December 7, 2018
From a belief that traditional part manufacturing processes needed to evolve, came a concept that has truly changed the world.
Back in 1998, when Tony Brown and Peter Hammond first started to develop their unique metrology software solutions, they could not have predicted the impact their innovations would have – and with a new hardware product about to launch that will revolutionise manufacturing further still, that impact looks set to continue.
“We just thought there had to be another way of doing things. Manufacturing companies were suffering from the same problems, regardless of the sector they were in. We both saw a lot of troubles and complaints about bad parts, wasted time and money, and we knew there had to be a solution to this,” says Tony, who worked for a company writing software for machining parts, with Peter working for a company that inspected machined parts.
Now, 20 years on from their initial musings, the technology developed by their business, MSP, is used on all five continents of the world. It has been used to pioneer two models of fighter jet, is used by three top Formula 1 teams, and, in the coming months, the business will introduce its AutoClock and NC-Inspect products, which will fully automate the production process for the first time.
Such hugely impressive global achievements are being done, discreetly and quietly, from MSP’s base in Alnwick. Its 40-strong workforce, half of whom work in research and development, are continually innovating to ensure the company stays ahead of the game and continues its stellar upward trajectory. The business has grown consistently each year since being formally founded in 2002, with annual growth of up to 25 per cent year-on-year and international sales increasing by 70 per cent last year alone.
With its suite of patented products – NC-Checker, NC-PerfectPart and AutoClock, all of which bring automation to aspects of the traditional manufacturing process – its services are commissioned by an increasing number of major global companies. Its first commission, shortly after MSP launched, was from BAE Systems to help make its new generation Eurofighter Typhoon. This project won them a BAE Systems Chairman’s Award, immediate projection onto the world stage, and grabbed particular attention in the aerospace sector. This led to work on a number of high-profile projects including the F35 fighter jet and Airbus’ A320, A350 and A380.
“The Eurofighter project was what really established us as a company, it was massive for us, particularly in terms of profile at such an early stage. Through the use of our products and the introduction of automation, the time taken to manufacture a part was reduced from seven days to under one. That helped us demonstrate the impact we could have in the aerospace sector and has been instrumental for our continued success within the industry,” says Tony.
Success in reducing manufacturing times, while dramatically improving efficiency and reducing error, while making cost savings of often millions of pounds, is at the heart of why so many globally-renowned names are turning to MSP. In its work in Formula 1, again the statistics speak for themselves. Through use of NC-Checker and NC-PerfectPart, part set-up time has been reduced by an incredible 9.5 hours.
Peter adds: “Traditionally, a lot of the process to make components like the chassis would be done manually and would take around 12 hours. That’s just for one component. By using our software, we were able to get set up down to 38 minutes – added to 2 hours for the machining, that’s 2.5 hours, and a very significant time saving. In Formula 1, where innovation is everything, that has proved to be very important, and we now work with three leading Formula 1 teams based in the UK.”
Having achieved so much already, MSP – who were recently acknowledged for its efforts with both a Dynamo Dynamites 18 and Made in the North East award – is now preparing for the launch of its AutoClock and NC-Inspect products, which are set to raise the innovation stakes even higher.
“In the short term, the launch of our AutoClock product will completely automate the production system, and that will be very significant for us. We will be able to return to many clients we have worked with previously to fully automate their process. We would say that many of our clients have become friends, such is the relationship we have with them, and we are really looking forward to working with them on the next stage of development of their processes,” says Tony.
Peter continues: “Longer term, we want to create ever more simple solutions to complex problems for manufacturers worldwide. Growing our team – particularly our software development and application engineering teams – is key to that. Research and development are central to our continued growth so we can continue to innovate and, get in front of our customers, listen to the problems with their manufacturing processes and know we can solve them. This process will never be finished as our customers always have to be advancing, and so do we.”