While located in the Black Country, Professional Polishing Services is looking to a bright future thanks to its ongoing investmentstrategy that has that has seen it invest profits back into the business for all but a handful of years of its 35 years’ existence. The latest phase of investment has been concluded with the arrival of two Autopulit automatic reciprocating polishing machines from Ellesco.
Professional Polishing Services is a privately owned business based in Smethwick in the West Midlands, specialising in providing a bespoke stainless steel polishing service to customers anywhere in the world, with production running at around 30,000 tonnes of material being processed annually. While 90 per cent of these customers are steel stockholders, it also works on major projects involving a variety of partners including architects and artists, the latest being a major art installation for a customer in the USA.
The lack of external shareholders has allowed Professional Polishing Services to make strategic investments, the result of which have made it a market leader in provision of polished stainless steel. “We have always looked to the future with continuous investment in the business a strategy that has resulted in long-term growth and a unique position among polishing companies in the UK. Now, with a large three-year investment in our plate section drawing to a close, it was time to address other areas of the business,” says Kirsty Davies-Chinnock, Managing Director, Professional Polishing Services.
Attention turned to the company’s bright polishing lines, it currently had four lines, the latest was installed only six years ago but, had reached capacity. Due to this lead times were becoming extended, making it an obvious choice for the next tranche of investment. Typically, industry expects a turnaround in weeks, but Professional Polishing Services aim is to reduce this to days. “We looked at a couple of machines, then addressed the state of the industry and economic projections and Brexit, of course. At that point we decided we could simply buy a new machine or, look at doing something a bit different, in other words ‘go big or go home!’. Therefore, over the past nine months we have invested a third of our turnover, brought in new extraction equipment, new pick and place systems, new coaters and stackers and, of course the two new Autopulit PHA-1250×3000/1UP bright polishing lines from Ellesco. The latter being the major part of the investment, which was initially a single machine, but the deal was done for two, as we had the confidence that we would fill them very quickly. Which we have done, with the capacity of both machines fully booked for the next six months.”
Why such a big investment at what many see as a time of uncertainty with Brexit? “It was the UK’s lack of direction and any obvious plan with regard to Brexit that guided us. As a business we can only influence what we can do on a company level, I have no influence over how the UK goes forward. Therefore, our investment is a calculated risk, with a target of increasing turnover by 30 per cent in the next 18 months, then target further growth of an additional 30 per cent in the next 18 months. It could all go horribly wrong, however, if we have achieved the first part of our goal we will be in a position to ride any downturn.
The choice of Autopulit comes through experience as the business already had a 20 year-old machine on-site, which continues to operate to high standards. Professional Polishing Services did its research, but when compared with existing equipment, relationships, maintenance and most importantly operator feedback, Autopulit came out on top. The two Autopulit PHA-1250×3000/1UP moving table machines are designed for polishing sheets, flat parts, profiles, in a variety of materials. The machines installed at Professional Polishing Services feature vacuum tables to hold the sheet measuring up to 1250 by 3000 mm in place while it is passed under the oscillating head and polishing mop. Movement of the table and head, including the buff axial oscillation device, are controlled the machines plc as are the five automatic liquid compound guns, which feature adjustable spray patterns.
“We are excited by the finishes that we will be able to produce on these new machines and while the process remains the same, using polishing mops and compound, the technical advances over our existing Autopulit machine ensure we achieve better and more consistent surface finishes, such as bright mirror finishes on stainless steel 2B substrate. In short we can now do things better, quicker and cleaner,” says Kirsty Davies-Chinnock. Those technical changes include the use of linear bearings on the table that create a much smoother movement, as well as changes to the hydraulics on the mop head which again give more consistent movement and is also more energy efficient. “The new machines and the added capability they bring will open up new opportunities for us, especially in the food and drink manufacturing sector,” says Kirsty. “Our products end up in so many different applications, it was once calculated that the average person comes into contact with material that we have polished nine times a day!”
With these machines installed attention will now turn to the next development, and as someone that participates in the rough and tumble of Roller Derby little will divert Kirsty Davies-Chinnock’s plans, which are taking shape to convert what is a high energy consuming business in to a carbon neutral environment within five years. This will be achieved either by significant investment in the existing Smethwick facility or by relocating to a brand new factory.