include using CAD to help an SME manufacturer develop a transparent, bullet-proof security barrier for the armed forces. Not only did we design the modular framework and supporting accessories, we also provided a scale prototype allowing the customer to have meaningful conversations with not just the MOD but also their finance and funding bodies.

Another saw us work with a family-owned beauty salon which – prior to tapping into our support – had absolutely no manufacturing or design experience. We helped them develop their idea for an easy-to-clean, portable, mobile hygiene screen and brought the idea to life by creating a fully functioning prototype. They are now looking at selling the product across the globe.

So, if you’re an SME manufacturer in the North East wondering how you could benefit from adopting CAD, need to provide CAD data and are not sure the best route to do it, or get the most out of your current CAD installations, why not pay us a visit at the University of Sunderland and see for yourself how our support could benefit your business?

Hundreds of firms have secured grant funding from SAM, could you be next?

Since 2018, the SAM Project has helped over 200 North East businesses become more productive and sustainable by supporting projects that enhance products, processes and technology.

Central to this success has been its incredibly popular Grant Funding scheme, providing matched-funding grants of up to £50,000* for manufacturing projects that support the growth of new products and processes.

This encompasses funding towards new to firm production technology; new product validation (tests/ consultancy); process improvement capital investment; structure to support research and development implementation; external consultancy on a time limited basis linked to a manufacturing/ production project and other product and process development costs.

During the first phase of the SAM Project, spanning 2018 – 2020, this saw the Project distribute over £1million in matched-funding grants, helping add £41.7 million in GVA to the North East businesses that engaged with the programme, creating 290 direct jobs and leading to a 30.1% rise in sales.

And the team at SAM are confident that, following its three year extension to 2023, it will have an even larger impact on the sector going forward, after it saw its grant pot double in size – by a further £1 million – and its technical team at the University of Sunderland continue to grow.

Speaking about the grant funding, Claire Darling-Cooper, compliance officer at the SAM Project, said: “The Grant Funding scheme proved incredibly popular with the region’s SME manufacturing base during phase one of the project, so we were delighted when we received confirmation that it had been extended for a further two years until 2023.

“Not only did it help create jobs, but it also helped safeguard many more and as we look to re-emerge from the pandemic, business support initiatives such as this will be key to ensuring the region’s manufacturers have all the tools they need to compete on the global stage and continue to innovate and grow.

The grants are restricted for small to medium sized (SME) business in the North East Local Enterprise (LEP) area – spanning Northumberland, County Durham and Tyne & Wear – and are also accompanied by 10-15 days’ worth of fully-funded technical support from the SAM Project’s team of eight manufacturing experts, who combined, boast over 250 years’ experience working across the industry in a number of senior roles.

Claire added: “We know how much of a leap of faith it can be when investing in new capital equipment, which is why we provide the technical expertise required to really understand the technology and all of its pros and cons, ensuring we help de-risk each and every investment we underpin.”

One such company to benefit from the SAM Project’s Capital Grant scheme is Vixen Surface Treatments Ltd, a market-leading manufacturer of industrial wet and dry blast cleaning cabinets.

After engaging with the SAM Project, the company was able to receive an in-depth demonstration of how 3D CAD visualisation software could help improve both its design and sales processes, as well as securing the funding required to invest in state-of-the-art software from Solidworks to implement the technology into its business model.

Aidan Mallon, managing director of Vixen Surface Treatments, said: “The first project we completed after the investment saw us test the Solidworks software on a live project that we won. It was a €500,000 export order from a German aerospace company and I genuinely believe we wouldn’t have won that contract without including it in our offer. It really adds credibility and professionalism to our proposals.

“As a manufacturer you must explore every avenue possible to grow your business, be it investing in new equipment or tapping into expertise and funding – and business support from organisations such as SAM is vital to helping SMEs move forward.

“We’d just extended our factory prior to approaching SAM and wanted to move into Solidworks. The grant helped us secure the funding needed to do that and accelerated our growth, helping us gain a competitive advantage by massively increasing the quality of service we’re able to offer clients.”

Another company to benefit from the grant scheme is Chester-le-Street architectural metalwork specialist, Steelcraft Ltd. Since engaging with the SAM Project and securing a five-figure funding grant, the company has expanded its product offering and launched a new brand, Forjj, allowing it to diversify and sell its products directly to consumers across the globe.

“The team at SAM were absolutely amazing,” Liam Armstrong, operations manager at Steelcraft said. “Prior to engaging with them, our factory hadn’t changed in 20 years and we were struggling to see how we could scale up our operations while keeping costs and disruption at an absolute minimum.

“Using simulation software, they were able to create an identical, computerised model of our workshop and, working closely with our production manager, identify which machines and processes could be altered and moved to make space for the new machinery and improved workflow.

“We’d never have even thought about using digital twin software to visualise and improve our shop floor and – as a family-business – we could never have accessed something like this without the support of SAM.”

The grants are accessible by all manufacturing SMEs, who can also still engage separately in a technical project with SAM (this can often support or identify the need for a grant application or helps to specify their precise needs and focus on the benefit and returns). The grant award is 25% matched funding available to those in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland and 35% for those in County Durham. The grants can also be used to support the purchase of second-hand equipment, as well as brand new machinery kit and software, and can even be used for specialist services or testing needs that may be holding a company back.

Claire added: “Vixen and Steelcraft are just two of scores of success stories we’ve recorded through the Project’s journey so far and are evident of the impact this support can have.

“Not only do the grants help break down the barriers to investing in new technology but they also help eliminate other financial inhibitors to driving strategic development of both product and process.

“The only drawback for us is that we only have £1 million to give away. While it may sound like a lot, the first phase of the SAM Project proved so popular that the grant pot was empty well in advance of the project’s end date, therefore we’d recommend any manufacturer reading this who thinks they may be eligible to get in touch with us and find out more.”

Interested in finding out more about the SAM Capital Grant scheme? Visit: https://samprojectuos.co.uk/grant-support-helps-sustain-growth-for-vixen/ or email: sam.project@sunderland.ac.uk