Road ahead looks good for Threeway

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Investment, diversification and added-value services have been the three key elements behind the growing success of Threeway Pressings over the past 18 months. In that time, the specialist engineering firm has seen both turnover and profitability climb steadily.

Since it was founded 16 years ago, the Tipton company has specialised in the manufacture of precision components in ferrous and non-ferrous metals, predominantly supplying the automotive, construction, white goods (domestic appliances) and leisure sectors.

Its purpose-built factory is equipped with a large number of presses, with varied capacities from 1.5 tonnes to 200 tonnes, giving Threeway the capability to undertake a broad spectrum of presswork from simple clipping and blanking through to complex multi-stage progression tooling, at both low and high volumes, and with lead times as little as two weeks.

Threeway’s plant list includes high-speed Raster and Rhodes power presses, ranging in capacity from 25 tonnes to 200 tonnes and offering speeds from 100 to 600 strokes per minute. Furthermore, the company has no less than 45 single-operation presses for secondary operations, with or without die-cushions, and various press brakes, both hydraulic and mechanical. Many of its presses are fitted with the latest servo-driven coil feeders, automatically supplying the tool with stock material up to 400mm wide and 5mm thick with an accuracy of 0.1mm. (The company also retains a good selection of traditional hand-operated machines.)

“We’ve just taken delivery of another 200 tonne press,” director Phil Stanley told Business Report. “We are constantly investing in and updating our machinery.”

Parts are manufactured from a huge range of metals, including many types of steel (mild, carbon, hot-rolled, nickel-coated), aluminium, brass, copper, phosphor bronze, zintec and beryllium copper. Different components made by Threeway include:

• a variety of both metal and spring pressings

• electrical components including connectors, courtesy switches and socket locators

• locks, handles and door furniture

• car and vehicle parts

• coins and gaming tokens

• bracketry for various industries

• lighting and heating components such as clips and fasteners.

With its Heenan multi-form machines, Threeway has extensive facilities for piercing, bending and forming a wide range of materials up to 1mm thick, producing parts that would not normally be able to be made on press tools due to the complexity of the component shape. In addition, Threeway has in-house plastic injection-moulding facilities, with a capacity of up to 450 tonnes, and the capability to assemble and package products ready for retailers’ shelves.

As part of its ongoing commitment to offer all its customers a total service, Threeway is also able to offer a number of painting, plating and surface treatments, enabling it to supply components finished to precise individual requirements. For this, it has built up an approved list of subcontractors that offer heat treatment, austempering, case hardening, plating, powder coatings and other processes, normally on a 24-hour service.

To extend its capabilities still further and access more markets, the company has diversified into MIG, spot and robotic welding, CNC tube bending and manipulation, and fabrication and full assembly.

Phil added: “Our strategy has been to transform the business from just making traditional press parts and then letting somebody else finish them to supplying more and more finished goods.

“It is cheaper, quicker and easier for customers if they can have their products manufactured, finished and packed in one place rather than having to send parts to different suppliers. And if we can handle the whole production process, we will be better able to control the quality of the final product.

“We are constantly looking for manufacturing opportunities to expand and develop the business. Today we are making a range of parts and products which in the past we would never have even looked at.”

Examples of products that Threeway used to only supply parts for but now manufactures in their entirety include an expanding range of gardening tools and accessories, in particular wheelbarrows. By producing these products so cost-effectively, its target customer base of small and medium-sized garden centres is able to sell them at prices which make them competitive with the large DIY chains. Always keen to take advantage of all market opportunities, however, Threeway also supplies some of the 40 different models in its wheelbarrow range to the retail giant Tesco.

Customers seeking research and development support also need look no further. Threeway frequently works closely with clients on projects from the initial stages of a new design, advising on the selection of materials, perfecting the prototype, ensuring the part is suitable for the intended application, while at the same time minimising tooling and production costs in line with the latest lean manufacturing techniques. Its engineering team uses state-of-the-art CAD/CAM software packages for both product and tool design.

These services are proving increasingly popular with Threeway’s customers in the automotive – it is a tier one supplier to leading car manufacturers – and construction sectors. “This is another area where we are succeeding,” commented Phil. “We get called in by a lot of companies who need to make a new product but simply don’t know how.

“Unlike many of our competitors, we have the experience, the technical ability and the facilities to design products and bring customers’ ideas to the marketplace quickly and cost-effectively. Our expertise covers every aspect of product design and press tooling.

“This way we are successfully building long-term working partnerships with leading OEMs, providing them with integrated supply solutions which offer significant economic benefits.”

On the quality front, Threeway is accredited to ISO 9001 and QS 9000, an internationally recognised standard designed specifically for the automotive industry. It has invested in a bespoke materials requirements planning (MRP) system with shop-floor data capture, providing full traceability from receipt of order to dispatch. Threeway is also able to supply full production part approval process (PPAP) and statistical process control (SPC) data.