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NPL North – Meet the 3M BIC business

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Up next in our Meet the 3M BIC Business series is the National Physical Laboratory’s (NPL) northern hub, NPL North.

NPL North is one of our longest-standing tenants, having been here since we opened our doors 10 years ago. It was set up to improve the quality of local manufacturing businesses in the North of England and help them complete at a global level.

Here Andy Morris, operations manager at NPL North, talks about how the northern hub has been supporting manufacturing businesses in the North for over a decade, the industry’s shift towards digitisation and the team’s plans for further growth in 2023.

Tell us about NPL and the team based at the 3M BIC?

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL) is the UK’s National Metrology Institute (NMI), developing and maintaining the national primary measurement standards, as well as collaborating with other NMIs to maintain the international system of measurement. As a public sector research establishment, we deliver extraordinary impact by providing the measurement capability that underpins the UK’s prosperity and quality of life. We develop the metrology required to ensure the timely and successful deployment of new technologies and work with organisations as they develop and test new products and processes.

 

NPL North (Huddersfield) specialise in supporting manufacturing businesses, particularly smaller businesses in our area. Specialities include Dimensional Metrology, Surface finish measurement, measurement of complex components, digitisation, sensors, X-ray Computerised Tomography (XCT), and Image analysis.

 

The team are based in four laboratories and an office, all of the labs are well equipped to provide the support needed by industry.

 

NPL also operate their Manufacturer Measurement Network (MMN) out of Huddersfield. This is an event-based network which specialises in passing on knowledge from scientists, engineers and specialists kin industry to anyone who sign up to their free events.

 

What projects are you currently working on?

The biggest project currently is supporting the SIPF funded Advanced Machinery & Productivity Initiative project along with partners in industry and academia, including the University of Huddersfield. Some of this work in Huddersfield is based around improving the capability of robots in manufacturing.

 

The team also regularly work on aerospace and medical related projects including validation of complex aerospace components and medical devices, and also undertook a lot of work on characterising PPE products during the lockdown period of the COVID-19 pandemic.

What made you move to the 3M BIC?

NPL had a small office and laboratory within the university which operated as a centre of support for local businesses. Over time, NPL outgrew this space and was offered to be a 3M BIC anchor tenant to which we agreed.

 

Why do you like being based at the 3M BIC?

The location is good, especially for businesses located on the M62 corridor. The building itself is a good place to meet other businesses and benefits from regular visits from people who have an interest in growing the UK economy, including industrialists, Members of Parliament and other influencers. It is also very useful having access to some of the equipment in the 3M BIC and to the meeting and event rooms.

What should we be looking out for in your industry?

 

In general most things are moving towards digitisation, this includes the move towards digital reporting. For smaller businesses to succeed they will need to adopt modern technologies to help improve their productivity, reduce waste, increase flexibility and become more competitive. A byproduct of this is that this could lead to them reducing energy costs and their associated carbon footprint.

What are the future plans for NPL?

NPL are currently advertising six roles as the team expands in Huddersfield. This expansion is based on the success of projects being undertaken and the demand for more of our services and support. NPL North links well with our other sites, in particular our 1,000 people strong Teddington site. This provides the region with an even greater range of support and capabilities and we expect to see more of this interaction in the next few years.

 

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