Safety specialist Fortress Interlocks has been honoured in this year's Queen's Awards for Enterprise. The company, based in Wolverhampton, produces equipment that protects lives in hazardous workplaces and has been recognised for its innovation.
The company's safety equipment ensures that potentially dangerous procedures take place in the correct, safe order. A simple example would be a sequence of locks that will only release the key to a hazardous area once all the power to the machinery within the area has been switched off.
Managing Director Mike Golding says: "Fortress has been at the forefront of developments in safety interlocking for over forty years, so we are especially proud to be honoured in the prestigious Queen's Awards for our innovation. As part of Halma plc, an international group of 40 companies with a successful, innovative history, we have always had a strong culture of innovation at Fortress and our new products demonstrate that."
The company has been honoured for its innovative modular range of safety interlocks. The mGard range dramatically reduces delivery times to the customer and is easily adaptable to changing circumstances. It has proven a major success in the marketplace, and has significantly reduced manufacturing costs; the range now accounts for nearly 40 per cent of Fortress' annual turnover.
Every industrial workplace has its own set of complex procedures and, in the past, these often required bespoke, application-specific interlocks. Delivery time to the customer was around six to eight weeks.
Fortress' innovative idea was to develop a modular range that enables complex systems to be quickly assembled from generic units. Now delivery times can be as soon as the next day. In addition, if circumstances change, the interlocks can be disassembled and easily adapted to the new procedures.
The customer benefits of the modular mGard range enabled Fortress to penetrate new markets, especially in North America. In addition, direct labour was reduced by 60 per cent.
Tim Stubbs, Fortress' Engineering Manager in charge of the mGard development, says: "There has always been a supportive approach within Fortress to innovation. The company is open to new ideas and change. Everyone involved with new product development is encouraged to voice their opinions. All employees have the opportunity to deliver innovative ideas to help Fortress improve its service to our customers."
Since the mGard range was introduced, Fortress has continued to innovate and has introduced an even more radical product range, eGard, with which it plans to penetrate the 85 per cent of the market that does not yet use interlocks. eGard is another modular system that can combine both interlocks and machine controls in one unit, providing a complete machinery access and control system.
The company hopes that eGard, which has already won an innovation award of its own, will help it double earnings over the next four years. The company has recently received funding from regional development agency Advantage West Midlands to help it expand and modernise by moving to a new factory site nearby.