A chance meeting with Enclosure and connecting technology specialist, Hitaltech, helped a designer and manufacturer of combustion control systems to save thousands of pounds in manufacturing costs, and respond to a pandemic.
In 2016, Julian Newton-Turner, Manufacturing & Supply Chain Manager with Energy Technology and Control (ETC), first met the connecting and enclosing technology specialist Hitaltech at the Southern Manufacturing Show. Julian was looking for fresh options for the company’s pad printed connectors which form part of the burner safety controls for high-pressure steam boilers in breweries, hotels, hospitals, petrochemical sites, power stations and more.
“We were buying connectors, 1,000 at a time, and then sending them out to a local pad print company to print them,” explained Julian. “Once they arrived back, we would hold them in stock. But then minimum runs went up to a minimum of 5,000 total pieces. We use 23 different connectors, although some of those may only be needed once a year. For a business that runs lean, that was an awful lot of stock to be carrying.”
Yet switching was not entirely simple. ETC’s CE and UL approved controls required similarly approved connectors to safely regulate temperature, pressure, water levels and the firing up process of industrial burners.
“When I met with Hitaltech it said it had approved connectors and could pad print’,” Julian continued. “It keeps them all in stock, and I know the company can restock us quickly, which makes us more responsive. This is important as we’re part of other people’s supply chains.”
Costs were lower too. “I was paying £2 per connector and 25p for printing,” Julian recalls. “Now I get the printed connector at less than the previous cost of the connector alone. When you get through a couple of thousand a year for most lines, and have 20+ lines, that soon adds up.”
Julian estimates the switch saved ETC £8-10K per year in pad printing alone, but the switch to Hitaltech did more than cut costs. “Our contract partnership with Hitaltech fits the way we work, and enables us to run lean, meet our supply chain commitments and avoid the hassle and inefficiency of carrying large stocks. When the connectors arrive, we just use them. I don’t need to think about anything else or pay a premium for short order parts.”
Managing the pressure of a pandemic
That efficiency has proved vital over the past few months, as ETC’s safety controls have seen huge demand during the pandemic. “Our clients are at the forefront of the drive against coronavirus,” added Julian. “Hospitals need high-pressure steam for cleaning and autoclaving. So we’ve been very busy.”
Hitaltech is proud to play its part. “ETC is one of a number of our clients that have been under enormous pressure to deliver their products during the pandemic,” said Hitaltech’s MD, Andy Fitzer. “My team and I were delighted to hear that our way of working has helped our clients deliver on their commitments too.”
From connectors to enclosures
ETC’s relationship with Hitaltech didn’t stop at pad printed connectors. “We’ve started to use its DIN rail products in connector hubs,” Julian continued. “This is for the control system for a new smaller boiler, aimed at the light industrial market. It’s a stripped down version of our usual product that you might find in a microbrewery, for example.”
Although ETC looked at other suppliers for the enclosure for the new control system, it was a natural step to go back to Hitaltech. Julian wanted the new enclosure customised and printed, and Hitaltech has been heavily involved in the development of the product.
“One of the real driving factors was our relationship with Hitaltech’s sales support team. They’re our first point of call and have been very responsive and helpful. We’ve now agreed that the lid will be laser printed with various logos, bespoke for each client. It will be specially moulded in off-white with black lettering, but we might have a bespoke colour – because we can,” concluded Julian.