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A sustainable edge leads to transformative changes at Alpha Anodising

“The work undertaken in this project has so far exceeded our expectations, we are looking forward to getting the new system up and running in the business and continuing our productivity push through sustainability measures.”

Leslie Sharp, Managing Director, Alpha Anodising Ltd


Alpha Anodising Ltd was formed in 1972 to fulfil a requirement for quality black anodising of equipment for the motion picture industry. Anodising is an electrochemical process that develops an aluminium oxide coat on the surface of a part or product. This protects the product from wear and tear as well as enhancing the overall look.

Challenge and Drivers

Alpha Anodising were on a mission to develop their sustainability credentials and reduce the costs of running their energy intensive shop floor, which houses a swathe of large bubbling tanks preparing anodising treatments ready for products including high end consumer electronics, and industrial process equipment.

Another key driver was that more and more of their clients were requesting information about their Environmental, Sustainability and Governance (ESG) targets. To get an edge in this area, they wanted to energy monitor key equipment including three electrically powered 240V heaters heating a 1 1000L boil tank used during the anodisation process, which were responsible for 37% of the entire site’s energy consumption.

They also wished to improve the current method of managing their equipment across the factory more generally. In the current state, employees were coming in early to manually turn on heaters to get the boil tanks up to temperature ready for production. This was not ideal when arranging weekend or shift work and when the clocks changed, as it involved having to manually reprogram heater timers on up to 50 tanks.


Solution - Tap into a network and get to grips with baseline data

The company joined WMG’s Net Zero Innovation Network and were one of the first companies to benefit from a tailored manufacturing energy toolkit to better understand energy hotpots in the business.

We measured the electrical energy consumption over a six-week period, looking at the consumption of energy, the cost and carbon equivalencies, as well as testing some insulative lids to compare energy consumption before and after. As a result, a full report with a range of energy saving recommendations was presented including heater upgrades, timers, and the introduction of a dashboard to increase visibility of energy usage in the factory.

Access funding to make a difference

Following this initial project, Alpha secured a grant through the Innovate UK Business Growth programme to develop a solution that would network, centralise and simplify the process of managing the temperature of the boil tanks in the business in order to increase efficiencies and optimise energy usage.

WMG’s Julian Swiestowski, identified that there was an opportunity to use IoT (Internet of Things) technology and connectivity to make this happen.

Julian explored a range of off the shelf solutions for Alpha, that were competitively priced, easily programmable, and possible to retrofit beyond this project to other equipment. He settled on some factory automation software from the Siemens logo series. It provides a compact controller that links directly to the cloud so that the company can set and adjust the temperature for the tanks away from the shop floor, in the office or on tablets and mobile devices at home.

With this solution there is now the opportunity to monitor data over time to understand energy usage, system performance, and productivity and make changes accordingly. The tanks would also be set with thermostats.


Whilst initially Alpha Anodising started work with WMG to enhance its ESG activity, the collaboration and IoT project will lead to a number of transformational benefits:

  • The new IoT system will save Alpha thousands of pounds a year in energy costs through automation and better insight into usage;
  • The new system will allow for higher levels of productivity in the business and enhanced quality as there will now be a whole range of data that can be used to tweak production parameters;
  • The system will free up staff to work on other activities which will increase efficiencies and there will also be opportunities for the upskilling of staff to use the new digital systems;
  • There are now a range of sustainability led ideas developing within the firm such as insulation on tanks and the introduction of a two-stage counter current rinse system to reduce water consumption by 40-50% They have also invested significantly in Solar Energy Panels and new equipment such as a top of the range Timesaver linishing machine and additional bead blasting cabinets.

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Tue 28 May 2024, 09:49 | Tags: SME SME-Growth Success Story