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No such thing as a mission impossible

From humble beginnings to the market leader in Europe for the repair and support of induction and vacuum furnaces, Emsco is celebrating 25 years in business armed with a meteoric rise and a track record of proving the impossible to be far from that.

So just how has Emsco (Electric Melting Services Co) grown from an unassuming coil repairer to the largest coil repairer and now the most specialised coil repairer in Europe? Reputation and expertise is built and earned over years of consistent delivery and that is exactly what this Sheffield-based company has done to warrant the heady heights of its current position as a market-leader and the “go to” company for repair and rebuilding of, amongst others, induction and vacuum furnaces and coils along with complete melt deck design and construction. “The reason people respect and trust us is because we take what is said ‘can’t be done’ and we do it,” sales director John Green tells Foundry Trade Journal. “We are on the second generation of Emsco workers – people whose fathers and uncles are employed here, and they understand the ethos of the business. When others say a repair is impossible, we know otherwise.”

Solving problems, salvaging the unsalvageable and proving sceptics wrong are everyday activities at Emsco. Perhaps in part this is testament to the fact that the company was initially developed from an established business to service Inductotherm equipment. Thus, the pedigree of the sister company was embedded from the start when the now managing director of Inductotherm Europe, Steve Hill FICME, helped set up Emsco a quarter of a century ago as the only repair business in the group. Inductotherm was busy developing new equipment so when the opportunity to buy Bradwell Electrical arose 25 years ago Emsco was subsequently born. Hill amassed a team of enthusiastic engineers, keen to show what they could do. Take Vince Moore, a fully trained fitter who then moved into a joint hands-on and sales role, before becoming general manager, and who is now considered something of a guru within the company and amongst customers. Such is the esteem in which he is held that his colleagues are keen to soak up his knowledge, a principle that he is eager to share. More on this later…

An individual entity backed by group support

Emsco will rebuild or repair any type or size of induction furnace regardless of its original manufacturer. The service ranges from a minimum-cost repair to a completely re-engineered rebuild.

The company also serves as the ‘prime contractor’ for foundries with installation and construction requirements for new or used plant equipment, with Emsco able to handle installation and removal of equipment from the scrap yard to the pouring system. The company also offers a 24-hour a day emergency regional repair service and carries a large inventory of spare parts and materials stock to support regular and emergency needs. This all grew out of a concept to offer assistance to its sister company.

“We began by offering support for Inductotherm and for any other customer,” Green recalls. “Any coils were fair game and we then looked at obsolete equipment. We started connecting old furnaces to run on new coils and generators, this meant a lot of customers were able to extend the lives of their furnaces. Since then the company has changed beyond recognition.

“We still do a lot of work for Inductotherm.” This includes installation and repair work to older equipment but the sister company – itself a world-leading induction furnace specialist – has its own high standards to maintain meaning that Emsco has to continually strive to be the best.

“We benefit from Inductotherm knowledge,” Green says. “We have all that proficiency plus our own from the past 25 years of experience. When Inductotherm is designing new power systems and furnaces they consider the installation and we understand that – this is why we are the industry leader.” Having their own depth of knowledge is important at Emsco – they may be affiliated to a larger group but the company is its own flagship when it comes to highlighting what can be achieved with the right skills, workmanship and ambition. Why scrap equipment that could be saved or indeed upgraded?

Far from just a repair service

The ability to work with customers to extend the life of a furnace is an important aspect of customer/supplier relationships for Emsco. “We work to improve furnaces rather than just repairing them and sending them back,” Green enthuses. “We don’t have a ‘fit all’ insulation – we have different insulations for different furnaces. Also, power densities are high in a lot of the work we do. Design work is important to us.”

The commitment to improving furnaces rather than patching them up has enabled Emsco to grow year on year as customers recognise the importance of the partnership. Installation is also a significant part of the business nowadays and Emsco is often called upon to install a range of competitors’ equipment. “Our broad expertise and large number of technical employees (30) means we can complete projects that others couldn’t cope with,” Green rightly boasts. “I can confidently say that other companies wouldn’t have the manpower or technical expertise that we have.” Honing their craft following a quarter of a century of experience has resulted in the company being able to, as Green says: “do things quicker and to a very high standard”. He is quick to emphasise that: “Over the years we have worked with people through all sorts of crises such as floods, basically if there’s a job that people say can’t be done, we can do it.”

People power

Green is confident because he is surrounded by positivity – the legacy of Steve Hill, the ongoing enthusiasm of Vince Moore and the buzz around the shopfloor from a balanced team of mature engineers, who have seen it all, and young recruits keen to show they can fit into the mantra of ‘we can do what others can’t’ – no wonder Green is able to claim: “we are extremely capable – our engineers deal with what the customer throws at them.”

Much of the work is on customer sites so an applied approach where engineers are trained on the job with mentors is something Emsco is keen to continue to promote – why not? It has served them well for the past 25 years. Green explains that by giving fitters freedom to think on the job, they become valued members of the team by looking at the whole problem not just the obvious. Although fitters might be deployed on a hydraulics job, when they arrive on site they could discover it’s an electrical job so understanding the complexities of the process and how to communicate with customers is an important lesson for all employees. This is often where the “Vince effect” comes into play. “Vince has the respect of the workforce because he can achieve anything – he is an anchor man,” Green says.

He is not alone in being the person able to impart wisdom at the company. The majority of employees are now long-serving members of the team and their decision-making skills and mentoring abilities are fundamental to training future Emsco engineers, with succession planning being recognised as an important part of future proofing the company. “We have a stable workforce but age and health are issues in this type of physically demanding work – we are conscious of this,” Green explains.

All geared up

The sheer class of the people working at Emsco is backed up by extensive in-house facilities to enable the company to accommodate any repair or rebuild at the Sheffield factory. This allows the company to turn things around quickly and be as responsive as possible to ensure minimum disruption to a customer’s production schedule. Indeed, Emsco also stores coils on site so when the need arises they can take a pre-prepared coil to the customer’s premises and swap it for a damaged one, which they repair and store again for future use. This is added peace of mind for the customer and means these jobs can be undertaken at a more leisurely pace.

Of course, it is not all about repair. Emsco also manufactures replacement coils and modifies existing ones for new applications, saving the customer the cost and inconvenience of buying new equipment if existing equipment can be altered to suit.

The next 25 years

Whilst we are told that in the past 25 years Emsco has “changed beyond recognition”, it seems that in fact the original principles remain the same – be the best you can and do what others can’t. What has changed is the world in which we are now living.

The company now also specialises in the vacuum operation and is able to complete most jobs in house. Green says Emsco achieves a “better finish electrically and cosmetically” and there is no reason to doubt this statement – a large workforce and a catalogue of before and after images is proof in itself.

The opportunities are there – the industry demands more. Coils are increasing in size and furnaces are getting larger. Work is more complex and more intricate. This will dictate how the company expands in the future. More employees, larger and newer premises, a greater covered area, this is all a possibility in years to come as Emsco is not going to be content to stand still, thankfully for the industry that it supports. An increasing amount of work overseas, especially in Europe and Scandinavia, will also have an effect on the Emsco of the future. But one thing is for sure, whatever the company looks like in the next 25 years, it will be born out of the past 25. As John Green concludes: “We will always win in a crisis, we are very responsive – whatever the time or day. We pull out the stops and we have most certainly earned our reputation.”

25 years might symbolise a silver anniversary but Emsco is definitely offering a GOLD standard. From a meagre concept to a market-leading supplier and trusted partner – Emsco no longer requires an Inductotherm seal of approval, it has its own.

Contact: Emsco, Lovell Street, Sheffield S4 7WN UK. Tel: +44 (0) 114 273 8700, email: [email protected] web: