What is a Wire Drawing Facility?

We recently had the opportunity to share Harrison Spinks’ news and achievements from 2018, one of which was their investment of £1.8 million in a new wire drawing facility.  This substantial investment caught our attention and we couldn’t help but contact Richard Essery, managing director of Harrison Spinks Components, and ask him for a great deal more information.

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Can you introduce our readers to what Harrison Spinks does?

Harrison Spinks is a Leeds-based bed maker. The company is a fifth-generation family business which employs more than 600 people in Leeds. Founded in 1840, it is one of the most vertically integrated bed manufacturers in the world, drawing its own wire for its unique spring technology, growing natural fillings on its own farm in Yorkshire and also running its own responsibly-managed, 56-acre forest, which it also integrates into its supply chain. As well as mattresses, the company’s springs can be found in footwear, seats and sofas.

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In what ways do you use steel in your products? Why is steel this best material for these functions?

We use steel to make springs for our mattresses but also to sell as components for use in furniture such as sofas, seating and even footwear. Steel is the best material for springs because it is cost effective and the most recycled product in world. It’s also very resilient. Some of the drawn wire is supplied to our joint venture in the USA.

You recently invested in your wire drawing facilities, can we ask for more information? To date we’ve spent approximately £4.5m on wire drawing equipment and associated infrastructure. The recent development at Scunthorpe has cost around £2m. We currently have two lines installed and the infrastructure has been put in place to take another four lines. We are investing for future expansion and further spring innovation.

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Wire drawing is the processing of elongating and cold-working high carbon steel to make high-quality wire for our springs. The steel rod supplied by British steel comes in coils of 5.5mm (round section). We draw this down to a range of diameters between 0.7 and 1.9mm.  

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The wire rod is pulled through a series of tungsten carbide dies. In order to draw very fine wire, this is achieved by as many as 18 reductions. As the rod/wire is reduced in diameter, the steel is cold-worked. This hardens the steel resulting in a gain in tensile strength and huge elongation. We have multiple wire drawing lines on-site at our factory in Leeds and also in Scunthorpe. We use this wire to make the smallest bedding and seating springs in world. The cold drawing process makes the fine wire we produce extremely strong and resilient so that our patented micro springs never lose height.

As an example of elongation, 1,000kg of 5.5mm rod is approximately 5.4km in length. When this is drawn to 0.7mm, the resultant length is 331km with no waste.

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Our patented, and award-winning, micro pocket springs replace traditional pocket springs and other technology found in mattresses and furniture, such as man-made fibres and environmentally-unfriendly foams and polyesters.  Our springs are not just used in bedding and furniture, they are sold all over the world and used in sofas, automotive chairs and even trainers.

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What prompted this large scale investment?

Firstly the growth of the business – our components division has grown 10-fold since I arrived in 2013. We needed additional capacity to cater for the latest innovations in fine wire technology, so we invested at the British steel site in Scunthorpe. The site was chosen due to the quality of steel and also the location. It’s close to their rod rolling plant and it’s fairly close to our manufacturing base in Leeds.

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What will the benefits be from this investment?

This is an upfront investment designed to ready us for projected future growth and demand for our springs. The investment will also provide the capacity to grow and sell more wire to our joint venture partner in America. New investments also mean we are able to innovate further in wire drawing technology to create finer and greater coil-count mattresses – the more springs, and the smaller the springs, means reduced pressure points while you sleep.

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Additionally, investing in a site at British Steel means we are able to bounce ideas off them and they can develop different grades of steel rod which enables us to process the wire and achieve a greater reduction in area. Generally speaking, other manufacturers make springs with a diameter down to 0.8mm. Although this is unusual, we manufacture many millions of springs at 0.7mm and make higher coil counts than anyone else. Very few bed manufacturers produce their own wire, and none to the fine diameters we are able to produce without heat treatment.

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Do you use UK steel? Why/why not?

All the steel we use is British. It is part of Harrison Spinks’ ethos to source as many materials from UK suppliers as locally to Yorkshire as possible. British Steel from Scunthorpe is both local and is of high quality. The means we can cold work it to a greater extent.

Contact Harrison Spinks

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About Alys Bryan

Alys' experience as a furniture designer, along with her in-depth marketing knowledge, makes her uniquely placed to work with the BCFA as the Editor of Design Insider and run her marketing business, Method Communications.
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