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A business ramp up capability for young subcontract machinists

Source: Date:2008-11-27
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Darren Grainger has recently installed a top of the range Colchester-Harrison Tornado T8MSY mill-turn centre with subspindle and Y-axis crossfeed to the 12 station driven tool turret in order to capitalise on his fast appreciating success against a rising order book for precision turned parts. His business, Hi-Spec Precision Engineering that started just 31/2 years ago, is located on a small industrial estate in the middle of the Leicestershire countryside. From manual capstan lathes and milling machines it has grown rapidly following the installation of a Colchester-Harrison MultiTurn 2000, flat bed combination lathe in December 2005 that became the launch pad into real success. Mr. Grainger, said, "I still cannot believe the impact on customers that our first venture into CNC had on the business. So as quickly as we could, in February 2006 we installed a Colchester-Harrison Tornado T6M driven tool mill-turn centre to provide more automated turning and combine operations. Then when this machine brought in so much more work, by July 2007 we were ready to take delivery of a larger capacity Tornado T8M. This was installed in our new unit that doubled the size of our shopfloor to 1,800 ft2." He then described the feedback from customers that stretch from the south coast to Scotland and across to Norfolk, who responded with even more orders and wanted larger sizes of components produced by his new capabilities. Prior to setting up, Mr. Grainger was a CAD designer in a hydraulics company where his father was also workshop manager. Following an illness, his father retired and it was after a family meeting in September 2005 that it was decided to set up a small subcontract shop with three manual machines on the Market Overton Industrial Estate near Oakham. His previous employer immediately offered help and was keen to use his ex-employee誷 experience to top up its capacity and produce overflow work and supplied material on a free-issue basis. In response, Mr. Grainger's mother came along to help operate the manual machines alongside his wife who, at the time, was eight months pregnant. After eight months of weekends and very late evenings plus a growing customer base and order book involving lots of small jobs and prototype work, it was obvious that his low overheads and willingness to deliver were helping to secure orders and enabling him to really get going. But he also knew he had to be more productive to expand the business, so a family council decided that CNC would make the lives of everyone far easier. Mr. Grainger was very computer literate but lacked CNC knowledge so he found the Manual Guide i programming on the Colchester-Harrison MultiTurn was for him. The control enabled him to quickly set up a job and then use the CNC to run the batch while he did other things, only having to return to the machine to unload and load. The result of this investment was rocketing expansion that is described by him in retrospect as almost unbelievable but enjoyable. "The capability of the machine took significant man hours out of a job," he said, "but being more competitive and productive means I hit the loads more work that had need of drilling, tapping and milling." And so a discussion with Colchester-Harrison resulted in the decision to go full CNC with driven tools in order to combine possible operations. "It was almost like turning a switch," he said. "Even more orders came in and work that we had taken on previously and on which we knew we were not making money, suddenly became profitable." He described a small coupling for hydraulic power units with a tang and slot with the two features tightly toleranced to each other. He said: "It would be a pain to produce without turn-milling but the Tornado T6M just produces the parts in an automatic cycle without any problem." "Customers were beginning to increase pressure on him to produce even larger componAlphabounce Beyond M


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