COVID-19 has made many firms think about how digital tools might make their business more resilient as well as more efficient. The HVM Catapult’s SME team can help you explore the potential of digital technologies for your business. From online work instructions which can be delivered through Augmented Reality (AR) technologies, to RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags to help track stock movements, digital technologies provide opportunities for safer, more efficient working.

Footprint tools, AMRC

Robotics and automation offer huge opportunities for firms to improve productivity levels. All too often, smaller firms hold back from investigating their potential fearing that benefits will come with a high price tag. Footprint Tools has shown that need not be the case.
The 150-year-old Sheffield firm has been in the Jewitt family for four generations and had enjoyed huge success during the hey-day of coal and steel. But the low-wage economies in the Far East, the collapse of coal and steel and the 2008 crash brought Footprint Tools to the brink of closure. To fight back they turned to the AMRC.
The result is a robot cell producing their staple product – the humble builder’s line pin. Freeing up two skilled workers for other tasks, the company now fulfils orders three times faster than before – a massive impact on an SME like Footprint Tools.

Helson and Jackets, NMIS

Helson and Jackets, an award-winning media art and design company making video installations and productions for film and TV, approached the AFRC to validate a number of design decisions for their ‘io’ projector that suspends 3D holographic images in space.

Funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher, an experienced modeller from the AFRC’s team used ‘Finite Element’ (FE) modelling to test the projector under a number of different conditions. The FE modelling approach helped reduce the number of physical prototypes and experiments needed during the product design phase and helped show how the design would behave in real-world conditions.

The collected data addressed the challenges of each design and helped Helson and Jackets avoid wasting time and resources pursuing options that would not deliver. The AFRC’s work with the company accelerated the design process and gave the firm the confidence that the io projector would perform both safely and effectively.

Hobsons Brewery, WMG

The loss of empty beer barrels has eaten into the profits of the UK’s brewers for many years. Shropshire firm, Hobson’s Brewery wanted to improve its tracking of beer casks on route to customers and improve their stock control, and aged status of the brews to increase asset utilisation and profitability.

The HVM Catapult’s WMG SME team worked with the company to develop a ‘smart’ beer cask track and trace solution which delivered real-time alerts, status, tracking, traceability and asset management reports and a smartphone-ready ‘Near-Field Communication’ (NFC) robust enough to withstand a brewery environment. They also provided the Hobsons team with a proof of concept software application to visualise the location data.

Thanks to WMG’s work, Hobsons Brewery are able to manage its stock much more effectively, reducing working capital by 20%. The project also allowed the firm to understand its supply chain better and dynamically reconfigure based on supply and demand. Building on this project, Hobsons started a new data analytics business, securing new customers including major brewers and manufacturers.