Aston’s JS Wright sets up prefabrication unit

June 14, 2018

.

As construction workers from EU countries leave following the Brexit vote and the skilled British workforce is ageing, Britain is once more turning to prefabrication.

In a new warehouse facility in Digbeth, J.S. Wright has set up a prefabrications unit, producing low carbon Heat Interface Units (HIU), which act as a bridge between the central boiler and the heating and hot water systems of individual apartments.

The HIU units will reduce installation times in large developments such as Mount Anvil’s 595-home high-rise Keybridge development and Hill’s 580-apartment canalside scheme at Fish Island Village in London.

After the retirement of JS Wright’s previous owners, the company was bought by its senior management team: the finance director, national design and estimating director, national mechanical contracts director and national electrical contracts director. (Aston premises, left)

Reuter’s Astrid Zweynert reported a major policy announcement in 2017; the government said it supported off-site construction, promised financial support for prefabs and to make public land available for “modular schemes”, as they are now known. She added, after a brief account of post-war prefab building: “Faced with a chronic, new housing shortage, Britain is once more embracing prefabrication as it struggles to meet its promise to build a million homes in England by 2020.

Valued homes: Grade 2 listed Phoenix Wake Green Road prefabs in Moseley

There are examples of a UK off-site construction industry emerging. York Press reported in 2017 that L&G Homes has been set up in a factory near Leeds to build up to 4,000 prefab homes a year. The factory, which is the largest of its kind in Europe, and will at full capacity produce 3,000 modular homes a year, has just revealed its first prototype.

Though many eye-catching detached homes have been built using continental modules, a linked Birmingham site focussed on low cost prefabrication. Building Design highlighted three prefabricated solutions to the housing crisis in 2016.


The first design (above), by Urban Splash, was one of the new range of low-cost prefabricated housing solutions being ‘rolled out’ across the country with the potential to help tackle Britain’s affordable housing crisis and offer new employment opportunities.

 

 

 

o

Advertisements

The Times, the FT and the Chancellor focus on late payment

May 13, 2018

o

Earlier two football clubs were commended on this site: Liverpool managed an average of 27 days, beating Arsenal’s 35. The fastest payer was Music Magpie – an online reseller of CDS, DVDs and books – averaging just five days, with 94% of invoices settled within 30 days.

Oliver Ralph (left), insurance correspondent of the Financial Times, reports that companies around the world are taking longer to collect payments from customers, leading to a growing risk that they could hit trouble as the global economy slows.

Research from trade credit insurer Euler Hermes shows that companies are accepting much longer payment terms from their customers than they were a decade ago.

The average global days sales outstanding, or the number of days it takes for suppliers to be paid for their goods or services, has grown by one-tenth since 2008 to 66 days and is likely to increase again this year.

Ludovic Subran, chief economist at the Euler Hermes, said the trend increases the risk of insolvencies. One in four is because of non-payment from customers.

He continued:

“This is one of the dark sides of the recovery. Companies are extending a lot of trust in the way that clients pay them — it is a loosening of discipline. The longer you wait, the more the risk that your clients hit trouble. When there is a cyclical downturn the companies with longer payment terms are those that get hit first.”

Companies in New Zealand only have to wait for 43 days on average, while South Africa, Denmark and Austria also recorded low numbers.

James Ashton of the Times (right) reports that small contractors say a familiar trick is to delay signing contract terms for as long as possible after work has begun in good faith. That way a purchase order cannot be raised, nor can an invoice be submitted. Only when customers have signed on the line can the clock start ticking. One small business owner toldhim about a large firm that demanded a 1% discount for 14-day payment. When the supplier said that 30 days would be just fine, she was told it was their way or the highway.

He added that Carillion, the collapsed constructor, made small firms wait 120 days for payment in order to flatter its own cash position

The company employed an “early payment facility” so suppliers could borrow against their invoices before being paid. It made a mockery of the Prompt Payment Code which asks that 95% of invoices are paid within 60 days and that firms “work towards adopting 30 days as the norm”.

Ashton points out that under new disclosure rules, larger companies are now obliged to begin publicly reporting their payment practices.

In his spring statement chancellor Philip Hammond called for evidence designed to wipe out “the continuing scourge of late payments”.

Former MP Paul Uppal (left) had been appointed as the small business commissioner to campaign for prompt payment and mediate in disputes. But though the total outstanding to small firms has fallen from £30 billion to £14 billion in five years according to the BACS payment system, the Federation of Small Businesses is still concerned about cases affecting their members.

Unless otherwise agreed, a payment is deemed late 30 days after an invoice is received by public authorities and 60 days by businesses. Thereafter, under the terms of the Late Payment of Commercial Debts (Interest) Act 1998. a firm chasing payment is entitled to charge interest of 8% above the base rate, plus a recovery sum of £40 up to £1,000, rising to £100 for £10,000 or more. However small suppliers do not insist on this because they fear that they will receive no further orders from the customer so charged..

In 2015, Tesco promised to pay within 14 days small suppliers who delivered it less than £100,000 of goods a year and kept its word, followed later by Morrisons, Waitrose and finally Asda.

As Ashton commentsOther large companies should make prompt payment as important to their image as reducing their carbon footprint and increasing recruitment diversity”

 

 

o


More good news from West Midlands manufacturers: ADI Electrical, W H Tildesley and Brooks Forging

March 30, 2018

o

Gasification Plant Converting Waste to Fuel – a ’world first’

This post updates the 2016 coverage of Adi Electrical, whose head office is in Kings Norton, Birmingham.

The group offers building & refurbishment, electrical, engineering compliance management, environmental, maintenance, manufacturing automation & information systems, mechanical, project management, system efficiency, and utilities systems.

After integrating and installing a £5 million pilot plant in 2016 and 2017, which proved the commercial and technical feasibility of the concept, the projects arm of the business is now coordinating the installation, at Advanced Plasma Power’s Swindon site at South Marston business park. The plant is the first facility on the planet to produce a low carbon bio-substitute natural gas, BioSNG, from household waste. Read on here.

The Swindon installation is due to come on line this summer. When up and running, it will process 10,000 tonnes of refuse and waste wood every year to produce 22GWh of grid quality gas – enough to heat 1,500 homes or fuel 75 heavy goods vehicles, decarbonising heating and transport. The product can be pumped into the gas mains network to be used in existing gas appliances, such as domestic boilers and ovens, or compressed natural gas filling stations.

*

Brooks Forgings’ collaboration with W H Tildesley

Updating 2016 news of Brooks Forgings, established in 1960, a leading UK supplier of hot-forged and machined fastener components. Its head office is in Cradley Heath and its manufacturing base is in Lye, Stourbridge.

In 2016 we also reported on W.H.Tildesley’s regeneration which included purpose-built forge buildings and extended shop floor area which has enabled it to house larger projects. Continual investment in people, plant and processes has made their facility the most modern forge in the UK.

All forge hammers were rebedded using the latest damping technology to minimise vibration and additional air-conditioning was installed to provide a cooler working environment and improve ventilation.

Tildesley is a member of the Midlands Aerospace Alliance and is described as having a long and successful history of supplying forgings to the aerospace industry, for ‘legacy applications’.

Brooks Forgings had a contract to manufacture and export a requirement for fourteen highly specialised lifting bail bars used to lift crucibles of molten aluminium at a treatment plant located in Bahrain. The project entailed numerous processes including upset forging, drop forging, hot bending, machining and an extensive testing regime.

All tooling for the project was designed and manufactured in-house. Each bail bar was installed in a test jig that was specifically designed to mirror the final application, packed suitably in custom built wooden cases and exported via air freight.

The two companies collaborated on this project for the first time since Tildesley joined the Brooks Engineering Group in April 2017.

 

 

 

o

 

 

o


Good news from four West Midlands manufacturers: first, RSD Pressings of Cannock

March 16, 2018

C & H Howe Limited was originally founded in 1940 as manufacturers of metal toggle fasteners to the metal box industry and in particular ammunition boxes during the Second World War. In 1962 the company was incorporated remaining in the same ownership until 1985 by which time it had also grown to be a market leader in the manufacture and supply of exhaust clamps. The new owners decided to invest and develop the company further into press work (forging, pressing, stamping, roll-forming of metal; powder metallurgy and robotic welding) with a key focus on supply into the automotive and building industries.

The company was renamed RSD Pressings by the owners and management of the business on 4th January 2016, following the building of a new purpose-built manufacturing facility (above).

RSD Pressings now supplies many of today’s leading car manufacturers, making components and assemblies for every part of the car: seating, sub-frames. cross car beams, bumpers and body.

As Made in the Midlands member Daniel Burton, Operations Director RSD Pressings, explained that since joining MIM in early 2016 as gold members the company has participated in 3 exhibitions. The exhibition’s move to the Ricoh Arena last year was seen as a big step forward and provided an ideal platform for the event to grow further, given its position within the country. He continued:


“Aside from the fantastic networking opportunities coordinated by MIM, one of the main reasons we joined was to raise the profile of the company and hopefully grow our customer portfolio in the process. The exhibitions provide an ideal platform for this to take place given the exposure they bring and we have been luckily enough to attract two new substantial customers to our business from the exhibitions alone.

Learn more via RSD Pressings’ impressive, information packed, well-illustrated website http://rsdpressings.co.uk/about/

 

Forthcoming good news re three other companies featured on this website earlier: WH Tildesley, Adi Group and Brooks Forgings

 

 

o


Post-Brexit, with an ageing workforce and a shortage of graduates with science, engineering or mathematics qualifications, effective training is needed for younger and older workers

February 18, 2018

 

In April 2017 an apprenticeship levy was introduced. It requires companies with a £3m payroll or above to pay 0.5% of it to the government in return for vouchers, which smaller companies can also access, to spend on apprenticeships . . .

The EEF’s summary – from the employer’s perspective

The FT’s Business editor writes: “It is now clear that the UK government’s apprenticeship levy simply isn’t working. Apprenticeships fell by more than a quarter in the last three months of 2017 year on year, having fallen by 60% in the previous three months. Since April, when the levy was introduced, there have been just 158,000 apprenticeship starts, compared with 269,000 in the same period a year before”.

Some universities are now offering degree apprenticeships

These offer the opportunity to gain industrial knowledge and practical, relevant experience by combining study with on-the-job training. Leeds Beckett University is one such provider for non-levy and levy paying organisations in Leeds City Region.

And at post-graduate level

The Engineering Integrity Society events have recently included Young Engineers Seminars in January 2018, July 2017, December 2016, for newly qualified engineers from different companies who are encouraged by more senior engineers to attend. EIS is a long established charitable society, which focusses on the areas of fatigue, testing and durability. EIS members have many years of experience in these fields gained through working in some of the best-known companies in the industry.

“The levy has led employers to recoup the cost of existing in-house training schemes by relabelling them as apprenticeships” 

This Times leader also points out: “Ofsted cannot cope and the reasons are not complicated. The new apprenticeships target has increased its workload but its budget has been cut by 38% over the last two parliaments: it stood at £200 million in 2011 and will fall to £124 million by 2020. Reversing this cut would be easy to justify if the apprenticeship levy were working, since this would in due course drive up wages and tax revenues as well as skills. But the levy is not working. It was meant to incentivise large employers to invest more in apprenticeships by requiring them to pay into a central fund from which they can claim back some or all of their training costs.”

MP Meg Hillier, chairman, adds that parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has found that private providers are paid with taxpayers’ money to deliver public services but that government sometimes fails to monitor the results or penalise those that do not deliver.

A number of private providers have failed – the most widely publicised being First4Skills (funded by the government’s Skills Funding Agency) – and including Talents Training and Shared Educational Services Limited – leaving the apprentices and the institutions which hired them in serious difficulties.

Undeterred, last month the Cabinet Office launched a policy paper: Shared Services strategy for government.

Mission impossible? “The government is seeking to boost the number of apprenticeships at the same time as slashing the budget for Ofsted who are responsible for enforcing quality”

This is the charge made in another Times article, by Joe Dromey, senior research fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research, who has given evidence to the education select committee’s inquiry into apprenticeships.

The FT’s Business editor believes that the need for training and reskilling is imperative at a time when manufacturing is at a turning point, with the industrial internet about to revolutionise processes and business models and the integration and linking of big data, analytical tools and wireless networks with physical and industrial equipment. 

 

 

o


What have Liverpool and Arsenal football clubs in common with Music Magpie?

January 29, 2018

.

Football clubs were among the quickest to pay their suppliers. Liverpool managed an average of 27 days, beating Arsenal’s 35. Entertainment Magpie, as Music Magpie – an online reseller of CDS, DVDs and books – pre-owned, refurbished, and fully guaranteed –  was the fastest payer, averaging just five days, with 94% of invoices settled within 30 days.

Companies that have more than £36m annual turnover, an £18m balance sheet or 250 employees are now obliged to report to the business department twice a year their payment policies, practices and performance, due to concerns about the administrative and financial burdens faced by thousands of companies because they are not paid on time.

Small and medium-sized businesses may have to borrow to cover shortfalls and a shortage of cash can in extreme cases force them into administration.

SMEs are owed £14bn at any one time, according to the government. The Federation of Small Businesses says that late payment should be a top priority for government in 2018.  “FSB research demonstrates that a third of payments to small businesses are late with many turning to personal credit cards and overdrafts just to survive,” said Mike Cherry, the chairman.

Andy Bounds, Enterprise Editor of the Financial Times reports that filings at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) reveal late payment of suppliers.

Most UK businesses take more than 30 days to pay their suppliers, with the average as high as 113 days. Filings by about 200 businesses show that only 29% of them manage to settle their accounts within 30 days or less on average, and that only 52% of invoices overall are paid in that timeframe.

UHY Hacker Young, the national accountancy group, which studied the filings, said the figures showed the government’s transparency push has “yet to make any significant impact on the culture of late payment”. It was reported that some businesses had standard payments terms of 120 days.

  • DS Smith, the paper, packaging and recycling group, had one of the worst records. Its recycling arm took 113 days on average to pay suppliers.
  • Waterstones, the bookseller, took an average of 69 days.
  • Clifford Chance Europe (a law firm) took 73 days.
  • Conviviality, owner of the Bargain Booze and Wine Rack chains, averaged 56 days.

None of the major supermarkets has yet reported its figures. Companies have until January or April to publish the data.

The business department said its new small business commissioner, Paul Uppal, would oversee a new complaints system and help to tackle late payments, potentially delivering a £2.5bn annual boost to the economy.

Richard Lloyd-Warne, partner at UHY Hacker Young, said: “Multiple governments have tried different ways to get bigger businesses to pay on time, including allowing them to levy interest on late invoices, and the much-delayed creation of a small business commissioner role.”

The new duty to report was “a good step” Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses said, but “changes need to go further to allow the naming and shaming of those businesses who are putting the squeeze on small firms”.

 

 

o


WM manufacturing opportunity: permanent magnets for wind turbines

December 23, 2017

Birmingham’s Professor Rex Harris (FREng) is drawing attention to a recent article in the Guardian Review on wind energy giving an up-beat view of off-shore wind farms which, he agrees, are showing a lot of promise, particularly compared with the very expensive and increasingly problematic nuclear option. He comments:

“However, in this article, there was no mention of the vital role played by NdFeB-type permanent magnets in the direct drive generators provided by companies such as Siemens”.

The untutored writer consulted a second engineer who said that readers may have noticed wind turbines of rather different shapes starting to appear. The more traditional ones have a nacelle behind the rotor – the gearbox to convert slow rotation to a higher speed required by the generator.

He continued: “These gearboxes are expensive and heavy, bringing new problems to solve. One solution is the turbine with NdFeB, otherwise known as rare earth magnets. They eliminate the need for the gearbox, driving the generator directly at the speed of the blades. They can be recognised by a large ring structure behind the blades. (The traditional gearbox opposite has the low speed shaft to the left. It makes the high speed shaft to the right turn approximately 50 times faster than the low speed shaft.)

Stanford Magnets reports on the emergence – over the last two years – of commercial-scale & direct drive permanent magnet generator systems with the hub directly connected to the generator (right). Being direct drive, these turbines have significant advantages over the geared variety:

  • significantly increased reliability,
  • reduced maintenance costs,
  • reduced downtime for maintenance
  • improved efficiencies in the power conversion process and
  • greater efficiencies when wind speeds are not at full rating.

The second engineer warns that “engineering is always a compromise and there is a clue in the name RARE earth: these generators need a large quantity to make the magnets required. There is a limited amount of these materials and they are predominantly found in China”. 

Mineral reserves: resources known to be economically feasible for extraction economically and technically feasible to extract. Note that the New Scientist reports that in what is said to be the first detailed report on the country’s supply, the US has 13 million tonnes of rare earth metals –  but it would take years to extract them.

Source: https://investingnews.com/daily/resource-investing/critical-metals-investing/rare-earth-investing/rare-earth-reserves-country/.

Professor Harris and his colleagues David Kennedy and Adrian Arbib end: “With this medium to long term threat to the magnet supply very much in mind, the West, including Europe and the USA, should recreate its previous manufacturing capacity for the production of NdFeB-type sintered magnets, start to exploit alternative rare earth reserves and develop and support NdFeB-type magnet recycling. Simply leaving matters to market forces will certainly not be sufficient”.

 

 

 

 

o