Forgingmagazine 336 85618forgingrob00000058132

What Do You Have to Offer?

April 8, 2010
An engineering consulting group specializes in forging processes and operations worldwide. Now, in advance of FORGE FAIR in Cincinnati, PJH Engineering Solutions sets its sight on North America.
A robot manipulates a forging in a screw press operation. PJH Engineering Solutions is an experienced engineering “problem solver” for forging operations.

PJH Engineering Solutions is a British consulting group with a global portfolio of forging projects, as well as a worldwide reputation for insights and expertise in forging technology. Now, Managing Partner Stephen Goldthorpe explains, the group aims to expand its profile in North America. In a recent interview, Goldthorpe introduces FORGING readers to the organization, its experiences and philosophy, and what it may offer for their organizations’ future development.

So what does PJH do?
It says on the packet that we’re Consulting Engineers and Project Managers but what we’re really about is “problem solving.” We’re industrial hired guns with specific and extensive knowledge of metal forming products, facilities, and operations. We develop solutions, and we implement them.

How does that work? Aren’t forging companies best qualified to deal with their own problems?
Today’s manufacturing companies have to be lean to survive; under- or over-utilized resources represent a risk to the value stream. Good organizations have only the people and resources they need to deal efficiently with the problems associated with achieving their targets. PJH provides an additional specialist resource to deal with non-reoccurring problems and without legacy costs.

In the manufacturing industries we often use external help in finance, HR, quality, productivity, and so on; such consultants are usually generalists with little direct knowledge of our industry. PJH provides time-served, professionally qualified engineers and managers to deal with the product and facility problems that come with metal forming.

It’s the nature of the consulting business that we’re exposed to a vast range of issues on different products, processes and locations. Using this experience we build solutions specific to our clients needs; this is what PJH brings to the table.

What’s the background to PJH?
I started out in metal forming as Chief Designer of Automation at U.K. plant builder B&S Massey and followed that with stints running manufacturing liaison, service, installation, and later equipment sales at Davy Loewy (Davy McKee). I left to develop my own business and after 15 years had the U.K.’s largest forging plant service company. That was sold, and in 2000 I set up PJH to get back to my technical roots. Our partners and associates are like-minded senior people I’ve worked with or for, over the years, they have complementary skills in technology, operations and management.

Initially we did a lot of work in the construction industry designing mechanical elements for bridges such as Carquinez in California and buildings like Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport. We still do some of that, but former customers in metal forming kept approaching us for advice, and by 2002 forging was our dominant market sector.

Define “problem solving”?
How long is a piece of string? Examples and case studies probably provide the best insight to the way we work but a lot of what we do for clients is confidential and so can only be described in the round.

In-house design and analysis capability, and experience, allow PJH Engineering Solutions to produce integrated solutions, such as determining the stress point for the tool holder cross-head of a vertical hydraulic extrusion press. The tool set was redesigned using compound construction and differential temperature control to reduce loading on the crosshead, while increasing the product volume by 30%. A byproduct of the tool redesign was a 600% increase in die life.

One type of contract we’re often asked to undertake is “project validation” or ‘sanity checks’ on our client’s plans; these don’t always result in what they expect.

A major aero-engine producer was intending to invest in five new super-plastic forming presses; they asked us to check their proposal. The objective was to double output. We identified that the investment was only needed because of the loss of production during tool change. Our solution was to design a system that allowed them to change tools at 1,650°F.

We’ve actually done a lot of work on tool-change and have designed SMED systems for conventional closed-die presses from 1,000 tons up to 12,000 tons. All of them change main press dies in less than 10 minutes and often job-change for the whole line take less than 15 minutes — last forging to first piece, next batch.

What Methods & Tools do you use to come up with and implement solutions?
We’re not plant OEMs or merchants so our thinking is not constrained by having to sell catalogue products or stock. Every problem can be tackled to maximize benefits to our clients.

We have in-house design and analysis capability, which are actually superior to many OEMs. To get comparable modeling, FEM or simulation facilities you’d probably have to go to specialist software houses or a university where they may lack the industrial knowledge or even a commercial ethos.

Because we have these tools plus experience under one roof, we’re able to produce integrated solutions; for example, we were asked to check-out the tool holder cross-head of a vertical hydraulic extrusion press to see if it could be adapted to take a larger die. Chief Analyst Mike Smith put the crosshead through FEM and found a stress ‘hot spot’ while still using the original die size. We told the client he had a problem but he didn’t believe us so we cleaned the press down to reveal cracks exactly where predicted.

A new crosshead was needed but that was months away and the client still had the larger parts to produce. We redesigned his tool set using advanced techniques such as compound construction and differential temperature control to reduce loading on the crosshead while increasing the product volume by 30%. A byproduct of the tool redesign was a 600% increase in die life. We later designed, supplied and installed an upgraded crosshead.

OK, so that’s the technical resources, but what about management systems?
Our approach to project and problem management is all about “risk control”: risk of delay, risk of overspending, and risk of under-performance.

We identify what it is that gives rise to risk and mitigate or eliminate it through detail planning, brainstorming, and constant review with technical and commercial failure-mode evaluation. We’re aided in this by various tools, such as MS Projects, Vault Drawing Control, and a custom enterprise management system that supports our ISO 9001 registration.

At the end of the day, the tools are only to help. What really makes a successful project is the right people.

“We identify what it is that gives rise to risk, and mitigate or eliminate it through detail planning, brainstorming, and constant review with technical and commercial failure-mode evaluation.” — Stephen Goldthorpe, PJH Engineering Solutions.

All our senior people have held executive positions in larger organizations. Gordon Hallows was Projects Director of a major forging group; he was trained at Cranfield University (a post-graduate technical institute in Great Britain) and studied productivity improvement in Japan. For my part, I was part of the pilot group that established the “Chartered Manager” qualification in the U.K., which is akin to Chartered Accountant but with a broader managerial base.

This broad base was demonstrated when we were asked to evaluate a company’s investment proposals prior to its takeover by an Indian-based multinational. Their financial advisors didn’t exactly welcome our involvement as they’d done due diligence and given the target five stars.

It didn’t take us long to establish that the investment plans didn’t match the target products; the proposed and existing presses would be unsustainably overloaded to make forgings too big for them. We also turned up several irregularities in records for material utilization that the accountants, without the benefit of specific knowledge, had missed. The target was eventually purchased at a much-reduced price and our evaluation report was used as the guidebook for several more acquisitions in India and Europe.

What is a typical project for PJH?
There’s no such thing. Our clients range from multi-nationals to “mom and pop shops” and our projects range across just as broad a spectrum in content and value. The generic headings such as ‘Process Improvement’ used by some consultants can mean just about anything, but by way of example in recent months we’ve done projects on:

  • Structural Component Repair
  • Plant Relocation, (Greenfield and Brownfield).
  • New Plant Specifications
  • Material Utilization
  • Energy Consumption
  • Data Logging
  • Capital Spares Procurement
  • Plant Layout / Work Flow
  • Supplier Quality
  • Special Purpose Machinery (design and build)
  • Operational Due Diligence
  • Automation
  • Training

No one knows everything and one of the traits of a professional is to know what he doesn’t know and when to involve an expert. This is just as true of us as it is of our clients. Through our partners and associates we have access to a pool of specialist knowledge to ensure that our client gets the best assistance available.

Is there a special type of equipment or process you specialize in?
In a word, “no.” We’ve just completed a three-year upgrade on an integrated open-die forge. At the same time we relocated an automotive component factory from the U.K. to Eastern Europe, plus refurbished and retooled it en-route.

To date, we’ve built large three-screw press lines in the range of 12,000 to 16,000 tons, two for aerospace components and one for oilfield forgings. These press lines were based on used presses but we equipped them with handling, tooling and control systems that made them world leaders in their fields.

PJH has redesigned both aerospace and automotive forgings to reduce input weight and machining. We’ve also been involved in advising on the resurgence of giant forging hammers for some applications and special purpose hydraulic presses for others.

What’s next for PJH?
We have clients across Europe and Asia but currently only a few in the U.S.A. Admittedly those existing clients are multisite organizations but still our U.S. industry penetration is small compared to its potential to use us. We are looking to find a partner in the US who’ll provide a focus for new customers.

We’re not looking for a sales agent to add cost and filter communication. Our ideal partner in America would be an established technical consultancy that can contribute and add value to projects while benefitting from the expertise and technical resources we can provide.

The interviewer, Doug Trivella, is a media consultant with DOT Creative, who has experience marketing forged products.

Contact Stephen Goldthorpe by e-mail or phone at +44 7071 201 119, or visit PJH Engineering Solutions online.