Engineering Subcontractor Magazine July/August 2023 – read full article
It has always been the case that when Managing Director, Chris Weeds, describes NTR as a Tool Dentist, his audience grimaces. No one likes to think about breaking or chipping a tooth, but Chris is adamant that just like a dentist, NTR will have your cutting tools working like new.
Founded 45 years ago, NTR Ltd has gone from strength to strength since its acquisition by Chris and his fellow investors; Martin Allison, Graham Allison and Mike Shotton in July 2016. Based in Wetherby, West Yorkshire, the business serves the UK and 14 countries across Europe and boasts an enviable customer list.
NTR has repaired close to 1.5 million damaged indexable milling and turning tools over the years, with the service growing in popularity due to two inescapable factors; economics and the environment. With its new EnvironmenTOOL Service, NTR aims to provide a practical solution for both.
As we all know, escalating material costs in tooling manufacture have seen prices rising year on year and cheaper alternatives are often of inferior performance. The NTR EnvironmentTOOL Service has come to the rescue saving businesses up to 60% of purchasing a replacement new tool.
In many workshops when a tool is damaged, it is simply scrapped and replaced with a new one. This same process happens month in, month out with little consideration of the cost to the business – or the environment. This is where NTR disrupts the market and provides a realistic alternative at a lower cost and shorter lead-time.
Whilst research has shown that only around 29% of UK manufacturers class Net Zero as a priority, NTR has found that most decision makers from large conglomerates to smaller private engineering companies are considering the environmental impact of their businesses.
Repairing damaged tooling is not only a cost-effective way to manage your tooling, but also a more environmentally friendly process. Working with local suppliers where possible, and producing fewer carbon emissions, repairing, and reusing your tooling is great for your budget and better for the environment. It’s estimated that NTR, last year alone, recycled at least 268,000kg of metal tools.
With ISO 14001 Environmental Management targets and companies tasked with lowering their carbon emissions, NTR have become a key element of their client’s environmental strategy. The EnvironmenTOOL Service hopes to underline this for new and existing customers alike.
Commercial Supervisor, Charlotte Foster, who joined the company as an apprentice, is unapologetically a believer: “As one of the younger members of the NTR team, I love the green aspect of what we do. The more we re-use the planet’s resources, rather than plundering it further, the better it is for everyone. Recycling is second nature to NTR, and now we are celebrating our green credentials through our EnvironmenTOOL Service. Going forward I’m excited to say that all our repaired tools will be both figuratively and literally green!”
NTR aim to return tooling within the week, and by following these simple steps allows them to plan your tooling into their schedule efficiently, even prioritising specific tools for production concerns.
EnvironmenTOOL Service: 5 simple steps
NTR also offer a rapid repair service on a 48-hour turnaround for when disaster strikes, which are returned on a next day delivery service – you certainly won’t be without your tooling for long.
Much of what arrives at NTR looks so badly damaged that most machinists would never imagine that the tooling will be returned to them within the week as good as new.
The process is simple and is a major part of NTR’s on-going success. Like arriving at the Dentist’s Surgery, your tooling is checked in and all its details recorded. The initial examination gives a clear indication of the work needed and the associated costs. The customer then decides which tools are economically viable for repair and the work begins.
The first step is strip-down which is a more thorough assessment of damage and includes the preparation of the tool for machining. Most tooling will initially be TIG welded back to a slightly greater dimension to that of its original size and shape.
The milling team will then mill the tool pockets back to their original geometry and tolerances. The tool then moves onto the grinding engineers who machine in a rotary plane to cut the tool back to its original diameter. Imperfections are removed and internal threads recut where needed.
Although a thorough inline inspection occurs throughout the process, the final inspection is the most rigorous using NTR’s latest investment in geometry camera technology from Royal. Only then, will the tool be signed off, with a certificate of conformity.
And, like all good dental patients, each tool is given a sticker to go home with too!
THE NTR TEAM
Many of the Team at NTR have worked there for over 20 years and their expertise in the field is second to none. A true understanding of the complex geometry involved in tooling is in their DNA and the care given to each cutting tool is impressive.
Sam Wood, General Manager, explains, “The amount of experience on the shop floor is huge. There isn’t a tool type that we haven’t tackled at one time or another. From simple end-mill cutters through to incredibly complex porcupine cutters, the team love a challenge. Probably the largest tooling we have in regularly, are the cutters for railway tracks. The tooling obviously takes a lot of punishment, but we do take pride in knowing that in a small way, we help keep the trains running across the UK.”
Skilled manual engineers are hard to come by and NTR are also developing an apprenticeship scheme to introduce school leavers to the world of Engineering, introducing them to both manual skills as well as CNC machining to ensure their knowledge is well rounded.
Keeping the standards high, NTR are accredited to ISO 9001:2015 and Fit4Nuclear. NTR proudly holds these accreditations as an absolute minimum for the accuracy and product quality that the team achieve daily.
It was probably an obvious progression as tooling experts that NTR would evolve their services to include other maintenance and repair solutions. The can-do attitude of Sam and his management team has meant that they apply their expertise to a range of applications, gaining superior knowledge as they go.
Driven/Live Tooling was one such example when existing customers started complaining about the standard of repair services in the sector. When Sam brought this to the attention of the team, the skills were already available in-house and a new NTR service was born.
Sam explains, “As manufacturers ourselves, we understand that keeping machines running is crucial to a business. A machine down often means missed deadlines, resources not utilised and most importantly, unhappy customers. Offering a repair and service package has meant less downtime for a number of high-profile clients.”
Every unit is dismantled and pre-inspected before work commences. The unit is then thoroughly cleaned and degreased with a close inspection of all the components. Bearings and seals are replaced and upgraded where appropriate, before it is regreased and sealed.
Concentricity and alignment checks are then carried out before the Driven Tool is finally rig tested by our qualified engineers. It is then logged on a register and the replacement parts documented against the date when the tool is to be next serviced. The tool is then returned in a ready-for-use state.
Chris is rightfully proud of NTR’s achievements over the last few years and sees great things for them in the future as they reach international audiences.
“For all of us at NTR, it’s a matter of changing the mindset of machinists, tool room managers and business owners. The message is simple: stop wasting money and precious resources by throwing away broken tooling. Together we can make a small difference that can result in great change.”
With their enduring investment into technology, new machinery and raising awareness of how we can all be greener, you can be sure that NTR will continue to grow and meet the tooling needs of the future.
Remember, the next time you crash a tool, the Tool Dentist is ready and waiting.
REPAIR, REUSE, RECYCLE YOUR CUTTING TOOLS WITH NTR LTD
For 45 years, NTR Ltd has been the go-to team for tooling repair and remanufacture across the UK and Europe. The self-proclaimed Tool Dentists, are at the leading edge of the reuse and recycling of metal cutting tools in the UK.
As they celebrate their anniversary this year, Chris Weeds, owner and Managing Director, has put their green credentials at the forefront of their operations. Their EnvironmenTOOL Service aims to bring attention to the importance of recycling and reusing the planet’s resources while enjoying the cost saving benefits that brings.
Based in Wetherby, West Yorkshire the company serves 13 countries across Europe and has over 400 regular customers employing their services. Although recycling is the very basis of their roots, the NTR Team are also a true precision engineering company with decades of experience in new tooling design and component manufacture.
This combination of skills and expertise mean that the same technical knowledge and quality control is maintained across all areas of the business. NTR serves a diverse range of industry sectors, from aerospace to automotive, construction to rail. From household named conglomerates to independent engineering companies.
Chris, and the team, are proud of the history of the business which has steered stormy seas in the past, but finds itself in a strong period of growth and investment. It is thanks to the hard work and dedication of everyone who has worked for the company over the decades that NTR has gone from strength to strength and never forgotten that precision engineering is at the heart of everything they do.