By David Eldridge, ERJ staff report (PRW)
Huntingdon, UK -- Rubber manufacturer VIP Polymers, with the backing of its major shareholder Grove Industries, has been investing in new technology to replace its old fleet of compression and injection moulding machines.
The rolling investment at VIP's plant in Huntingdon has reached Â£2.6m, which has paid for 13 compression moulding presses and nine injection presses. It has also helped the company refurbish its extrusion lines and invest in process changes at its facility, where it carries out its own compounding and product design.
VIP specialises in making rubber seals for pipes, including large diameter iron and concrete pipes. It also moulds other rubber products and has an important business making rail products such as support pads.
John Millar, managing director of VIP, said the company has focused on modernisation since 2002, which was when Grove acquired the company in partnership with a management buy-out team.
He praised Grove for letting the directors get on with improving the company and for providing access to finance. â€œTheir expertise in financing has been ideal for us,â€ he said.
The sales success of VIP under new ownership has enabled the modernisation. Millar said: â€œWe've been able to ramp up the investment as our results have improved.â€
The newest machine was installed in May and has added to what VIP claims is a market-leading position in large machines. It is a Panstone 800 tonne shuttle compression press, with 2.5 metre by 2.5 metre platen.
VIP has placed an order for a 900 tonne press, which is due for delivery in September. Six 200 tonne machines with vacuum boxes have provided greater flexibility. The largest machine in the new fleet is a 1,000 tonne strip press, with 3.5 metre by 600 mm platen and shuttle table, which it bought last year to serve a new contract with a customer.
Investment has also gone into new injection machines, supplied by REP, including a 400 tonne, four-litre machine with shuttle ejection. The automation of this new machine has benefited operating efficiency, said Millar.
He said there are important reasons for the machine replacement programme: reduction of maintenance costs as old machines are removed; improvement in energy efficiency and other operating costs; and scope to win new customers with its greater technical capabilities.
Many of these new customers are likely to be based overseas. VIP already directs 65 percent of sales to export markets. It also has a joint venture in Wuxi, China, supplying western companies operating in the country, and a partnership with an Indian manufacturer.
Despite VIP's international ambitions, Millar expressed his view that work lost to cheap labour locations could return to Europe in the next few years.
From PRW.com (A Crain publication)