William Hughes boosts component cleaning business with acquistion of AC Services

World-leading spring, wire form and assembly specialist, William Hughes Ltd, has purchased AC Services (South West) Ltd of Yeovil, to enhance the component cleaning side of its business. This strategic market move, which will see AC Services’ Managing Director, Albert Curtis, take an integral role in the new business, will be a real boon to manufacturers in sectors such as aerospace, defence, nuclear, oil and gas, medical and electronics that are seeking precision cleaning processes for parts and assemblies. William Hughes is nearing the completion of a new ISO Class 7 cleanroom at its 87,000 ft² headquarters in Stalbridge, Dorset, which will house the cleaning equipment.

AC Services has over 30 years’ experience in ultrasonic cleaning, kitting, degreasing and hose cleaning services. The business has established an industry-wide reputation for excellence in the cleaning of parts and assemblies for use in many critical applications, with all processes performed in a high specification cleanroom. The cleaning operation of AC Services will now transfer the short distance east to the Stalbridge site of William Hughes.

“This acquisition is intended to strengthen our position as a top end provider of cleaning and passivation services,” says Max Hughes, Managing Director at William Hughes Ltd. “It’s an opportunity to leverage the customer base of AC Services to bring in new cleaning business, particularly from the aerospace sector. I’m pleased to report that Albert Curtis, who has run AC Services as Managing Director for many years, will transfer to William Hughes, certainly for the foreseeable future, his range of contacts, depth of experience and wealth of knowledge being key factors in our plans.”

AC Services’ previous location in Yeovil was next door to aerospace giant, Honeywell, which was a significant customer in the company’s previous incarnation. Rolls-Royce and AgustaWestland are also counted among its range of demanding customers.

The success of AC Services lay in its expertise and rigorous quality procedures. The company worked closely to industrial and government specifications, or to custom procedures for customers with special requirements. After all, a contaminated system component/assembly could result in a chemical reaction, an explosion and/or a total system or device failure.

“This is why cleaning is such an essential operation,” says Mr. Hughes. “As well as tapping into the expertise of AC Services, we already have a work force trained in the need to take the utmost care with customer parts and ensure that all cleaning is compatible with the component or assembly being processed to prevent damage.”

Items which have been cleaned at William Hughes will be placed into hermetically sealed bags within the new 80 m² cleanroom so that they can be certified as clean. The bags will not be opened again until required for further processing, such as assembly, by the customer.

“Our new cleanroom is being constructed to Class 7 standards in accordance with ISO 14644-1,” says Special Processes Manager, Shaun Tattershall. “This is the equivalent of a Class 10,000 cleanroom using the Fed Stan 209E.”

A Class 10,000 cleanroom was in use at the Yeovil site of AC Services, so customers switching to William Hughes can rest assured that business, and quality, will continue as normal.

“Our new facility will ensure that hydraulic, LOX (liquid oxygen), oxygen and other critical components can be cleaned to the most demanding quality standards, approvals and specifications set by Honeywell and all our other advanced customers,” confirms Mr. Tattershall. “We are currently in the process of investing in new equipment, such as ultrasonic cleaning machines and state of the art monitoring equipment, which will result in a very high specification cleanroom facility.”

Among the processes transferring to Stalbridge from AC Services is solvent cleaning, which is used predominantly for metallic parts, either using vapour or ultrasonic cleaning, or a combination of both. Aqueous cleaning will also transfer, which is used predominantly for non-metallics such as rubbers or plastics, or a combination of these with metal, such as a hose assembly.


William Hughes Managing Director Max Hughes (left) and his daughter Emma Burgon Technical Director with AC Services Managing Director Albert Curtis.