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Continuous Improvement drive leads to export boom for ACE
A leading Shropshire precision metal specialist is setting its sights on international expansion after boosting its export work by 10% in the first seven months of 2017.
Advanced Chemical Etching (ACE), which employs 50 people at its state-of-the-art facility in Telford, has secured three big projects in aerospace, communications and the medical sector, taking overseas trade to 38% of its £5m turnover.
It comes after the company embarked on a continuous improvement drive that has increased on time delivery and right first time performance, two crucial factors in securing the recent contract wins.
“Our export activity has been steadily growing year-on-year since 2010, but the last seven months have definitely seen a spike that we’re hoping to sustain,” explained Ian Whateley, Managing Director of ACE.
“There may be an element of the pound slipping making us more competitive. However, a lot of the projects we are winning are extremely technical and not many firms around the world can deliver the complexity of components the customer requires.”
He continued: “Interest has come from all over too…Germany, Luxembourg, United States of America, we’ve even had orders from customers in Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Thailand.”
ACE’s scope of activities is far and wide and can include anything from safety critical components for aircraft and cars to simple washers, electronic connectors and ornate clock faces.
With the latest production machinery and a culture of ongoing investment at its 25,000 sq ft facility in Telford, it ensures it can make products in materials, including stainless steel, nickel alloys, copper, beryllium copper, phosphor bronze, brass and, thanks to ground-breaking new processes, aluminium, titanium, molybdenum, nitinol and elgiloy.
The latest continuous improvement exercise has been in operation for six months and has involved collecting data on current operating parameters and reviewing what is working well and what could be improved.
This has seen the firm alter its chemistry settings and the introduction of twice daily process control checks, which have already resulted in a 2% increase on right first time figures and the potential for a 10% boost in throughput on certain products.
Ian went on to add: “We are really pleased with the results of this latest exercise and we now have daily improvement meetings to ensure all work instructions and operating procedures are being reviewed.
“It has also allowed us to create a robust new product introduction system with technically challenging jobs and new processes for exotic materials never before etched.”
Advanced Chemical Etching, which is working towards the AS9100 aerospace quality standard, has made a number of key appointments to cope with recent expansion, including a new technical sales specialist and business development expert.