Gresham Office Furniture has come a long way since its creation some 40 years ago when typewriter engineer Ted Smith started producing desks in his garden shed. Now, under the guidance of Julian Roebuck, who became Managing Director in 2008 after a management buyout (MBO), the Bolton based business now operates out of a 200,000 ft 2 state-of-the-art factory that produces over 1000 chairs alone every day.
The MBO at the height of the financial crash provided the opportunity for a fresh look at the business and to move it in a new direction, which included looking at value stream mapping, workflow and general improvements in efficiency. The latter providing the opportunity for Operations Manager, David Openshaw to review the tube bending capability at Gresham, bringing in an all-electric BLM E-TURN 52 to complement the two existing tube benders from BLM and, adding greater capacity and efficiency. The combined result of these changes saw the business win the prestigious Mixology North Manufacturer of the Year Award in 2016. “Gresham was extremely successful before we implemented these changes, but with these new ideas, equipment and diversification into new markets, such as hospitality and corporate, as well as increasing export sales, we have seen a 50 per cent growth in turnover over the past 7-8 years to around £30 million and we employ 250 full time. With more potential still to be realised it’s fair to say that Gresham is now a waking giant,” says David Openshaw.
The introduction of the BLM E-TURN 52 will play a significant part in maintaining customer focus due to its efficiency and flexibility. “We are finding that the E-TURN 52 has increased output by around 50 per cent compared to the older hydraulic machines, which we installed over 16 years ago, the only restriction we have in terms of further gains are the ability of the operator to keep up, but we do have an option for automated loading in the future. The reassurance of BLM being one of, if not the, largest manufacturer of tube processing machinery was also an influence on our decision, as was seeing the impressive manufacturing facility,” says David Openshaw. The efficiency of the E-TURN comes from its all-electric axes operation, which is both energy and environmentally efficient, as the machine only draws power when it’s required, reducing operational power requirement by around 50 per cent and idle power is reduced by around 85 per cent. The electric operation also has a positive influence on bend accuracy and repeatability, once set every bend is good, removing much of the requirement for highly-skilled setter/operators.
The E-TURN 52 installed at Gresham is one from a very comprehensive range of BLM All-Electric tube benders with a capacity to handle tube from 6 to 52 mm diameter with a 2mm wall thickness. The electric operation of the machine’s axes mean that no mechanical adjustment is needed during set-up and the bends are better controlled and repeatable without manual intervention. Energy efficiency is also greatly improved as E-TURN machines are also capable of achieving left and right hand bends with varying radii. Customers also have the option of integrating machine load/unload capability, which can be done prior or post machine installation.
Gresham and BLM share certain values such as customer focus and service along with a flexible attitude to making things right as Gresham’s Engineering Senior Supervisor, Andy Smith points out: “Throughout the process of bringing in the E-TURN 52 BLM has worked with us to help develop solutions for our products. We know what we want to achieve and their detailed knowledge of the capability of the machine has resulted in greater efficiency. Getting programs into production is also simplified by use of BLM’s VGP3D software, which is fantastic. Through its auto-simulation routines we can visualise the exact movements of the machine from the production office by simply inputting the bend coordinates, or directly importing them via BLM’s new B-IMPORT software module from a stp or igs CAD model, before sending the program out. Once it is downloaded to the machine control we can carry out secondary checks for any possible collisions on the touchscreen control.”