Britain’s biggest trade association for the metals industry has taken the first steps in a pioneering initiative to bring advanced manufacturing and innovation to its small and medium-sized enterprise members.
The Confederation of British Metalforming based in West Bromwich launched a strategic relationship with the Advanced Forming Research Centre – one of the government’s seven Catapult research and development centres for high-value manufacturing – in March.
Now the CBM is organising a delegation of forward-thinking members to the AFRC’s base at Strathclyde University, to identify common challenges for the metalforming sector and discuss collaboration projects on critical competitiveness issues.
Among the firms involved in the November 7 visit are Smethwick Drop Forge; Hadley Industries, Smethwick; Willenhall-based WH Tildesley and Micas Simulations from Stourport-on-Severn.
CBM operations director Geraldine Bolton said the central aim was to open up to SMEs the practical benefits in terms of expertise, finance and technology generated by the new relationship.
“Our members are in the supply chains of major OEMs, and competing for work in global sectors, so innovation and increased efficiency are critical.
“We see the CBM’s role as two-fold; to provide our members with a simple access point to engage effectively with the AFRC, and other Catapult centres, and to broker deeper relationships for our members with the OEMs in critical supply chains.
“At the formal launch in March, West Bromwich West MP Adrian Bailey, who chairs the Select Committee for Business, Innovation & Skills, predicted that our relationship with the AFRC would become a model which could be reproduced across the country.
“Next month’s delegation is the first stage in demonstrating that this model will work, and that it will generate genuine bottom-line benefits for our members.”
CBM president Barry Yeomans – a director at Hadley Industries – said the AFRC visit will also include workshop discussions on core issues for supply chain companies.
“Innovation is critical, so we all need to look at how we can share knowledge, facilities and projects for the mutual benefit of everyone – especially our customers,” he said.
“Stripping weight out of vehicles is the Holy Grail of the sutomotive industry, so we’ll be looking at how the use of different materials, modelling and advanced metalforming techniques can achieve that goal.”