Traceability specialist Pryor wins two Sheffield Business Awards

Traceability specialist Pryor wins two Sheffield Business Awards

Pryor is delighted to have received two accolades at the 2019 Sheffield Business Awards, for Innovation and Business Person of the Year, awarded to Sales Director, Alastair Morris.

The awards, now in their eighteenth year, are firmly established as the leading awards ceremony to recognise Sheffield businesses for their hard work and success. The glittering awards ceremony was held on 5th December at Ponds Forge in Sheffield City Centre and attended by an impressive 900 guests from across the Sheffield City Region.

Representatives from Pryor included a range of colleagues from production, design, sales and finance. Accepting the Innovation Award, on behalf of design and production, was Simon Dunn, Operations Director and former Pryor apprentice, with colleague Jonathan Pymm, Design Project Manager.

Accepting the award, on behalf of Alastair Morris for Business Person of the Year, was Dan Stephenson, Pryor Machinery Sales Manager.

Innovation is at the heart of Pryor

Now in its 170th year of manufacturing in Sheffield City Centre, Pryor continues to thrive through a combination of innovation, reinvestment and employee retention. In 2014, this combination delivered a step change for the company following the successful design, manufacture and installation of a fully automated, turnkey robotic marking system into a major automotive OEM.

The success of the project highlighted Pryor’s ability to support manufacturers as they switch to automation, connected manufacturing and flexible production systems. Pryor is unique in its industry, having a full team of software developers, mechanical designers, production and technical support, all based at the company’s historic UK headquarters, in Sheffield. Using one supplier, with full system responsibility, including installation, is a major benefit for customers.

The system, designed by Pryor, defied convention by using a robot-mounted laser to engrave a vehicle identification number (VIN) in three locations throughout the chassis. To achieve this, Pryor developed several innovative techniques to surmount challenges presented by robotic laser marking. From a cutting-edge vision system and software to guide the robot and verify VIN quality, to the production-line integrated light-safe cell to fully shield the marking process.

The system delivered a range of benefits to the customer with improved VIN quality at the core of the project. The customer suffered significantly from vehicles being rejected at import to foreign nations because of non-conforming VIN marks. This either leads to scrapping a brand-new vehicle or costly return to the UK for rework, which costs between £20,000 and £60,000 per vehicle.

The new laser system reduced production cycle times for the customer, from around 20 seconds with scribe engraving to 4 seconds with laser engraving. As a contactless marking technology, laser engraving requires no clamping and no expensive fixtures. This allows the customer complete flexibility on their production lines to quickly change from one model to another, requiring only the selection of a new robot programme.

The ground-breaking vision system developed by Pryor not only overcame the challenge of guiding the laser, mounted on a six-axis robot, with mark verification, it also introduced a sophisticated CCTV system. This system records multiple video streams, documenting the entire marking process. In the event of an issue being found with a vehicle at any point in its life-cycle, simply searching its unique VIN returns multiple camera angles of the process alongside a full data report of parameters and systems measurements. This saves quality engineers time in research and analysis of fault finding, and the video logging system has subsequently been implemented on other manufacturing processes unrelated to marking.

By integrating robotic marking systems in this innovative system, Pryor has since been able to sell multiple robotic systems in both the automotive and aerospace industries. This enabled Pryor to achieve its highest ever turnover in 170 years of trading.

Although Pryor offered VIN marking before this innovation, they were not the market leader in the technology. This solution allowed Pryor to reclaim automotive market share from overseas competitors. This growth has not just been for the laser VIN systems, but for a full range of marking technologies which the company has been able to present to new customers because of the reputation it has established.

Five years after its launch, Pryor remains the only marking company in the world with experience of laser VIN marking, able to quote systems internationally, where it previously had no automotive business.

A new addition to the board

The Pryor board of directors features incredible experience and talent, with the three operational directors having over 86 years’ service at the company between them and having delivered key innovations to the industry, developing computer controlled, dot peen marking machines for the aerospace industry. During 2015, when Pryor was busy delivering its first robotic marking system to the automotive sector, the board of directors recruited Alastair Morris as sales director. With a background in the automotive sector, Alastair was tasked with changing the culture of the sales organisation and driving the growth of the business.

During the intervening years, Alastair has transformed the sales team and spearheaded two key strategic initiatives that have contributed to a 45% growth in profitable sales and the company’s highest ever turnover in its 170-year history. The first initiative was the creation of a new, Automation Division based at the Sheffield headquarters, to seize the opportunity presented by Pryor’s burgeoning reputation as a leading supplier of integrated, turnkey projects using robotics, vision systems and automation.

Automation sales have grown to support the new Division as a self-sustaining business unit from early 2019. Software integration, vision systems and robotics have become core product offerings for the Division, serving an impressive range of well-known global brands, as a Traceability Systems provider.

Alastair has worked to raise the profile of Pryor, acting as the public face of the company on multiple trade bodies, in media interviews and transforming the company’s brand as an advanced manufacturing systems supplier. This strategy has led Pryor to national innovation awards, membership of the AMRC and exposure for the Pryor name way beyond that of the size of the organisation.

To support sales of the new Automation Division, the UK and US markets were identified as target markets. Alastair single-handedly scoped the US market before presenting a business plan proposal to the board for establishment of a wholly owned subsidiary, located in Richmond, Virginia.

Alastair has made 18 transatlantic trips, personally overseeing and leading every aspect of the establishment of the subsidiary, the facility, recruitment and direct line management of all personnel. In order to further instil Pryor’s culture in the fledgling organisation and nurture its growth, Alastair moved his own young family to Virginia for 8 months in 2018.

Looking to the future

Despite the prospect of challenging times ahead for the global economy, Pryor continues to forge ahead with its growth plans. During 2020 Pryor will unveil the next stage of investments within its historic Sheffield headquarters. Led by Pryor’s AMRC apprentices, many of whom will move into leadership roles during 2020, work continues to modernise legacy equipment and improve processes, using data capture and business intelligence across the company.

Alastair Morris, Pryor Sales Director and Business Person of the Year said, “I am truly honoured to be recognised in this way in the City of Sheffield. It is testament to the hard work of Pryor’s sales teams on both sides of the Atlantic rather than anything I have done by myself. At Pryor we are very proud to be such a significant part of Sheffield’s manufacturing past, present and future.”

Find out more about Pryor's first robotic laser VIN marking system