Manufacturers turn to ‘tool transfers’ to boost quality and secure long-term supply

Growing demand for tool transfers is helping a UK precision component manufacturer expand and take on more staff.

Brian Smith Otter Controls and David Spear (Brandauer)Tool transfer, for those who are not engineers, is a manufacturing term for taking someone’s existing tooling and then doing it for them.

Brandauer, which celebrates 150 years in business in 2012, has seen a surge in the number of companies looking to transfer complex tooling in order to solve production issues and bottlenecks.

The Birmingham-based firm has already completed multiple projects in the last eighteen months and is currently exploring a number of other enquiries for potential customers in the automotive, medical and alternative power generation markets.

Managing Director David Spears believes the growth in this service has come from an increasing demand for secure supply, the need for additional capacity and a unique ability to solve challenging tooling requirements.

He points to an ongoing relationship with one of the world’s largest manufacturers of components for domestic appliances, who has benefitted significantly from tapping into Brandauer’s tool transfer service.

“We’d been talking to Otter Controls for a considerable length of time, as they had been identified as an ideal potential client for us,” explained David.

“As the relationship developed, we were presented with a challenging tool transfer opportunity concerning two specific electrical connectors for use in the base of kettles.

“After a swift industry bench-marking exercise, we were selected as the preferred solution and started work on the transfer, a sizeable task and one that was made more difficult by the fact that ongoing global supply requirements still had to be fulfilled.”

He continued: “The transfer process commenced with a free 15-hour tool inspection service, developed to diagnose any issues with the existing tool and to ensure they could run in our presses.

“During this process, we identified a number of dimensional problems, which were causing issues with quality and on-time delivery.”

Otter brandOtter Controls and Brandauer then set up a cross-functional team to agree key milestones and continuous improvement targets to be met throughout the tool development plan.

Improvement activity commenced, encompassing design, quality and tool issues identified at the initial inspection phase.

These were resolved by drawing on its multi-sector technical expertise, an in-house tool-room and wire-EDM machine, which allowed it to produce replacement tooling elements to tolerances of within 2 microns.

As the volumes were forecast to double, a critical tool spares programme was established and all production schedules were successfully met.

Once additional capacity was secured, Brandauer was able to increase safety stock levels and remove the need for excess premium shipping costs.

“When undertaking a project of this magnitude you have to give the client complete peace of mind and I think we achieved that by working together with Otter Controls personnel to manage the process in-house, from the inspection through to the re-development and then full production,” added David.

“With the capability of producing around 1 million parts per week using these tools, the client has seen improved accuracy, control and excellent on-time delivery performance.

“Confidence was so high, we went from shipping via its UK Headquarters to delivering direct to its Shenzen-based manufacturing facility.”

During the tool transfer, Otter Controls also engaged Brandauer as a technology partner for the development of a new welded contact production process.

A project manager and hand-picked team of engineers were quickly assembled and sent to Austria for three months to learn about the process and bring the machine back to Newtown, where it was in full production for 24 months.

Production rates were improved to 280 strokes per minute, with all significant waste eliminated and material costs reduced by nearly 40% as a result of this new production method.

The process was so successful that the same machine is now up and running in Otter Controls’ Derby facility.

Brian Smith, Group Operations Director at Otter Controls, concluded: “From the initial fact finding with Brandauer, it was clear that the company demonstrated great levels of professionalism across all areas of the business, including exceptional tooling and design capabilities.

“Its attention to detail – whether project management, knowledge transfer, materials, continuous lean improvement and zero defect philosophy – created a learning environment from which both organisations continue to benefit from.”

Brandauer, which currently employ 53 people, is on course to smash the £10m turnover barrier for the first time in its history and currently exports 80% of its precision parts and stampings overseas.

For more information, please visit or contact 0121 359 2822. You can also follow the company on twitter @cbrandauer