Engineering group forges new technologies with traditional manufacturing processes

William Cook's Sheffield foundry

Family-owned engineering group William Cook is pioneering the integration of new technologies into its traditional manufacturing processes. It is a blend that is delivering results.

The group has been in business since 1840, starting life as a saw manufacturer and today it has factories in in Sheffield, Leeds and Stanhope in County Durham. At those sites it manufactures sophisticated engineered components, assemblies and systems for a huge range of applications.

The firm’s client base includes the Ministry of Defence, Alstom, Bombardier and Siemens. It employs 470 people across its three sites and has turnover in the region of £60m.

In the last five years it has spent more than £20m to bring its factories up to “world class standard” as well as investing heavily in technologies like 3D printing.

William Cook

Group commercial director William Cook said: “It would be very easy for business like ours to see developments such as additive manufacturing as a threat. We have done quite the opposite and embraced it.”

William Cook has invested £6m in its precision factory in Sheffield, further enhancing its design and engineering capabilities. It has installed the latest 3D printing and investment casting technology to allow the rapid manufacture of complex steel alloy components.

The firm says that integrating 3D printing and investment casting offers all the advantages of additive manufacturing alongside the material, strength and integrity of a cast metal component.

Cook added that its approach “is proving transformative for some parts of our business. It is about making it work for us.”

The group is also working on the development of graphene in its military vehicle track production operation in Stanhope as it seeks to harness more advantages from technological advances.  Here it is working with the Materials Engineering Research Institute (MERI) at Sheffield Hallam.

William Cook is also involved with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) in Sheffield and its training centre. Cook says the development of the AMRC has helped to spark “resurgence” in manufacturing in the region.

In September last year its rail operation in Leeds moved into full production of a multi-million pound export order to supply one of the world leaders in light rail systems.

The business is manufacturing ultra-high specification cast steel components for Alstom’s range of Citadis Spirit light rail vehicles for service in Ottawa, Canada.

William Cook has created 20 new engineering jobs in Leeds to help fulfil the orders, taking headcount to 180 people at the newly modernised factory. Cook said that the majority of its rail work is for export, with markets in Australia and South Africa as well as North America.