Innovation, technology and the 4IR
CMG Technologies has invested in robots in the last few years, mainly for the moulding stage. Because of the fragile nature of the moulds they cannot simply let it drop into a box because it will shatter, so robots can do these actions quickly but also gently and precisely.
Another benefit of using robots is there’s no need to keep opening the moulding door, which affects the temperatures and that is critical when it comes to moulding. That has enabled the company to improve the quality of its products too - the robots keep the machines running constantly and more consistently.
“We currently use three robots and we’ve very recently bought another robot”, said Managing Director Rachel Garrett, “as well as a new high temperature oven, chillers for the machines, so we constantly invest in new equipment. We’re already thinking about the fifth robot.”
According to Rachel, there are other processes that they can robotise but that would take a lot more investment and the company is not quite there at the moment. The management also doesn’t want the staff to think that their jobs are in jeopardy and they are always talking with them about this topic and explaining that this isn’t to replace what the staff do, the goal is to take away the repetitive and mundane tasks.
“We are up-skilling them on the other areas of technology”, said Rachel, “so it’s more beneficial for them because they are gaining more skills through training. We are growing as a company and if we can keep our team tight, without constantly bringing people in, it allows us to keep improving what we’re doing for our existing staff in terms of financial rewards. So our team can move forward while to robots do the menial work.”
From NHS to Bentley
CMG Technologies manufacture components mainly for the medical, luxury automotive and aerospace sectors, those include the NHS, Aston Martin and Bentley.
“We manufacture all the metal scalpel handles that are used by the NHS”, said Technical Director Phil Marsh. “We also produce the Bentley Speed badge, the Aston Martin key fob and we are also now creating components for a new product by a company called Quadsaw. It attaches to a standard drill and used to quickly and precisely cut square holes into different types of plasterboard, which saves a lot of time to companies that construct new houses, for example.”
CMG Technologies make five highly complex components for the product. When Quadsaw first approached Phil and his team they were not sure it would work, due to the complexity of the parts, but eventually they were able to come up with the right solution.
The technology CMG Technologies uses is, at its core, green. The company makes a net shaped component, so there’s not a lot of wastage. Unlike with subtractive type of manufacturing, like machining from solid, where you start with a block of material and then you take material off of it, which then becomes scrap, CMG’s method is an additive manufacturing process which uses a mould that is accurately filled.
“We were able to cut our electricity consumption by using finer powders that require lower temperatures”, said Phil. “We’ve been using thermal debinding and we’re currently looking at using water as a debinding agent, which will also help reduce our electricity consumption and also the water can then be reprocessed.”
There’s currently only one apprentice at CMG Technologies (who’s currently on a sabbatical) and the company saw him through both the apprenticeship and his HND, and according to Rachel they are looking at taking on more apprentices in the future.
The company uses a training matrix so staff know where they are and where they can move to next, based on their skills. Employees are sent to do courses and recently some members of staff completed an auditing course, fire marshal training and first aid. CMG also provides in-house training on using moulding machines, ovens and all the various equipment and processes being used on the shop floor.
“Since what we do is unique there’s really no one else that can do this type of training”, said Rachel, “so we do all our staff technical training ourselves. Some staff also had a Train the Trainer course for this purpose. We put all staff through an NVQ course - quality and lean manufacturing and we’re currently looking at doing another one for the next level.
According to Rachel the company is a flat organisation and they try to promote from within as much as possible, so when someone shows potential, they are sent to the course that will give them the tools they need to do a good job and be a good manager or supervisor.
Women in Engineering
Quite a lot of women work at CMG - almost half of the staff - also on the shop floor, and they are highly skilled.
The only question for Rachel and her team is if people are capable; if they have the right skills, attitude and abilities. The company’s culture is to enable people, regardless of who they are, to progress and do what they think they would be best at or would enjoy doing more.
“I’m part of Made Here Now and one of their main efforts is trying to promote engineering in schools so that kids and girls in particular will realise it is not dark, dirty, dusty and heavy lifting but actually has a lot of finesse to it”, said Rachel.
The main thing Rachel notices is that when she goes in to off-site meetings with clients or other companies and it’s a room full of men with her being the only woman present. Sometimes people are surprised.
“I wouldn’t say it’s an issue or it’s awkward, but it’s very noticeable”, said Rachel. “But as long as you know what you’re talking about it doesn’t make any difference. I’m not an engineer, my background is business, but I obviously learned a lot on the job about engineering.”