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Automation leads to success for Clitheroe Light Engineering

Automation leads to success for Clitheroe Light Engineering

Added to MTDCNC by MTDCNC on 29 May 2012

Back in 2006 Clitheroe Light Engineering invested in what was then a state-of-the-art Flexible Manufacturing System. Now, that system has been expanded and the family-owned business is going from strength to strength as a result.

With 35 employees, Clitheroe Light Engineering is probably not typical of customers making major investment in automated manufacturing systems. However, the foresight of its management team back in 2006, when it installed its first Mori Seiki/Fastems Flexible Manufacturing System (FMS), has taken the company to new heights resulting in the recent extension to that FMS.

&ldquoSince installing the first system we have seen demand grow from existing and new customers, says Helen Meloy, Managing Director. &ldquoThis success meant that making the decision to invest a further £1.4 million in expanding our manufacturing capacity was a fairly easy one to make. In addition, speaking with our long-term customers their positive outlook for growth in their businesses gave us the additional confidence to make the investment.&rdquo

The addition of two Mori Seiki NH 5000 machining centres brings the total to seven within the FMS capability at Clitheroe Light Engineering and these are supported by a 92 pallet Fastems work handling system. This additional capacity is already very popular with existing customers within the mining and construction sectors where it is being used to manufacture hydraulic manifolds. This in turn has driven additional expansion and Clitheroe Light Engineering extended its factory by a further 1000m2 and installed a number of Daewoo Puma mill turn centres.

&ldquoWhere other sub-contracting companies have focused on buying stand-alone machines we have taken the decision to spend over £4 million on automated manufacturing over the past six years. Any capital equipment that we buy in as we move the business forward will be automated to some degree,&rdquo says Helen Meloy. &ldquoAnd, while the emphasis over this six year period has been on expanding our manufacturing capacity we are also making certain that our employees are fully up to speed and are capable of increasing the capacity that we have. This is particularly the case within our FMS system as the specific skills needed to fully utilise this technology are a rare commodity.&rdquo

As such, the team at Clitheroe Light Engineering has become very adept at maximising the value of the FMS system and it operates 24/7, even the stand-alone machining centres run for 16 hours per day, with up to 50 per cent of that time unmanned operation. This demand places pressure on other areas of the business including raw material supplies and cutting tools. The latter has been addressed with a long-term partnership with WNT (UK), which has installed three of its Tool Service vending machines on site to service the 240 tool carousels on each of the Mori Seiki machines along with the various other machine tools within the factory.

The availability of cutting tools around the clock is a valuable resource for Clitheroe Light Engineering, but the key element of the partnership with WNT is the service and advice provided by its technical sales team. &ldquoWe enjoy working with WNT as they understand the needs of small to medium sized subcontracting companies like ours,&rdquo says Helen Meloy. &ldquoWe certainly value the knowledge that Nigel Walls, our local sales engineer gives us. He works closely with us and goes through each application systematically to provide the best solution for our business. It is reassuring that he is an engineer first and a salesman second.&rdquo

A major benefit of Tool Service for a business the size of Clitheroe Light Engineering is the reduction in administration that it brings. Tool stocks are monitored by WNT (UK), they are replenished on a weekly basis, or more frequently if demand increases, and only a single invoice is issued for the entire cutting tool usage in a month. The Tool Service system has simplified the tool management and is able to grow alongside Clitheroe Light Engineering, with additional back office support, such as relating tool use to particular employees/machines/jobs, a level of monitoring that Helen Meloy feels is not required at this point in time.

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