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St Helens-based steel stockholder and processor company Hi-Tech Steel Services (HTSS) has seen a £3-million increase in turnover in 2018, a 12 per cent rise on the previous year, as a result of introducing new industrial digital technologies through regional support programme LCR 4.0.

Established for over 25 years and processing in excess of 5,000 tonnes of material per month, HTSS works with companies across the UK and Europe in sectors including automotive, construction and ventilation.

Recognising a change in customer demand for a more digital approach to steel processing following an increase in requests for laser cut materials and flat sheet metal products, HTSS approached part-ERDF funded business support programme LCR 4.0.

Andy Flatt, general manager at Hi-Tech Steel Services, explained: “Digital transformation is making waves through every industry, so it was no surprise to us that our customers were looking for more advanced solutions than we had traditionally offered.

“We knew the technology we needed to introduce, and we knew that there was a significant growth opportunity for us to expand our offer. But what we didn’t know was how to implement it without disruption, so it was great that the LCR 4.0 team at LJMU was there to help.”

The Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) put HTSS in touch with LCR 4.0 partner Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), which provided access to specialist academic expertise and a dedicated resource. The result was the development of a commissioning strategy to fully integrate new laser cutting equipment into the factory to meet customer demand and requirements quicker than ever before.

In addition to this, four highly trained operatives were also hired at HTSS to offer a CAD design service. Installing CAD files into the new machinery, allowed the company to ensure metal is cut and processed exactly as required, offering customers a quick and bespoke solution.

All of the new machinery is autonomous, meaning it can cut independently, freeing up staff time to be spent on other areas of the business and elements of delivery. What’s more, the new equipment collects performance data which is automatically fed back into the business to provide insight for further improvements, enabling HTSS to be more sustainable in a competitive market place.

“The results of going through our own digital transformation are already tremendous,” Andy continued. “We have increased turnover by £3 million this year and expanded our customer base significantly. We have also entered new tiers within our supply chain which will encourage further growth well into the future.

“LCR 4.0 is most definitely one of the best projects I’ve been involved with; it has been a fantastic experience.”

Antony Walker, strategic manager at LJMU said: “LCR 4.0 has had some excellent results with well-known established businesses in the city region. Our work with Hi-Tech Steel Services demonstrates the impact Industry 4.0 technologies can have to create competitive advantage for an ambitious team in an existing market place.”