A new strategic deal born in the heart of the West Midlands is set to create one of the UK’s leading authorities on laser marking.
Needham Group, which employs 70 people at its Whitchurch base, has selected PP Control & Automation (PP C&A) as its new manufacturing partner responsible for the assembly of its N-Lase range of products.
The initial agreement will see up to 10 laser systems being built every month at a dedicated production cell at PP C&A’s world-class facility in Cheslyn Hay, with the prospect of monthly volumes rising to 20 units as sales increase towards the £10m mark.
This will eventually include the N-Lase Desktop, Desktop Pro, Benchtop, Handheld, Workstation and Integrated Solutions models.
Aled Ellis (above left), managing director of Needham Group, said: “Our USP is not in building the machines, but in developing the innovative uses and applications for laser technology – that’s where we come into our own and where we anticipate the real growth to come from.
“Once PP Control & Automation proved it could build the prototype machine successfully, it made complete sense to look at a more strategic arrangement, first starting with the Desktop and Desktop Pro models and then, over time, moving on to the rest of our range.
“We have handed over the complete assembly process, including management of the supply chain.”
A few weeks into low-volume production and the strategic partnership is already reaping dividends, with lead times halved to just two weeks from the bill of materials arriving at PP C&A.
Quality guidelines have been surpassed and several efficiency improvements have been identified that could speed assembly up even further or give Needham Group designers the opportunity to modify standard models to encompass additional features.
Four people are directly employed on the dedicated assembly line, plus a wider support team covering the shared functions of Engineering, Supply Chain and Customer Services.
Tony Hague, PP Control & Automation’s CEO (above right), added: “It’s all about making sure we fine tune the build and explore ways in which we can standardise processes to make assembly and customisation slightly easier than it is at the moment.
“The longer-term picture is that we will need to be in a position to build over 300 laser marking machines every year, something we can comfortably do at our site in the West Midlands.
“Our aim is to become a true partner in every sense of the word and to play an important role in Needham Group achieving its £10m ‘laser’ blueprint, delivering capacity, efficiency and, as the relationship develops, innovation in design.”
A spin-off benefit of the outsourcing deal is creating more capacity in Needham Laser Technologies’ special projects team.
Prior to this agreement, R&D experts and engineers were limited to how many custom machine builds they could take on, but these restrictions have now been lifted and could pave the way for a new multimillion-pound opportunity.