Technology to stay ahead of the game

Liniar uses technology to streamline production processes – its plant and facilities were purpose-built just a few years ago, with everything designed in the right place, for the right reasons.

“It’s essential we remain at the forefront of technological advancements in order to keep our operations lean and offset other inflationary costs such as raw materials that are outside our control – all our investments and efforts are geared towards keeping prices as low as possible for our customers,” managing director Martin Thurley said.

Operations director Edward Webb said: “One of the main advantages to building a new factory and system from scratch was being able to build on past experience to make sure every operational process is optimised for the best possible results.

“From the start, we knew the time and cost issues that arise when machinery and tooling are old and worn – so we created our own toolroom with expert engineers who look after every tool, a large spares and maintenance department to keep everything running smoothly, and the latest high-tech equipment to help the team maintain the machinery. All machines have a standard low-energy efficient system, with all water and services laid on new.

“We spend in the region of £5 million each year on the most up-to-date machinery and tooling available, all of which helps to make sure our products are the best the market has to offer.

“We’re lucky to have an owner, and now a parent company, firmly behind that investment outlook. Nothing here is second-hand, everything is new – and that, we know from experience, is critical to keeping everything at optimum performance and scrap and downtime to a minimum.

“We’ve recently taken delivery of a single line foiling machine to help meet the increasing demand for coloured window products. This machine focuses on ‘specials’ and has been specified for optimum efficiency – with quick set-up times, easy foil change-overs, and a fully automated line requiring only one person to operate it.”

Even the way the PVCU mixing and extrusion process has been designed uses the latest software and high-tech systems.

“Some of our competitors have multiple formulations to compensate for worn extruders and tooling – but we’re able to run our entire factory on one basic formulation of PVCU,” Edward said.

“The largest PVCU mixing plant in Europe has been built right next door to the extrusion halls, with enormous holding silos to hold hundreds of tonnes of raw material ready for mixing.

“Once the mixing process has taken place, a computerised delivery system pipes the PVCU mixture through an intricate network of pipes to the extrusion machine that needs it. This needs no manual intervention, and the intelligent software can turn the supply on or off as required.”

Chris Armes, Liniar’s design and development manager, also benefits from Liniar’s high-tech approach.

“In the past, when designing a new PVCU profile, one of the biggest challenges was the lead time and cost of getting it from design to production,” he said.

“Typical extrusion tools can cost in excess of £70K per profile, and take around 20 weeks to produce – so any revisions could be costly, both in terms of tooling and delays in getting new products to market.

“Our investment in 3D printing technology has revolutionised the design and development process at Liniar, allowing us to reduce timescales and test new, innovative features during development.

“We also have an in-house robot (known fondly as ‘Mark 2’), enabling us to life-cycle test each new product and make sure we’re happy with each aspect of it before it goes off for third party testing and accreditation.

“Innovation is one of Liniar’s core values – but in itself, innovation can lead to problems if new products aren’t tested thoroughly. Testing with our robot means we can put new doors, windows and other products through an accelerated life cycle and iron out any potential issues before products are launched to market – giving Liniar customers the reassurance that their products will be robust and durable.”

Technology isn’t just used within the production areas at Liniar, according to logistics director Jeff Newton.

“An in-house live reporting system ensures each department has large screens on the wall, with visibility of which products are being run at any time – with stock control information also available at the touch of a button,” he said.

“Within the vast warehouse at Liniar House, barcode scanners connect to stock systems via radio frequency, and all fork lift trucks are equipped with impact sensors, cameras and blue pedestrian lights for safety.

“Liniar’s vehicle fleet is tracked live as it delivers around the UK, with cameras on board for insurance and driver safety purposes. Geo-fencing and GPS technology allow the team to see where our delivery trucks are at any time, so we can give accurate ETAs to customers. On-board software also encourages efficient driving performance, discouraging harsh braking, speeding and unnecessary engine idling to help the environment.”

The company said its focus on innovation, and use of technology to help achieve its targets, go hand in hand with its success in the marketplace in the ten years since the first Liniar window was produced.