Article Archive

Outsourcing heat treatment

21st Dec 2009   In Article Archive

More UK companies are benefiting from the virtues of contract heat treatment, instead of conducting this crucial step of the manufacturing cycle “in-house”.

Unremitting global market pressures and ever-increasing energy costs are driving more UK manufacturers of metal products to reassess the virtues of outsourcing heat treatment processing, instead of conducting this crucial step of the manufacturing cycle "in-house".

The benefits of outsourcing heat treatment are many. In utilising the wide range of specialist services of a subcontract sector that must optimise energy efficiency and employ latest technology in order to remain competitive, the manufacturer can:

  • Release valuable works space for more core activity;
  • Reduce capital plant requirements and eliminate associated maintenance costs;
  • Avoid the cost of providing/training labour and the highly-skilled supervision needed to manage today's sophisticated treatments;
  • Tap into a wealth of metallurgical expertise, otherwise a diminishing resource within engineering industry as a whole;
  • Achieve greater flexibility in benefiting from the best treatments;
  • Access new processes and procedures immediately they are available, without capital cost;
  • Eliminate the expense and time consumed in meeting today's stringent quality-assurance and environmental demands in-house.

Any realistic assessment of in-house processing costs, which takes account of all the factors involved, will show that outsourcing heat treatment offers the most cost-effective option in all but a minority of special situations.

Representing the majority of the UK subcontractors in this field, the Contract Heat Treatment Association (CHTA) provides a website, at, to assist manufacturers in making the most of the benefits.

Quality Assurance

All CHTA member companies are pledged to maintain the highest standards of quality and service. ISO 9001:2000 is currently the universally-accepted quality accreditation, but many members hold additional quality approvals from major organisations, which are especially relevant in particular market sectors.
CHTA's website features a number of helpful facilities for engineering companies looking to outsource:

  • Activate the "Buyers Guide" page to find speedily, from a constantly-updated database, the companies offering services to match specific heat treatment requirements. See details of the companies selected and submit enquiries to one or more with a single click.
  • View CHTA's quarterly newsletter, updating on latest developments, by clicking on "Hotline". (Contact CHTA's Secretariat to receive a regular hard copy).
  • Click on "Specifying Heat Treatment" to access CHTA's series of Datasheets for Non-heat-treaters, aimed at aiding sensible specification of subcontract heat treatment processing and avoidance of common problems. Couched in layman's terms, they answer the questions: What are the treatments? What are the benefits? What materials can be treated? What are the limitations? What problems could arise? How do I specify? Where do I go?

In response to the last question, the datasheets recommend contact with appropriate CHTA member companies from those listed at

Free hard-copy Buyers Guide

Dubbed "the definitive guide to sourcing from 70 UK-wide sub-contract heat treatment specialists", the eight-page Buyers Guide to Contract Heat Treatment (10th edition) features a detailed central table cross-referencing CHTA members to any of 44 processes carried out and 16 classes of material treated. A member directory lists full contact details while a map shows general locations.

For a free copy of the guide, contact Nasima Khatun at the Contract Heat Treatment Association, c/o SEA, BJGF Federation, Federation House, 10 Vyse Street, Birmingham B18 6LT (tel: 0121 237 1123; e-mail:; fax: 0121 237 1124).

Alan J. Hick, Secretary, Contract Heat Treatment Association