Craven & Co employs sci-fi solution to manufacturing

Storage solution manufacturer Craven & Co has invested over £100,000 in CNC (computerised numerical control) ‘robot’ equipment to help produce its Firmashelf shelving.

Angus Milnes, MD of the Yorkshire-based fabricator, said: “With this investment we have been able to greatly improve the efficiency of our shelving manufacturing. Put simply, it welds our shelves at a rate 14 times quicker than our best welder. This ‘kit’ also allows us to redeploy highly trained welding professionals from the important but sometimes monotonous welding tasks involved in making a shelf, to the more highly skilled parts of our business such as welding our range of standard and bespoke trolleys.”

He stressed that that in spite of the technological advances, the firm’s demand for skilled tradesman has grown with its manufacturing workforce. “This in itself is a problem; because of the downsizing of our manufacturing base over the last 50 years there isn’t an inexhaustible bank of people with traditional metal and wire working skills. This means that we have had to develop a swift upskilling process for people who have a desire to work in our industry, without the necessary skills or experience.

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“We’re proud to have taken so many people from minimum wage or welfare dependency to a job that has seen them becoming self-sufficient and self-funding members of our society. Our labour bill is of course high because we are manufacturers and are therefore adding value in this country. Unlike a lot of importing businesses, we are reinvesting into the UK economy, rather than sending the money to somewhere else in the world.”

The firm is proud of its 60-year British heritage, and according to Milnes: “When we first started British engineering was still the envy of the world, and the words ‘Made in Britain’ really meant something. When I became involved in this business nearly 20 years ago Craven could well have gone the same way as so much of the UK’s manufacturing base but we stuck in there because fundamentally I believe in British manufacturing and its important place in the general economy of the UK.

“Today, even after the recession and the subsequent realisation that an economy cannot rely purely on service industries, we still find ourselves in the tiny proportion (less than 9%) of people employed in manufacturing.

“For the past few years we have been increasingly successful in winning business against imported products on the back of being competitive in terms of price and better quality and flexibility; the only way that we have been able to do this is by making sure that the profits that we make are re-invested into the infrastructure of our business.”

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