A Yorkshire steel fabrication company is to take on its first 'female' welder.
But there will be no flirting with her colleagues or trips to the toilets to re-touch her lipstick. That’s because 'Freda’ will only have eyes (and lips) for one man. He’s called Fred and joined Renson Products - based at Brookfoot Business Park, Brighouse - 18 months ago.
Fred doesn’t have much in common with the rest of the factory floor. He has no family, never takes a lunch break or holiday, doesn’t show emotion and is very rarely sick. But bosses and workers alike love him so much, they have decided he needs a female friend – which is where Freda fits in.
Fred is a Japanese robot who is helping Renson Products win orders from some of the biggest names in the car industry including Bentley, Rolls-Royce and BMW.
The company has gone from strength to strength since director Neil Pickard joined forces with fellow director Andy Sutcliffe just over three years ago. At the time, Renson had just three members of staff and one small factory. Today Renson has three factories, employs over 40 staff, and is part-owner of bespoke reusable packaging company Solpac, based in Manchester.
Ninety-per-cent of Renson’s work is for the automobile industry. Last year it won a huge order to make stillages and parts for BMW’s new Mini range; it is currently working on a £350,000 order for Bentley and has orders for around £500,000 from Plastic Omnium who provide products for car manufacturers around the world.
Renson has also supplied returnable packaging to transport wing flaps for the A320 Airbus from the UK to China along with products for the recycling industry.
Its orders come from throughout Europe and its biggest competitors are from China, Poland and the Czech Republic. Neil believes to compete in the worldwide fabrication industry, British firms have to invest in technology like robots. Robots were first introduced into industry in the United States during the 1960s but robot welding did not take off till 20 years later when the automotive industry began using robots extensively for spot welding.
Since then, the number of robots used in the industry and the different jobs they can do has grown greatly.
“Fred enables us to turn over more volume and be more efficient. Our workers love him because they realise the part he plays in winning us orders. We think he needs a girlfriend which is where Freda comes in. We hope to invest in our second robot in the next few months,” says Neil.
A new robot welding cell costs in the region of £200,000 and refurbished for around £60,000. Most are made in Japan or Italy.