SUBCON 5-7 June 2018 NEC Birmingham

Packed with keynote presentations and practical workshops — the annual event returns to the NEC

Posted on 02 Jun 2018 and read 746 times
SUBCON 5-7 June 2018 NEC BirminghamNow in its 42nd year, Subcon is considered to be a ‘must attend’ event in the calendar of engineering and sub-contract manufacturing businesses.

Returning to the NEC in Birmingham from 5 to 7 June, more than 4,500 manufacturing and engineering professionals from all industry sectors are expected to attend the three-day show, which will be packed with keynote presentations and practical workshops.

Subcon is billed as ‘the defining event in the manufacturing supply-chain calendar’, bringing together the contract manufacturing community for networking, learning and collaboration, and it is the ideal venue for companies to source suppliers, benchmark capabilities and secure the right partners to help them remain competitive in the global market.

This year’s show has attracted over 400 exhibitors, covering the complete manufacturing cycle from concept to finished part, bringing together design engineering product development, in-house production and out-sourced supply chains.

From machining and die-casting to MRP software, lasers and plastics, Subcon has it covered.

Many of these companies are leaders in their fields, having made extensive investments in new machinery and technology, and they will be showcasing their latest capabilities and their range of services.

The best of British manufacturing will be on display alongside a wealth of market-leading international suppliers, all looking to help UK manufacturers increase their competitive advantage in 2018 and beyond.

New for this year will be a brand-new co-hosted event The Engineer Expo, dedicated to providing UK engineering professionals with the latest in-house manufacturing and design solutions, alongside cutting-edge developments in advanced engineering technologies.

The show provides a unique platform for engineers to source the latest technology, products and services, enabling them to optimise production and process throughout the manufacturing cycle.

Also taking place at the same time at the NEC will be Automechanika Birmingham, the UK’s leading exhibition for the automotive after-market and vehicle production sector.

Subcon has partnered with this show to enable all visitors to attend both events by registering just once for their visitor badge.


WEC Group (, one of the UK’s largest sub-contract engineering and fabrication companies, will be showcasing its increased laser cutting, CNC machining and fabrication capacity at Subcon (stand C15).

Subcon pic 2Since exhibiting at the show last year, the company has invested £4.5 million in two ‘state of the art’ fibre laser cutting machines for its Rotherham- and Knowsley-based divisions, a third sliding-head lathe at WEC Machining in Blackburn, and additional manufacturing floorspace around the UK.

It has increased staff numbers from 800 to 875, is installing a brand-new automated powder coating unit at its HTA Group subsidiary in Coventry, and is planning further investments.

Exeter-based Blackhill Engineering ( has just been awarded an initial two-year production contract by Bruel & Kjaer VTS Ltd to fabricate base frames for high-specification testing equipment (see page 14).

The catalyst for this contract, which takes Blackhill into a new market, was a meeting between the two companies at last year’s Subcon exhibition.

It will be exhibiting on stand E58 at this year’s show. Its 28,000ft2 of workshop space gives it the flexibility to build large and small components and prototypes and to perform one-off, low-rate bespoke and continuous volume production.

Complex fabrication experts Universal Wolf ( will be exhibiting at Subcon for the first time since rebranding from Tharsus Engineering in October (stand E32).

Symbolising the company’s ‘passion for better’, the name Universal Wolf originates from a Shakespearean term for ambition and appetite.

Speaking ahead of the event, business development manager Craig Brown said: “This will be the first time we have exhibited with our new name and identity at a national show, and we are excited at the opportunity to promote our complex fabrication capabilities under the new brand.”

Cambridgeshire-based Orbital Fabrications ( will be celebrating its 30th anniversary at Subcon (stand C34).

Since 1988, the company has been offering specialised orbital welding and high-tech fabrication to a variety of clients in the semiconductor, pharmaceutical, medical, energy, aerospace, nuclear, chemical and allied sectors.

It now employs 45 people, and it recently announced the completion of a 3,500ft2 expansion of its factory.

A new apprenticeship scheme has also been started, and the company intends to recruit four more people over the next 12 months.

The machining-services sector is well represented, with investment in the latest machines and advanced material-handling equipment highlighted at the show.

Following a recent £400,000 investment, Carlton Die Castings (, which specialises in gravity casting, high-pressure casting and CNC machining, will showcase its new 500-tonne Colosio High Pressure Die Casting machine at Subcon (stand B35).

Carlton’s second such machine in three years, the purchase will increase capacity for existing customers, as well as offering capacity for potential new contracts.

A company spokesman said: “The current range of die casting machines can make parts up to 8kg, but the new machine will increase capacity for castings ranging from 1-4kg, where we currently see the greatest demand.”

Carlton has also recently purchased an electric Krownmatic dosing furnace and a new adiabatic water cooler.

Lutterworth-based Dudley Associates (, a precision tools and plastic injection mould specialist, has invested in CNC to improve lead times for clients (stand F11).

Subcon Dudley AssociatesA new Röders RXP801 high-speed machining centre with an automated robotic linear handling system will complement the company’s existing Röders RXP500, and they will now work 24/7.

These machines have a spindle speed of 42,000rev/min for high-precision machining.

Tamworth-based OnePlastics ( — one of the world’s fastest-growing plastics manufacturing companies — has invested heavily in its UK plastics operations over the last 12 months, driven partly by recent new business wins (stand E14).

The group has installed five new machines at its Protech Plastic Containers business and opened a 44,000ft2 logistics centre.

A seven-figure investment has also seen it acquire five high-tonnage injection moulding machines and a blow moulding machine for its sites in Hull and Rotherham.

Karl Stillman, group sales director, said: “Where we have been successful is moving upstream in the supply chain from just a manufacturer to a trusted advisor, which involved really starting to understand our customers’ business drivers and critical success factors, moving our relationship from purely transactional to more of a partnership approach.”

Malvern-based LGG Charlesworth (, a precision injection moulding specialist, is to unveil a new identity at Subcon (stand G11), with the launch of a new brand incorporating three trading divisions.

The first of these divisions, operating as Talisman Plastics, will focus on precision plastics injection moulding, serving the 5,000 to 500,000 volume market in the UK.

Talisman Security Seals will serve the health-care and general security seals market, and Talisman Caps & Closures will focus largely on the packaging sector.

The rebranding and restructuring project has been supported by investment in new injection mould tooling technology, the appointment of new project development and tooling managers, and the acquisition of an established caps and closures specialist.

Hungerford-based Kennet Plastics — acquired earlier this year — is a family business with an excellent reputation built up over the last 30 years.

Andover-based Perfect Bore Manufacturing ( a specialist in gun-drilling, deep-hole boring, CNC turning, honing, CNC grinding and super-finishing will be exhibiting at Subcon (stand D23) along with Bury-based Fintek (, which offers a full range of deburring, edge radiusing, fine grinding, smoothing, polishing and super-finishing services to AS9100 and ISO9001 standards.

Perfect Bore is continuously investing to keep pace with customers’ exacting requirements. A £1 million investment in a CNC/prismatic drilling division enables the company to drill multiple holes in various shaped blocks and offset holes in round billets.

These machines can provide cost-effective solutions to drilling holes in mould tools for high-end automotive applications, manifolds for oil and gas tool applications and plates for nuclear fabrications.

With AS9100, ISO14001 and OHSAS18000 accreditation, the company is also a partner in the Fit for Nuclear programme.

It also provides bore solutions for major OEMs, with approvals from clients including Airbus, BAE Systems, Goodrich Actuation Systems, Boeing, Moog and Rolls-Royce.

Fintek offers a sub-contract super-finishing service to clients in a broad range of high-precision industries, including major aerospace component manufacturers, motor-sport organisations, medical-device implants and prosthesis, pharmaceutical and tool-making.

Managing director Jonathan Dean said: “Our capability to achieve a micro surface finish to Ra 0.01µm helps component manufacturers to meet their customer expectations for wear parts that reduce friction, generate less heat and are more durable.

“Improved surface finishes are also providing a much better base for subsequent hard coating processes.”

Hard-to-reach burrs, hard coating droplets, brittle edges, extremely thin parts and fragile parts all present challenges to manufacturers.

Fintek has the know-how — and machines from OTEC Präzisionsfinish GmbH — to solve these problems. Typically, a part can be deburred, edge-rounded, smoothed and polished in one process cycle.

The latest developments in the medical sector will also be showcased at Subcon.

Oxfordshire-based NikaWorks (, which specialises in ultra-hard and adherent coatings, has partnered with Surgical Holdings — a surgical instrument manufacturer and repairer in Southend-on-Sea — to develop new coatings for surgical instruments (stand J2).

NikaWorks picTogether, they are developing physical vapour deposition (PVD) coatings for colour identification, scratch-resistance and reduced friction, plus hard, adherent and antimicrobial coatings.

Alistair Kean, managing director of NikaWorks, said: “We are excited to be working with Surgical Holdings on the development of next-generation surgical instruments, all within the UK.”

Worcestershire-based MIE (, a leading provider of MRP production control software for the manufacturing sector, will be showcasing its solution at Subcon (stand E37).

With over 25 years’ experience and global deployments, MIE focuses on capacity planning software for manufacturing professionals.

Less administration, healthier profit margins, smoother operations and improved quality and customer service are the hallmarks of the MIE suite.

Machinery Market ( is once again a media partner to Subcon (stand C42) and will be distributing free copies of the weekly magazine.

Find out how ‘the tool of the trade’ can promote your company in the UK and overseas — in print and on-line.

Those looking to source machinery after the show should visit, which contains thousands of used and new machines from many of Europe’s leading machine tool dealers.

Survey boost for sub-contractors

New research from Subcon shows that nearly 40% of manufacturing companies in the engineering sector plan to increase the amount of work they sub-contract next year. The research revealed that two-thirds of the businesses surveyed used sub-contractors in the past year.

The main drivers for out-sourcing production were the lack of in-house capacity and a desire among manufacturers and engineering businesses to focus on their core competencies.

Of those engineering and manufacturing businesses that do use sub-contractors, 53% out-source up to 20% of their requirements, with more than a third out-sourcing work worth between £10,000 and £100,000 a year and the top 25% out-sourcing work worth between £100,000 and £1 million a year.

Gordon Kirk, Subcon event director, said: “One of the healthiest indicators is that — looking to the future — 30% of respondents expect to appoint new sub-contractors in the next 12 months.”

Digital technologies top of the agenda

Rolls-Royce CTO Paul Stein will make the keynote presentation at The Engineer Conference — a three-day and 36-session programme in two theatres showcasing cutting-edge innovation and best practice from the worlds of engineering, manufacturing and supply-chain management.

Digital technologiesIt runs alongside Subcon and is free for all show visitors to attend.

A key theme of this year’s conference is cross-sector collaboration and technology

Caroline Hargrove, CTO of McLaren Applied Technologies, will talk about how technological expertise in motor-sport can be spun out into other sectors, while BAE Systems’ Henry White will tell delegates how technology from the defence sector can be applied to the world of sport.

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