Hi-tech new Sheffield foundry safeguards 200 jobs

Sir Andrew Cook and Lord Sebastian Coe at the opening of the new William Cook Precision Foundry
Sir Andrew Cook and Lord Sebastian Coe at the opening of the new William Cook Precision Foundry
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Veteran industrialist Sir Andrew Cook opened a £6m ‘world leading’ foundry in Sheffield - but warned it was the “last throw of the dice.”

The chairman of William Cook Cast Products staged a grand opening of the facility at the firm’s Parkway site, with Lord Sebastian Coe, VIPs, friends and suppliers.

Pouring molten metal at William Cook Cast Products in Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

Pouring molten metal at William Cook Cast Products in Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

It features the largest 3D printer in the world and a host of new machines and robotics which make moulds used to make the most complex cast products.

But Sir Andrew, aged 67, said that although it “cost £6m of family money and three years of toil and anxiety,” it was just the latest in a string of actions to save the business.

“I have changed the focus of the group many, many times over the last 50 years to cope with big market changes.

“Britain used to lead the world in coal mining machinery, trucks and lorries were a big market which has gone to cheaper, lighter materials. “

The great disappointment is trains. We sell to train companies but the British Government doesn’t specify UK content. This is the tide we have to swim against.

“Today is like opening a shop. If we get it right, people will buy from us, if we haven’t there’s nothing more I can do. But there will be growth, there has to be growth to justify the investment, and we have 40 apprentices coming through the system.”

The new Precision Foundry also safeguards 200 existing jobs. It serves the oil and gas, defence, aerospace, transport and energy sectors.

As part of the investment, a plant at Halfway has closed with staff transferred to the Parkway site.

In a speech to workers Sir Andrew - who was knighted by former PM David Cameron last year - said: “I have often been faced with difficult decisions, but my nature is to never give up. I decided to give both businesses a future by bringing them together in this site and modernising them to serve markets now and in the future.”

The Group employs 500 in total across three sites, in Sheffield, Leeds and County Durham. Turnover is £60m, export is 80 per cent of business.

Moulds made with the 3D printer are one tenth of the cost, use a tenth of the material and take a tenth of the time to make compared to traditional machining.

Lord Coe hails string of business successes

Lord Coe hailed Sheffield’s manufacturing expertise following a string of high profile announcements in the run-up to the opening of the new foundry.

Boeing and McLaren have announced new factories and Forgemasters is investing £6m in machinery - a similar sum to the investment at William Cook.

The former Tapton schoolboy said:“It’s really great to see manufacturing businesses wanting to gravitate towards cities with a history, critical mass and expertise in the sector.

“I realise the importance of manufacturing, it’s not something successive governments have always appreciated.

“But if you don’t manufacture anything there’s not a lot to service. People in manufacturing take their lives in their hands most of the time.

“Thank you for your commitment to this business and country.”

The foundry is one of a very few to open in the UK in the last 20 years and has given the entire industry a boost.

Roy Wollard, group supply chain manager, was the project manager.

He said: “I feel delight it’s gone so well. I’m very proud we have go such an outstanding facility. I don’t think anyone in the UK can offer as a great a range of products and services. WC stands for William Cook but also ‘World Class’.”