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Continued growth at WOSP  leads to machine tool investment
Continued growth at WOSP  leads to machine tool investment
Continued growth at WOSP  leads to machine tool investment
Continued growth at WOSP  leads to machine tool investment

Continued growth at WOSP leads to machine tool investment

Added to MTDCNC by XYZ Machine Tools on 11 October 2016

WOS Performance began life as a business remanufacturing rotating electrics from mainly Japanese cars to suit more the niche markets of motorsport and classic cars, with company founder Richard Wos claiming to be the first to reverse engineer a modern starter motor, which he used on his own classic car. The success of this unit led to demand from fellow classic car enthusiasts and a focus on quality and service then took the business forward. Then, with the growth in low-cost imports from China, this business struggled to be competitive, so a change of direction was called upon and with it a range of starter motors, alternators, and Dynators (alternators that look like original dynamos) that is now the mainstay of the business was created.

“We knew the writing was on the wall for the original remanufacturing business  eleven years ago,” says Richard’s son Luke “It was labour intensive and not cost-competitive against the imports from China, so the decision was taken to concentrate efforts on development of our own products.” Eleven years on, WOS Performance (WOSP) has seen business grow by 30 per cent, year-on-year, with 2016 looking to push that growth even further, with the first six months showing a 40 per cent increase. This impressive rate of growth brought with it certain challenges in terms of manufacturing, stock control and, ultimately, cashflow. Not only that but the WOSP product range has increased from a single product, with sales of 20/30 units per month to well over a 1000 variants, with production rising to over 1000 units per month, with customers all over the world.  Applications for its products range from starter motors for 100 year old cars that originally required a starting handle, through classic road cars that require upgraded power supplies to cope with modern traffic and around 40 per cent of its products are designed for use in modern OEM vehicles produced by Aston Martin, Renault Sport, Dallara, Cosworth, McLaren and Jaguar among others.  

Faced with this growth rate, decisions had to be taken about how its products were manufactured. A reliance on subcontract and limited in-house manual machining was seen as a key area for change and investment plans were drawn up. “Up to 12 months ago we had limited manual turning and milling capacity and, as our products became more involved, we found we were spending many hours making parts that we should be able to make quicker. While the initial solution to use sub-contract helped it brought its own problems mainly surrounding the relatively low batch volumes that we have,” says Luke Wos. “To achieve a competitive price per part we had to over order from our supplier, this stock would then sit on the shelf for some time.”

With this impact on cashflow further changes were called for and the decision was taken just over 12 months ago to upgrade its in-house machining capacity. This initially involved the purchase of an XYZ SMX 2500 bed mill with the ProtoTRAK control system. With a table size of 1245 x 228 mm and capacity to machine parts up to 600kg, it would be capable of machining any parts in the WOSP inventory. The decision to go with the  SMX 2500, was influenced by the three axis control and standard power drawbar. This was a major step up for WOSP as, while engineering runs through the business, none of its employees are trained machinists. For example James Colver, who now overseas all machining at WOSP is a qualified welder/fabricator by trade. This made the ease of use of the ProtoTRAK control even more vital, making training an important element in the purchase decision. “When we took delivery of the XYZ SMX 2500 we took one day of training, before that we didn’t even know how to switch it on,” says Luke Wos. “Within a very short space of time we were machining anything we wanted to on the machine, if we got stuck we always had XYZ at the end of the phone for back up.”

Having quickly familiarised themselves with the ProtoTRAK control, and with the machine operating 90 hours a week, Luke and James took a second day of training in order to hone their programming skills and maximise the potential of the mill and improve productivity.  The decision to begin the investment in in-house machining quickly started to pay off with 95 per cent of milled work is now undertaken in-house, and batch sizes can now be as low as one-off resulting in stock levels being reduced. On top of that the machine is available for vital R&D work whenever it is required with the ability to produce prototypes quickly and cost-effectively. When the initial order was placed, Luke Wos had in mind a payback time for the SMX 2500 of three years. With the productivity gains and cost savings that have been realised this has now been reduced to two years.

With the success of the XYZ SMX 2500 bed mill, attention then focused on the turning section. While the manual lathes at WOSP were always kept busy, less of that work was put out to sub-contract, but it was still tying up two employees. Having already experienced the simplicity of the ProtoTRAK control it was an obvious choice to look at XYZ’s SLX range of lathes, with the ProTurn SLX 355 being the machine of choice. The ProtoTRAK SLX control, like its sister SMX control, makes the machining of complex shapes and forms straightforward, so once the lathe arrived WOSP chose to have just a half day of training, just to familiarise themselves with the specifics of a turning-based control system. After lunch they were back on the shopfloor producing parts. “The choice of the SLX lathe didn’t daunt us because we knew how easy it would be,” says Luke Wos. “The machine was delivered on the Monday, commissioned on the Tuesday we had training on the Wednesday morning and that afternoon we jumped in and challenged ourselves to produce one of our most complex turned parts. Within a week of the machine being delivered it was working eight hours a day. When we look back to how we used to manufacture parts it puts a smile on our faces, what used to take four or five hours, we now do in 10 to 15 minutes. Not only that but we can repeat those parts as often as we want in as small a batch quantity as needed. Programming our most complex parts takes less than 30 minutes.”

 

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