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PROSPER MAGAZINE: DIGITAL EDITION

FEATURE ARTICLE

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WIRED UP FOR THE COVID-19 CHALLENGE

From its factory nestled in the industrial heartland of Brierley Hill, Alloy Wire International (AWI) played an unexpectedly key role in the Covid-19 battle, delivering wire to support the manufacturing of life-saving equipment.

Its nickel alloy materials are often at the very source of the project and critical to a successful outcome of the end application. Mark Venables and Angus Hogarth, Managing Director and Sales Director respectively, explain…

Wire manufactured in the West Midlands helped support the UK’s unprecedented drive to build more ventilators.

Alloy Wire International, which employs 31 people in the Black Country, was commissioned to produce more than 5 kilometres of material used to produce crucial parts for life-saving equipment sent to the groundbreaking Nightingale Hospital in London.

The company, which holds more than 200 tonnes of EU/DFARS compliant stock at any one time, put its Emergency Manufacturing Service (EMS) into action to meet the urgent requirements of a spring maker that was supplying into the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium to assist in the ramp-up of Smiths and Penlon Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator Systems.

Interest also came from North America and South Korea, with AWI supplying urgent quantities of custom-made nickel-chrome-titanium ‘Inconel’ spring wire and 316LVM Stainless Steel to a spring maker in Wisconsin and a major medical centre in Seoul respectively.

“We work with over 700 customers every year and we knew a lot of them supplied into critical sectors that deliver essential services,” explained Mark Venables, Managing Director of Alloy Wire International.

“The Covid-19 pandemic brought this sharply into view and we were invited to manufacture a range of wire for companies who were playing a crucial role in supporting the frontline, often meeting extremely demanding timelines in the process.”

He continued, “This included supplying a customer that had to remake springs destined for ventilator production due to an untimely power cut, whilst another client made a 280-mile round trip to collect its order from us. In both cases, we did our bit by making the wire in just 2 days.”

Alloy Wire International is one of the UK’s leading manufacturers of round, flat and profile wire, with its 60-strong range featuring a number of materials, including Phynox, MP35N, Stainless 316LVM, Nickel 200&201 and Inconels.

The company’s workforce came together to meet the requirements of existing and new customers, providing wire from 0.025mm (.001”) to 21mm (.827”) in small batches or medium/large volumes.

In addition to the ventilator production projects it completed, AWI also provided wire that went into electric heating elements used for medical plastic forming and for the critical sterilisation of vital equipment.

Other customers placing orders were involved in the detection of gases for hospital incubators and power generation. 

Angus Hogath, Sales Director, told Prosper, “We are very proud of the heroic actions of frontline NHS and social care staff and this was our own small way of supporting them to help save lives.

“Our staff have been fantastic and really embraced our role as a key manufacturer, adopting the Government’s social distancing policies whilst still delivering wire used in increasing the number of ventilators in the UK and supporting other crucial medical equipment.

“AWI is ‘at the source’ of many first steps in creating life-saving equipment and we are committed to maintaining this supply throughout the pandemic.”

Major Investment

Whilst 2020 has definitely thrown up a number of challenges, Alloy Wire International has remained true to its annual investment plans, spending over £1m on material to ensure it can meet demand from sectors including medical, power generation and commercial air transport. 

There has also been the redevelopment of its offices in the Black Country and the introduction of the latest wet drawing machine for producing wire from 0.063” (1.6mm) to 0.028” (0.7mm) diameter, plus a take-up spooler that can handle and store larger weight rolled wire profiles.

The firm’s technical team – a real jewel in the crown – is being expanded with new recruits and a commitment to the medical device quality standard has seen it become accredited to ISO 13485:2016.

“You always have to keep one eye on the future, despite what has been an extremely uncertain year,” concluded Mark.

“We’ve done what we needed to do to successfully satisfy customer requirements and used a little bit of breathing space to look at operational improvements, some critical investments and how we can increase market share in sectors still rich in potential.”

“2021 will be our 75th year in business and we’re determined to make it one of the best yet – and hope that’s the same for UK manufacturing in general.”

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