From semiconductor fabrication and complex mechanical assembly to space and power systems, digitalisation has been fundamental to the growth of Raytheon UK’s presence in Scotland since it started operations 60 years ago. Last month, it opened its doors at its Livingston facility – the second in Scotland, furthering its enduring ties in the nation.
When Hughes Microelectronics, the U.S. company that became Raytheon UK, set up shop in Glenrothes, Scotland, in 1960, making a long-distance phone call still took the help of multiple switchboard operators – and a little luck.
Today, making that same call is far simpler. Just open a videoconferencing app and go. That is just one example of how digitalisation has transformed the Glenrothes location, which in six decades has grown from manufacturing semiconductors to specialising in power-management systems.
“Digital systems, such as computers, laptops and smartphones, have been the biggest change in the way we do business,” said Mark, a programme management lead and a long-service employee who joined the company in 1985. "Back then, you had to be sat at a desk-based phone at a specific pre-arranged time to receive a business call."
A FOUNDING COMPANY OF “SILICON GLEN”
Digitalisation has transformed the company and bolstered its growth from its beginnings in semiconductor fabrication. The Glenrothes facility was the first manufacturer to design and produce semiconductors, high-tech germanium and silicon diodes in Scotland, effectively founding what became known as “Silicon Glen” and exporting to U.S. and multinational customers.
While the site no longer produces this technology, many of the expertise involved in developing digital processes for this part of the business remains and have been instrumental in creating innovative new product lines. Today, Raytheon UK in Glenrothes is a manufacturing leader in power management systems, producing resilient and pre-qualified smart power subsystems and components for military platforms including the UK’s Ajax Scout Vehicle, the F/A-18 fighter jet and Sentinel surveillance aircraft.
This ability to reinvent its product line by building on legacy technologies has enabled Raytheon UK to secure opportunities and add value in its key growth markets, such as cyber, space and artificial intelligence – areas cited for investment in the UK Government’s recent announcement of £16.5 billion capital injection into defence spending. This includes funding a National Cyber Force to transform the UK’s cybersecurity capabilities; a Space Command able to launch its own rockets from 2022; and a new artificial intelligence agency.
A CENTRE FOR SPACE EXCELLENCE
The announcement could not have been more timely as Raytheon UK opened a new sister facility in Livingston, Scotland, establishing a centre for space excellence, among other technologies.
The Glenrothes facility has been operating in the space domain since the 1980s, designing and delivering volume space-grade manufacturing products to the U.S. Navy and Boeing, including power supply solutions currently on the International Space Station.
Welcoming the UK Government's investment in space, managing director of Cyber, Space and Training James Gray said: “We design and build guidance and power supply systems for ultra-high reliability, safe, space hardware. We are one of the largest providers of space grade manufacturing at volume in the UK which means we are well-placed to deliver solutions within this expanding domain.”
The company has made innovations within its volume space manufacturing systems, developing digital controls for critical processes and removing opportunity for error.
“It means that, today, we are able to match and exceed the rate of manufacture of the original '80s and '90s space manufacturing. It’s vital that we continue to keep abreast of innovations in manufacturing, such as new technologies for process design, performance data, virtual reality work instructions and the onset of Industry 4.0.,” said Steven, an operations manager for Raytheon UK since 2012.
EXPORTING INNOVATIVE TECHNOLOGIES
Glenrothes has endured as a centre for UK advanced manufacturing, and it continues to serve Raytheon Technologies’ businesses worldwide, exporting innovative products to support major U.S. programmes. That’s a testament to its highly skilled workforce, strategic R&D investments and innovative spirit.
“We designed and manufactured three power supplies for Raytheon Missiles & Defence’s Tomahawk cruise missile programme,” Mark said. “This work enabled us to be involved in one of the U.S. Navy's flagship programmes and to play a key part in the manufacture of the electronics used in the system. We have now been [supporting] the Tomahawk programme for over 20 years and the capability to manufacture this product has enabled Raytheon UK to win other business using this type of technology.”
INVESTING IN THE FACTORY OF THE FUTURE
The continued success of the Glenrothes facility rests on its 560 employees. It's a key regional employer and a regular provider of local science, technology, engineering and maths programmes, and it's reputation for excellence attracts highly-skilled engineers, graduates and apprentices alike.
John Gallagher, the site’s managing director, believes investing in new talent and innovative processing technologies are essential to growing a future-proof factory.
The company is currently conducting a trial of an automated robotic arm that inspects complex mechanical assemblies to ensure compliance to detailed drawing specifications and work instructions. Its use will help to standardise operations and make inspections more precise and replicable across the site. For Olivia, a graduate manufacturing apprentice in her second year of the company’s four-year scheme, it’s an exciting addition to the assembly line.
“We are always working to automate as many processes as we can to ensure our working practices are as standardised and repeatable, as possible, and optimise our workforce in other areas,” she said. “The introduction of data-tracking programmes across the site shows that we are working towards a more efficient and paperless factory for the future.”