Wirral SME invests in automation

30 November 2020

A Wirral manufacturer has invested in cutting edge robots in a bid to boost productivity at its Birkenhead headquarters. 

Valve manufacturer Heap & Partners has invested £500,000 in a series of new machines and a portable automated robot. Heaps is one of just 4% of SMEs using automation to boost productivity on the factory floor.

The investment will allow the company for the first time to manufacture products overnight unmanned and lights out. The move comes as the firm embraces the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ the rise of smart technology in manufacturing.

Company bosses say automation in manufacturing is key if Britain is to compete with competitors in low-wage countries.

The investment is set to reduce staff’s time spent on mundane and time-consuming tasks while enabling the company to design, manufacture, and launch new hi-tech products. The firm designed a system with its new 5-Axis machining centre and automated robot as it looks to find flexible solutions to address all requirements of the manufacturing process.

The robot, stationed at the machine, is fully integrated so that it controls every aspect of the machining centre, enabling work to be carried out outside of office hours. This includes controlling the powered doors, automated vice, and operation of the machining centre.

The robot also has an integrated vision system to ensure it is correctly aligned, allowing it to load and unload the machine.

Heap & Partners plans to invest further in automated technologies in 2021 to enable staff to focus on new product development, all with the view to increasing productivity and job satisfaction. The move comes despite an increasingly challenging economic climate for manufacturers across the UK due to the coronavirus.

A 2020 study by researchers at MIT revealed companies that move quickly to use robots tend to add workers to their payroll.