A manufacturing match made in the West Midlands has provided a much-needed reshoring solution for innovative new body drying technology.
Tooling2000, which is located in a state-of-the-art facility in Winson Green, came to the rescue when iDry Limited’s roll-out of its iDry product was set to stall due to the existing Chinese supplier giving a nine-month lead time for three crucial parts.
The metal stamping and precision component specialist used its expertise in forming and prototyping, combined with a wide array of CNC and laser cutting machining, to produce an emergency tool that could produce the same parts – used in the fan housing – in just seven days.
In even more positive news, the components are better quality and more aesthetically pleasing thanks to the use of stainless steel and the new process, with initial orders placed worth more than £50,000.
This UK reshoring success story could well become a £million-pound opportunity for both companies, with Much Wenlock-based iDry expected to sell 200 units every week as its unique air-drying technology is embraced by local authorities, care homes and luxury hotels.
“The iDry, which was first developed in 1991 by Michael Godwin and brought back to life earlier this year, fits onto a wall and uses a patented design to push air through vents to dry your body in as little as two minutes,” explained Gary Seale, Managing Director of iDry Limited, the UK’s only manufacturer of body dryers.
“It is a breakthrough that is proving extremely popular with the care sector where it can help the elderly or disabled enjoy independent living for longer. This has seen a major spike in interest, but just has the orders were rolling in an existing Chinese supplier tried to hold us to ransom with lead times and minimum order quantities.
“I won’t lie, it felt like they were putting a gun to our head, so we knew he had to accelerate our desire for more UK content by switching supply to a domestic company – the only issue being we had to find an answer in seven days.”
He went on to add: “A chance intro on LinkedIn has proven a match made in heaven with Tooling2000 delivering a solution that is better in what was an unbelievably stringent lead time. Better still, the early signs are that we can place more parts with it, something we are currently looking to explore.”
Established in 1996, Tooling2000 specialises in creating complex parts out of anything that is metal and it was this dynamic approach that paid dividends when supporting iDry.
The engineers at the Birmingham-based firm quickly got to work with some soft tooling that allowed it to get to grips with the initial three parts and then a second tool was put in place that offered greater repeatable quality and facilitated a change from galvanised steel to stainless steel.
Using laser cutting technology and the latest CNC 3-axis machines, a new process has been developed that reduces manual work and assembly time – two important features as volumes escalate.
Gary Williams, Managing Director of Tooling2000, added his support: “This is a fantastic reshoring success story and shows that the UK can outperform international rivals when it comes to quality, lead times and, importantly, cost – we just need the opportunity to prove it.
“The way we are set-up is to combine the best design and engineering minds, with investment in the latest capabilities, investing over £1m recently into a large Hurco DC42XI CNC (used in this latest project) and a 5-Axis Trumpf TruLaser Cell 7040 that will deliver the best laser cutting expertise.”
He concluded: “Gary from iDry and I have engaged our respective engineers to look at other parts we might be able to help with, starting with the impeller it uses to create some of the power.”
iDry launched its latest version of the iDry at the recent Occupational Therapy show in November.
The hygienic and eco-friendly product uses Bluetooth controls for the first time and will have a more streamlined design that uses 28 air pores to push warm air through at between 50 to 70 degrees.
Demand from the show, combined with the current pipeline of activity, suggests that volumes could reach 200 units per week by the first quarter of 2022.