Manufacturing News, February 2017



The newly appointed managing director of the Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology training hub has challenged employers to help him create a ‘Marches Engineering Powerhouse’.  Based in Bridgnorth (Shropshire), the 36,000 sqft Marches Centre of Manufacturing & Technology (MCMI) was unveiled in December 2016 and has the ambitious target of reaching and training 2,020 learners by 2020’.


Its managing director, Matt Snelson believes that Industry has to stop ‘cannibalising’ the skills pool and instead invest in developing the next-generation of engineers to ensure the local gap is bridged.  He explained: “We have a fantastic opportunity to create an ‘Engineering Powerhouse’ in the Marches, but we can’t do it on our own.

Led by a consortium that includes partners Grainger & Won-all. Classic Motor Cars, Salop Design & Engineering and In-Comm Training, the MCMT was awarded £1.9m of Growth Deal funding from the Marches LEP to bring the concept into reality, with £1.1m of private funding already pledged by the consortium. Its vision to support 2,020 learners between now and 2020 will largely involve developing apprentices in advanced manufacturing and engineering, giving employers a strong pool of skills to tap into as they continue to compete globally.


In addition to this, there will also be capacity to work with 400 companies on developing existing manufacturing professionals up to Level 7 qualifications, covering business improvement techniques; team leadership; vehicle body repair and paint; vehicle body building; technical development; quality, and continuous improvement.





The UK’s manufacturing sector grew faster than expected at the end of 2016, according to official figures. Output from the sector grew by 2.1% in December, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said, and was up 1.2% in the October-to-December quarter.


Separate ONS data showed the UK’s trade deficit in goods and services narrowed in December to £3.3bn from £3.6bn. The ONS said this improvement was mainly due to a £1.1bn increase in exports of goods to non-EU countries. For the October-to-December quarter, the deficit on goods and services narrowed by £5.6bn to £8.6bn.




Castings firm Chamberlin & Hill has opened a new site in Walsall to house the casting firm’s new state-of-the-art machines. The 21,245 sq. ft. unit will manufacture turbo-charger bearing housings that are produced by Chamberlin & Hill’s Walsall foundry. The housings are installed in vehicles to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and make engines more energy efficient.


The £1.6 million investment will also result in 33 local jobs, said chief executive Kevin Nolan. He said Chamberlin has won major multi-million pound contracts to supply fully

Machined turbo charger bearing housings and this expansion is part of a new phase of expansion to exploit the company’s position as the only fully integrated supplier of grey iron bearing housings in Europe.





UK manufacturing output rose at the fastest rate since May 2014, according to the latest Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI).  According to the figures, the robust rise in UK manufacturing output was underpinned by a solid increase in new order intakes, with an overall PMI score of 55.9 for January 2017.


That’s fractionally below December’s score of 56.1, but well above the neutral mark of 50.0 – something which has been maintained for six consecutive months. New orders predominantly came from within the UK, boosted by a moderate lift in new export orders thanks to easing global market conditions and the continuing weak sterling exchange rate.


A more negative note, input cost inflation “surged” to a survey record high, note Markit/CIPS, compounded by output charges equally increasing at one of the highest rates recorded; reportedly down to rising supplier prices.




Rising inflation remains a concern for manufacturing sector and wider UK economy. The political upheaval caused by Brexit and Trump has not dented UK business optimism as manufacturing confidence has reached a 20-month high, according to the latest Business Trends Report by accountants and business advisers BDO.


The latest report shows continuing signs of encouraging economic prospects for the UK over the coming six months. BDO’s Optimism Index, which indicates how firms expect their order books to develop in the coming six months, continues to rise and now sits at 103.7 from 102.2 in December, above its long term,


The Optimism sub-indices for both manufacturing and services are also higher this month. Manufacturing’s sub-index has risen to 102.2 from 99.4, passing the 100 mark, which indicates growth, for the first time since June 2015.   The BDO’s output index – which indicates how businesses expect their order books to develop in the next three months – has increased for the third consecutive month, rising slightly from 97.4 to 97.5.


BDO attributes the positive performance of UK businesses to an overall improvement in the global economy, the decrease in the value of sterling and better-performing key export markets.

BDO’s Inflation Index has increased to 104.5 from 103.8 and the upward trend is set to continue. While currency depreciation makes British exports more price competitive. Firms’ input prices have risen sharply, squeezing margins. In January, Markit/CIPS PMI showed factory raw material costs rose at their fastest pace in more than 25 years, a result of higher prices for oil, steel and other import costs.





In a development that’s been hailed as a major step forward in the use of additive manufacturing to produce critical functional components, engineers at Siemens have completed full load engine tests for additively produced gas turbine blades.


Subjecting the components to 13,000 revolutions per minute and temperatures beyond 1,250°C the company successfully validated multiple AM printed turbine blades with a conventional blade design at full engine conditions, and also tested a new blade design with a completely revised and improved internal cooling geometry.


The blades, which were installed in a 13MW Siemens SGT-400 industrial gas turbine were made out of a powder of high performing polycrystalline nickel superalloy. This allowed them to endure high pressure, hot temperatures and the rotational forces of the turbine’s high-speed operation. At full load each of these turbine blades was travelling at over l,600km/h, carrying 11 tons or equivalent to a fully loaded London bus, surrounded by gas at 1,250 “C and cooled by air at over 400 °C.

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