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When Willstar Precision Engineering bought its first sliding head lathe just over three years ago, the company thoroughly reviewed the marketplace and it was the reputation for service and reliability that led the Birmingham subcontractor to buy from Star GB. Three years later and the company have produced over 1 million parts on the machine without a single call-out.
Previously running fixed head turning centres and machining centres, the family run business found itself machining large batch runs of small turned parts that were better suited to sliding head technology. Upon doing its due diligence, Willstar Precision Engineering spoke with numerous subcontractors that were running machine tools from Star GB and also its competitors. Commenting upon this information gathering process, Willstar Precision Engineering's Managing Director, Mr Tony Starkey says: "We spoke with a lot of subcontractors regarding Star GB and competitor machines. After all, a new machine tool is a large investment and we wanted to guarantee we were making the right decision for our business. The feedback from Star GB users was consistent. The machines have a reputation for being very reliable, well built, highly productive and supported by exceptional service. Unfortunately the feedback regarding some competitor machines wasn't so generous."
"We bought a Star SR-20J, and the machine has never given us a day of trouble. In fact, we've just produced our 1 millionth part without a single engineer call out or unscheduled downtime. I guess everything the other Star GB customers said about reliability and service was spot on."
The 7-axis Star SR-20J was primarily bought to free capacity from the company's fixed head turning centres, provide a more suitable platform for machining parts in the 8mm diameter range and give the Birmingham business the ability to run lights-out machining.
The results have proven staggering. As Mr Starkey says: "The previous fixed head CNC lathes didn't have sub-spindle facility, so we had to undertake second operation machining. Additionally, our two fixed head turning centres couldn't be run unmanned. By giving us one-hit machining through front and sub-spindle machining, the Star SR-20J drastically improved productivity and eliminated second-ops. This also gave us the facility for lights-out machining. Furthermore, the kinematics of the Star SR-20J and the close positioning of cutting tools to the workpiece significantly reduced cycle times. We can now do at least 5 times more work on the Star sliding head lathe than on our fixed head machines. We used to produce 500 parts a day on the fixed head machines and now we can turn out over 3000 parts a day on the Star SR-20J. As an example, we used to produce an aluminium barrel nut on a fixed head machine and this required cross drilling and tapping, end face slotting as well as comprehensive turning operations. On the fixed head machine the total cycle time was 2 minutes 10 seconds, which included three second operations. This is now produced on the Star SR-20J in just 37 seconds with no second operations. This staggering cycle time reduction is emphasised by the fact that this part is machined in batches of 2500. Using lights-out machining on the Star, this batch is now finished in 24 hours."
The subcontractor manufactures engine and manifold mounting fixtures and bolts for the automotive aftermarket sector as well as washroom and sanitation equipment that varies from hinges, pins, cubicle legs and much more. Producing these components from stainless steel, mild steel and brass gives the company greater confidence in running its Star machine around the clock. The machine has run for upwards of 16 hours a day, 5 days a week plus frequent weekend working for over three years and the Star GB engineers still haven't received a call for breakdowns or unscheduled maintenance.
Success Brings Second Star
The ability of Willstar Precision Engineering to reduce lead times and improve its throughput with the Star SR-20J has now seen the company take delivery of its second Star GB sliding head turning centre, a Star SR-32J. Commenting upon the latest acquisition, Mr Starkey concludes: "Our 20mm machine was reaching capacity and we desperately needed a second sliding head machine. Furthermore, we were getting orders for parts beyond the realms of the 20mm diameter capacity Star. Our customers still wanted the 500 to 10,000 batch runs of automotive and washroom parts, but in larger diameters. After the success and reliability of the first machine, I wouldn't go anywhere else. I called Star GB, we got the second slider installed and we now have two very reliable sliding head lathes producing parts around the clock, lights-out with no issues. We are delighted with the reliability, performance and productivity of the Star machines. As for the service and support; it's been exceptional. When we need it, its there. But in honesty, the only time we see anyone from Star is when it's a scheduled maintenance visit. Without offending anyone, that's just how any business would want it!"
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