Sotech benefits from Sunderland University’s Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project
Sotech, a leading designer and manufacturer of engineered metal rainscreen cladding and architectural fabrications, has optimised its manufacturing processes as a result of Sunderland University’s Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) project.
The university department was invited into Sotech to conduct comprehensive workflow analysis of the company’s production facilities and help identify ways to optimise manufacturing workflows and enhance productivity.
The team at Sunderland University used market leading digital simulation software to produce digital 3D scans of workflow that demonstrated current workflows, focusing on ways to increase efficiency, reduce waste, and improve overall productivity.
“This project has been about ‘balancing the plant’ and making things run more smoothly”, said Richard Egginton, Operations Director at Sotech.
“The team at Sunderland University used ‘point cloud scans’ (which are the digital outputs of the 3D scanning process), along with factory simulation tools to map out the current processes, assess bottlenecks and footfall.”
Michael Kelly, Digital Transformation Lead at Sotech, said: “Team members across the whole business were involved in the work. Analysing every machine, as Richard has described, showed us visually how effective the current layout and processes were for output. Using the data, the team decided to move key machines on the factory floor to create more of a ‘process flow’, similar to the automotive industry, instead of a group of similar machines.
He added: “An example move was to split and move the fabrication bays so they sat next to the cutting resources and press machines. Now, everything flows in sequence. It’s amazing how much it has cut footfall.
“One of the benefits is that the teams can literally see the work coming down the line. It’s on their mind and they begin to process the job mentally. Plus, one team can ‘hand off’ the work and explain any nuances. When the ‘bays’ were split across the factory floor, however, this collaboration and communication was much harder.”
The partnership between Sotech and Sunderland University’s Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing project represents a significant step forward in Sotech’s quest for manufacturing excellence and sustainability.
Richard noted: “By integrating these technologies into our manufacturing workflows, we aim to further reduce lead times and increase our production capacity, meeting the growing demand for our high-quality rainscreen systems. But it’s not just about productivity. As a company, we’re highly focused on sustainability.
“By integrating SAM’s expertise in sustainable manufacturing we have identified opportunities to further reduce our environmental impact by optimising material usage, reducing energy consumption, and exploring innovative recycling and waste reduction strategies throughout the production lifecycle.
“Our collaboration with Sunderland University’s SAM department is a testament to our commitment to continuous improvement and sustainability. By combining our manufacturing expertise with Sunderland’s research capabilities, we have been able to optimise our operations, reduce waste, and deliver exceptional products to our clients whilst further minimising our environmental impact.”
Shared with a special thank you to the Sunderland University Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing team for their time, efforts and insights on this unique project. The collaboration between Sunderland University and Sotech aims to set new industry standards, positioning Sotech as a frontrunner in efficient and sustainable rainscreen.