Making advances


Contributing Editor Steed Webzell chats with Peter Harding, Managing Director of Advanced Grinding Supplies, about his journey from apprentice to prominent grinding equipment specialist

The name says it all: Advanced Grinding Supplies, perhaps better known as ADGRIND. Grinding is an advanced process where expert advice and knowledge is paramount to project success. Few probably know more about this innovative machining process than Peter Harding, the company’s Managing Director, who has grown ADGRIND over the past two decades to become one of the sector’s most recognisable names in grinding technology.

At the heart of ADGRIND’s offer is its Swiss-built Studer range of cylindrical (external, internal, universal) high-specification CNC grinding machines. Originally the exclusive agent for the Southwest of England and South Wales, the arrangement extended to cover the whole of southern UK around four years ago.

“Studer machines are suitable for a multitude of industries, including medical, aerospace, automotive, mould and die, and many more,” says Peter Harding. “We have a large aerospace supply chain in the Southwest. However, because we now supply the whole of southern UK, we’ve added many motorsport companies – both OEMs and subcontractors – to our customer list. They want machines that can grind triangular shapes, tapered polygons and non-round parts to the highest of accuracies.”

Sold on success

Among the most recent Studer grinder sales include two machines for a manufacturer of truck starter motors and another for an air bearing manufacturer. Plenty of subcontractors are also prominent among recent orders, including T&G Engineering of West Byfleet, where a new Studer S31 adds to a long list of Studer machine on site. The S31, with its two external grinding wheels and single internal grinding spindle, can undertake universal grinding operations, including high-speed form (non-round) grinding and thread grinding. The S31 also has a HF dressing spindle for dressing the latest in CBN and diamond super abrasives.

A further recent ADGRIND sale was a Studer favoritCNC universal cylindrical grinding machine to Dorking-based Tenon Engineering, and another Studer favorit to a manufacturer of garden machinery.

“The favoritCNC is very popular: we have aerospace companies using these machines to grind tolerances of ±2µm on parts for products such as engine fuel flow meters,” says Peter Harding.

Time to accessorize

Of course, there is far more to ADGRIND than Studer grinding machines. The company is also the exclusive UK-wide agent/distributor for vitrified CBN and diamond abrasives, live and dead centres, diamond dressing tools and dressing discs, face drivers, precision tooling, and consumables. Oftentimes the company supplies its customers with complete turnkey grinding packages, providing yet another driver of recent business growth. The past 3-4 years have proved particularly busy.

“Business exploded during the pandemic,” he explains. “All of sudden we had many customers involved in the Ventilator Challenge who needed products instantly. As we hold good stock levels, some customers were even driving to our industrial unit in Gloucester to collect equipment and tooling.”

Around the same time, ADGRIND picked up a number of exclusive UK agency deals, including Meister Abrasives, Alfons Schmeier Abrasives, Karl Brukner (centres and face drivers), and another Swiss grinding machine manufacturer: Technica, a builder of centre grinding machines.

“Many in the industry still do not realise we are the exclusive agent for these brands as they have long associations with previous representatives,” says Peter Harding. “However, word is slowly spreading and the addition of these products to our portfolio had led to more customers and revenue. Due to such a rapid rise in business activity we‘re currently looking to grow our headcount further.”


In the beginning

Peter Harding’s career story is one of both enterprise and circumstance. He began his engineering journey as an apprentice at Dowty Rotol (now Safran Landing Systems) in Staverton, Gloucestershire. However, the 1980s was a turbulent time with many companies making redundancies. Although he completed his apprenticeship at Dowty, he learnt there would be no subsequent job offer.

As luck would have it, Lucas EUI Systems was constructing a new manufacturing plant at nearby Stonehouse, a project that involved the establishment of a new grinding section featuring many Studer machines.

“I got a job in the new grinding section at Lucas,” he says. “I was lucky enough to get repeat trips to Studer’s headquarters in Switzerland to learn the machines inside out.”

Studer comes calling

Then, fate would intervene once more. Sufficiently impressed with Peter Harding, Studer offered him a job as a UK service engineer for Studer grinding machines. He accepted. Six years later, thinking it was maybe time for another change, Studer changed his mind about leaving by offering him the Studer sales agency for Southwest England and South Wales.

“I had no experience in sales or running my own business, but I said yes anyway,” he explains. “I’d just spent six years as a service engineer for Studer, so I already knew the customers, and they knew me. I’ve always had a personal approach, which helps build working relationships.”

Peter Harding launched ADGRIND in 2002. Knowing that he would not be selling a new Studer machine every week, he started expanding the company’s offer by meeting customer requests for associated equipment like dressing tools, centres and more. In fact, he soon began working with a UK company that manufactures dressing tools to ADGRIND designs, an arrangement that remains in place to this day. The company also commenced the stocking of coolant filter media.

Another initiative was selling grinding wheels, with ADGRIND soon establishing a close working relationship with Saint-Gobain Abrasives. Today, the company holds stock of Saint-Gobain brands such as Norton and Flexovit and, such is the relationship between the companies that Saint-Gobain even adds the ADGRIND brand to certain wheels.

“It’s yet another string to our bow,” says Peter Harding. “Many Saint-Gobain wheels are high-end; for grinding materials such as Inconel or tungsten carbide. It gives our customers more options. Many times we not only specify the grinding machine but also the tooling, whether it be bonded abrasives, our own dressing tools, a coolant system, filter media, centres, bespoke tooling, whatever. Ensuring the optimal solution for our customers is a paramount factor behind the success of this business. Looking ahead, the addition of exclusive agencies for Meister, Schmeier, Karl Brukner and Technica, makes me very excited for the future of ADGRIND.”

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