Multimillion investment boosts drive to improve UK manufacturing competitiveness10 December 2015
A partnership that dates back to the founding of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre is set to bear new fruit for UK companies, following a multimillion pound investment by Nikken Kosakuso Europe.
The company, which specialises in high accuracy tooling solutions, rotary tables and high precision setting and optimisation technologies for machine tools, was one of the first partners to back the embryonic AMRC when it was established at the start of the new Millennium.
Now, it has opened a new demonstration and customer support centre, the Nikken Innovation Centre Europe, packed with advanced equipment to help companies become more competitive by increasing production rates and quality while reducing costs.
A total of £4 million has been invested in the new development and the company plans to invest a further £3 million on a second phase of development by the middle of 2017.
The new development is Nikken's first research and development facility outside Japan and will complement facilities at the neighbouring AMRC. It will also be the headquarters for Nikken's UK operations and seven subsidiaries stretching from France to Sweden and Germany to Turkey and South Africa, which support customers in 28 different countries.
"Our partnership with the AMRC is a marriage made in heaven," says Tony Bowkett, group managing director of Nikken Kosakuso Europe.
"We have been part of the AMRC from the outset. We share the same philosophy and the cross fertilisation between the two organisations is fantastic. We have a great collaboration and the AMRC is training our four apprentices, whose numbers we hope to increase to 10 over the next five years."
Like the AMRC, the company has invested in a range of machines similar to those used by existing and potential clients, who include companies working throughout the aerospace, high performance automotive and precision medical sectors.
Tony Bowkett says one of the key reasons for the development is companies are no longer willing to invest in new tool and workholding solutions based solely on what they read in a catalogue and what the supplier tells them.
Instead, they want the reassurance of seeing the technology used to make components similar to their own products on the machines which they themselves use.
Nikken has deliberately opted to invest in machines that complement, rather than replicate those at the AMRC, acquiring what is generally lighter weight equipment.
"You won't find a machine here that is in the AMRC," says Mr Bowkett. "The AMRC is free to use our machines and we can use theirs. It's a collaboration."
AMRC commercial director, Adrian Allen OBE, said: "We are pleased, proud and privileged to be associated with Nikken Kosakuso Europe - a business which Tony started in Rotherham and which is continuing to grow.
"His investment strategy broadens the scope of both our organisations to help manufactures increase competitiveness by taking advantage of the latest technologies, techniques and research.
"In addition to having customers in sectors like aerospace and space exploration, motorsport - including , Formula 1 - rail, offshore wind power and medical equipment, where we are also active, Nikken also supplies sectors where we don't have a presence..
"We look forward to continuing to help each other's clients."