Cell to sell: Electrified Automation case study
COVID-19 brought the automotive industry to a near standstill in 2020, and for Electrified Automation, a small business just starting out in electric motor manufacturing, it could have been over before it had begun. However, thanks to support from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) they find themselves heading into 2022 with significant contracts signed and a strong order book.
In 2020, when coronavirus was at its height, Electrified Automation applied for funding under the APC’s Advanced Route to Market Demonstrator (ARMD) competition. The aim of ARMD was to kick-start innovation back into action and ensure that late-stage R&D projects continued to accelerate towards net zero in spite of the pandemic.
In total 12 projects benefitted from £16.5 million of combined UK government and industry investment to develop physical demonstrators of technology that will power the green industrial revolution.
Together with their project partners Horizon Instruments and Lightfoot, Electrified Automation used ARMD to accelerate and showcase their transformational product, a fully automated manufacturing cell well ahead of schedule, as Managing Director Jim Winchester explains: “APC awarded us funding which allowed us to accelerate and get our demonstrator ready within nine months.
“We had two machines built in that time for coil winding and the entire stator manufacture.”
Being in a position to showcase the demonstrator so early meant Electrified Automation were ready to feature at last September’s Low Carbon Vehicle Show (LCV-2021).
“We were able to launch at LCV2021 and the business that generated was absolutely unbelievable. It was phenomenal for us.
“If we hadn’t had funding from APC our manufacturing cell wouldn’t have been ready until summer 2022, so we wouldn’t have been able to demonstrate the technology and sell to customers.
“We could never have got that level of exposure as a start-up on our own. Rather than using manual processes, we were able to build an automation robot from the outset. It meant we were leaps ahead of our competition.
“We got loads of media interest and good exposure, but we also had some really strong leads from the show.”
And this, says Head of Competitions and Projects, Zoe Hall, is exactly what APC hoped to achieve with ARMD: “APC’s purpose is to ensure the UK remains a leader in the development of zero-emission automotive technology, to reduce harmful greenhouse gases and create or safeguard jobs in manufacturing.
“Electrified Automation made phenomenal progress in less than a year, significantly increasing their operations, showcasing their technological capability and growing as a business. It’s the very definition of building back better.
“Their automated stator manufacturing cell was a huge draw at LCV2021, you couldn’t miss it and when it was running it looked really impressive! We’re incredibly proud of everything they have achieved and can’t wait to see what they do next.”
The APC-supported project enabled Electrified Automation to develop low cost and efficient technology for electric motor manufacturing. Their team of highly skilled engineers and innovators have created new approaches to stator forming, coil winding, copper welding, rotor assembly and software integration.
Driven by Lloyd Ash, who gained significant experience in the sector designing and manufacturing motors as founder of Ashwoods Electric Motors, they saw an opportunity in that electric motor producers don’t necessarily want the overall manufacturing platform, but they do have a need for their own bespoke equipment.
APC funding meant they were able to take greater risks at the research and development phase and boost their capabilities. Their partnership with Lightfoot also helped develop a software platform that enables the cell to be integrated into various existing manufacturing functions.
They now work with customers from across the globe from automotive to aviation to heavy industry, helping them speed up production by providing high-volume manufacturing processes and equipment.
They have been able to help more organisations step into the EV sector with enhanced product lifetime and cost-effective componentry, best-in-class modular manufacturing methodology and fastest route to market for in-house e-machine production.
From a jobs perspective, the team has grown at a rapid rate, from four people to 21 in just 12 months. The company workforce is expected to grow to 30 members of staff in 2022 while there are also plans to move into a new facility.
“Revenue allowed us to build the team organically and APC funding was great at the start of our business for getting engineers on board. It’s been a phenomenal journey in that sense,” said Jim.
“It also enabled us to get the skillsets and develop the coil-winding product, and as a result of that we won some significant contracts.”
In October they announced a milestone contract with another APC project partner, electric motor company Saietta, and have been able to agree other commercial deals thanks to the progress achieved with the initial APC funding.
The support from APC means Electrified Automation is helping the UK drive the electric revolution and shape the future of British manufacturing.