ROBOtech is boosting business at a North East metal fabricators.
Specialist fabricators, Almet, is expecting turnover to increase by 40%, as it prepares to invest in robotic welding technology and increase its factory size. 
The Washington-based business is laying the groundwork to increase by 12,000 sq ft as it invests to enhance processes, following support from the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project. 
The company, created in 1995, started out supplying large businesses in the region with general metalwork requirements and soon expanded into the automotive and yellow goods industries.
From one-off bespoke prototypes to batch production items, Almet manufactures and supplies a diverse range of products to customers including Nissan, Komatsu and Caterpillar.  
As the business developed, Almet built an in-house paint plant as well as launching their sister company Temla Laser, which is run by Almet director Paul Almond’s son and daughter, providing the latest in laser cutting technology. 
Paul said: “The SAM Project has helped us with several programmes, the latest one being robotic welding. The support is invaluable to us, as we didn’t know the ins and outs of robotic welding, or if it would suit our process. SAM was able to show us live demonstrations and explore what we could actually achieve with the machines. 
“We may have invested in this technology in the future, but it would have taken us considerably longer – probably another couple of years - to get there without this support.
“Now we’re looking to invest in robotics within the next six months, so they have really sped up the process and allowed us to get there faster, which is important to stay competitive within this industry.” 
Almet is also expanding into the adjoining unit, increasing its current 17,000 sq ft factory to 29,000 sq ft. This will allow the business to move and expand its paint plant - currently based across the road – keeping everything under one roof. 
Paul said: “Now that we’re getting the facilities in place, as a target within two years, we’d like to increase the turnover for both Almet and Temla by 40% and this will create new, highly skilled jobs.” 
The SAM Project is a £10.9m collaboration between the European Regional Development Fund, the University of Sunderland and the Northern Powerhouse Initiative and Industry, supporting the implementation of product and process development and the introduction of technology within the SME manufacturing base in the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership area. 
Roger O’Brien, research and technical lead at the SAM Project and head of AMAP, said: “It’s a pleasure to work with Paul and the team at Almet to help them explore how new technology such as robotic welding can improve processes, as well provide access to grant assisted funding to support business growth.
“The SAM Project was set up to help the region’s SME manufacturers improve processes and unlock potential in terms of innovation and growth.
“Almet is a great example of this in action and we wish them all the best as they continue to grow.”