Invest, diversify, and prosper

Uploaded 27 Jul @ 15:53pm

M&MT talks to Swindon-based Retrac, a business with diverse engineering and manufacturing capabilities, about the current challenges faced by the of the high performance lightweight industry sectors. And, how the company has coped with them.
Company Director, Ian Drew, states: “Obviously, for a company that supports six teams on the Formula 1 grid, being without racing, like many others, this has been a difficult time. Some of the engine manufacturers turned their attention to producing ventilators and as a group we were able to support by manufacturing some components and ventilator assembly Jigs. We were able to use our Stratasys Fortus 450 3D printing machine to manufacture medical grade PPE visors. We have donated these to our local hospital, doctor’s surgery and primary school.”
Motorsport is a key part of Retrac’s business, however it has diversified and expanded its customer base over the past few years, with an additional business unit established to support demanding sectors such as aerospace and medical. “We have managed to sustain over half of our workforce throughout lockdown, supporting ongoing projects and new enquiries, without the total reliance of the Government’s Furlough scheme. We have recently taken an R&D medical project to the next level and are currently in production supporting the new orders and requirements. Our aircraft tooling programmes are ongoing as are our orders for ‘flight approved components’, and enquiries for further business is encouraging,” says Ian Drew.
The company has continually improved its impressive facilities in Swindon, maintaining and improving infrastructure and key personnel over the past 24 to 36 months. Investment is made to help support various programmes of work, and as part of the diversification programme to introduce new capacity and capabilities into the organisation.
“In January 2020,” says Ian Drew, “we took delivery of our new 60 tonne, 11 kW servo driven press with a 1 by 1 m platen area. This was a bespoke design, manufactured by Cambridge Dynamics for composite applications. This followed on from the appointment of a CAD Design Engineer that specialises in the design and manufacture of press tooling and composite pressed components with a wealth of expertise
in this field.”
He continues: “In February 2020, we sent our Quality Manager and Inspectors on a 4-day training course to gain experience with the latest of our investments from Measurement Solutions, a portable CMM and 3D scanning system from Creaform. With the introduction of our new HandyPROBE and MetraSCAN3D with full probe and target accessories, as well as all the required software packages we have improved our quality department. Speed, accuracy and wireless flexibility are further bolstered by the capability to reverse engineer tools, jigs and components by providing finalised 3D scan data for use directly with any CAD or 3D printing software.
“We can then use this data, to design and manufacture patterns, moulds & finally components, especially in markets where such data may not have been readily available at the time of original production, such as historic cars or legacy aircraft parts.”
Retrac has also restarted working towards its AS9100 accreditation. With all the new infrastructure, equipment, production control software, quality documentation and procedures in place, the company hopes to complete this over the next 6 months.
In the current climate, it is hard to foresee what will happen and how life will be within the coming weeks, months or even years. Ian Drew points out: “Most of our infrastructure work has been carried out and we have maximised the space in both the composite facilities we have. We have improved our workforce, and the immediate focus is on retaining what we have built and worked hard for. We need to be in a position for people to be in work or to return to work and feel safe and confident in doing so. Currently, we are able to social distance due to reduced staffing levels and shifts and we will comply with Government guide lines as required.”
He concludes: “It’s been an extremely tough time for all businesses across all industries since the COVID-19 outbreak and it has understandably caused a lot of people a lot of distress, anxiety and panic through such uncertain times. We as a company have experienced all of the emotions and difficulties in dealing with the ever-changing guidelines and dips in workload, but we have responded in a positive way. Whether employees have gone on Furlough due to the F1 delays or remained working throughout on other work, everyone understands the need to do what is right for the business to aid job retention, and to hopefully continue where we left off when safe to do so.”

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