Summitglow: Diverse Services Drive Market Expansion & Quality Excellence

Hardened success

A wide market spread allows Summitglow to alleviate industry pressures and with a service offering growing all the time, the company is in a strong position to secure further expansion

Based in Sheffield, Summitglow started out in 1983 providing salt bath heat treatment services to the buoyant local cutting tool industry. Through a steady process of expansion, today’s family-owned company has diversified into a range of markets, offering an array of different treatment services with a consistent focus on delivering the highest quality. By balancing a use of both traditional and cutting edge technologies, the 25-strong team at Summitglow has developed a reputation for delivering unique and specialist treatment services. The capabilities of Summitglow currently include: vacuum, salt bath, case hardening, gas nitriding and nitrocaburising, sub-zero (cryogenic) and air and atmosphere treatments, as well as hot chemical blacking and straightening services.

“The main strengths of the company are our continued focus on delivering very fast turnaround times and being very diverse,” begins Managing Director, Philip Watkinson. “We serve the hand tool and wood turning tool, medical and automotive markets, all of which are presently relatively strong. However, the one market that is really challenging at the moment is oil and gas.” Philip expresses that the widespread effect of the oil and gas industry’s downturn is underestimated. He notes that its ripple effect can be felt much further down the supply chain than the immediate suppliers and this is making it very difficult for companies that have focused solely on this market. “It has always been a clear strategy for us not to focus too heavily on any one market for this reason,” he continues. “Therefore, strength in other markets allows us to balance out downturns in others.”

In accordance with this strategy Summitglow continuously invests into new capabilities to open new markets and opportunities. Most recently, the company has taken delivery of a new Ipsen half-tonne capacity vacuum furnace to expand its capacity. “We have offered this treatment for about 15 years with a small furnace designed purely around doing small batches with rapid turnaround,” explains Philip. “Whilst this will still remain a core offering of ours, this new furnace will allow us to carry out larger batches of work as well and thus open up new markets for us. The investment started at the beginning of last year when we put a new power supply in, again to facilitate further expansion, and the new equipment has the capability to deliver six-bar pressure quench and high vacuum applications to treat a wide range of materials.”

Other recent investments include a revamped website, which Philip reports has been successful in generating more enquiries and continuous developments to the company’s salt bath treatments. “There is still a large, specialist demand for partial immersion, neutral salt bath treatments within the craft tool and aerospace industries,” he says. “This is because it is a very effective, repeatable way of treating only parts of a component, which can’t be done in a vacuum furnace, and it delivers consistently high quality components. Over the last few years we have invested in upgrading a lot of this technology to yield greater performance in terms of energy efficiency on those lines.”

Quality is paramount for Summitglow and as such the company has ISO 9001 accreditation and implements QS9000 into its working practices. Enhancing its range of services are the company’s comprehensive testing facilities, which include Rockwell, Brinell, Vickers, Micro Vickers and portable hardness testing equipment to ensure quality is maintained. Many of its offerings provide a level of service capability beyond what is currently still available elsewhere in the market. For instance, as Philip highlights: “We can still gas nitride up to four metres in length, which is useful for a lot of markets like extrusion and oil and gas, but there are not a lot of companies still offering this. I think what we do remains a critical part of the market as with products manufactured overseas, therefore we will continue offering what we do and we will continue developing these services.”

Over the next 12 months, Summitglow will be looking closely at the opportunities opened up by the new furnace as well as maintaining its already established capabilities. “The vision is, and has been for a while, to progress further into doing more high-end, high-complexity components that require high tolerances and better quality. By pushing for higher technology, higher quality, high-end markets, whilst maintaining our spread of markets, we will be able to continue to grow,” concludes Philip.

Summitglow Ltd
Products: Specialists in steel heat treatment
Sites: Two