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Sheffield manufacturer Gripple is growing again with plans for a £2m new factory making hi-tech assembly machines.
The firm, famous for its wire joining device, is set to build a state-of-the-art Gripple Automation facility on Foley Street on a derelict site beside the River Don near the Veolia incinerator.
It will be its fourth in the city.
A planning application to Sheffield City Council shows a building that combines the firm’s red brick heritage - like the Gripple headquarters at the Old West Gun Works, Savile Street East - and cutting-edge features including a green energy plant and living green external wall.
Preparation of the old spring factory site has already started. If planners approve the bid, bosses say building will start in August and it will open for business in 2020.
Gripple Automation was set up four years ago making machines that can assemble 60 Gripples in a minute with one operator. It was soon building mini production lines for other firms and expanded to 25 staff, outgrowing the premises on Hawk Street it shares with Gripple sister company Loadhog.
Gordon Macrae, special projects manager, said a new factory was needed to keep pace with growth. Five jobs are set to be created initially.
He added: “We wanted a flagship, iconic building worthy of our reputation. It’s on the river which makes it great and in a part of Sheffield that’s not been regenerated. We want it to be up there with the best you can see.”
Gripple Automation will have nine ‘build bays’ where bespoke machines are assembled over a period of between two months and a year.
They develop from a conversation to a computer design, to a prototype to a finished item, bringing together design, software and hardware. Some £200,000 is due to be spent on new kit.
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The service will help boost UK productivity figures, which lag rivals. And Gripple’s pedigree puts the company in front, Mr Macrae, added.
“We understand manufacturing, we will have deeper insights than a straight machine builder. Britain is way behind some of our European competitors. The only way we are going to catch up is to do more of this.”
Gripple was established by Hugh Facey in 1989. Today the group employs 700 and has 14 sites overseas. The most recent factory, Gripple Riverside, opened in 2017 on Carbrook Street in Attercliffe.
Turnover is £80m and the business is 100 per cent employee-owned.
Gripple Automation builds systems with robot arms and pistons that nimbly assemble, test and wrap products at lightning speed - with no tea breaks, no off days and at the the same rate all day.
The machines also ‘talk’ to each other, can be operated remotely and log vast amounts of data which is analysed to find improvements.
Bosses insist the machines should never cost jobs.
They believe a worker whose role has been automated is the perfect person to supervise that robot, set it up, give it tasks and keep it going - and together they form a formidable team.
Productivity boosted by automation is seen as a way to keep business in the UK and create jobs.
Some 90 per cent of Gripple's manufacturing footprint is in Sheffield and it makes up to 90 per cent of the products it uses. As well as three factories in Attercliffe it has shares in two major suppliers in Rotherham.
In May it opened a new office and warehouse in Kobe, Japan.