Forging ahead

A northumberland engineering firm has scooped a top national award for its innovative design work.

A northumberland engineering firm has scooped a top national award for its innovative design work which has won the company £1m worth of new orders.

Cramlington Precision Forge won the Confederation of British Metalforming’s (CBM) ‘Component of the Year Award’ for its pioneering advances in commercial vehicle clutch design.

The firm used a combination of technological advancements, automated production and lean manufacturing principles to create a new die to forge teeth on differential drive clutches.

These parts were previously made from solid steel forgings, which required extensive machining to create the final product.

Cramlington Precision Forge director Steve Rose and his team have created a new design which slashes the waste involved in production by 95% and produces teeth that are much stronger than those made by traditional methods.

The firm has worked closely with the One NorthEast-funded North East Productivity Alliance (NEPA) to raise productivity as part of a transformation of its business since new Indian owners Sundram Fasteners  – part of the TVS group – bought the plant just over three years ago.

The result is a new, lean manufacturing system turning out up to 6,000 more component gear parts every week – with an on-going determination to build on the NEPA lean principles.

Mr Rose said: ‘The new product has already brought £1m worth of new business to the company and will represent around a fifth of Cramlington’s annual sales when full production is reached. The innovation is all inside the die, but the introduction of further automation for the process, under the guidance of NEPA’s lean manufacturing methodology has been critical.’

Cramlington Precision Forge is due to start work on a £500,000 contract with commercial vehicle giant Scania to manufacture gear and clutch parts for the Swedish company’s range of trucks from mid-summer. It’s the second major contract success in a year for the firm after winning £1m worth of new business to supply clutches to the MAN Group, one of Europe’s largest manufacturers of commercial vehicles.

It is a remarkable turn around in fortunes for the company – based at North Nelson Industrial Estate, Cramlington – which faced being closed by its former owner in 2003 and production moved to Hungary.