Two years ago, Norma Redfearn CBE, elected mayor of North Tyneside, officially opened our state-of-the-art facility in North Shields. Following a return visit on our second anniversary of opening we reflect on how the facility and its people have changed.
The location of the facility, in Tyne Tunnel Estate, had been chosen due to the proximity to main transport links (i.e. A19 and A1) with roads suitable for larger vehicles to support some of our large machining and fabrication projects. It also allowed us to retain colleagues from the previous engineering facility.
Newcastle machine shop
By the time the Newcastle machine shop was opened we had installed a full suite of the latest multi-axis CNC machines along with pre-existing machining equipment including true 5 axis technology; Mazak e-1600V/10 Integrex with 5 axis capability that can machine components Ø2050 at a length of 1600mm, a Hartford Horizontal Borer with 4 axis capability and right angle head milling attachment that can machine components L1800xW1800xH1800mm, and a Hankook vertical borer with turn and mill capability through live driven tooling machining components Ø1600 and 1400mm length. This machine shop technology enables the manufacture of components ranging from 30mm to 2000mm in size efficiently. Due to the large size of components that can be manufactured the machine shop is supported with overhead gantry cranes (5 and 10 tonnes) and plenty of space for manoeuvring.
As work began to increase it became apparent that this large facility would need improved methods of handling the large capacity of work. Our operations team paid close attention to how the tracking of components through the facility was monitored and made a number of improvements. A key improvement was the introduction of cellular manufacture and empowered cell teams to ensure on time delivery. This improved planning process of grouping components by size and commonality supported safer working practices and efficiency by ensuring components and materials could be quickly located and surrounding areas were kept clear.
A decision was made in late 2019 to redistribute some of our CNC machines internally across the group. This was to minimise the need to transport components between shops as often, improving turnaround and reducing costs. It also allowed a clearer focus for the site; the Newcastle machine shop specialises in medium to large CNC machining.
Welding and Fabrication in Newcastle
When the welding and fabrication area was first opened in Newcastle it looked like the space could never be filled! A row of welding bays down one side of the space was dwarfed by the massive capacity and 20 tonne overhead gantry crane.
Over two years this area has seen a steady series of developments that have made full use of the space whilst retaining the room to handle larger fabrication projects. Specialist welding bays have been added and additional equipment for cutting and forming materials has been installed.
Work in this area has been highly varied, from large fabrications of pipeline components for the oil and gas industry to repairs of damaged parts. The benefits of having such a capable fabrication team working hand-in-hand with the skilled machining team have been very clear. We are able to handle complex projects under one roof without the added cost and complexity of multiple subcontractors or an over-the-wall mentality where problems are slow to be resolved. The synergy between these teams is one of the greatest success stories of the group.
At the time of the Mayors 2018 visit to Pryme Group, the Hydratron facility was not yet established. The team were still working hard in Manchester to fulfil existing orders and prepare for the move of production to Newcastle.
Incredibly, through careful planning and hard work, Hydratron were able to turn the empty space into a productive workshop shipping orders within two weeks! Talented and experienced engineers from the high-pressure industry were brought in to work on the complex systems that Hydratron produce.
Improving quality systems
We have invested heavily in continuous improvement to our quality systems. Within two years we have achieved certification, qualification or membership in a range of areas including:
- ISO 3834-2:2005
- ISO 9001:2015
- ISO 1090-1:2009+A1:2011
- JOSCAR Registration
- EN 9100:2018 REV D
At the start of 2020 we took measures to further improve our quality inspection area. An improved inspection room is under construction which increases the dedicated space for new equipment. Larger workpieces can be brought into the area by crane through a hatch in the roof of the inspection room. A live camera feed allows this to be carried out safely and ensure no damage occurs to the part during transfer.
The challenges of COVID-19
When it first became apparent that drastic changes would be needed to workplaces to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic our management teams were quick to implement a number of safeguarding measures. As a crucial part of medical and defence supply chains, it was imperative that we continued work, uninterrupted, during lockdown.
With such a spacious facility, social distancing was possible almost everywhere with the exception of certain pinch-points such as toilets, some corridors and the cafeteria. Through signage, controlled access and staggering breaks these difficulties were overcome.
Further hand sanitising stations were installed throughout the facility with special attention taken to shared access areas such as entry/exit points and clocking systems. At the end of each shift, machine operators are now required to pay special attention to the cleaning down of their machine; they must ensure that all user-contacted areas such as buttons and handles are sanitised.
The response from all of the Pryme Group colleagues in dealing with these changing work conditions has been commendable and despite wider supply chain challenges they have continued to turnaround high-quality work promptly.
Planning for further successes
To continue to thrive in a changing marketplace, the focus for Pryme Group’s Newcastle facility is to diversify whilst maintaining quality service to our loyal customer base. Due to the sizes of the components that the facility specialises in, oil and gas has accounted for a large proportion of the customer base. We also work regularly with the medical and defence sectors and the North East of England is home to a burgeoning renewables industry to whom our services are well matched.
The success of working from home for the Hydratron office team has been so great that they have decided to make this a permanent way of working. Their base of operations will move from their Altrincham site to the Newcastle facility and staff who would previously have been based at Altrincham will now be home-based. This will reduce overheads without any disruption to customers and reinforces the commitment to the Newcastle site.
Continuous improvement is at the heart of what we do, so we are looking forward to developing our teams, building and strengthening customer relationships and standing out as a positive example in a busy marketplace.