25.09.2015

Computer-driven door manufacturing system from China

Numerical Control was hailed as the panacea for the world‘s manufacturing ills when computer technology became cost-effective enough to make a difference in the late 1950s. The dawn of the microcomputer era a generation later brought full computer control within the reach of almost every manufacturing process. The skills of the software developer drew clear blue water between machines that merely created a product, and those which could manufacture a better product with significant savings in time and materials.

There is a UK company that knows all about manufacturing doors; a process where reliability and cost-control are essential given the number and variety of doors required across the construction sector. It doesn’t build the machine that builds the doors, but has developed the software which controls the manufacturing process from end to end. The entrepreneur behind the development spent time and resources researching the market for equipment that could be driven by his software to achieve the end product with the high technical specification involved.

The leading manufacturer of the machinery is based in China. It took a year of collaboration between the two companies to incorporate modifications to the machine’s design for it to utilise fully the features of the UK-developed software. The system which emerged had huge potential in Europe – if a way could be found to demonstrate the solution to potential customers in the region.

Funding cost of bringing system to Europe

But with a capital cost of £50,000 for the machine, this could have proved a major hurdle for the software designer. Videos of the system at work in a factory overseas do not have quite the same impact on buyers being asked to making a six-figure investment in the system.

The expressions of interest from blue chip customers in Europe convinced the software developer that it would be worth funding the purchase of a machine from China, and a commercial loan seemed the only way forward for his company. Following an introduction to Trade & Export Finance, however, other funding options emerged; one of which found the UK EXIM associate of TAEFL providing a facility to purchase the system from China and make it available to the software development company in the UK.

There was one further hurdle to negotiate. As the software developer did not have premises suitable for demonstrating the door manufacturing system, the project could have been held back by lack of funds for leasing workshop space.

Premises organised through another TAEFL client

But the TAEFL team is nothing if not creative in the way it supports its clients. With five years in the field working with clients in virtually every sector of business, it was more than likely that the TAEFL team would know of at least one with surplus floor space.

A telephone call later, and the software specialist had been put in contact with a TAEFL client who is in a non-competitive sector of the construction industry. That company had the right kind of workspace on its hands as the result of an earlier re-organisation. The icing on the cake is that the owner of the premises fits out new and re-furbished buildings. Fire doors are essential for what that company does: what better ‘partnership’ than one which can produce that commodity on its own premises?

It would be fair to say that the software developer has been impressed by the diversity of the services which the TAEFL team has provided. Solving the premises problem has probably had as great an impact on the relationship as the funds which the finance specialist has brought to the table.

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