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View from the Mill, the Renishaw blog

Welcome to the 'View from the Mill' blog, written by Renishaw for anyone that has an interest in us or the wonderful world of engineering technologies. We add new articles each week, aiming to give an alternative commentary on our own organisation and technologies, news from the industries that we serve, or generally items that take our interest. You can receive the blog via email, Twitter or RSS.

If you have any comments, questions or suggestions then please email us.

All rise for 2012

Renishaw balloon above Bristol
Posted 20th Dec 2012 by Chris in recruitment, gloucester rugby, balloon, ben morgan, nigel holland

It's been quite a year here at Renishaw with many highlights - a 15th Queen's Award, a prestigious Physics award that honoured our co-founders, the opening of our first Mexican subsidiary, our 10th office in China, one of our apprentices being named Gloucestershire's apprentice of the year (in a year that we had a record apprentice intake), the official opening of our new manufacturing facility in South Wales, record financial results reported throughout the year, our global staff numbers passing 3,000 people, and our main assembly facility being named the UK's Best Electronics Plant. And then there was our new balloon.....

In July we launched a hot air balloon out of Gloucester Rugby's stadium. On board was England rugby international Ben Morgan, who we are sponsoring this season - Ben was born just a stone's throw from our HQ, went to school locally and also played his formative rugby at Dursley RFC, with whom we and our staff have strong connections. And it was a night of firsts - the first flight for G-RENI (the aviation code for the balloon), Ben's first balloon ride and first public appearance at the stadium since signing from Llanelli Scarlets, the first time since 1895 that a balloon had flown out of Kingsholm stadium, and the first balloon that we have ever sponsored.

So why a balloon? We were asked that question by a business magazine recently, and here is the short article entitled 'Smart marketing or just hot air?' that Chris Pockett, our Head of Communications, wrote in response:

"I’d always looked into the skies and assumed that hot air balloons were all operated by businesses with the type of marketing budgets that I could only dream of. However, as is often the case, reality is rather different.

An approach from Gloucestershire-based Exclusive Ballooning at the start of 2012 to sponsor (not own) one of their commercially operated balloons appealed on a number of fronts, but primarily to do with raising brand awareness. We would pay them if we wanted the balloon for a specific purpose, but other than that they cover all other costs.

Renishaw is the county’s largest employer with over 1,700 people at our 5 sites, but as a niche technology brand with no consumer products very few people know us – not a problem for most of our history, but we currently have significant vacancies and with a shortage of engineers we are now competing for talent against some very well known engineering businesses in the region.

So, the opportunity of getting our brand ‘eyeballed’ by hundreds of thousands of people across the area simply became too good to resist. But another great attraction was that Exclusive Ballooning is the UK’s only balloon operator certified for wheelchair flights, so we could see a real opportunity to do some good things within the community.

And who doesn’t love to see a balloon in the sky? They bring out the hidden child in us all and to be able to tap into that emotional connection is really powerful. With social media everyone with a camera is now a photo journalist and really benefitted us during the Bristol Balloon Fiesta which was attended by over 500,000 people.

A balloon also gives you marketing opportunities that you never had before – the launch out of Kingsholm Stadium in July was a prime example. That event received great media coverage both locally and overseas – we had customers in the USA watching ESPN that night who contacted us afterwards. It was touch and go with the weather that night which is an issue with ballooning, so unlike many marketing platforms things can be beyond your control.

What has also been great has been the pride expressed by many of our staff at seeing the balloon at the Fiesta, Kingsholm and across the county’s skies. And my proudest moment? It wasn’t Kingsholm, the Fiesta nightglow, or numerous images in The Times, Telegraph or Mail Online, but meeting wheelchair-bound Nigel Holland who came a long way to complete one of his 50 tasks in the Renishaw balloon – see for details.

We’re only 5 months into a 3-year sponsorship of exciting possibilities – no regrets!"

With its strong colours, the Renishaw balloon really does look great when it appears in the skies of the western regions of England (in the image above it is seen above the skies of Bristol), and we like it so much that is also appears alongside a cartoon depiction of our 19th century HQ building in this year's bespoke animated festive card.

Season's greetings to all and thank you for your support in 2012 and whilst we will aim to post more blogs in 2013, you can see regular daily updates from us throughout the year on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

Letting others do the talking

RAMTIC at Stonehouse
Posted 25th Apr 2012 by Chris in engineering, manufacturing, apprenticeships, machine tools, skills, stonehouse

Improving the image of manufacturing and engineering and encouraging more young people into the sector has been a constant theme running across our blogs since we first started them in November 2009. However, we all know that our own words are not enough - so today, we're handing over to a recent visitor to our Stonehouse (Gloucestershire) machine shop who attended a schools open afternoon that we held this week as part of the inaugural Stroud Festival of Manufacturing & Engineering. 

We've hidden her identity, but otherwise these are the unabridged words of a lady who accompanied a group of young girls who attend a local secondary school: 

"Dear Renishaw,

May I just say a huge thank you for your time and effort. That was a truly fantastic tour and a marvellous visit for the girls and I.

They have learned so much and have taken away a brilliantly positive impression of engineering and manufacturing today.

We all really liked your  pride and enthusiasm, particularly that our apprentice-guide showed for his work. It is evident that Renishaw is a good employer.

I really believe it is something that more of our school children should have the chance to see, from an educational point of view as well as looking at future careers.

I love the way that everything was so clean and tidy and planned in such a way to reduce waste and promote safety. It was a lovely working environment, light and airy.

It was a truly superb display of up-to-date engineering and technology. The visit has helped to put into context the girls’ science and design studies and lessons.

We loved the quiz.  Thank you for the gift folders (and cake).

Please thank our tour guide once again for us, he gave us some fantastic answers to our questions and really helped us to understand what was happening.

Many thanks once again for giving us such a fabulous opportunity to see around the Stonehouse site."

As our local MP Neil Carmichael said at the opening of the Stroud Festival, 'show and tell' is very powerful.

This Saturday (28th April) we are opening the Stonehouse facility to the community, so if you know anyone that might like to see what modern manufacturing is REALLY like, then do let them know that we are open from 10am to 3pm, with last tours at 2pm.

More details and directions to the site can be seen at

Getting the measure of the UK’s most prestigious business awards

SP80 with changer rack
Posted 21st Apr 2012 by Chris in tool breakage detection, sir david mcmurtry, measurement, gloucestershire, queen's award, dame janet trotter, scanning, sp80

On Saturday we were again honoured to receive a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovations category for our highly innovative SP80 ultra-high accuracy analogue scanning probe. The product is used on co-ordinate measuring machines (CMMs) for the highly accurate measurement of complex parts such as automotive and power train components.

This is the 15th Queen’s Award that we have won in our 39-year history, making Renishaw one of the UK’s most successful award winners of all time, with only internationally renowned brands such as British Aerospace, Rolls-Royce and JCB having achieved more recognition from Her Majesty.

In some parts of the world Queen’s Awards are well known, but still remain something of an enigma to many people living outside the UK. However, they are quite simply the most prestigious award for business performance that a UK-based company can receive.

They were first granted in 1966 and originally known as ‘The Queen’s Award to Industry’, were only available for organisations. Today there are three Queen’s Award for Enterprise categories – International Trade, Innovation and Sustainable Development, plus an award for individuals, The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion. All awards are conferred annually by the Queen on her birthday, the 21st April.

As might be expected for an award given in the name of the British Sovereign, the assessment process for entries is rigorous. An Advisory Committee containing representatives from Government, industry and trade unions, assist the British Prime Minister in advising Her Majesty The Queen as to whom should win an Award.

Commenting on his company’s latest award, our Chairman and Chief Executive, Sir David McMurtry, highlighted the contribution of staff from across the world who have ensured the success of the SP80 scanning probe, from innovative designers and skilled manufacturing personnel, through to the highly dedicated sales staff from across our offices in 32 countries

The SP80 is designed for the highly accurate measurement of parts with deep features and can therefore carry very long styli up to 800 mm long with a mass of up to 500 g with no counter balancing and no significant degradation in measuring performance. The dynamic response of the probe enables highly accurate scanning without sacrificing speed, thereby reducing production bottlenecks and improving process control.

Given that annually around 150-200 Queen’s Awards are granted to businesses and individuals across the UK, the Queen has to delegate the presentation of awards to her regional representatives. Within each UK administrative ‘County’ (similar to a US state), there is a Lord-Lieutenant who is the permanent representative of the King or Queen in that County. In Gloucestershire, where Renishaw is based, there have been eight awards this year, ensuring that our own Lord-Lieutenant, Dame Janet Trotter, will be kept busy over the summer period at award ceremonies.

As has happened fourteen times before, representatives from Renishaw associated with the SP80 will also attend a special function in the grounds of Buckingham Palace during July, a special privilege that last year was enjoyed by two members of the design team for our TRS2 laser-based tool recognition system which won the same Innovations award in 2011.