Delcam’s OrthoModel boosts orthotics output for Blatchford
Adding Delcam’s OrthoModel design and manufacturing software has enabled Blatchford, the largest orthotic and prosthetic company in the UK, to boost its output of orthotics. The company can now process record numbers of orders. The system has also allowed Blatchford to increase its quality and consistency, and so improve the quality of life for the thousands of people who rely on the company to provide the best possible treatment for their health-related problems.
Blatchford was initially founded in 1890 to manufacture prosthetics. The company moved into orthotics in 1994 with the acquisition of Sheffield-based company O and P Services, and then added the Medicare business in 2001. The turnover is now £35 million from a staff of 450 people, of which the orthotics business makes up nearly £9 million. Despite this considerable expansion, the company is still family-owned.
"We first moved into CADCAM eight years ago,” remembered David Bownes, Production Manager at the main orthotics manufacturing site in Sheffield. "The aims were to reduce lead times, improve our accuracy and, at the same time, offer our customers repeatability. Our main objective was to reduce the amount of time we spent hand carving so we could increase our productivity and improve our quality, while offering our Technicians a better environment to work in. We heard about the OrthoModel system from our colleagues, who had previously used this type of software, and, with that recommendation, we decided to give it a try.”
Like all new developments at Blatchford, the new software was trialled with a group of specialist orthotists before being considered for general introduction. After several months of trials, Blatchford moved into full production with the Delcam software in February 2009 following positive feedback from the clinicians.
An important part of the decision was the user interface for the Delcam software. "We decided to re-skill our existing technicians rather than bringing in CADCAM engineers because we needed people that could recognise whether or not the finished product was correct,” explained Mr. Bownes. "Even though they had little experience of computerised manufacturing, they found the Delcam software to be very user-friendly.”
"The biggest benefits come when producing a series of orthotics as the patient moves along the clinical treatment path, for example, the progressive reduction of a problem after an accident or sports injury,” said Mr. Bownes. "It is much easier to adjust the existing data rather than constantly recasting designs from the patient’s foot. It also avoids the storage issue with large numbers of casts.”
"We have cooperated closely with Delcam staff to select the best cutting tools and machining strategies,” added Mr. Bownes. "In addition, we are happy to work with Delcam on new additions to the software to take it to the next level. The latest release offers more flexibility, for example, the ability to manipulate the foot shape in seconds. Also, some clinicians prefer to use the option of measurements using the system’s data library of shapes and this can save time in the production process.”
"At Blatchford, we pride ourselves on being the market leader so we are constantly investing in the latest technology,” claimed Mr. Bownes. "We review our processes continually to ensure patient/customer satisfaction in both quality and lead time. The continued investment in our business is aimed at providing a better service to our patients’ needs. Orthotics are bespoke products rather than mass-produced items. No two patients are the same; they each have a specific problem for us to solve. Our Delcam software means that we can provide that solution in a faster and more effective way.”