Technology in manufacturing, a growth strategy

Technology in manufacturing header image - case study

“Having a robust, cloud-based infrastructure to run all of our manufacturing systems on is critical to the success of our business. This isn’t just about IT, this is about Cloud Business supporting our business, keeping our systems running and preparing us for the future.” Simon Butterworth, IT director

Simon Butterworth, IT director

Stepping into our customer’s world for a day

Siddall and Hilton Products is a shining example of technology in manufacturing.

The world of steel manufacturing is new to us, but operations director Andy Dawson was kind enough to provide a tour of their site, explaining with a smile that this is what he lives all day, every day.

Andy tells us “There’s a perception that steel manufacturing is dark, dingy, oily, and under-invested, but that’s not the reality. The reality is that it’s world-class; it’s bright, it’s shiny and the equipment is super well made. We strive to automotive standards.”

As we step onto the factory floor, the buzz of the busy workforce and the cleanliness of the bright, modern environment is striking.

Andy’s passion is clear in how proudly he speaks of his team and his vision for their future – his energy and enthusiasm is infectious. He spoke so powerfully about his belief in their people and culture, we’re not ashamed to say he left us feeling choked up. Businesses like this and leaders like Andy are rare, so we were excited to meet the rest of the team.

The UK’s number one

The West Yorkshire-based steel manufacturer recently announced major plans to completely redevelop its 4.5-acre sites in Brighouse with a £9 million investment. Their approach to creating a world-class environment is evident from the minute you step on site. Even the touchscreen sign-in for guests is cool.

As our tour begins, we find bustling offices kitted out with the best technology. Busy factory buildings and warehouses are lined with towering palettes, loaded with millions of pounds worth of pre-ordered products, waiting to be shipped across the world.

Siddall and Hilton Products are the UK’s largest manufacturer of industrial welded mesh and perimeter fencing panels, processing over 22,000 miles of wire a month. To put that into context, the circumference of the world is 24,901 miles!

We were curious to see the raw material. Reels of steel look like enormous spools of thread, but each is so heavy it has to be hoisted into position with a special crane. All fired up from Andy’s pep talk, we couldn’t resist the urge to try to pick one up.

The vision

Earning their position as the best in the UK means thinking big, thinking forward and investing in technology. Their vision is to be recognised as a world-class manufacturer.

With a legacy stretching back more than 125 years, the team are focussed on growing their workforce with a clear strategy:

  • The recruitment and training of new mesh operators.
  • A range of development programmes to upskill their team.
  • Ongoing investment in technology in manufacturing.

Technology on the factory floor

The factory is home to five, high-speed production machines, following a series of multi-million-pound investments into technology in manufacturing.

Siddall and Hilton Products high-speed production machines, showing technology in manufacturing for teel manufacturing

This machinery is the jewel in their crown. Andy points out that the protective fencing that houses the machines is always painted in neutral colours, so that the technology takes centre stage. This subtle attention to detail is a theme throughout our visit.

Siddall and Hilton Products factor floor, showing technology in manufacturing process - steel manufacturing

Throughout the factory, screens present real-time information to operators to help optimise efficiencies. The clever technology behind the screens is a bespoke solution, developed in partnership with Datahone. Interfaces, sensors, and devices extract huge amounts of data from the machines as they operate. The technology makes sense of that data and delivers it back within seconds, to help drive performance and decision-making. Andy explains the importance of their partnership with Datahone and how this use of technology is a real differentiator.

This business has been in operation since 1895, and the team intend for it to be here for generations to come. Their investment in technology reaches beyond the impressive machinery and robotics on the factory floor. Siddall and Hilton Products are committed to providing all of their people with the right tools for the job.

Technology in manufacturing, a growth strategy

Simon Butterworth, IT director explains “With Microsoft 365, staff have become mobile and can communicate more quickly, regardless of where they are on-site, or if they are working from home. Providing everyone with Microsoft Teams and giving them the best devices means that everyone is part of our vision, regardless of their role or level”.

The technology

  • Cloud technology is more robust, in line with the business’s goals for operational excellence. It also creates a scalable platform that fits with their ambitions for growth.
  • The roll-out of Microsoft 365 supports their approach to modern working and brings everyone’s tools in line with the class-leading technology we see on the factory floor.

The support

  • Managed Support from Cloud Business with Security and Managed Services & Cloud Care, means that the team has the support, expertise, and trust they need from an IT partner, to allow them to focus on growing their business.

“Building a rapport with the Support team at Cloud Business has given us confidence that our systems and data are robust and secure. We’re free to focus our time on growing our business.”

Siddall and Hilton Products server room, demonstrating the technology in manufacturing - steel manufacturing

Name our robot

Andy proudly introduced us to a new and important member of the team, ‘H.A.M.P’.

H.A.M.P is a robot that was designed to automate the process of packaging and banding its finished product – it’s currently the only robot of its type in the UK, and was created in partnership with Sewtec, a global market leader in bespoke machinery and automation.

H.A.M.P stands for ‘half a million pounds’, their investment in this game-changing technology in manufacturing. They ran a ‘name our robot’ competition with Calderdale and Kirklees Manufacturing Alliance as part of their Make it in Manufacturing careers event.

Olivia, the creative young winner from Salendine Nook School was invited to the factory to cut the ribbon, on H.A.M.P’s big launch day. Here she’s pictured with crates of lego to take back to her school, to help keep those creative ideas flowing.

This community-first approach demonstrates Siddall and Hilton Products’ dedication to the manufacturing industry as a whole, and their efforts to attract talent into the industry for years to come.

The secret sauce

Andy explains that quality is their number one differentiator.

With demand comes the need for a fast and steady supply, which means operational excellence is critical. Investing in technology to support faster throughput, to reduce bottlenecks in production and to minimise downtime has been a key aspect of their growth strategy.

Many business leaders keep their winning strategies close to their chest, but Andy has such confidence in his team and his vision, he’s happy to share their approach. Andy even invited his competitors to the factory to see H.A.M.P in action, his aim was to demonstrate modern manufacturing excellence at its finest, and perhaps to show that their set-up was going to be damn tough to beat!

As we continued our tour, Andy pointed out that all of their finished products are always packed in brand new pallets, with the labels facing forwards, so that as soon as the lorry door opens, the customer immediately experiences the quality that’s earned Siddall and Hilton their position at the top.

This care and attention to detail is evident in every aspect of how this successful business is managed.

Thank you

Tour complete, we handed back our hi-vis and waved farewell to the team. Still buzzing from Andy’s energy we resisted the urge to have a go at scaling one of their anti-climb fences on our way out.

Just before we set off for the M6, Simon shared some parting words which stayed with us long after we arrived home. “Cloud Business aren’t just our supplier, they understand what we’re trying to do. They’re part of our business. What we’ve achieved together so far is just a foundation, and we intend to build upon it.”

Thank you to Andy Dawson, Simon Butterworth, Sally Brady and Stephen Wright from Siddall and Hilton Products for your warmth and kindness, and for allowing us to learn more about your incredible business. There’s a reason why you’re number one.

Feeling inspired? Let’s talk about you

Are you feeling all fired up by Siddall and Hilton’s story?

Technology plays a massive role in supporting ambitious businesses to achieve their goals. Whether you aim to be recognised as world-class in your industry, or you simply want to equip your team with the right tools to do their best work, we’re here to help. Let’s talk about how we can support you to reimagine the way you work.

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If you’re already a Cloud Business customer and would like to let us loose in your business for the day, let us know. Learning about customers is our favourite thing to do. Email and we’ll be in touch.

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