Prodrive Composites, a supplier of advanced lightweight composite components, continues to focus on increasing production capacity at their Milton Keynes operation through a series of facility and equipment upgrades.
This strategy underpins the company’s vision to forge closer partnerships with their customers and to meet the automotive industry’s growing demand for on-time, on-budget high-quality parts.
When complete, these facility enhancements will significantly increase productivity and open-up capacity to support large-scale customer programmes. The initiative began in 2018 and the company reports they are making strong and consistent progress towards their goals.
Other areas of business development will stem from the application of natural fibre composites components and the development of recycling of carbon fibres to support high volume demand and compliance with the End-of-Life Vehicles Directive.
Facility upgrades include:
- A Zund automated prepreg cutting machine has been installed to support the throughput of raw material and cutting of material kits for laminating. This has doubled the cutting department’s capacity and kits are now being produced well in advance providing greater efficiency and waste reduction through optimised nesting of whole rolls of materials. The company plans to implement an additional shift to further increase the capacity.
- The laminating production space has been expanded by 50%. This houses a dedicated training room where apprentices and trainees can hone their skills through the support of dedicated training providers.
- A new Autoclave is being procured and will facilitate up to 5 additional cure cycles allowing a further 50 parts to be cured every day. In 2018 Prodrive Composites produced and delivered in excess of 24,000 components from their 3 existing autoclaves. It is estimated this figure will rise to 35,000 parts per annum as a result of this investment.
- Prodrive Composites has transitioned from hand trimming to 5 Axis CNC Machine Trimming for the manufacture of some large components. This has greatly improved efficiency on batch machining of products as well as operational efficiencies through reduced man-power requirements. One of two CNC Machines has been relocated to the Milton Keynes facility and a multi-shift system has dramatically increased productivity.
- Investment in two in-house 3D Printers has reduced the company’s reliance on third party providers for prototype development. This offers greater flexibility in terms of modifications and improvements at no additional cost.
To add further depth and scope to Prodrive’s continuous improvement drive, the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) is independently assessing the company’s overall performance. This includes all aspects of client interaction including customer support, reaction times and engagement.
Matt Bradney, Director of Business Development at Prodrive Composites, reports customers are already benefitting from the increased production capacity. “We have secured a new long-term contract with one of our customers on an existing platform as they look to onshore. Further discussions are taking place with other organisations along similar lines. All of these are large users of carbon fibre components but in very different application levels and market segments. They have been in the past and continue to be let down by their overseas supply chain. The current state of the exchange rates in the Eurozone and the US dollar means a UK supply route is becoming increasingly attractive. By investing in these machine upgrades and improving efficiencies at our Milton Keynes facility we are perfectly positioned to respond and deliver.”